Marx and Immigration

Popinjay, Going Postal
Extreme far-right, anti-immigration, little Englander Karl Marx

The Labour Party is currently led by Jeremy ‘Marxism is a philosophy for all time’ Corbyn, and John ‘Let me be straight with you, I am a Marxist’ McDonnell. Both are fanatically in favour of open borders, but what did their intellectual hero say about the economic benefits of the free movement of Labour, and who reaps the rewards, and who loses out?

Well, in Das Kapital, Marx notes that slave owners have to look after their slaves if they are going to make a profit from their labour, unless there are cheaply available slaves as  a result of a flourishing slave trade, in which case they can work their slaves to death and replace them.

As Marx puts it:
The slave-owner buys his labourer as he buys his horse. If he loses his slave, he loses capital that can only be restored by new outlay in the slave-mart.

But “the rice-grounds of Georgia, or the swamps of the Mississippi may be fatally injurious to the human constitution; but the waste of human life which the cultivation of these districts necessitates, is not so great that it cannot be repaired from the teeming reserves of Virginia and Kentucky. Considerations of economy, moreover, which, under a natural system, offer some security for humane treatment by identifying the master’s interest with the slave’s preservation, when once trading in slaves is practised, become reasons for racking to the uttermost the toil of the slave, for, when his place can at once be supplied from foreign preserves, the duration of his life becomes a matter of less moment than its productiveness while it lasts.”
[Cairnes, The Slave Power]

But how does that compare with the effect of labour movements in a capitalist economy. Marx is quite explicit, these have exactly the same effect on the industrial proletariat as the slave-trade has on the conditions of slaves.

Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur [With a different name, it is of you the story is told – Horace]
For slave-trade read labour-market, for Kentucky and Virginia, Ireland and the agricultural districts of England, Scotland and Wales, for Africa, Germany. We heard how over-work thinned the ranks of the bakers in London. Nevertheless, the London labour-market is always over-stocked with German and other candidates for death in the bakeries. Pottery, as we saw, is one of the shortest-lived industries. Is there any want therefore of potters?

“The cotton trade has existed for ninety years … It has existed for three generations of the English race, and I believe I may safely say that during that period it has destroyed nine generations of factory operatives.” [Ferrand’s speech in the House of Commons, 27th April, 1863]

What does Marx think of the anti-slavery arguments of free-traders? Naive, silly and hypocritical basically.
Marx obviously hadn’t heard of white privilege, and considers the conditions of ‘free workmen’ in British cities as no better than slavery.

As Marx puts it:
The Morning Star, a London Free-trade organ, naif to silliness, protested again and again during the American Civil War, with all the moral indignation of which man is capable, that the Negro in the “Confederate States” worked absolutely for nothing. It should have compared the daily cost of such a Negro with that of the free workman in the East-end of London.

Note: the Morning Star was founded by Richard Cobden and John Bright in 1856, and is unrelated to the Communist paper of the same name, which is the only thing Jeremy Corbyn reads.

As for those who think African slavery started with the Atlantic slave trade, again Marx is not on their side, quoting an ancient Greek writer, Diodorus Siculus.

“One cannot see those unfortunates (in the gold mines between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Arabia) who cannot even have their bodies clean, or their nakedness clothed, without pitying their miserable lot. There is no indulgence, no forbearance for the sick, the feeble, the aged, for woman’s weakness. All must, forced by blows, work on until death puts an end to their sufferings and their distress.” [Diodorus Siculus – 1st Century BC]

So all in all, Marx had a diametrically opposed views on the benefits of immigration and historic ‘white privilege to today’s open border leftists and SJWs, yet they still claim him as a guide and inspiration. Perhaps the explanation is quite simple, none of them have ever read Kapital as it is too long and boring.

© Popinjay 2018