Shameful Barbed Wire and Walls Made of Money

Polish security forces block migrants on the border with Belarus in Usnarz Gorny, Poland. AP/Czarek Sokolowski

The following is an editorial translated from Convergences Révolutionnaires, the website of the French revolutionary socialist group, l’Étincelle (The Spark).

There are nearly 3,000 men, women and children trapped along the border of Poland and Belarus – victims of misery and the dirty calculations of the leaders of the European Union and Russia. They are locked out. The conservatives and right-wingers sing their songs of hate. On the left, far from denouncing the reactionary myth of this so-called “invasion,” they go on about the best way to keep migrants at bay. All of them multiply promises of “security solutions.” The borders are supposed to protect Europe and ensure internal peace and prosperity against external threats. Really?

Borders made of blood and money

For the past century, the number of migrant populations in the world has been estimated at a surprisingly stable 3%. However, their number is now growing. Misery, wars and now global warming are the main causes, and their origins are in the profits of multinational corporations. But this figure comes mostly from movements within the Global South. Only one-third of these are from the Global South to rich countries.

The European Union, with its 447 million inhabitants and a few hundred thousand migrants, is not being invaded. A widespread notion is that the borders are there to prevent a population surge, and increasing the supply of barbed wire means fewer problems! This is not the case. Since 1990, the number of kilometers of physical borders has continued to grow; 27,000 kilometers of walls and fences have been added, bringing the total number to 253,000. Nearly 40,000 kilometers of borders are closed or in the process of closing. There are now about 50 border-walls in the world, whereas there were 19 at the end of the Cold War three decades ago.

The global market of hate

What circulates freely in this world are goods, plundered raw materials, and finance capital – while human beings are sectioned off by a labyrinth of barbed wire. But these borders are very useful for some people: the private sector makes real profits from them. The global “hate market” was worth 17 billion euros (U.S.$19.3 billion) in 2016, and is predicted to be worth 53 billion (U.S.$60.3 billion) by 2022. A beautiful world of drones, robot dogs, facial surveillance, walls and private camp management is being created for us. The Mediterranean has become a maritime coffin and Calais an open-air prison. And these tools for repression and surveillance against an alleged “external” danger will no doubt be used against the threats of “internal” social explosions as well.

The real borders are social

Then there is a second lie: the borders are supposed to offer “social protection.” But the migrants are not the ones who lay off workers or hire them at low wages. They are not the ones who set the rules of this cruel game of exploitation. Inside or outside the workplace, the very real social border comes from customs officers who wear shirts and ties. It comes from the capitalists and their government lackeys. By playing up the competition between workers here and there, they always hope to increase their profits.

In the previous period, this fine team outsourced industries and jobs to poor countries. And no borders stopped them. Entire regions were emptied and impoverished so the companies could pay miserable wages elsewhere. Today we see the opposite: they are relocating. Is this for the benefit of the workers on the so-called “good side” of the border? Certainly not! The stock market is making outrageous profits while, in France, there are six million unemployed and nearly ten million poor (out of a population of 65 million).

But no worries! Not everyone is losing out. The 624 relocation projects listed in the employers’ magazine, L’Usine Nouvelle, will be supported by our taxes to the tune of 729 million euros initially, then 2.7 billion in the future. Some unemployment will be created here, a few crumbs will be distributed there, and as always, through this public aid, the losses are socialized and profits are privatized.

The real border is between the winners and losers of this sinister Monopoly. It’s a class border.