Racist Fortress Europe!
Full Citizenship Rights for all Immigrants!
For a Socialist United States of Europe!
Italy: The Refugee Crisis
and Capitalist Barbarism
Italian navy photo shows refugees jumping into water as overcrowded boat capsizes off Libya, May 25. In the last week of May more than 1,000 drowned in the Mediterranean.
The graphic images of lifeless bodies stretched out along shorelines and in the sea, of decrepit makeshift vessels – deathtraps with people crammed in like sardines in a can –aimlessly drifting at sea, of traumatized exhausted survivors weeping for the loss of their loved ones, have put the European refugee crisis in the spotlight. Countless others silently die of cold, hunger and disease in isolated places or makeshift camps. According to official figures (surely grossly underestimated), over 3,700 migrants died in Mediterranean crossings last year, and more than 2,500 in the first five months of 2016. More than 1,000 drowned just in the last week of May. Meanwhile, some 66,000 immigrants arrived in Italy during the first half of the year, including over 10,000 in the last few days of June.
The massive flow of desperate refugees and immigrants toward Europe is a result of the imperialist devastation of the Near East, Africa and parts of Asia, and the legacy of over a century of brutal colonial/semi-colonial rule and economic rape. The imperialist wars of conquest, the massive devastation and massacres in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have forced millions to leave their homes (if they still exist) and migrate. In Syria, a country of a little over 20 million people, 12 million have been forced to migrate, 8 million internally in Syria and 4 million abroad.
Italy has played an important role in the imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The massive bombardment of Libya in 2011, by NATO warplanes taking off from Italian bases, destroyed the entire industrial infrastructure and Libya itself as a viable country. Even today the North African country can only manage to export about a quarter of the petroleum that it did before 2011. Italian imperialism conquered and enslaved Libya as a colony from 1911 to 1931, both before and during Mussolini’s fascist regime, killing over 200,000 people. This included terrible atrocities at concentration camps like El Agheila. (See Eric Salerno, Genocidio in Libia [Genocide in Libya] on the magnitude of Italian imperialism’s crimes in Libya.)
The reaction of the European Union (EU) countries to the flow of refugees has been to build fences to keep them out, as has been done in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia and Turkey. Security has been beefed up at the borders and the Mediterranean greatly militarized. Thousands are held in detention camps (known in Italy as lager). In addition, the imperialist rulers have enacted deportation laws and signed deportation agreements with other countries. All of this is accompanied with racist demagogy about a foreign “invasion,” whipping up hysteria about “terrorists” sneaking in, as well as spewing anti-Islamic bigotry and railing about defense of European Christian culture.
The bourgeoisies of the EU, like those of all capitalist countries, want to control immigration so that only those can enter that are potentially useful for them to churn out profits. The rest are summarily rejected, with no thought as to their likely miserable destiny. The bosses only want people with useful skills and a certain number of vulnerable workers with absolutely no rights to be exploit in semi-slave conditions. In Italy these brutally oppressed workers (usually lacking legal documents) often work for 10 or 12 hours in agricultural fields under the watchful eyes of the armed labor gang bosses, the caporali, for a miserable 10 to 30 euros a day. They then return to overcrowded barracks without electricity or heat, in unsanitary conditions, where they often must walk long distances just to obtain drinkable water.
Militarized Immigration “Management” for Profit
Refugees seeking asylum are warehoused at detention center in Mineo, Sicily. The former U.S. army base is the biggest CARA (reception center for asylum seekers) in Italy, housing more than 1,000 immigrants behind barbed wire and armored cars.
On 3 October 2013, a refugee boat which set out from the Libyan port of Misurata sank just outside the harbor of the island of Lampedusa, killing 366 people. In response to the wave of outrage, the Italian government launched Operation Mare Nostrum, taking up the claim of the Roman Empire that the Mediterranean is “our sea.” Billed as a “military humanitarian” mission, it did rescue some tens of thousands of migrants at sea, but that was not its purpose. Operating in conjunction with Frontex, the EU immigration “management” agency, Mare Nostrum was intended to find boats with refugees and force them back to the racist hell of Libya. As part of this operation, in January 2014 the Italian naval vessel Aliseo opened fire with machine guns on a boat, sinking it (after taking the 176 refugees on board). But even this trickle was too much for the masters of European imperialism, so after less than a year, Mare Nostrum was replaced by Operation Triton, directly run by Frontex.
