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Workers Hammer No. 233

Winter 2015-2016

No deportations! Down with the European Union!

Racist Fortress Europe and the refugee crisis

“We did not leave Syria, selling everything we had, to become captives by the British in Cyprus and be threatened to be deported back to Lebanon” said one of the refugees. Having spent days at sea, many were close to death when over 100 refugees were rescued and then detained by the British armed forces in Cyprus in late October. Soon the imprisoned refugees protested, saying: “We’re people, not animals!” and demanded the right to leave. The vicious treatment of the refugees there shows in microcosm the role of the imperialists in fomenting the European refugee crisis described in the article below. As former colonial ruler, the British retained two bases, at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, as sovereign British territories following independence for Cyprus in 1960. Akrotiri is today used by the RAF to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.

Of course, for British imperialism, which has contributed massively to the US-led military devastation of whole societies in the Near East, Britain’s sovereign territory in Cyprus is out of bounds for refugees who have been forced to flee for their lives as a result. The British authorities have given the refugees on their base an ultimatum — either apply for status in Cyprus, or be deported. This is an outrage: The British military should be driven out of Cyprus, while the immigrants should be given full citizenship rights in Britain!

The following article is adapted from Workers Vanguard no 1077, 30 October 2015, newspaper of the Spartacist League/US.

* * *

The US and European imperialist powers are to blame for the plight of hundreds of thousands of desperate people trying to enter Europe. In particular, US-led wars and occupations in the Near East have forced millions to flee their homes. With the ensuing mass inflow into Europe (only a tiny percentage of the world’s 60 million refugees), the European Union (EU) has ramped up repressive measures to block entry and hasten deportations.

The EU’s response to the horrific mass drownings of some 2500 refugees in the Mediterranean earlier this year was to further militarise the borders. Member states, including Germany, Britain, France and Italy, dispatched warships to the coast of Libya and elsewhere, ostensibly to deter “people smugglers”. But the real purpose was to prevent refugees from reaching the shores of racist “Fortress Europe”.

With the door closing on Mediterranean routes, refugees fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries had little choice but to make the journey through the Balkans. In August, many thousands streamed into Hungary every day, even as the viciously anti-immigrant government in Budapest unleashed cops on the refugees and threatened mass deportations. Recognising that the influx was all but unstoppable, German chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the refugees trapped in Hungary would be welcome to enter Germany via Austria. This gambit helped refurbish the image of German imperialism: Merkel went from being widely reviled for her role in the Greek debt crisis to being celebrated as the EU’s “humanitarian” face.

With upwards of 10,000 people a day pouring into Germany, a racist backlash broke out from within Merkel’s own party, the Christian Democratic Union, and its Bavarian sister party. Germany quickly introduced controls at the Austrian border. Along with French president François Hollande, Merkel attempted to force other EU member states to “share the burden” and accept mandatory quotas of refugees. This move provoked an uproar within the EU, highlighting its instability. In Britain, where the ruling Conservatives vie with the racist, anti-immigrant “eurosceptics” of the UK Independence Party, prime minister David Cameron refused to accept a quota. Meanwhile, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban dismissed the German proposal as “moral imperialism”.

The EU’s vaunted passport-free internal borders were never an obstacle to the mass deportation of those deemed undesirable by the capitalist rulers, eg Roma (Gypsies) expelled from France. Recent events have now made a complete mockery of any such pretensions. Hungary erected razor-wire fences on its borders and passed legislation making illegal border crossing a crime punishable by up to five years in jail. A Bulgarian border patrol shot and killed an Afghan refugee. EU leaders came up with yet another round of tough anti-immigrant laws. In Germany, the Bundestag passed new legislation to speed up processing and deportation and is debating whether to create refugee “transit zones”, which have been likened to concentration camps.

Anti-immigrant racism has again flared up on the streets of Germany, too. In early October, some 10,000 hardcore racists and outright fascists marched through Dresden condemning Merkel and chanted, “Deport, deport!” That lynch mob was organised by the racist, anti-Muslim Pegida outfit, which has newfound wind in its sails. When Pegida claimed buses of “invaders” were headed to a refugee camp in Saxony, hundreds of locals set up barricades to keep immigrants out.

Notably, the German union IG Metall issued an 8 September 2015 declaration, “Towards a Sustainable Refugee Policy Based on Solidarity”, that among other things “condemns any and all acts of violence towards refugees in the strongest possible terms”. The point, however, should not be for labour to give policy advice to the bourgeois government, the masters of divide-and-rule, but to mobilise concrete acts of solidarity, such as defence of refugee hostels against racist attack and opposition to deportations. The squalid debate over who is a “genuine” refugee must be rejected wholesale, with the working class instead taking up the fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, regardless of how they entered the country.

