The migration debate isn’t really about migrants

The east-west divide on migration speaks to far more fundamental anxieties.

Peter Ungar

Topics Politics World

The migration debate has become one of the fundamental debates in European political life. But the question of migration into Europe actually has little to do with migration policy. Instead, it is based on competing moralising discourses.

The European right – particularly in the east – claims it is fighting an underdog battle against the decline of the West. It claims it has to exert enormous pressure to overcome the power of Guardian opinion pieces from its oppressed position of… running national governments and media monopolies.

Those on the left feel like they are the best person in every room they walk into. The left sees itself as the only political force against inhumanity and war. It wants to build a world in which borders are consigned to the past and ‘friendship is magic’, to quote My Little Pony.

The row over what to call the EU commissioner responsible for migration shows how identity and symbolism are key to understanding this debate. Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, has decided that there will be a new vice-president for ‘protecting our European way of life’ – a portfolio that includes migration. National Rally leader Marine Le Pen hailed this as an ‘ideological victory’. And she has a point. It signals that some in the EU agree that the way we live in Europe is under attack from outsiders and needs to be protected from them.

According to the right, mass migration is a threat to European life because it has the potential to smuggle in political Islam. But this would only make any sense at all for countries with large numbers of Muslim migrants. Yet the loudest warnings against this perceived threat come from the central European ‘Visegrád Four’ (V4) countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – where Muslim migration is practically non-existent. So why does this threat exercise them so much?

It has become a truism in the V4 countries that we are living through a tide of anti-immigrant sentiment without migrants or immigration. The migrants that entered Hungary in 2015 during the migrant crisis never intended to stay here – they were on their way to the western and northern parts of the EU. The symbolism, however, was significant. Migration is the clearest manifestation of how globalisation is experienced by many people. People who feel like they have no say, no way to control how globalisation changes their surroundings, pin this loss of control on migration. And they pin their hopes of taking back control on stopping migration.

The fact that the fruits of globalisation have not been shared equally cannot be waved away by the do-gooders’ prerogative to accept all-comers. This instruction does not answer the most basic desire of most citizens: to have a political body which belongs to them, is responsible for them, and is accountable to them. One question that must be asked is whether we think that the primary moral purpose of a national government is to create the most welfare possible for its own citizens. For some on the pro-immigration side, any prioritising of citizens above migrants is seen as illegitimate. But most people do not see it as their government’s job to solve the world’s problems.

A key problem of the pro-migration side is that its arguments are rarely framed in terms of a national interest. Of course, from time to time it is argued – correctly – that is in the Hungarian national interest that a certain number of well-qualified migrants can come to work in our country. But most arguments for more migration have been framed in terms of humanity as a whole, of moral decency and of righting great moral wrongs. The question is rarely posed in terms of what is best for us, the citizens.

This alone cannot explain why the V4 countries fear migration despite not having many migrants. It also has a lot to do with our place in the EU. Put simply: when we joined the EU, we were promised an equal place in the winner’s club for once. In 1990, we all thought we were on the right side of history and that our complexes would vanish and our living standards would rise. And to a large extent those things have happened. Life is better than it was before.

But in one fundamental way, the process of European integration did not feel like it should have: we were not treated as equals. Or at least that is how the V4 see it. A great deal of pro-migration sentiment in western Europe stems from a feeling of (deserved) guilt from centuries of colonialism. This is something that the former eastern bloc countries had no part in ̫ on the contrary, these countries were themselves colonised. Eastern states have, however, been grappling with their recent past of communist dictatorships. And when we joined the EU family, we were expected to take on the West’s colonial hang-ups on top of that. We married into a family with a past. So did western Europe – though there has been little recognition of our past.

Migration has come to embody a clash between two incompatible ways of seeing the world. To put it crudely, Western moralism is poised against an Eastern sense of victimhood. This has hugely deepened the divide between east and west. It has created a political right in the east that runs national governments that feel they are the most oppressed minority in the history of the world. It allows politicians like Victor Orbán and Matteo Salvini to be in opposition to the world instead of behaving like responsible statesmen.

In truth, migration is the debate we are having in order to avoid other debates. It masks the much larger debates on national sovereignty, on the successes and failures of EU expansion, and on whether there is such a thing as European culture as a basis for building a European Union. Migration is what we debate so that each side feels comfortable, at home in its barracks, with the soothing sound of insults thrown at the other party. The goal of this debate is not to change policy at the national or European level. Rather, it is a performance that allows people continuously to remind themselves that they are on the right side of history, as either the protectors of the homeland or of vulnerable people. It is a way to signal to society which camp you belong to in the culture wars.

This post-2015 debate on migration has produced a huge amount of hysteria that has masked major debates with its loudness and pervasiveness. The result is that, four years on, the migrant crisis has only been half-solved. A compromise could still be reached on policy, but only if we refuse to see migration as a question of virtues and vices.

Peter Ungar is an MP for the Hungarian Green Party

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Iftikhar Ahmad

24th November 2019 at 9:05 pm

Immigrants, fixing the problems caused by the native Brits, no need to thank them.
Immigrants take less benefits than UK citizens and put more into the pot.
Our old people would be in an even worse situation if we didn’t have immigration.
It’s the only way we will pay for the massive costs of our aging population, you clearly don’t like it, but you should get used to it.
From the various ONS reports and such. They pay tax and use relatively less services than aging folk, thus help pay.
We have open borders, that’s not quite the one way stream you suggest. Maybe in a generation or two the movement would be greater, assuming we bother teaching languages to our kids.

I know of many people who have migrated to the continent, some permanent and many older folk for the bulk of the year.
Isn’t that great 🙂

It looks to me that Europeans do not want immigrants in the West since they see them only as a problem?.