Then, a year later, in May 2015 the EU launched the EUNAVFOR MED Operation which is led by Italian imperialism, with headquarters in Rome and tasked with pushing the military perimeter of the EU imperialist countries outwards, including into the territorial waters of North African countries. Its stated purpose is “disrupting the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Mediterranean” and “strengthening the EU’s external borders.” Contrary to Italian premier Matteo Renzi’s constant babble about “saving lives,” this is an offensive military operation, even if it may carry out an occasional rescue for PR purposes. Many Italian fishermen are wary of rescuing refugees out of fear of having their boats sequestered, losing days of work and facing possible criminal charges for aiding “illegal” migrants – yet many courageously do so anyway, and numerous residents of the island of Lampedusa have taken in refugees as guests.
EUNAVFOR MED is intended to put a stop to this. It is especially important to the Italian bourgeoisie because they fear that with the Balkans immigration flow largely cut off by the recent EU-Turkey agreement, many desperate refugees will be forced to try the far more dangerous Libya-Italy sea route. Thus EUNAVFOR is backed up by the EUSUR pan-European border surveillance system and coupled with a proposed EU border guard system and the “use of new technologies.”
Once refugees arrive in Italy, an elaborate bureaucratic maze awaits them. The Italian and EU bourgeoisies have resorted to massive incarceration and deportation of refugees. In Italy there are presently five Centers of Identification and Expulsion (CIEs), whose inmates are to be immediately deported, and nine “assistance centers” (CDAs) and “reception centers for asylum seekers” (CARAs). Although there are differences, in reality all are detention centers for immigrants and refugees. In addition, there are 1,800 “temporary” structures for locking up refugees. These concentration camps are used for identification, including forced fingerprinting, together with detention and deportation. In 2011 there were revolts by immigrants demanding freedom at a lager in Lampedusa, where the center was burned to the ground, and in Pozzallo, where they were being held in a huge hangar. The Italian government plans to expand its detention center capacity for refugees from 100,000 to 150,000 in 2016.
The refugee prisoners are incarcerated without knowing why and often without having any idea of what is happening to them. They usually have no access to translators or legal counsel. Many have a “foglio di soggiorno” (temporary residency permit) but are imprisoned anyway, even if they may just be tourists. Lawyers, journalists and humanitarian associations are routinely forbidden from entering these jails. Any inmate who objects to the situation is subject to the reprisals common to all lagers, including physical abuse. These centers are usually managed by private cooperatives and awarded to the lowest bidder. A scandal known as “Rome Mafia Capital” exploded in late 2014 around the CARA in Catania, Sicily, managed by Massimo Carminati, former member of the fascist-terrorist NAR organization. Phone taps nailed one of Carminati’s collaborators, Salvatore Buzzi, saying: “Do you have any idea of how much I earn from the immigrants? Drug trafficking is less profitable” (quoted from Marco Pascuiti, “Mafia Capitale,” Il Fatto Quotidiano, 22 December 2014).
Even if in theory refugees have the right to be taken to the nearest “safe” port and apply for political asylum, in practice this rarely occurs. Italy has signed agreements with Egypt in 2007, Tunisia in 2011 and also Libya which call for what amounts to summary expulsions and the forcible removal of refugees to their country of origin, including turning the vessels back on the high seas. Italy has helped to finance three concentration camps (“holding centers”) at Misrata and elsewhere in the Libyan desert, where physical abuse is rampant and food and water scarce. Now the EU, with Italian premier Renzi in the forefront, is working to reach agreements with Sudan and Eritrea to stem migration by providing military aid and instituting more severe deportation agreements.
Reality check: While many political forces in the EU hysterically scream about a refugee “invasion,” the fact is that there are over 2 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, about 1 million in tiny Lebanon and some 630,000 in Jordan, but less than 350,000 in all of the EU.
The Struggle for Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants
Refugees threatened with deportation protest on the roof of the CIE (Center for Identification and Expulsion) Ponte Galeria in Rome, July 2009. Trotskyists demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants.
It must be said straight-off that there is no solution under capitalism to the refugee crisis and mass migration flows. The imperialist plunder and economic devastation of countries subjected to neocolonial domination, as well as the racist oppressive nature of the imperialist metropoles is endemic to the system. This won’t change substantially whether under governments of the right or “left.” Thus the Nucleo Internazionalista d’Italia and the League for the Fourth International say that the only real answer to the refugee crisis is to fight for socialist revolution on both sides of the Mediterranean.
Pointing to that necessary conclusion, we put forward a transitional program for workers action including the call for asylum for Syrian and other refugees fleeing war and persecution and full citizenship rights for all immigrants. In addition we call to close the detention centers. Down with the racist deportation laws!For workers actions to stop deportations, as when Air France pilots refused to fly planes deporting immigrants back to Mali. In addition, the NId’I and LFI call for integrated workers defense guards to stop anti-immigrant terror. To defend the growing number of immigrant workers, the unions must launch a drive to organize the unorganized with full union-scale wages for all. Fighting on behalf of immigrants and young workers subjected to precarious jobs, we demand equal pay for equal work and regular contracts with job stability for all.
