No One Is Illegal—[ruminations on the Paulista “option”]

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Dr No with his previous idol, the preternaturally malignant phony Ronald Reagan. [Photofind: J. Miller]

By “lenin” [principal editor of Lenin’s Tomb]

EVEN THE LIBERTARIAN Ron Paulista, Justin Raimondo, is disturbed by Ron Paul openly pandering to the racist vote. The usual spiel about immigrants having diminished in quality is inter-mingled with a licit appeal to commonplace Islamophobia. But Paul is only behaving as he might: he is a pro-gun, anti-abortion, Christian conservative who opposes stem cell research and he’s one of the few who takes the John Birch Society seriously.

The only source of slight amazement is the internet buzz around the kooky little reactionary, almost entirely borne out of his opposition to the war. The trouble is, as I noted, practically every other serious presidential candidate is talking about working for the clampdown. And in Iowa, the centre of attention for the time being, the arrival of Hispanic immigrants is seen as increasing crime and – so says the reporter – diluting the “Nordic” heritage of local towns. Of course, few would put the Aryanism as bluntly as that. Among the excuses one hears for this position is that “it’s not racism, we simply want people to respect the law”. Why, they wonder aloud, would any country accept people who break the law? Would you accept a burglar as a guest in your house?

But the laws are unjust, and a country ain’t a fucking house. Immigration controls are unjust because they constitute a limitation on the right to work; because they penalise the poorest workers in the world; because they intensify the advantage that (increasingly mobile) capital already has over the labour it exploits; because they rely on the construction of tyrannical powers for the state (the only remaining state with truly effective border controls being North Korea); and because they rely on racist discursive practises with characteristically deadly effects. Immigration controls are not always good for specific sectors of capital – sometimes they face labour shortages because of specific caps on seasonal workers – but as a rule they maintain a flow of labour while keeping it under some level of control, keeping it domesticated and timid with the threat of imminent exposure and expulsion.

Mexican workers have catalysed economic growth in the US economy since 1848, and have been the targets of Jim Crow-style segregation for as long, particularly in California. After all, the annexation of Texas was in part an attempt by the southern states to expand the the scope of slavery and thus buttress their own power. Texan secession from Mexico had followed the ethnic cleansing of the area’s Indian population, and the place was governed according to the principles of white supremacy. Despite the racist hysteria against them, Mexican workers have often been sufficiently useful to capitalists in the south-west to stymy long-term pogroms against them, even while Chinese workers were being subjected to terrorist purges across the West, and Asian workers in general falling foul of stern anti-immigration laws (esp. from 1924 to 1965). Yet, even their acceptance by US agricultural interests involved scientific claims for their docility, lack of intelligence and willingness to accept hard work. And when the shit hit the fan in the Great Depression, Mexicans were to feel the forceful brunt of a nativist reaction, when Congress approved driving Mexican workers out of the country, particularly out of Texas, with more than half a million people expelled. This kind of repression didn’t have to be long-term: by enshrining the right to expel labour en masse, by organising repression along racial lines, such laws enabled employers enormous leverage over the labour market and worker mobility. And when you can simply cast a huge portion of the workforce out of the human race, declare them unfit for the considerations afforded everyone else, one has less work to do with welfare and employment programmes. Historically, such laws have been used to monitor the most militant, union-focused workers, and weed them out. Similarly, after the 2006 immigrant uprising in the US, the laws were used to intimidate and round up thousands of the most precariously placed workers in the country.

The drama in Ron Paul’s latest advertisement revolves around people scrambling across borders, eluding the law and the militias, possibly bringing jihad to American towns and cities. This depiction of immigration with the thrill of border chases, brown-eyed elopers, cursing smugglers, vigilant lawmen and vigilante citizens, is the usual American schtick. However, the bulk of migrants classified as “illegals” are people who arrived in the country by lawful means and happen to have overstayed or are awaiting renewed visas. Incidentally, this is also true in Fortress Europe: many of those presently serving coffees or painting interiors across London are “illegal” by virtue of having outstayed permits. Their rights are therefore precarious and, though they frequently pay taxes, their access to social protection and welfare is severely curtailed. Let us not dwell on those who, though they are perfectly legal in seeking asylum in this country, are separated from their families and locked up in prisons that politicians call ‘detention centres’. The conversion of labour segregation and repression into a form of entertainment, however, serves to awaken the fantasy of invasion. Well, what of ‘invasion’? In the US, about 12.5% of the population (37.5m people) is foreign born. About half of these are classified as white, and that isn’t the half that is getting the heat. A third of the total were born in Mexico, and in turn half of those arrived before 1990. The bulk of those who arrived recently are there for short-term employment contracts, and that is particularly true of those classified as “illegals”. Far from “taking our jobs”, one of the effects of “illegals” is to increase overall employment and sustain flagging businesses that provide work and services to nonimmigrants. The econometric evidence overwhelmingly sustains this argument (and, incidentally, it is equally true of Eastern European migration to the UK). So, the free movement of labour is not only a right that workers should claim – and one that could increasingly be fulfilled well given the reducing costs of transport – it is a positive boost to the strength of the working class. The criminalisation and segregation of workers is, by contrast, in no part of our interest.

“lenin” is the nom de guerre of a revolutionary socialist from Northern Ireland, twenty eight years old, who “can resist anything except temptation, flattery or money.” He’s part of the group publishing Lenin’s Tomb, a thought-provoking blog.

