If Westerners were to ask themselves how the capitalist system has led to the displacement millions of people around the world, then all other arguments around the issue would dissolve into irrelevance.
The overt racism and xenophobia spouted by the right and the patronizing stances of the left would both become pointless.
It’s clear that when paying close attention to the inner workings of capitalism in the 21st Century, the preoccupation should not be on whether the Western world should allow immigrants. Rather, it should be on how we dismantle the system that causes migration in the first place.
Recent studies examining the development of the capitalist system in the modern world have statistically confirmed what many in the so-called Third World have been saying for decades. Capitalism, an economic system that has expanded to nearly every corner of the world, is divided into core and periphery areas.
Lin Biao, a political theorist and Marshal of the People’s Republic of China, once remarked that the world today can be divided into “rural areas of the world” and “cities of the world.” The rural areas feed the cities, but they remain underdeveloped while the cities live off of them.
The United Kingdom, where I have spent most of my life, is a core capitalist country — located in the “cities of the world.” It lives and maintains itself by attaching its various parasitic tentacles on periphery nations.
To hone in on just one example, let’s look at its relationship with my home country: Colombia.
The United Kingdom has had financial and political interests in the South American country since its independence. Simón Bolívar asked Britain for support during the independence war against Spain, sending soldiers and then offering loans and trade.
José Carlos Mariátegui, one of Latin America’s most prominent communist thinkers, remarked that South America went from being ruled to satisfy the greed of the Spanish crown to being governed by bourgeois republics that satisfied the needs of capitalist industries in London and New York.
Little has changed since 200 years ago when independence was allegedly won, as well as Mariátegui’s epoch.
Colombia, like many other countries in the region, continues to have an unequal relationship with Britain. Colombia’s military, used by the state as a force for displacement and other crimes, have been given both financial and logistical support by the U.K. government, all under the guise that they’re “helping” to end the conflict. The reality is that the U.K. has financial interests in Colombia and lending their military support is a way of protecting these interests and securing further capitalist trade.
Although it would be a stretch to directly link my parents’ forced migration to these actions by the U.K. government and corporations, there’s little doubt that in the broader scheme of things, they are definitely responsible to a certain degree. For refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, and elsewhere, the connections are more straightforward.
Leftists in the U.K. and elsewhere in the core nations who ignore their country’s role in today’s capitalist-imperialist system and who think campaigning to accept refugees is enough are a problem.
Seeing that the U.K.’s economy is a parasitic one — especially since it uses the imperialist loot to sustain public education, healthcare, and housing programs — leftists must go to the root cause of immigration and challenge it from there. That is the long-term solution, even if it means their privilege as a labor aristocracy will be challenged.
The easy, band-aid solution is to play the benevolent host that welcomes refugees with open arms. It doesn’t challenge your own privileges within the capitalist-imperialist system. It simply asks that it bestows crumbs from stolen wealth to those from whom it was robbed to begin with.
It’s a backward mode of thinking.
Go to the root causes and don’t be afraid of your losing your own unearned privileges. That is the field of struggle in today’s fight against capitalism-imperialism.