Trotskyists call for “Casa, lavoro, sindacato sono un diritto dell’immigrato – e di tutti” (housing, jobs and unions are the right of every immigrant, and everyone). Spelling this out, in the face of double-digit mass unemployment, class-conscious workers should fight for a drastic reduction in the workweek at full pay to provide jobs for all. Likewise, housing is a basic necessity and right that is denied to many. Earthquake survivors in Aquila (Abruzzo) are living in temporary housing seven years after the quake hit, while the city center is still in rubble. Many others have simply moved away. Faced with the acute housing shortage in urban centers, many abandoned buildings, former factories and houses have been occupied by activist groups and others who defy eviction. The workers movement must fight for “case popolari” (public housing) for all those in need – including immigrants.
Uniting immigrant and Italian-born workers in class struggle can reinvigorate the workers movement and pull it out of its reformist doldrums. Workers in northern factories who migrated from southern Italy in the 1960s were highly militant, leading battles that put Italy in the forefront of European labor struggles such as in the autunno caldo (hot autumn) of 1969. The growth of the SI COBAS unions, most recently their work among the brutally exploited agricultural workers in Puglia and Campagna, and the courageous strikes by largely immigrant workers in small worksites show a similar willingness to struggle by immigrant workers today, with their increasing social power in key parts of industry. To achieve the potential for integrated class struggle on a mass scale, the workers movement must fight directly against the special oppression of immigrants. This includes strikes and occupations to stop raids or firings by bosses or the state against our class sisters and brothers, irrespective of where they were born or what papers they do or don’t have.
Solidarity strikes across national borders are urgently necessary. Recent sharp struggles in France involving strategic sections of the proletariat protesting against the union-busting El Khomri labor law cry out for solidarity action across Europe. Workers in Italy have responded. The strikes and demonstration of the largely immigrant workers in Milan on June 6 in solidarity with French workers’ strikes the same day showed an awareness of the importance of such proletarian internationalism. A few days later, hundreds of SI COBAS workers and others picketed and blocked traffic to and from the vital Interporto logistics center in Bologna in support of the French workers striking on the same day. For united strike action against the capitalist governments to smash the El Khomri law in France and the Jobs Act in Italy!
The struggle for full citizenship rights for all immigrants is inseparable from the fight for a Socialist United States of Europe. In fact, this simple democratic right has only been realized through revolution – in the French Revolution of 1789-99, by the Paris Commune of 1871 and in the Russian October Revolution of 1917 (see box below). However, such a struggle pointing directly to socialist revolution goes against the class-collaborationist programs of various groups which erroneously claim to be Trotskyist. The maximum demand on immigration of the Partito Comunista dei Lavoratori (PCL) of Marco Ferrando and Franco Grisolia, for example, is for “equal rights for equal work, between European and immigrant workers.” Skirting the call for full citizenship rights, this suggests something less, such as work permits (permessi di soggiorno), granted by the questura, the police, for limited periods. But that would leave immigrant workers in a second-class status politically particularly in the face of the anti-immigrant xenophobia whipped up by far-right forces such as the Lega Nord.
The rest of the program put forward by the PCL (“For an Anti-Capitalist Solution to the Immigration Drama,” Unità di Classe, May 2015) makes it clear that what it is calling for is a program of measures by a “left” government of the capitalist state. Thus it calls for “a program of public works, in each country and on a Europe-wide scale, financed by the rich, in favor of European and immigrant workers,” and for “requisitioning in every country the big real estate holding companies, to make real European and immigrant workers’ right to housing.” So who will enact and pay for the program of public workers or requisition the housing? It can only be the state. And what state? In calling for a “government of the working people” the PCL is pointedly not calling for a “workers government” based on workers councils (soviets) that is, the dictatorship of the proletariat, but rather for a class-collaborationist government representing as well petty-bourgeois professionals and small proprietors to administer rather than overthrow the capitalist state.
Thus behind the differing calls for “equal rights for equal work” and for “full citizenship rights” there lurks a fundamental difference in the class nature of the program between pseudo- and authentic Trotskyists – and also a qualitative difference in the consequences for immigrant workers. However, some locals of the PCL have raised the call for full citizenship rights for immigrants, as the Naples local did recently (March 1) along with demands to close the CIEs and to “close the fascist hideouts.” But, again, who is supposed to carry out such calls? Calling for the capitalist state to repress the fascists will only strengthen bonapartist reaction. The article by the Naples PCL rightly notes that the limited demands on behalf of immigrants put forward by various civic associations and the main union federations “only lead these struggles into the dead-end of institutionalized politics (perhaps of the ‘orange’ variety).” Yet in 2011 the PCL voted on the second (decisive) round of the Naples mayoral election in favor of the victorious bourgeois candidate Luigi De Magistris, who went on to found the Orange Movement!