<Suggested by fellow editor John Steppling. [VOXPOP]>


Ron Paul on MEET THE PRESS, with Tim Russert, 23 Dec 2007.
4 comments on “No One Is Illegal—[ruminations on the Paulista “option”]
  1. GRAFTED POSTS from Lenin’s Tomb

    It is absolutely untrue that I am accusing Ron Paul of “racism”: anyone who reads my statement on the matter can see this, and I fail to see how you imagine you’re fooling your few readers into taking this view, considering the plain meaning of my words. I take issue with Paul’s “no student visas” position regarding residents of “terrorist nations.” What this means is that since Cuba, for example, is an officially designated state sponsor of terrorism, no Cuban student — including any who have escaped from Fidel’s Gulag — could receive permission to study in the US. An absurd position, on its face.

    Ron Paul is no racist, and I never said he was.
    Justin Raimondo | Homepage | 30 Dec, 19:17 | #

    No one here says you accuse Ron Paul of being a racist. In fact, what I say is that you are disturbed by his latest ad which panders to the racist vote. It clearly does that, whether you care to put it in those terms or not. I don’t know whether Paul is deep in his heart a racist and I don’t care.
    lenin | Homepage | 30 Dec, 19:45 | #

    Another timely article, one which resonates with me as I live in Iowa near Perry, and I’m familiar with the Ron paul phenomenon. Iowa is a place where the white working class is basically stupefied, Ron Paul has about as much traction here as anywhere, which is little. In this age of information, Ron Paul is just another voice among the din. A people who have been stripped of any collective will to fight for either progressive or rightist causes only make noises about God, guns and guts but the glory days are over. Representative King is right, although he is known as a national embarrassment by Iowa progressives for his wild reactionary statements, “there is no will” to do anything about the “invasion”. A few nuts will continue to pump money into Paul’s campaign but I think his wild statements about Lincoln have buried him, and of course the shrillness of his immigration rhetoric will backfire like it did for Tancredo.
    bob allen | 30 Dec, 20:08 | #

    Fidel’s gulag? the only gulag on Cuban soil is at Guantanamo Bay.
    SGuy | 30 Dec, 20:19 | #

    the really loopy thing about ron paul is the almost anti-capitalist rhetoric of his most excitable supporters. the socialism of fools?
    cripstyl | 30 Dec, 21:58 | #

    The question is whether or not these immigrants violate the law. And here I mean not only immigration laws but also common laws of the country where they settle. If immigrants are responsible hard-working workers, it isn’t a problem at all. It is a problem when we deal with militant Muslims or fundamentalist Christians or other people who being born in countries without basic notions of justice and equality don’t understand our basic values.
    Ilya | 30 Dec, 22:18 | #

    Ron Paul is no worse than his fellow republican candidates. Given his position on the war i’d say i would be quite happy for him to win the nomination, given the ghoulish characters running for the republican nomination.

    As for the democrats, well the less said the better. If only Kucinich had a chance?
    atlas | 30 Dec, 22:37 | #

    I really liked the Kucinich response to a question about immigration. “No human being is illegal”. Perhaps it’s naiive but I think it would be somewhat heartening if he got half decent numbers in some of the primaries, I know he’s got no chance of tackling the election machines of the big three.
    Nim Chimpsky | 30 Dec, 23:02 | #

    The supposed, periodic, anti-capitalism of some Ron Paul supporters strikes me as no different to the rhetoric that came out of Buchanan (another anti-war reactionary) in the US, Le Pen in France or the short-lived One Nation movement of Pauline Hanson in Australia. They weren’t remotely anti-capitalist, simply disenfranchised and unable to imagine an alternative other than a recovering alcoholic’s vague sense-memory of things being better back in the day.

    Even Huckabee is talking about “fair” trade, not “free” trade, by which he simply means increase state largess for US agricultural sector. Big Tobacco. Big Corn. Big Etcetera.

    Which then ties back into the Mexican question. The most infuriating part of the anti-Mexican rhetoric for me is the sheer ignorance from so many in the USA about the effects that their country’s policies are having on Mexico. The dumping of subsidised food has gutted the Mexican agricultural sector, leaving hundreds of thousands (if not millions) further impoverished and out of work, and at the same time industrial wages in Mexico have stagnated.

    The USA’s policies are keeping Mexico impoverished, and it relies on expendable labour to keep its consumer fantasy economy ticking along, and then it dares to complain when Mexicans come to seek work in the USA! The real snakes here, though, may well be the liberals who hide behind compassion or anti-racism to justify and further entrench the exploitation of migrant labour.
    Raj Decency | 31 Dec, 02:11 | #

  2. I’ve read plenty of Raimondo in recent years—prompted by his compelling and highly articulate diatribes against imperial war— and must admit can’t figure what makes this guy tick. On the hand, a subtle analyst of current systemic reality; on the other a stubborn libertarian. Historicalism and ahistoricalims, side by side. His blinders are evident in the way he looks at Cuba. The island’s revolution is not perfect, but what is by the standards of commonly accepted bourgeois politics? Raimondo shows his true capitalist colors by talking about a “Cuban gulag”. If that isn’t a cheap shot I don’t know what is.

  3. Reagan the fascist
    as far as the illegals go America would be wise to crack down hard on them
    jobs or going to get scarce in 08
    after 08 Depression is the outlook
    And forget about the NAU how do you join an illiterate country like Mexico with Canada and USA.
    the only thing you will accomplish is the 3rd world happening to bankrupt America

  4. The only Cuban gulag is Gitmo
    Why America still refuses Cuba a normal relationship is beyond , What I consider to be reasonable diplomacy .

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