For the mass of immigrants, refugee status is in effect the only way to obtain the right to remain in an EU country. The capitalist rulers select refugees according to the needs of the economy. Germany’s aging population and low birth rate has resulted in labour shortages in certain sectors. Syrian refugees, who are often relatively educated and skilled, are more likely to be given legal status than those from poverty-stricken Kosovo, where one in four people live on 1.20 euros (85p) per day. Germany has added Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro to its list of “safe states”, virtually guaranteeing that immigrants from these countries — particularly Roma — will be deported.

The current refugee crisis in Europe is the worst since at least that which accompanied the fratricidal bloodletting triggered by the 1991 counterrevolutionary breakup of Yugoslavia, in which German imperialism played a major part. In the early-mid 1990s, the US led a bombing campaign in Bosnia, followed by the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, which Germany joined, under the pretext of defending Kosovo. In reality, the US aim was to insert a NATO military presence into the region. As our comrades in Germany wrote in Spartakist no 210 (October 2015): “Kosovo is now a NATO protectorate, controlled by the Bundeswehr as the major component of the imperialist KFOR occupation forces. The German bourgeoisie sees the Balkans as its backyard, which it previously occupied under the Third Reich. No deportations of Roma! Bundeswehr out of the Balkans!

Merkel talks Turkey

Turkey has more than two million Syrian refugees, twice the number projected to apply to enter Europe this year, even though Turkey’s population of 75 million is dwarfed by the over 500 million in the EU. Nevertheless, Merkel shamelessly tried to bribe Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to take the refugees off her hands. Aid totalling three billion euros, promises to “re-energise” Turkey’s frozen EU membership application and visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens visiting the EU were among the sweeteners offered.

The Turkish government, though, wants even more in return for its services, with Erdogan viewing the Syrian quagmire as an opportunity to pursue Turkey’s broader ambitions. His regime has renewed its murderous decades-long war against the oppressed Kurds at home and sought to prevent the Kurds in Syria from establishing an autonomous region across the Turkish border. The Turkish working class must defend the Kurds against Erdogan’s bloody war. We oppose the vicious state repression against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), notwithstanding our political differences with this nationalist group.

We Marxists have no side in the ethnic-sectarian civil war in Syria. However, a year ago the US intervened militarily, assembling a coalition that has to date conducted over 7600 airstrikes against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria with the aid of spotters on the ground, including the Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish nationalists. Recognising US imperialism as the greatest danger to the working people and downtrodden of the planet, we declared: “Revolutionary Marxists have a military side with ISIS when it targets the imperialists and their proxies, including the Syrian Kurdish nationalists, the [Iraqi Kurdish] pesh merga, the Baghdad government and its Shi’ite militias” (Workers Vanguard no 1055, 31 October 2014). In addition, we demand the withdrawal of the other capitalist powers involved in the internecine conflict, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia. We look to the proletariat of the Near East as the force with the social power to lead the oppressed masses in the revolutionary overthrow of their capitalist rulers. This perspective must be linked to mobilising workers in the imperialist countries in revolutionary struggle to sweep away their own ruling classes.

US imperialism was emboldened to embark on the military interventions in the Near East that have devastated the social fabric of entire societies and made millions into refugees by the capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union in 1991-92 — a historic catastrophe for the world’s working people. The 2001 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan resulted in the slaughter of untold numbers of people and forced many into Pakistan. In Iraq, the 2003 imperialist toppling of Saddam Hussein, whose bonapartist regime was based on the Sunni minority, unleashed bloody warfare among the Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish populations. The NATO bombing of Libya in 2011 that overthrew the regime of strongman Muammar el-Qaddafi set the stage for a massive exodus and the current turmoil there. The slaughter in Syria has led to 200,000 deaths and driven some four million from that country.

For a Socialist United States of Europe!

In response to the enormous waves of refugees entering Europe, liberals and reformists have promoted fatuous illusions in the EU’s humanitarian facade. A case in point is the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), whose German section raises the demands, “Abolish visa requirements for refugees” and “Tear down the fences at the external borders of the EU” (, 14 October 2015). All such variants of the call for “open borders” amount to advocating the abolition of national states under capitalism — an impossibility. For the CWI (whose British section is the Socialist Party), this notion also feeds the false hope of a reformed capitalism that provides decent lives for everyone.