Authentic Troskyists look instead to mobilize the power of the united working class by drawing a class line against all wings of the bourgeoisie. The PCL said it was voting for the ex-magistrate De Magistris (as well as for Giuliano Pisapia, the bourgeois popular-front candidate for mayor of Milan) “as demanded by the entire people of the left,” in order to “join in defeating the policies of Berlusconi, of his government and of his reactionary candidates” (“Vote for Pisapia and De Magistris, But Without Illusions,” PCL web site, 26 May 2011). This “fight the right” policy is the constant refrain of the popular front, which chains the left and workers movement to sectors of the bourgeoisie. It was the policy of the Stalinist Italian Communist Party (PCI) which led to the defeat of the potential revolution during 1943-48. As the PCI evolved increasingly to the right, ultimately splintering, with remnants forming the bourgeois Democratic Party (PD) together with elements of Christian Democracy, the banner of popular frontism was taken up by Rifondazione Comunista (RC).
The second largest ostensibly Trotskyist organization in Italy, the Partito di Alternativa Comunista (PdAC) of Franco Ricci, part of the International Workers League (LIT, the current founded by Argentine pseudo-Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno), raises the call for citizenship for all immigrants, but as we have noted “does not link this directly to revolutionary action by the working class.” 1 When the PdAC talks (in the document of its Fourth Congress) of “bringing down capitalism and constructing a socialist economy,” it is not calling for socialist revolution but rather to “fight for a socialist system” which they identify with “nationalization without compensation of all strategic sectors of industry,” “workers control of factories that are closing, carry out layoffs or harm the environment,” “nationalization of the banks and creation of a single national bank,” etc.2 This could be the program of a “left” government of the capitalist state. Or not-so-left: recall that from the end of World War II until the 1970s, well over half of the Italian economy was in the hands of capitalist state-owned enterprises – presided over by the Christian Democrats.3
In particular, the PdAC is not advocating replacing parliament with proletarian rule based on workers councils, such as the soviet republic led by Lenin and Trotsky that came out of the October 1917 revolution in Russia. This is no accident, for its congress document bases itself on the LITís theses on Revolutions of the Twentieth Century, written by Nahuel Moreno in 1984, which call not for new October Revolutions but for “February Revolutions” (referring to the February 1917 overthrow of the Russian tsar), and consequently for “democratic revolution” rather than socialist revolution. Thus the PdAC’s call for citizenship rights for immigrants is part of a purely (bourgeois) democratic program counterposed to socialist revolution, which is what it will take to win this democratic right.
Both the PCL and PdAC were part of the Proposta current in Rifondazione Comunista from before it supported the government of the Ulivo popular front (1996-98) under Christian Democrat Romano Prodi, the former head of the IRI who presided over the extensive privatization of IRI assets. They stayed in RC up until 2006, when they left and split from each other on no clear political basis. Proposta (13 June 1996) hailed the electoral victory of the first Prodi government, saying: “Certainly, the right has been defeated and this is good” and “it is correct to avoid abstract neutrality between the center-right and the center-left and work as communists to defeat the right.”
The first Prodi government, backed by RC and thus by Proposta, meant blood and tears for the working class and oppressed. It enacted the racist Napolitano law which set up concentration camps for immigrants and large-scale deportations. It also made deep cuts in social services and passed the Treu law that established lower wages for workers in the South, and the renting out of workers under very short-term contracts. The Prodi government also strengthened the presence of Italian imperialism in Albania and presided over the rape and torture of Somalis by Italian military personnel. The historic leaderships of the PCL (Ferrando and Grisolia) and PdAC (Ricci) have never distanced themselves from their class betrayals while in Proposta, but instead defend them, because they have the same politics of “critical support” to popular-frontism today. As part of RC when it kept the Ulivo government in power, they sought to keep the more combative sections of the working class politically chained to the bourgeoisie, and that’s the biggest obstacle to revolutionary struggle today.
