October 24, 2020


It should be noted that the backlash against immigration is often expressed within racial categories. Workers from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and other African countries who’ve migrated to South Africa have faced terrible violence from locals who resent their competition in the job market. And in the mid-19th century, it was white Christian Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine who stoked the anger of restive urban workers—as dramatically portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s 2002 masterpiece Gangs of New York. Bad economic times tend to push people into tribes—and race is just one way that such tribes self-organize.

A modern-day (and decidedly less violent) version of this intra-racial pattern is represented by London’s so-called Polish Plumbers. Something like a million Poles migrated to Western Europe since their country joined the EU in 2004. A majority settled in the United Kingdom—part of the nearly 17 million “posted workers” in the European Union who live and work in a country other than their own. For the most part, they come from Eastern Europe and seek jobs in the more affluent west.

What drives them is what drives Central American migrants who seek entry into the United States. They’re looking for higher incomes, better schools, a brighter future for their families. These are dreams that everyone shares. The difference is that posted workers are legal, while many Central American migrants who cross the border are not. The idea that whole nations—including their low-paid workers—will someday celebrate the ideal of “open borders” is a fantasy, just as Sanders told us five years ago. And given the crushing effect on the poorest members of our society, it is ironic that it is progressives who embrace this fantasy most fervently. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who campaigned to yank Great Britain from the EU (and hence its acceptance of posted workers), can thank the Polish Plumbers for giving him the greatest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher—as their presence helped him sweep formerly Labour-voting working-class constituencies across northern England.

I’m not supposed to say this, but I will: Taking a knee to Black Lives Matter, or hauling down monuments, isn’t going to change any of this. Nor will corporate diversity policies, many of which are trumpeted on social media by the same conglomerates that are hiring low-cost labor in droves. What we need are policies—including trade and immigration policies—that help us carve up the economic pie in a way that sees all workers get their fair share, no matter what their ethnicity.

In America, class war is disguised as cultural war, and cultural war is often cloaked in the language of race and civil rights, to coin an Insta-phrase.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): When Rulers Despise The Ruled. “If the rulers feel neither loyalty nor empathy toward the ruled, the ruled can be expected to return the favor.”

Related: Trump is a symptom of a new kind of class warfare raging at home and abroad: “But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.”

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