Wednesday, March 29, 2006



The Immigration Conundrum

By Jack Random

Americans scoff at the French as they protest a new labor law making it easy for employers to dismiss young workers without cause in the first two years of employment. We long ago sacrificed the rights of labor – job security rights, the right to a living wage, the right to organize in unions, the right to fair and impartial arbitration, the right to strike – and we expect others to passively do the same.

Lurking beneath the French labor dispute, which is nothing short of an attack on an already marginalized union movement, is the European immigration conundrum: a growing dependence on a second class labor force which is routinely denied all rights.

We are so enamored with the rights of our corporate masters that we denigrate anyone who stands for the rights of the worker.

Europe is at a crossroad: Trapped between the American neo-liberal model (let the market rule, labor laws and unions be damned!) and the modern European tradition of caring for the working class, the poor, the dispossessed, the infirm and unfortunate.

Somehow, Americans have difficulty making the connection between our own loss of skilled, secure middle class jobs and the methodical stripping away of labor protections in our own and other nations.

For so long now we have been duped into advocating against our own cause because we fail to recognize that we are members of the working class. The impoverished workers of other, less fortunate nations are who we used to be not so many years ago. They are who we will become again if the neo-liberal globalists have their way. Instead of holding our foreign brothers and sisters up, we have learned to be indifferent and dismissive. We have been conditioned to accept an inevitability of globalism on the terms offered by the neo-liberal ideologues, neglecting to observe that the model has been a dismal failure on both macro and micro economic scales.

Latin America has learned the value of an economy that strengthens the working class so that they are transformed into a consuming middle class. The European model has not failed; it has simply given up the struggle to cheap labor.

Already reduced to representing less than ten percent of the labor force, the neo-liberal administration of Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin is attempting to finish the job of crushing the unions while pretending to open new opportunities for employment. Translation: Let them work in the French version of Wal Mart.

With the failure of the flawed and ultimately dishonest European Union constitution (a document that ignored the problem of cheap immigrant labor) and the revelations that both Germany and France aided the American invasion of Iraq with strategic intelligence, hope is waning that continental Europe will fulfill its promise as a counterpoint to American dominance and corporate neo-liberal globalism.

Only Spain has moved in the right direction by recognizing that labor rights are not the problem but the solution to the crisis that threatens all of European culture, its essential values and the underpinning of its social order. Spain, however, is only one nation and one nation cannot stand alone against the tidal wave of globalization.

It is apparent that Europe is no longer leading but following the American model. It is a model that has wreaked havoc all over the world and one that is doomed to failure for it eliminates the most essential component of a thriving economy: a prospering middle class.

Saddled by unimaginable debt and the debilitating combination of tax cuts for the elite and uncontrollable military spending, America will go down first. Soon America’s fate will be in the hands of its foreign creditors. When the chips are called in (as they inevitably must be), America will decline. She may well attempt to reclaim her glory by asserting her military might but, as all the world save a handful of neocons in Washington already know, the military dominance model failed decades if not centuries ago.

At that crossing, Europe will face a choice: Whether to blindly follow the American path of unrestricted, global free enterprise or to strike out in a new direction. If she chooses the former, she will inherit America’s former clientele, the international corporate monoliths, only to discover, as America did, that the clients have become the masters and the masters have become the slaves. She may suffer under an illusion of prosperity for a spell but the illusion will soon dissipate and the spectacle of spiral descent will be visited upon much of the world.

If she chooses a new path, she must discover an old friend.

America is afflicted with an impairment that Europe does not share. Americans are terrorized by words. What is cause for reflection and debate in European circles sends Americans into convulsive fits of madness. The mere mention of the word “socialism” shuts off all discourse, oblivious to the stone cold fact that America’s emergence from the Great Depression was largely a function of socialistic medicine.

If the world is to be saved from the coming fall, Europe must follow the path that is currently sweeping through Latin America in response the wholesale failures of neo-liberal globalism.

Far from the defunct Soviet model or the flawed Cuban model, we must find a way to blend the virtues of socialism with the vibrancy of capitalism. A viable economic system must be founded on an open social and political system that guarantees the fundamental rights of humankind, including the rights of labor.

It must be supported by an education system that sacrifices nationalistic propaganda in favor of the free flow of knowledge and information, a principle that must also be translated into a free and open press.

The Soviet Union did not fall because socialism failed. It fell because of its oppressive, closed political system, a system that fostered massive corruption, and an ideologically driven prohibition on free enterprise. We are now discovering that uncontrolled capitalism with an ideologically driven prohibition on government regulation and social safeguards is equally prone to corruption and preordained for demise.

If we are to avoid that failure and the catastrophic collapse that will follow, we must create a balance, a hybrid that allows for both equity and prosperity, individual innovation and social responsibility.

It begins with a rediscovery, reaffirmation and globalization of the inalienable rights of labor.



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