Revolutionary-minded militants in the PCL or PdAC who would fight for a policy of class independence rather than class collaboration must be aware that their leaders are past masters in the double-talk that is the common vocabulary of pseudo-Trotskyists who pretend to oppose popular frontism while giving it “critical” support at every key juncture. While mouthing Trotskyist-sounding verbiage, they have a decades-long history of supporting bourgeois candidates and reformist (or as Lenin called them, bourgeois workers) parties that take part in capitalist governments. All bourgeois governments are racist, anti-women, and in Italy anti-Southerner. Today, the PCL declares “Do as in France!” (leaflet, May 29) while the PdAC calls for a “front of struggle” like that in France where workers have been striking against the French “Jobs Act” of Socialist president François Hollande. Yet in 2012, the PCL called to vote for Hollande, and 15 years earlier Ferrando, Grisolia and Ricci all supported the election of the Socialist Lionel Jospin against the rightist Alain Juppé, declaring:
“The defeat of the Juppé government is certainly a positive event and also considering the nature of its project a success for the workers movement.”
–Proposta, July-August 1997
If the PCL did not support bourgeois candidates or popular-front formations in the 2016 elections as it did in 2011, it was not due to their class character, but only because “Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) and his government are the most reactionary since after World War II,” and the Cinque Stelle (Five Star) movement founded by Pepe Grillo “is a reactionary mass movement.” But even if they made a pretense of more “progressive” policies, they would still be bourgeois. To defend immigrants and bring down racist, capitalist Fortress Europe it is necessary to forge genuinely Bolshevik communist parties that break sharply with class-collaborationist politics on principle, fighting for proletarian opposition to all capitalist politicians, parties or political formations such as popular fronts. This is the program of the Nucleo Internazionalista d’Italia and the League for the Fourth International.
ICL: Border Guards of (and Within) the EU?
Demonstration demanding right of asylum and freedom of travel for all, Torino, 21 January 2012.
Faced with the Europe-wide refugee crisis, the main response of the International Communist League (ICL), the once-Trotskyist organization from which our founding cadre were expelled, has been to go on the warpath against “liberal humanitarianism,” calls for “freedom of transit” for immigrants and refugees within Europe, and illusory calls for “open borders” under capitalism. The latest issue of Spartaco (April 2016), published by the ICL’s affiliate, the Lega Trotskista d’Italia (LTd’I), spends almost a third of its lead article (over 1,000 words) polemicizing against “Apostles of ‘Humanitarian’ Imperialism.” On the other hand, its only reference to the anti-immigrant racists of the Lega Nord, and fascists like the National Front in France, is to accuse the union bureaucracy of playing into their hands by promoting the idea of a “social Europe”! Notably, in an article about “Racist Fortress Europe and the Refugee Crisis,” Spartaco does not call for asylum for Syrian refugees, or indeed for any refugees. This absence is no accident.
Instead, the LTd’I takes aim at “Reformist left groups [which] have promoted illusions in the possibility that the imperialists, directly responsible for the ‘humanitarian catastrophe,’ can ‘do something’ to help the refugees and immigrants.” In some cases, this is a correct criticism, though hardly the biggest threat. The ControCorrente group, part of the Committee for a Workers International led by Peter Taaffe, described Mare Nostrum as “a military and humanitarian mission whose principal objective was maritime assistance and the rescue of migrants,” and called for a “an international rescue plan on the high seas,” and “if necessary, in Libyan national waters.” As we noted above, the actual purpose of Mare Nostrum was interdiction, to force refugee boats back to Libya, and NATO naval forces intruding in Libyan territorial waters is imperialist aggression.
Spartaco goes after the PCL, particularly for its call for “a dignified welcoming plan for migrants, starting with refugees, on a European level. For freedom of travel for immigrants within Europe. Cancellation of the anti-immigrant laws, in every country and on a European level.” The LTd’I comments: “This kind of demands feeds the illusion that the imperialist European Union can be forced to act on the basis of humanitarian principles, ‘freedom of travel’ and ‘dignity’.” The idea that imperialist Europe is going to give a “dignified welcome” to refugees is certainly a reformist illusion. But claiming that calls for freedom of movement of immigrants within Europe and for abolition of anti-immigrant laws amount to prettifying imperialism is another matter altogether. Before saying goodbye to revolutionary Trotskyism, drawing defeatist lessons from the historic defeat of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, the ICL always opposed all racist, anti-immigrant laws, while explaining that there can be no equitable immigration policy under capitalism.
