The left and migration. Part 1: environmentalists or capitalists?

Migration has for a long time been a hugely contentious issue and Brexit was in large part due to widespread fears over uncontrolled migration from the EU. Ferocious arguments often occur -both online and off- about one of the most emotive political subjects today. Increasingly, the public is split between those that faithfully support the EU’s tenet of ‘freedom of movement’ and those who believe that mass migration is posing  a huge social and economic threat to the United Kingdom.

Personally, I have completely changed my views on the issue but I now find myself with a fairly obscure bundle of beliefs  which seems to displease both sides. I used to hold the generic far-left response: “UKIP is racist, deregulated migration is great!” etc, but now I completely oppose it.

Oppose what exactly, though? I am referring here to mass, uncontrolled migration within the EU- i.e. ‘freedom of movement’. I am not talking about refugees here so if you’re preparing to comment on this please don’t mention them!

The main reason I oppose it is on environmental grounds although there are other important factors which I will write about in the next post.

It all started when I was perusing the comments of an opinion piece about migration on the internet. The article itself was focusing on the supposed economic benefits of mass-migration and the comment that got me thinking went something like this:

“I don’t get it, the left is always whinging about how bad exponential economic growth is for the environment yet they always preach about the economic boost countries get from migration!”

In an instant, the anonymous keyboard warrior behind this argument completely shifted my views- because they were correct, and my own hypocrisy suddenly started resonating clearly.

I consider myself an anti-capitalist. This is mainly because I believe the system of indefinite, exponential growth that capitalism needs to sustain itself is rapidly destroying the Earth. Therefore, in the interest of preserving the planet in a habitable state for future generations, this rapacious system needs to be overthrown- no matter how disruptive to current civilisation this may be.

With that in mind, how logical is it for the left (who are often environmentalists) to invoke the arguments that the economic right commonly make for uncontrolled migration? The argument being that migration increases long term economic growth. What’s the goal? To continue the mad rush for year-on-year growth in a finite system? To try and max out our growth rates before energy and food supplies collapse? How environmentally friendly is that?

Ultimately, having completely open borders is an extremely capitalist dream; for the ruling classes, what could be better than having cheap labour sloshing around the continent, filling up underpaid positions and boosting industry? But somehow, the political left has been duped into thinking that it should be a central tenet of their ideology. What for the capitalist elites is one of the few policies they have left to maintain the impossibility of endless exponential growth has been incorporated into leftwing thinking as a manifestation of classic liberalism; unleashing the floodgates of cheap labour is now equivalent to waving the flag of individual freedom.

Of course, there are many on the left who are just not that concerned about the impending ecological collapse of the Earth- or at least they don’t believe it will actually happen. But for those who claim to be concerned about runaway climate change and the environmental crisis surely it makes sense to oppose policies which boost industrial growth instead of blindly supporting them?

Ultimately, we need to rapidly transition to a zero-growth economy and ideally a negative growth one- if there is to be any chance of averting a cataclysmic shift in the earth’s climatic system. Mass migration and population growth are things that should be opposed as a matter of urgency, surely?