Two important talks on Brexit, Migrants and Refugees

The Brexit vote and the need for global working class consciousness

July 4, 2016

Larry Holmes on Brexit:

No doubt, there is hatred of the European Union on the left in Europe.  The EU is an anti-worker, reactionary conspiracy on the part of European imperialist bankers to intensify the exploitation of workers and to wage war on the oppressed. However, those who think that the Brexit vote was progressive are missing the point.

You cannot separate the vote to leave the EU from the racist, anti-immigrant campaign that was central to it. Moreover, nowhere is the left benefiting from the vote, but racist and fascist forces are.

No, the task is for the working-class movement to take the political initiative away from the racist and fascist forces.

The reason why there is some confusion about understanding and analyzing what happened with this vote is because there are contradictions. The ruling class of the world is not happy about what happened. One of the important things for capitalism is having their political establishment — the ruling class parties — be able to control what happens in their capitalist elections.

Why did they spend so much money and time? Why do the media prop up these political institutions of capitalism and imperialism? So that they can manipulate the working class and the masses and that things come out their way in elections. It is a symptom of the political situation of capitalism that is in deep crisis that things are not going their way. They’re not that thrilled about Donald Trump but that doesn’t change Trump’s character.

This was a big blow to the big bourgeoisie, to the extent that it’s crumbling in many ways. This was a blow to their establishment for what they’ve been trying to do ever since the end of the first and the second imperialist world wars, that is, to strengthen these institutions, whether it’s NATO or the United Nations or the World Trade Organization or NAFTA or the European Union, in order to  compete but also to have these institutions and these agreements help them wage their war to exploit the workers at a greater magnitude. We will see the fallout. It’s a contradiction. That is one point.

But it is a mistake to downplay the racism. We don’t have to live in Manchester or London or any other place — speaking as a Black communist in New York City — to understand racism and understand what a lot of white workers and a lot of white middle-class people can be pulled into.

What are we talking about? Let’s say a little bit about it because it’s a big problem in uniting the working class.  The British working class has a different history.  But it’s not unlike the U.S. working class in many respects.  The strength of it and the strength of British imperialist stability was based on a white working class that, relatively speaking, was more privileged than the oppressed, whether they be in Britain or whether they be in one of the colonies.  We know all about that in the U.S.

Now what’s happening is that globalization is pauperizing even those formerly relatively more privileged workers, here and there. They’re getting frantic, and this should drive them towards revolutionary socialism and against capitalism and to embrace their Black and Brown sisters and brothers.

We have not given up on the white workers, but we’re not naive either. We know, especially if there’s the absence of a strong revolutionary alternative, racists and fascists will pull them in and tell them that the way to bring it back to the way it was — when you were a little more privileged — is to turn the clock back, meaning close the borders and push out all those Black and Brown workers that you see driving cabs and ringing cash registers, etc. This is what’s going on there.

We’re not writing white workers off, but we are not going to abandon the oppressed workers, who frankly — and there are exceptions to this but historically this is generally true — are the vanguard of the struggle for revolutionary change. We hold them up. We hold them up unabashedly, unapologetically.

Challenges for the movement

Our Party more than any other party is against ridiculous, opportunist, self-serving polemics. We have nothing whatsoever to gain from it. We are completely open to discussing everything with comrades or potential comrades anytime anywhere. If there’s something that they can shed light on that we don’t know about, okay.  But we refuse to be naive about racism.

We would advise them: don’t get dug into a bad position; don’t become captive because for some reason you decided to downplay and minimize the role of racism.  Based on that, we can all go forward.

Actually, this is such a big event coming at a time when the capitalist system is so fragile. This is one of the contradictions, too. This is what has them worried.  It’s really a continuation of an earlier point. The capitalist system is so fragile that anything, any political upset, any economic upset, whether it’s in the financial markets, whether it’s the collapse of a bank, it can be the snowball, so to speak, that starts the whole thing crumbling. That’s good.  But that doesn’t negate the danger that this poses.

Why is it such a tremendous danger now? We don’t want to sound like moralists. We are scientists. We are communists. We are dialectical materialists. That’s how we view this development.