Even in May 2015, Spartaco wrote: “The workers movement must oppose racist immigration laws.” But here is the latter-day ICL saying that to call to abrogate such laws creates illusions in “humanitarian imperialism.” So the workers movement should do nothing about such laws? What sophistry! Interestingly, the LTd’I does not attack the PCL for not calling for full citizenship rights for immigrants. Indeed, it attacks the PCL from the right, notably over calls for the free movement of immigrants and refugees within Europe. According to Spartaco:
“Under the form of the slogan of ‘open borders,’ the PCL’s call for ‘freedom of travel for immigrants in Europe’ is common to the entire reformist left and all more or less liberal capitalist forces. But all variants of the slogan of ‘open borders’ come down to calling for the abolition of national states under capitalism: an impossibility. The supporters of ‘open borders’ wrongly see the European Union as some kind of super-state above the nation-states, with the power to cancel internal borders.”
The EU is hardly a “super-state,” as the wrangling over immigration policy demonstrates. And the PCL doesn’t actually call here for “open borders.” But the reality is that citizens of EU countries are given the right to travel and work around Europe, while immigrants, even those with the requisite papers, risk being picked up and deported if they are stopped while travelling to another EU country.
Let us try to unravel the “logic” of what the ICL is saying here. The ICL claims it is for citizenship for all immigrants. But if it opposes calling for immigrants to have the right to free movement within Europe, does that mean it is proposing some kind of second-class status, in which citizens of non-European origin should not have this right? Alternatively, is it saying that they could have that right once they are citizens, but not beforehand? Either way, this can only be a reactionary anti-immigrant position. Or just maybe, given its claim that “freedom of travel” equals “open borders” and abolition of the nation-state, the ICL is really saying that current EU citizens shouldn’t be able to travel freely around Europe either, as that could create illusions in the EU’s Schengen treaty!
Spartaco ludicrously tries to pretend that the call for freedom of movement for immigrants is actually a chauvinist demand pushed by anti-immigrant forces. It quotes the notorious racist mayor of Verona, Flavio Tosi, calling on the Italian government to “grant humanitarian permission to refugees for freedom of travel in Europe.” The LTd’I also cites the Italian government’s call to repeal the EU’s Dublin III regulation, which says that refugees must be processed in their country of entry to Europe. This racist regulation prevents refugees from leaving Greece and Italy for northern Europe where they can find work and/or join family members. For refugees who manage to make it to northern Europe, it means they can be sent back to their country of entry in southern Europe, where they will be locked up and likely deported back to their country of origin. In reality, immigrant-bashing reactionaries are opposed to freedom of travel. Thus Lega Nord chief Matteo Salvini has called for “internal checks of EU citizens at the borders of France and Austria” (La Repubblica, 11 June).
Today the ICL, with the LTd’I in tow, has taken a line on the refugee crisis placing it to the right of sections of the bourgeoisie at times, and of many bourgeois organizations. In waving about the spectre of how “unlimited mass immigration can threaten the right of national self-determination” with respect to Italy, Spartaco is taking up the bugbear of the national chauvinists. This danger can be real for small, economically weak countries such as Palestine inundated by Zionist immigration, or Caribbean island nations that could be swamped by rich Americans buying up property. But as an imagined threat to imperialist Italy it is absurd. Internationalist communists do not raise the illusory call for open borders, since the elimination of national borders under capitalism would be utopian and even a workers state would need to have border guards. But in focusing on the fantasy of “open borders” for the purpose of opposing calls for freedom of travel for immigrants within Europe, the LTd’I/ICL are not opposing the reformists who seek to administer the capitalist state. Far from it – in fact they are taking on the role of border guards of the EU and within the EU.
Trotskyists say that immigrants and refugees, whatever their status, should have full citizenship rights and the same freedom of travel within Europe as everyone else. Down with the racist Dublin III fast-track deportation law! Class-conscious workers must mobilize their power to defend immigrants against fascist and racist attacks, and to block deportations with union action. All of these demands are directed against the bourgeois state, which cannot do without racist treatment of immigrant workers. They must be part of a program of transitional demands for workers action aiming at socialist revolution to put an end to capitalist exploitation. Above all, to free immigrants and refugees from the nightmarish conditions they have endured in order to survive and in hopes of achieving a decent life, it is necessary to go to the root causes of such mass population movements, which are to be found in the brutal superexploitation and wars spawned by decaying capitalism.
Supporters of the ICL should consider this concerning its opposition to calls for freedom of transit for immigrants within Europe, on the grounds that it is not possible to achieve under capitalism: The same objection could be made to calls for full citizenship rights, which historically have only been achieved by revolution. Methodologically, this objection amounts to rejecting the whole of Trotsky’s Transitional Program, of demands which cannot be fully realized short of socialist revolution. The ICL has already declared outdated the central thesis of that founding program of the Fourth International – that the historical crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary proletarian leadership – on the grounds that it “predates the present deep regression of proletarian consciousness,” as asserted in the ICL’s “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program” (1998). It’s not surprising, then, that the ICL rejects transitional demands concerning immigrants … and overall: witness its rejections of LFI calls for workers control in Greece. It all fits.
