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Saturday, July 07, 2018

Immigrants: These are our children!

From A World to Win News Service:
Lashing out at protests against the stealing of migrant children from their parents and abuses in detention that include strapping children to chairs with a bag over their head, a prominent U.S. broadcast personality defended this policy by saying, "These aren't our kids... They're from another country." 

This is not just a statement of extreme nationalist bigotry. It also represents a head-on attack on the doctrine of universal equality and human rights that has long been the officially proclaimed ideology in Europe and North America. It replaces what many ordinary people have considered right and just, with all its vague inconsistencies and mainly unconscious hypocrisy, with rigorous "racial" moral standards – the "white identity politics" that have not only come to power in Hungry, Austria, Poland., Slovenia, etc., now Italy and above all the U.S., but are setting the terms for debate about values among the "civilized nations" as a whole. 

In her book The Nazi Conscience the historian Claudia Koonz examines the relationship between politics and morality. In order to implement their political programme, which eventually included the extermination of Europe's Jews, Roma ("Gypsies") and other peoples and groups, including gender non-conforming people and the disabled, the Nazis had to do much more than repress people. They had to overturn most people's previous moral ideas and the ideals supposedly enshrined by law, along with those laws themselves. Even their ability to massively repress and eventually exterminate required that millions consider it right or at least tolerated it. 

Koontz might as well be talking about today's U.S., Poland and Italy when she describes how Nazi ideologists countered the doctrine of human brotherhood by proclaiming, "Not every being with a human face is a human." Like today's fascists, the Nazis set out to train people in what she calls an "ethnic fundamentalism" where the good of one's "people" determines all ethical choices. A central idea in her book is that in the six years between when the Nazis took power and the beginning of World War, when, under wartime conditions, mass extermination became a reality, millions of Germans who were once merely somewhat prejudiced against Jews were conditioned to consider "the final solution of the Jewish question" a matter of survival for "their people". 

Today the same thing is happening in both countries with mass immigration and in those where there is practically none. The U.S. columnist Paul Krugman has compared Trump's anti-immigrant hysteria about "murderers" and "rapists" "infesting" the country to the "blood libel", the anti-Semitic lie that Jews ritually sacrifice Christian babies, used as an argument for the extermination of the entire Jewish people in "racial self-defence". Others have emphasized that there is only a short way, politically, morally and maybe practically, between the mass detention centres for immigrants such as planned by the U.S. and now the European Union, and concentration camps. 

Fascism is qualitatively different than capitalist democracy. It resolves the howling contradiction between the reality and the promises of universal human rights by declaring war on the concept of human equality itself. Yet ever since the U.S. and especially the French revolutions proclaimed universal human rights, what has flourished has not been "brotherhood" but relations of exploitation and oppression among human beings. 

Take Thomas Jefferson, the author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence that declared "All men are created equal". Jefferson owned Sally Hemings, who lived and died his slave. They were "family'" biologically. She was his sister-in-law (her slavemaster father was also the father of Jefferson's deceased "white" wife Martha, to whom she belonged), and became the mother of six of Jefferson's children. But the only thing that mattered, legally and socially at that time, was that she and her children were Jefferson's property. He had the right to do whatever he wanted with her and her children, rape or even kill them, just as he had the right to slaughter his livestock for his dinner and cut down his trees for firewood. Whatever affection that may or may not have existed was overruled by a social and legal fact that could allow no exception without the whole system collapsing: all children born to a slave mother became slaves. 

As Bob Avakian delves into at some length in Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, the democracy Jefferson envisaged and founded was one based on the formal equality (legal rights) between property owners within a social and economic system founded on oppression and exploitation. This was true in his time when the "right to property" Jefferson considered one of the most basic human rights included the right to own other people, not necessarily just because of his personal failings as a human being, as if they were inconsistent with his political outlook. He was a product and representative of a system of property relations that would fall into "convulsions", as he wrote, if its moral structure were undermined. 

This is still true today, when capitalism, based on a social relationship between people in which some people own the means of producing wealth and others have no choice but to sell them their ability to work. Even if they are no longer slaves, in order to be able to live they are obliged to "labour for [the owner's] happiness", as Jefferson wrote about his slaves, as if this were right and just. This "fundamental relation of inequality and domination," as Avakian calls it, has developed into a global system in which "capitalism puts into the hands of individuals, as individual wealth and capital, that which has been produced by all of society – and today, more than ever, this takes place on a worldwide scale." (BAsics, pp. 176-177) One fundamental feature of this imperialist system is the division of the world into oppressed and oppressor countries. This is the system that arose, as Marx incisively revealed, out of the wealth produced by the kidnapping and selling of Africans and their labour, the working to death of South America's original population in gold and silver mines, and the looting of Asia. 

This system is what has led to the unprecedented and rapidly multiplying numbers of forcibly displaced people around the world, now 65 million, more than half of them children. They include Syrians, Afghanis and Iraqis fleeing imperialist-driven wars who have made up the bulk of refugees in Europe, and Central Americans fleeing the violence seeded by U.S. intervention and domination. They also include the millions in Asia, Africa and Latin America whose situation have become lethal as a result of the workings of the global economic system as well as the policies of imperialist-backed governments. Some people, seeking moral justification, try to make a distinction between "refugees" and "economic migrants". But what morality does this belong to? Why is it considered laudable for some people in the rich countries to aspire to a certain way of life, even if that's achieved through the exploitation of other people at "home" and abroad, while it's considered criminal for people in other countries to flee to where that way of life is possible, where the wealth produced by worldwide exploitation is concentrated? Defending today's war on immigrants means accepting an imperialist nationalist morality in which "we" deserve what "they" don't because "they" are not "us". 

When today's fascists talk about "survival", they mean the survival of this system and especially protecting and advancing their privileged place in it. There is a perverse utility to this "ethnic fundamentalism": it not only defends the existing property relations, relations of exploitation and oppression, but also prepares a fanatical hard core and people more broadly to accept and participate in the violent restructuring of societies and the world required by today's convulsions of the global imperialist system.

It is crucial for increasing numbers of people to grasp what is happening today and to do everything possible to stop today's fascist onslaught, and its programmes and ideology, including its morality, in its tracks. As Avakian writes, "Even in order to make a revolution, this is crucial, as well as for people not to be crushed and demoralized in immediate terms." (The New Communism, pp. 118-119) This includes the need for people to not become crushed and degraded in their thinking, in what they consider acceptable.

A crucial battleline in that fight is to take a decisive stand right now that the oppressed and exploited everywhere are "our kids", our sisters and brothers, our family in this fight.
A protest was held in Wichita, Yesterday, to protest the separation of Children and their parents. See The Idiot Factor.

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