What has globalized high-tech capitalism done? Ultimately, it has created two roads for the working class. Either we will allow capitalism in its desperate epoch of decay and death to force workers into more intense competition with each other for disappearing, low-paying jobs on a vicious and violent scale. That’s one direction. Or workers will begin fighting not just based on nationality or geography but more and more on the basis of seeing each other as a global class, as the capitalists do.

We would argue with anyone, including our British comrades, those who have a strong position, those who agree with us, and those who are in between, that this is the question. This is a central question that is posed by this election. What road for the working class? Break it up and as the capitalists would prefer we do, fight each other, close the borders, blame the immigrants, not the capitalists.

Or do we have a strategy that can lead to uniting the workers more and more on a global basis? Can someone show me the argument that shows that this is what the vote for Brexit did? The Party is not perfect but we don’t see it.

But just finishing the point, it’s a huge development. It mirrors political developments in this country of the working class movement, which is confused, to a large extent demoralized — talking about the vanguard elements — and that this has been going on for a long time, too long as we all know, based on setbacks like the collapse of the Soviet Union and all sorts of other things. This is a challenge.

Who wants to come together now on the basis of this goal and talk about how we’re going to build a revolutionary worldwide working class? How are we going to strengthen internationalism, not just with rhetoric but actually and practically? And how are we going to forge unity with the more oppressed sections of the working class?

These are the big questions on the table. No matter what disagreements we have now and historically with other groups, Workers World Party is prepared to sit at that table.


Brexit and the migration/refugee humanitarian crisis

July 4, 2016

Teresa Gutierrez on Refugees and Migrants:

1 in 113 forced to leave home worldwide

The recent Brexit vote in Europe was closely tied to the issue of migrants and refugees.  Mirrored by the racist, demagogic campaign of Donald Trump here in the U.S., the campaign to “Leave” the European Union was carried out within an anti-immigrant context. With capitalism at a dead end, racist scapegoating has become a priority for the capitalists in order to divert attention from the economic crisis.

This is shameful and merits an immediate, worldwide, working-class response. Why? Because the crisis of the forced migration of workers is of epic proportions.

It is a massive humanitarian crisis.  It is genocidal, a crisis that was created by the bloody hands of U.S. and British imperialism. This is not just an issue of migrants but of refugees and workers and should be treated accordingly.

This massive displacement, this gigantic wave of forced migration primarily from the Middle East, Africa and Asia to Europe and elsewhere, has resulted in the largest dislocation of humanity since World War II.  That is a stunning fact.

This amounts to World War III. That the working-class and progressive movement in Britain could not stay the hand of this war is one thing; to be sucked into the ideology of the right wing is another.

This bodes ill for the working-class movement, not only in Europe but in the U.S. as well.

“Leave the EU” and “Build the Wall” are two sides of the same coin: divide and conquer the multinational working class with the issue of immigration.

War, sanctions and austerity caused the refugee crisis

How repulsive of our enemies to use the issue of forced migration as an answer to the ravishing effects of the austerity measures sweeping Europe.  The very forces that are laying off workers in London, Detroit, Khartoum, Mexico City or Dhaka are the very forces that are driving workers to leave their homelands.

It is U.S. and British and NATO imperialist wars of regime change in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan and so on that are forcing workers to leave in the first place.

Those wars include starvation sanctions and planned destabilizations.

Take Libya. This country had once been a state where its resources, the very oil the corporations go to war for, had been nationalized and helped give Libya the highest standard of living in Africa.

It was months of bombing as well as the assassination of its leadership — Gaddafi in 2011 — that devastated Libya.  Imperialism destroyed the entire infrastructure of this country in one fell swoop.

And now the European elite turns its back on the very people it bombed, after creating the very conditions that forced those people to leave.

We have all seen the pictures published by the capitalist media, the painful pictures of waves of migrants at sea, of drowned children, of boats capsized with people who never make it, whose families back home will never know what happened to them.

Rarely are these pictures accompanied by admissions of what caused this migration.

In reality, the vast majority of the people in the pictures are not migrants at all.  They are refugees and should be accorded the rights of refugees, including, according to the United Nations, the number one right of safe asylum.