The result is “revolutionary” justifications for what in practice is a program tailored to what’s possible under capitalism. In France in the 1880s it was called “possibilism.” Today…
For Workers Revolution on Both Sides of the Mediterranean
Immigrants supported by SI COBAS unions protest in Taranto, 6 August 2015. “Enough Dead Immigrants, Against the Policies of War and Poverty!”
Mass migration – such as the wave of several hundred thousand refugees who made the perilous crossing from Turkey to Greece, then trekked on foot for weeks through the Balkans, or the tens of thousands who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats – is the result of desperate conditions: war, famine, religious and ethnic persecution. In the face of the current European refugee crisis, revolutionaries not only seek to provide proletarian solidarity with the victims, but also address the origins of their ordeal. In these cases, the immediate factors are the ongoing all-sided ethnic/sectarian communalist war intensified by imperialist bombardment that has pulverized Syria, and the destruction of Libya in 2011 by the NATO air war and Western-armed Islamist gangs. In both cases, not only are the U.S. and European imperialists the main instigators and predators, they have been aided by some of the same reformist leftists who today claim to be defending immigrants.
In Libya in 2011, the PdAC and the Morenoite International Workers League to which it belongs called on the NATO powers to provide heavy weapons and military technology to the bloodthirsty “rebel” brigades and called on “all governments” – notably that of Silvio Berlusconi in imperialist Italy – to “split away from the Libyan regime” of the erratic nationalist strongman Muammar Qaddafi. An article in Progetto Communista (11 September 2011) proclaimed: “Long live the Libyan Revolution which destroyed the regime of Qaddafi.” This “victory,” which involved widespread racist persecution of black African workers in Libya, sharply increased the numbers of refugees risking all to cross the Mediterranean to Italy. Against the reactionary Islamist mercenaries and the betrayal by pro-imperialist leftists like the PdAC, the League for the Fourth International took a proletarian internationalist stand for military defense of Libya against imperialist attack, while giving no political support to Qaddafi.
If the PdAC was shamelessly pro-imperialist in Libya, the PCL was more shamefaced. It initially hailed the revolt against the regime, even though PCL leader Ferrando later admitted that “The leadership of the Libyan revolution was concentrated from the start in the hands of a counterrevolutionary entourage” (“The Fall of Qaddafi – Revolution and Counterrevolution in Libya,” PCL, 26 August 2011). Once NATO started bombing, the PCL resorted to double-talk, claiming to “be against imperialism and at the same time on the side of the insurgents who applaud the imperialist intervention” (“
On Syria, the PdAC and LIT (led by the Brazilian PSTU) are once again openly pro-imperialist, repeating every lie coming from the CIA and Pentagon, backing the puppet “Free Syrian Army” against the authoritarian regime of Bashar Assad while demanding that NATO send the FSA heavy weapons and even surface-to-air missiles (see “Brazil: Leftists in the Camp of Pro-Imperialist Syrian Islamists,”, January-February 2014). For their part, the PCL and its partners in the Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International (CCRFI) led by the Argentine Partido Obrero of Jorge Altamira, following the same playbook as in Libya, started out hailing the “Syrian Revolution” and continued to defend the pro-imperialist rebels up to mid-2013. But by September of that year, as the U.S. threatened to bomb Syria (using the pretext of the chemical weapons attack falsely blamed on the Assad regime), the CCRFI switched gears and called for “No to the War Against Syria!”
In the squalid sectarian bloodbaths along ethnic and religious lines now engulfing Syria and Iraq, the overriding aim of revolutionary Marxists must be to drive the imperialists, the biggest mass murderers of all, from the region. As the LFI has pointed out, there are several intertwined and overlapping wars going on simultaneously in Syria; the U.S./NATO bombing, where we call to drive the imperialists out; an inter-communal/sectarian civil war between pro-imperialist Islamist militias, Al Qaeda Islamists, the Syrian government and the Islamic State (I.S.), in which we oppose all sides; the right of communal self-defense of all ethnic/religious communities threatened with massacres; and the Kurdish struggle for self-determination. The LFI has stated unambiguously that any real blow against the imperialist invaders, even by ultra-reactionaries such as the I.S., is in the interest of the world’s workers. Recently, as the U.S. and its Kurdish semi-allies have launched a drive on the I.S. “capital” of Raqqa, we have called to defend the population under imperialist attack.
