September 2016        

Capitalism and migration

Jimmy Doran

There has been a lot of talk lately about immigration, arising mainly from the Brexit vote and the refugee crisis. What is not being said is that immigration has always been used as a means of exploiting the most needy people of the world. Immigrants provide a large pool of labour, ready to be exploited by the unscrupulous business class and to drive down the wages of the existing local work force.
     There is totally unrestricted movement of capital from the rich countries of the global north to the poor and underdeveloped countries of the global south and back again, swollen massively by the profits made through the super-exploitation of local labour. On the other hand, the workers who created these massive profits that are transferred daily from the south to the north face huge restrictions if they want to make the same journey: the numbers of people allowed in is restricted to the needs of capital.
     At the beginning of the twentieth century, 70 million Europeans went to America, Canada, Argentina, Brazil and a host of other countries around the globe without restrictions. This amounted to 17 per cent of the European population leaving, or one in six of every man, woman, and child. If an equivalent percentage were to leave the global south today and head north this would amount to 800 million people. The actual amount is 0.8 per cent, which flatly contradicts the grossly exaggerated numbers being bandied about by xenophobic politicians and the mass media in the imperialist world.
     Those who do succeed in getting past the restrictions invariably end up in low-paid precarious employment, with all the problems associated with this, such as slum housing, poverty, poor diet, and low life expectancy, with the added disadvantage of being in a foreign place.
     *Exploitation is the foundation stone of the capitalist system, and it will stop at nothing to reap its benefits.*
     There is another group of immigrants who are most welcome in the rich north, at a catastrophic cost to their home countries. These are the young, well-educated people: the doctors, engineers, and anyone else whose education can be taken advantage of.
     These people have been educated at enormous social cost to their home countries as an investment in its future development. Once they are suitably qualified, the greedy north wants the benefit of their education, free of charge. Today more and more highly educated people working in the global north have had their education paid for by some of the poorest countries in the world, with devastating effects. This leads to a massive brain drain from the south to the north, their youngest and brightest abandoning their countries of birth; and the only ones benefiting from this are the exploiters.
     The number of graduates leaving the global south for OECD countries is mind-boggling. A few examples: Jamaica 46 per cent, Zimbabwe 43 per cent, Guyana a staggering 90 per cent.
     The brain drain of medical professionals in particular is most felt and most damaging, resulting in large-scale health problems and deaths for the countries they leave. This exodus of medical people is largely forced on the poor nations of the global south as part of “structural adjustment programmes” imposed by our old friends the IMF and the World Bank in the form of austerity and bail-out deals on their debt, which inevitably include huge cuts to national health services and a complete embargo on recruitment, as we’ve seen here over the last number of years. This has led to an exodus of health professionals, who are welcomed with open arms to the greedy north. No travel restrictions here!
     To illustrate the devastation and deaths these policies have caused, here are a few statistics:
     There are more doctors from Malawi working in the city of Manchester than there are in the whole of Malawi itself.
     From 1995 to 2004 Tanzania lost 78 per cent of its doctors to OECD countries, reducing the number of its physicians from 4 per 100,000 people to 0.7 per 100,000.
     In the United States there are 250 physicians per 100,000 people (which is actually lower than Ireland’s ratio of 267 per 100,000—and people know how inadequate this is); it is heartbreaking to imagine what a ratio of 0.7 can manage to achieve. The fact that this was inflicted by a “structural adjustment programme” imposed by the World Bank, from an already low figure, must be bordering on a crime against humanity.
     The number of physicians per 100,000 of population in most OECD countries is about 250; the former socialist states are higher, averaging about 350.
     There is one exception to all this: it is, of course, Cuba. Despite its very limited resources, Cuba is able to have 647 doctors per 100,000 citizens. It goes to show what can be done when the wealth of the country is invested in the interests of the whole of the population rather than a handful of fat cats, and what is achievable under socialism.
     Another world is needed. Together we can make it possible.

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