Exhausted and starving migrants in Lampedusa: the failure of capitalism

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
September 18, 2023

What do we hear from European leaders? That we’re “on high alert”, that there’s “an emergency”. And why? Is it because of the war in Ukraine and international rivalries being more strained? Climate change? Economic chaos due to inflation causing widespread poverty?

None of the above! European leaders are panicking because 11,000 migrants have reached the island of Lampedusa. The leaders aren’t just ridiculous, they’re contemptible.

There are reasons to panic but a few thousand people arriving in the European Union where there are already 450 million is not one of them. The women and men arriving will become workers and will sooner or later be right beside us on production lines and work sites, in restaurant kitchens, in security and cleaning jobs.

What is worthy of panic is how irresponsible our leaders are. The masters of the world, the most powerful heads of state and the great financial, commercial and industrial capitalists are incapable of running society properly.

They’re incapable of ensuring the bare minimum for the eight billion people on this planet. They’re incapable of ensuring peace between peoples. They’re incapable of even preserving what exists – drought, floods and wars mean that more and more regions of the world are uninhabitable.

Their system is nothing but pillage, accumulation and senseless waste not to mention multiple persecutions. But the problem is the poorest people trying to escape their fate?

With the arrival of women and men from the other side of the Mediterranean, the inequality and the poverty created by the governing classes have caught up with them. And this is just the start – the number of displaced persons is increasing across the globe.

Whether workers have an immigrant background or not – and a great many do – they must have their own policy on immigration. That policy must be one of welcoming the future workers to our side, the side of the exploited. It’s where they belong and their future is to join in the struggles that all workers have to wage against exploitation.

The European policy on border closures is criminal. The most notable result is that the Mediterranean has become a mass graveyard. As for the ranting of the far right, who promise to completely close all borders so there’s zero immigration, that’s just an act.

Italy’s far-right prime minister, Meloni, was elected on her promise to set up a naval blockade against migrants. In speeches identical to that of Le Pen, she explained that she would personally deal with her country’s borders. But Lampedusa is still 170 kms from Tunisia and the illegal vessels keep coming because, while so much suffering remains in the world, women and men will risk death in the hope of a better life.

All world leaders feel contempt mixed with deep hatred for the poorest people who only have their muscles and brain for their survival. Even if capitalists need foreign workers – and this is true throughout the EU – their politicians carry on with their demagoguery and make life harder for those who arrived recently as much as they do for those who have been here for some time.

This shows currently, here in France, with Interior Minister Darmanin and the immigration law he’s preparing. He is forced to admit that big business needs immigrant workers. How many hospitals could function without immigrant healthcare personnel? How many restaurants or hotels? And how much work would be done for the Olympic Games in 2024 without undocumented workers? But Darmanin also wants to appear even more anti-immigrant than Le Pen, so he’s refusing to regularize undocumented immigrants and will continue to make their lives miserable by using slogans well-loved on the far right.

The ruling class is incapable of running society properly but it has mastered the art of dividing to rule. We mustn’t fall into that trap! We mustn’t let ourselves be set against other workers who are even poorer than we are! We are all on the same side against a world order that is dominated by the capitalist class and becoming more and more barbaric. Each and every one of us must be conscious of this!

Nathalie Arthaud