The wars wracking the Middle East and North Africa, along with the war unleashed on working people by European central bankers, are expressions of the New World Disorder resulting from the destruction of the Soviet Union and the East European bureaucratically deformed workers states in 1989-92. In the decade leading up to that momentous defeat for the world’s workers, almost all pseudo-Trotskyist currents sided with imperialism, opposing Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and supporting the anti-Soviet Polish Solidarność. Genuine Trotskyists, in contrast, said “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” and “Stop Solidarność Counterrevolution!” When the counterrevolution came to a head, the LIT celebrated the overthrow of the USSR in 1991-92 as a “great revolutionary victory,” while Altamira didn’t lift a finger to defend the homeland of the October Revolution, falsely claiming that the rump Stalinists were leading the restoration of capitalism. Once again the authentic Trotskyists, then in the International Communist League, fought tooth and nail against the capitalist reunification of Germany and subsequently in the USSR, issuing the call: “Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution.”
The bourgeois triumphalism accompanying counterrevolution in the Soviet bloc was expressed in imperialist wars on Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and elsewhere that generated the mass exodus of refugees. Today both the Morenoites of the PdAC and the Altamiraites of the PCL label China a capitalist state, refusing to defend it against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. They thereby disarm Chinese workers in the coming decisive battles. The virulently Stalinophobic LIT goes even further, declaring Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam capitalist. This reached the point that in the mid-1990s, the Mexican Morenoites published an article hailing a demonstration by gusano counterrevolutionaries in Miami (El Socialista, October 1994), euphemistically saying that “the Cuban proletariat in the U.S. is propelling the anti-bureaucratic revolution”! Counterposed to the pro-imperialist propaganda of the pseudo-Trotskyists, the LFI calls for proletarian political revolution to oust the sellout bureaucracy in the deformed workers states to defend the remaining revolutionary gains against the looming threat of counterrevolution.
The once-Trotskyist ICL, meanwhile, has turned its back on its revolutionary intervention in East Germany and the USSR, adopting the rationale of those who refused to defend them (namely that the Stalinists, rather than the imperialists, supposedly led the counterrevolution). Blaming a putative across-the-board “deep regression of proletarian consciousness” for its flight from the class struggle, the latter-day ICL has capitulated time and again before the imperialist rulers. In each case, its revisions of the Trotskyist program came when it was put to the test in a crisis. Thus the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon led the ICL to drop its call for the defeat of U.S. imperialism. This reached the point that in 2010 it vociferously supported the U.S. invasion of Haiti in the name of providing earthquake relief. By now utterly divorced from the reality of the class struggle, the ICL tries to make up for that betrayal by militarily siding with the Islamic State (in the name of struggle against imperialism) as the I.S. carries out communalist slaughter of Kurds. The ICL’s current refusal to call for asylum for refugees is its “new Haiti,” in which with a knee-jerk reaction to the liberal reformism of the opportunist left it sides with arch-reactionary forces.
A real defense of immigrants trapped in the barbarism of putrefying capitalism can only be based on the program of authentic Trotskyism. Yet on the Middle East and North Africa, pseudo-Trotskyists make ritual references to permanent revolution while supporting pro-imperialist “rebels” (or in the case of the ICL, the Islamist jihadis of the I.S.). The League for the Fourth International looks instead to the millions-strong Turkish, Kurdish and Egyptian proletariats. In Italy, ostensible Trotskyists claim to oppose popular frontism yet give “critical support” to popular-front politicians. In order to put a stop to the orgy of destruction that rips millions from their homes, destroying countless lives and forcing survivors to undertake a perilous migration; to overcome the terrible sectarian divisions so that the region can flower in all its diversity; to defend the living standards of the working people of Europe from the assault by capitalist rulers, it will take socialist revolution on both sides of the Mediterranean.
The LFI seeks to build the nuclei of genuinely communist workers parties based on the Bolshevik program of Lenin and Trotsky to lead all the oppressed in this fight for a Socialist United States of Europe. ■
Citizenship Rights for
Foreign Workers in Soviet Russia
The following clauses were included in the first Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (July 1918):
20. In consequence of the solidarity of the workers of all nations, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic grants all political rights of Russian citizens to foreigners who live in the territory of the Russian Republic and are engaged in work and who belong to the working class. The Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic also recognizes the right of local soviets to grant citizenship to such foreigners without complicated formality.
21. The Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic offers shelter to all foreigners who seek refuge from political or religious persecution.
- 1. See “ ,” The Internationalist special supplement, May 2016
- 2. From (2015).
- 3. The Institute of Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) controlled STET (telephones), ILVA (steel), RAI (broadcasting), docks, railroads, superhighways, Alitalia, as well as much of the banking system. ENI had a monopoly of oil and energy. EFIM took control of a number of smaller manufacturing companies.