Communist Youth Organization

The Youth Branch of The Workers’ Communist Party of Iran

Chia Barsen: The refugee crisis: who will define citizenship?

Syrian refugees along with the thousands of other refugees from war stricken countries are fleeing to Europe as a safe haven. Their home countries, for the most part vacuous of ordinary life, flattened by bombs, occupied with war machinery, and peopled with soldiers, is no longer a place to live.  With only the options of being displaced within the country or to flee the country entirely, many have chosen the latter option. There are now thousands of refugees streaming from the southern tip of Europe heading north-west to procure a sense of safety, security and humane standard of living. However, despite escaping poverty and destruction at home, these fleeing migrants are being acquainted with the draconian and insidious barriers of capital in the form of state boarders, anti-migration laws, and state armed forces. It is here that capitalism is employing its state monopoly on violence (via police and army) and its state legislations, in order to incessantly impose its hegemonic and dehumanized definition of a refugee.

There is a question at the heart of the refugee crisis: who has the power to define citizenship? Currently the answer is that capital has the power to impose its definition of citizenship and in doing so it also has the power to impose its definition of humanity. The European working-class, after four decades of neoliberal privatization of the welfare state (education, healthcare, and social security), deindustrializing (through globalization) and union busting, and debt encumbered, is disempowered.  Ever since capitalism oscillated to the supply side of capital (since mid-1970 with Thatcher and Raegan) capitalism has shifted the cost of reproduction of alienated social labour to the working-class to pay through their wages (which has remained stagnant since the 1970’s). This is while an oligarchy, literally a select few families - the top 1% and even more so the top 0.01%, have seen exorbitant increase in their wealth. Further, capital has placed itself invidiously against labour in this refugee crisis and is currently using market logic to cull thousands of migrants, and only the debt encumbered disempowered European working-class that has the power and the gruelling task of stopping it.

The mainstream media continues to frame the reception of the refugees by the working people of Europe as something extraordinary and outside the norm of society (as defined by the individualism inherent in a neoliberal society). Frequently people are questioned about why they are providing food, water and clothing for refugee families and the resounding answer is “they are human beings too!”  The narrative of international solidarity, human equality and the human right to a decent standard of living is porous within the working-class. Thousands of people of London and other European capitals have demonstrated their solidarity with the thousands of migrants and refugees through street demonstrations and acts of generosity. This reception of the refugees is disparate to the unpalatable and dehumanizing market ideology of capital. At the heart of this working-class ideology is an equal world without borders: making the paper proclamations of citizenship meaningless. It is the working-class that produces this world and it is working-class that is entitled to its ownership.

Capital has proven that it cannot answer to the question of creating affordable housing, creating solidarity between people, or providing a decent standard of living for the majority of people. Capital, with its crisis prone internal contradictions, is itself the cause of war and the refugee crisis, and it must not be allowed to use its market logic to deny anyone access to shelter, safety and a decent human life.  The question of who has the power to define citizenship must not be answered in the terms of capital. It is only the working-class unity that has the power to restore the human being’s dignity; and the remedial solution to the refugee crisis is only found in the expansion of the working-class solidarity.

Chia Barsen

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