A few months ago, the world witnessed the horror of mass dislocation. Refugees’ dire conditions worsened when the U.N. Food Program exhausted its funds and cut aid to hundreds of thousands that were living in miserable refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

The U.N. agency needed $236 million to keep the program funded through November 2015. Yet, the U.S. has spent much more than that on wars in Syria and Afghanistan. According to, U.S. taxpayers have paid, every hour since 2001, a whopping $8.36 million for its wars!

That is why Syria today has the highest number of people displaced by war.

Syrians have been forced to leave in record numbers because the Pentagon and NATO targeted civilian infrastructure, irrigation, hospitals, schools, water purification and local industries.

U.S. and NATO sanctions have been imposed on Syria since of 2010.  And this was followed by the arming and financing of mercenary forces. This war has destroyed a formerly prosperous country where the population had modern infrastructure, free, quality health care, and free education.

Now, almost half of Syria’s 23 million people have been displaced.

Furthermore, people from Western Africa are forced to leave after decades of International Monetary Fund structural adjustment policies. Even the IMF itself admitted that its schemes are “flawed, have increased inequality and [have] not … delivered economic growth,” all of which are, of course, utter euphemisms. (African independent June 24, 2016)

Hidden casualties of war

The crisis of forced mass migration has many victims. Articles have been published about the tens of thousands of migrant children that are “missing” in Europe, purported victims of criminal gangs, an unspeakable tragedy. And that is a woefully conservative figure. (Politico May 3 2016).

The Politico article stated: “The closure of European borders and lack of an effective strategy to cope with wave after wave of refugees … often leave unaccompanied minors crossing into Europe with nowhere to turn. And that makes them easy prey for smugglers and traffickers.”

One can only imagine the unspeakable pain of a parent fearing that their child may have gotten caught up in the European sex trade.

On July 1, the International Migrant Alliance distributed a statement from the World Council of Churches dated June 28, 2016.  As documentation of worldwide forced migration varies from source to source, and is conflictive, the WCC statement is important to publish.

The statement said, “The world is in the midst of a historic crisis of forced displacement — of people obliged to leave their homes, communities and countries to escape conflict, persecution, repression, natural and human-made disasters, ecological degradation, or other situations that endanger their lives, freedom or livelihood.

“During 2015 … displacement … surpassed all previous records, exceeding 65 million people — or one out of every 113 people on earth. Conflicts and insecurity in the Middle East — especially the tragically continuing war in Syria and in parts of Africa — have been major drivers of this exodus.

“In the same year, more than a million people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe as refugees and migrants. More than 3,770 people perished during 2015 in the course of this hazardous crossing, and more than 2,850 more are thought to have been lost already so far this year.

“In Central America … the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that the number of asylum seekers from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador increased from 20,900 in 2012 to 109,800 in 2015.

“These crises have demonstrated that, in today’s world, it is impossible to remain insulated in one’s own safety and comfort from the suffering experienced by such vast numbers of people seeking refuge. Closing one’s eyes and ears to the plight of the victims was never acceptable, and now it is no longer feasible. …

“All too often, the response by governments and societies of countries in which suffering people have sought safe haven has been one of fear, rejection and exclusion. All too often, political actors have sought to galvanize public concern and to increase fear for political advantage. …

“Longstanding and fundamental principles of international humanitarian law have been questioned and undermined, including the right of asylum — the fundamental principle that all people … are entitled to seek international protection regardless of … any criterion other than need.

“This principle … is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. The Refugee Convention was a collective international response to the suffering of — mostly European — refugees in the aftermath of the Second World War. The principles and obligations defined … are just as relevant and necessary in the context of the current global crisis as they were then in the post-World War II European refugee crisis.”

How to answer Brexit and Trump?

In light of this global humanitarian crisis, what should the working class and revolutionary movements consider in response?

Here is a suggestion.  Build a global movement of solidarity that demands:

  • U.S., NATO out of Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and everywhere!
  • Reparations for Africa!
  • Stop U.S. death funds in Central America and Mexico! U.S. out of Latin America! Cancel the debt of Puerto Rico!
  • Demand refugee status for all the displaced from wars, climate change or economic violence!
  • Build solidarity, not walls!
  • Make December 18 “World Day of Migration” and June 20 “World Refugee Day,” global days of class solidarity!