PostPolitik - The blog of Alessio Postiglione

As Italy’s immigration crisis intensifies, leading to a diplomatic stand-off between Rome and France, Renzi and Valls highlight the immigration dilemma of the Left.
How to keep economic protectionism and social internationalism together?
The Left seems confused: is labelling migration as a security issue a conservative approach? Should the progressives revamp multiculturalism against the surge of anti-immigration parties? For the time being, it is relevant to stress that a socialist convergence towards an anti-immigrant position has not yet proved an effective way of neutralizing extreme right parties come election time. boat
In any case, the progressives face new challenges.
Left parties are internationalist. They advocate for broader freedom of movement, and support the values of tolerance and open societies that welcome multiculturalism.
Yet, they also back labour against capital and should shield workers from “the creative destruction” of Capitalism.
No longer inherently anti-Capitalistic, nowadays socialists pursue a “third way” that is a mix of free market and mild state interventionism aimed at removing the unjust elements of Capitalism and providing benefits that compensate those who pay the price of globalization.
As a result, migration is not merely an ethical value related to the idea of an open society but a viable and fair economic approach, fostering wealth and production.
However, the cost-benefit allocation of immigration – which is a form of labour market liberalization – is unfair. Migration benefits entrepreneurs but leads to inequalities and insecurity that target the working class in particular. Blue-collar workers feel most vulnerable to immigration while facing job uncertainty and scarce subsidies.
In competing for jobs foreign workers undercut salaries and create a pressure toward wage dumping that mainly affects less skilled workers who are supposed to be the traditional electorate of the socialists. Welfare benefits diminish as both native and foreign low-income workers compete in the same markets, trying to access social services that are reduced due to spending cuts. As a consequence, the social competition gets even tougher while the state collapses and experiences input overload brought about by the ever increasing demand for social services.renzi_valls
Migrants seem to constitute what Marx defined an “industrial reserve army”, which cheapens salaries by over-supplying the commodity of labour in relation to demand.
Therefore, the immigration dilemma of the Left leads to a paradox. On one hand, internationalism enhances capital accumulation, while on the other it reduces the state’s power to tackle poverty and compensate the traditional political constituency of the Left. For this reason, far right xenophobic propaganda provides not only a scapegoat, but also protectionism against wage dumping caused by migrant workers. At the same time, extreme right-wing parties gain consensus from a working class electorate that perceives itself as having been abandoned by the Left. Simultaneously, the new populist movements that spread across Europe are viewed as a working class front against the rapid transformations caused by the very migration which the Left welcomes.
How can the Left fight these contradictions?
Renzi and Valls represent two different solutions to this issue. The Italian premier has a fairer approach and aims for the communitarization of asylum and immigration policy. Valls, in order to protect native-born workers, promotes an anti-immigrant agenda which includes reducing freedom of movement and strengthening border patrols.
However, the conflict between native-born and new immigrant workers is triggered because austerity dictates the dismantling of the welfare state.
Since they produce an increase in global income, the main point should be how to redistribute, rather than blame migrants.
In order to integrate foreign workers, we would need more benefits that could be paid for by the migrants themselves.
Therefore, to blame the failure of migrants to integrate as the cause of austerity is to miss the wood for the trees.
Austerity creates the dilemma of the Left. Valls is imitating the securitization paradigm, but it will not stop the Front National. Renzi could be right. However, addressing migration policies without questioning austerity will not solve the dilemma.

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