The same CWI article also demands: “End the Dublin III agreement — for the right to seek asylum in a land of ones [sic] choice.” Such advocates of “open borders” wrongly view the EU as a kind of superstate standing above nation-states, imbued with the power to erase internal borders. The Dublin III Regulation is deemed an impediment to this project because it stipulates that member states can deport refugees to the first EU country that they entered, which then decides whether to detain and/or deport them to their countries of origin. Marxists do not take a position on refugee “burden sharing” between capitalist governments. Rather, we oppose all deportations, irrespective of their legal basis.

The EU is a consortium of capitalist states for the purpose of maximising the exploitation of the working class and for the economic domination and subjugation by the imperialist powers — predominantly Germany — of poorer countries like Greece. The Schengen Agreement, which allows passport-free travel between signatory countries, has nurtured illusions in European integration. Even while the agreement liberalised certain border crossings, the EU toughened measures to keep out those fleeing the inhuman conditions imposed by imperialism on their home countries. Nearly two decades ago, we noted in an International Communist League protest statement titled “‘Fortress Europe’ Bars Kurdish Refugees” (Workers Vanguard no 683, 30 January 1998):

“Like the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which envisioned a common European currency by the end of the century, Schengen was billed as a step toward melding the existing capitalist societies into a single supranational European state. But this is reactionary utopianism. The bourgeoisie, by its nature, is a nationally limited class, whose rise to power was closely associated with the consolidation of powerful nation-states, serving to protect the bourgeoisie’s national market while competing internationally with rival capitalist states.”

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) formally opposes the EU, a position contradicted by its criminal refusal to call for a “no” vote to EU austerity in the July referendum in Greece. Its opposition to the EU proceeds from a nationalist standpoint. The KKE calls for “abolition of the Dublin Regulations and the Schengen Agreement” and proposes “immediate transit of refugees from the [Greek] islands to their final destination countries, under the responsibility of the EU and UN, even utilising direct charter flights” (, 23 September 2015). This touching concern for the EU and UN to provide refugees with safe passage out of Greece echoes the complaint of Greece’s Syriza government that the country is becoming a “warehouse of souls”, that is, burdened by too many refugees.

Our approach is that of proletarian internationalist opposition to the entire construct of the EU. Our comrades in Greece call for a Greek exit from the EU and the euro, while the Spartacist League/Britain calls for an exit in the promised referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU. Leaving the EU and the eurozone will obviously not end capitalist exploitation and imperialist subjugation. But by dealing a blow to this club of bankers and bosses, it would place the working class, especially but not only in Greece, in a better position to struggle for its own interests. Our programme is for proletarian revolutions to expropriate the capitalist exploiters and establish a Socialist United States of Europe.

Historically, the Marxist movement has recognised the potential for foreign-born workers to play a vanguard role. In 1866, when the British master tailors tried to recruit Belgian, French, Swiss and, later, German workers to undercut wages, the International Workingmen’s Association mobilised the workers movement to defeat these attacks. In a letter, Karl Marx observed: “It is a point of honour with the German workers to prove to other countries that they, like their brothers in France, Belgium and Switzerland, know how to defend the common interests of their class and will not become obedient mercenaries of capital in its struggle against labour” (“A Warning”, 4 May 1866). Writing in The Civil War in France about the 1871 Paris Commune, the first example of the working class taking power, Marx pointed out, “The Commune admitted all foreigners to the honour of dying for an immortal cause.” The Commune made a German worker, Leo Frankel, its Minister of Labour and honoured two Polish communards by placing them at the head of the defenders of Paris.

The ICL, too, recognises that the immigrant workers in Europe’s multiethnic working class represent living links to the exploited and oppressed in their countries of origin. As such, they are a vital component of our perspective of permanent revolution, which in dependent countries is the only way to break the chains of imperialist subjugation and end all-sided misery: the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the Near East, the struggle against imperialism and its local satrap regimes and for a socialist federation of the region must be linked to the fight for workers rule in the US and European imperialist heartlands. Together with proletarian revolutions in the other imperialist centres as well as the underdeveloped world, the creation of a socialist Europe would lead to a vast expansion of the productive forces of all countries in an international planned economy. The resulting abolition of material scarcity would propel mankind to new heights, rendering war- and poverty-driven emigration as well as national frontiers relics of a distant past.

Towards that end, the ICL fights to reforge the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.


Workers Hammer No. 233

WH 233

Winter 2015-2016


Class war in the Labour Party

Tories and Blairites turn the screw on Corbyn


Down with anti-Muslim repression!

US, Britain, France out of the Near East!


Quote of the issue

Soviet power v parliament


Myriam (Fetneh) Benoît: 1949–2015


Polish judge denies extradition to US

Defend Roman Polanski!


"Tolerant" Ireland: hell for Travellers


China is not capitalist

China and the world economy: fact v fiction


No deportations! Down with the European Union!

Racist Fortress Europe and the refugee crisis