Full rights for immigrants now!

by Tim Hall

. (Editorial from the Spring-Summer, 2006 issue of Struggle, a magazine of proletarian revolutionary literature.)

. Immigrant workers, supported by students and others, have stood up! One of the most exploited parts of the capitalist workforce has stood up! Truly massive rallies and marches have been held this spring in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Denver, Seattle and many smaller cities including Detroit (which I attended) demanding full rights now!

. Struggle enthusiastically supports this movement. We have always supported full rights for African-Americans and all other oppressed minorities. Full and equal rights are not only a matter of elementary morality and justice but are essential for the unity and progress of the struggle of the entire working class. The so-called "illegals" have not only paid taxes (without claiming returns), paid in to social security (with no prospect of collecting) but have been exploited heavily by the wealthy American capitalists. As the immigrant workers say, if they didn't need us, there wouldn't be jobs for us. The surplus value the capitalists extract from these workers' labor has produced massive wealth. All workers are unpaid for a portion of their day's work. This is the source of capitalist profit. Illegality forces the immigrants' wages down still further, so the bosses reap even greater profits from them. This is why many employers want them here -- but also want them to remain illegal or semi-legal. The undocumented have paid their dues. They deserve full rights.

. Illegality hinders the ability of one part of the proletariat to associate and organize, keeping their wages low. This results in competition with the legal workers, undercutting their wages and forcing them down also. Therefore, legalization and full rights for immigrant workers benefits both groups, by helping common organization and common struggle of the workers as a class against the capitalist vampires who exploit us all.

. The great immigrant rallies and marches of the Spring of '06 have been festive and militant. What glorious events! We hope they mark a new awakening of the U.S. working class. There is also a resurgence of the anti-war movement and some motion among native-born workers faced with wage cuts and plant closings. These developments should be very encouraging to class-conscious workers and justice-loving people everywhere, including the readers and contributors to this magazine.

. The way forward is a difficult one. Bush and the U.S. bourgeoisie, Republicans and Democrats alike, plot new war adventures. The cost of living is soaring as CEOs rake in obscene profits. And in the movement for immigrant rights there is as yet no clear way forward. House Bill 4437, which threatened deeper criminalization of immigrants and heavier border repression, seems to hve been defeated by the rallies. But Republican Senate majority leader Frist is promising early passage of a compromise bill, apparently to be based largely on the Kennedy-McCain bill, which promised heavy repression while offering a lengthy, virtually unattainable path to citizenship for immigrants, plus the servitude of a new bracero-like guest worker program. Only if the activists deepen the class-consciousness of the workers, rely on mass struggle and strive to break free of the influence of both capitalist political parties will the struggle move forward. The speed of the movement to date shows that much is possible.

Si, se puede!
Full rights for immigrants now!
Workers of all countries, unite!

* * * * *

. The present issue of Struggle highlights the question of immigration. Many of the writers are long-term contributors to this magazine.

. Tamar Diana Wilson, a resident of Mexico, writes a chilling, under-stated story, "The Crossing," illustrating the hardships of crossing the border illegally (as the law is defined by the rich bourgeois lawmakers). The story is based on accounts told to her by friends in the 1980's; today the situation is only more grim. Evan Christopher's story, "Helados," gives a painful example of the kind of desperate struggle to survive that faces Latino working people and compels many to immigrate. Luis Berriozabal's poems are snapshots of the efforts and difficulties faced by immigrant laborers in the U.S. J.L. Torres sketches Puerto Rican migration. Jaspal Singh's poems evoke the hardships and rebellion of immigrant women from India. Keith Laufenberg's brief story shows how regressive reforms by the Democrats under Clinton brought disaster to some immigrants.

. Bob Vance writes a lovely poem expressing the age-old aspiration of working people to live without borders, in harmony with each other. It reminds me of the wonderful Italian communist song "Bandiera Rossa" which has a verse: "Non piu n'emici/ Non piu frontieri/ Sono i confini, Rosse bandiere!" (rough translation: "There'll be no enemies/We will not be confined/There'll be no borders where/The red flag leads us!") This song emerged when communism had not yet been besmirched by the revisionism of Stalin and Trotsky, when it still represented the aspirations and militant struggle of the working class for a society run by working people, liberated from the tyranny of capitalism.

. Writers for Struggle are all rebelling against this tyranny. We do not all agree on the path for this struggle. This issue, like all previous ones, is in effect a dialogue of artists on this broad subject. As editor I frequently put forth my Marxist point of view but I welcome submissions from a wide range of anti-establishment viewpoints. My three poems in this issue come from my own pre-Marxist days in the middle 60's, when I first experienced organized working-class struggle in the California farmworkers' strike. They are included here partly to show the long involvement of the radical youth movement with the struggles of immigrant labor. One can see, in these poems, that I strongly identified with the workers' movement against a specific set of capitalists in agribusiness, but that I still did not see the nature of capital as a whole, and that I identified the struggle as one for land alone, not yet for the control of the entire productive apparatus, including land. But had I not plunged into these struggles, I probably would not have continued to learn.

. Returning to the present issue: the material on immigration is more or less capped by Nikki Bell de Castanon's militant poem, "Grating the M in Immigrants and The Brown Soul of Our United Nation." This poem expresses the urgency of the present struggle. One can feel here that immigrant labor is standing up. It will no longer accept illegal, or even second-class, status. The country will change. A new militancy is coming into the working-class movement. It should be welcomed by all.

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Last modified: July 19, 2006

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