‘Migration is not a crime’ street art, Cardiff, 2011. Photo: Flickr/Walt Jabsco ‘Migration is not a crime’ street art, Cardiff, 2011. Photo: Flickr/Walt Jabsco

Internationalism is the key to striking back against the bosses’ Brexit, asserts Cameron Panting

Those who say they are in favour of immigration controls need to consider the following: on what basis would you keep people out? Race, birthplace, or age? Because they are poor or unskilled, or maybe because they have the wrong skills? On the grounds of religion…? Because they are from Europe? Because they aren’t from Europe?

Do we just want those who come from the nice, cuddly, more developed countries, not the one’s with all the famine and war, or just the ones where there is war? Do they have to show they are truly in danger and don’t just need a home and a job?

The NHS is in crisis, teachers have too much work, rents are sky high, and we are low-paid and underemployed. This is not because of immigration, and we should not pretend that it is. Doing so diverts attention from the real problem; inequality.

People move around. That is a fact of life, and in the modern age, technology means they are moving around more. This advancement is a good thing. That people need to run around the globe, leaving their families and communities because their jobs aren’t protected, or their homes have been destroyed, is a bad thing.


We could fix that by not dropping bombs, and by protecting jobs and industry. Controlling immigration does nothing but make the immigrant a second-class citizen. If people need to move, they will move, the only question is whether we welcome them with open arms, or put up barriers.

Talk of immigration controls has always been used as a proxy for racism. Most often, when people talk about wanting to control immigration, they mean people from countries where there is a high black population. You rarely hear people decrying those from Australia or Canada coming here.

Currently, the ‘free movement’ of the EU operates on racist terms, as those outside of Europe are not let in. Controls always have a differential racial impact, further penalising groups that are already materially disadvantaged. This is furthered by state security apparatus, such as the Prevent program, which feeds on and reproduces Islamophobia.

If we make the case for free movement, we can popularise the argument. If we give ground on such a fundamental issue, we pave the way for the opposing side to win and legitimise racism. Doing so is also demoralising for those who fight against racism, and even more depressing for those who are victims of it. It treats humans as cattle to be bought and sold, or, more accurately, human capital.


We must offer a clear alternative. Investment in public services, building more houses, raising the minimum wage and bringing back union rights. Controlling immigration will not stop employers forcing down wages.

We have more in common with working class people from abroad than we do with British people who do not have to work to live. They are the real scroungers.

Brexit can be made to work for us, but that depends on defending and extending the rights we have, not giving up more. We must fight for all workers’ rights, including those of migrants.

Maybe if we join with them to fight for a better standard of living, where we reap the rewards of our labour, perhaps we will realise that we have more that unites us than we might think.

Cameron Panting

Cameron Panting was formerly National Organiser for Counterfire. He is active within the People's Assembly and Stop The War.