Just reflect on what you guys in the west have done in other countries.

Think of Africa and the sub-continent in particular. Do you guys really have a reason to complain?. Or are you the elites that always should have it better than anyone else?.

To be honest, no group of people has damaged the world, other people’s societies more than you in the west.

The migrants don’t want to integrate or abide by western law. Just because they don´t want to wear nude clothes or at least cloth that can show how big her breast are… so these people failed to integrate. Just because they don’t like free sex, then these people failed again.. what a dirty Bush mind you have!

The second generation of Muslim migrants is facing a huge challenge because they did not think even for a second before that someone would say, ‘You are not welcome.'”

Continue to moan about immigration. You want Turkey and India to do business with Britain and you don’t want their citizens in Britain. What a contradiction!

A cap on immigration from third world countries will be imposed despite cabinet concern that the policy could harm the economy. The school secretary and university minister have raised concerns that the cap could deprive the economy of skilled labour. Baroness Valentine said that the word cap is a very negative word to put out to the global market place.

EU requires 40 million immigrants from outside its borders by 2050 in order to maintain itself, as the current population is ageing. Britain colonised half of the world, we imposed our laws and way of life on impoverished countries and made slaves out of its citizens. Now we still plunder the wealth and resources of other countries, oil, diamonds, gold etc. Countries where people work 12/14 hour shifts in abhorrent conditions for next to nothing supply us with goods so we can have the latest clothes/iPhone, we sell arms around the world and create wars and instability in the middle east. The west takes so much from developing countries in the name of profit… then some migrants come here to work or to flee war and people complain, GET A GRIP! On top of that, we are all children of immigration. If you take the “get back to your own country” rhetoric to its logical conclusion we’d all return to Africa, devolve into monkeys then go crawling back into the jungle.

Why will people migrate from their homes to strange lands under risks and uncertainties? This is partly due to discomfort caused by poverty. Why should people be poor when the resources of the world are so abundant? Because a few minority have aggressively taken control of all the resources due to avarice, greed and selfishness not willing to share. People migrate to share in part of the wealth of the world not created by anybody but by the Supreme Creator of everything. The vast majority are in abject poverty while the few minority live in opulence. To continue the status quo, the sponsor and unleash wars on the vast majority already living under life threatening conditions. To say the least, the good things of life must be shared by all or enjoyed by none. I rest my case for now. Since British taxpayers never spent even a single penny on the education of immigrants, therefore, they should be exempted from paying all direct and indirect taxes for five years for the betterment of community cohesion. In my opinion, all immigrants since the end of the War should be refuned their taxes for five years. Native Brits must be grateful to them for their contribution.

Here’s a new idea – get the f**k out of every Muslim country, stop killing Muslims with your bombs, soldiers, funding and discriminatory policy and let the Muslims sort out their own affairs without Western interference. Then the flow of refugees will stop… Terrorism and fight for freedom has always been there too. Unfair to single out Muslims. Germany, we Muslims will not forgive you for selling nuclear weapon submarines to Israel and giving that racist country a second nuclear strike capability. If you like Jews so much, give a piece of your own country to them as a homeland. The more Muslim countries are attacked, the more you can expect more asylum seekers to come to white countries. You only have yourself to blame. The overall problem when dealing with immigration, is the need to first ascertain where these people have come from:- If they are from Commonwealth Countries (most likely not Australia, Canada, or New Zealand – there the immigration goes the other way), this can be seen as 200 years of imperialism coming back to bite us. If they are from Eastern Europe, this can be seen as 20 years of moronic EU policy coming back to bite us. If they come from the Middle East, this can be seen as 100 years of never ending scheming and meddling in that particular region coming back to bite us.

Western colonial powers made a mess in Africa, the sub-continent and in the Middle East couple decades ago. The least they can do is to accept people from the countries they have robbed and ruined. The western countries which colonised the world .Yes it is a duty to give them back some pieces of what they have stolen !

One in 33 people on the planet is a migrant in search of dignity, safety, a better future, and sometimes even adventure. With 232 million people living outside their country of birth, this is not a small number. Put together, they would form the fifth most populous nation on earth. International Migrants Day on December 18 is therefore a good time to acknowledge their role in our societies and economies. Rapid demographic changes can also create friction in communities. Some long-time residents resent the change and newcomers feel unwelcome as a result. The Town of Richmond Hill, north of Toronto in Canada, faced this problem when its population doubled to 185,000 within 20 years, and the visible minority population grew to constitute almost half of the town. Outreach to diverse communities soon became a top priority.

Immigrants, legal or illegal are the creators of Britain new wealth, otherwise, inner cities deprived areas could not get new lease of life. The native Brits regard such areas as ghettoes. Integration is not religious and cultural, it is economic and Muslims are well integrated into British society and at the same time they are proud of their Islamic, linguistic and cultural identities, inspite of discrimination they have been facing in all walks of life. According to UN, 80% of British Muslims feel discriminated. They are less burden on social services. Immigrants made up 8.7% of the population, but accounted for 10.2% of all collected income tax.

Anyone who arrives from overseas, to work, to pay income tax , national insurance, who wants to contribute to our economy and society should be made very welcome in our country. The vacancies they fill are mostly the jobs that most local people avoid like the plague. A vast majority of economic migrants are ambitious, resourceful, possess, “A Can-Do” attitude and a very strong work ethic. just like the ones who leave the U.K. to make their fortunes in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The U.S.A.Dubai etc. So the next time we are served in a shop, or restaurant, when we are cared for in a hospital or taking the night bus home, or ask directions from a stranger and,” Shock of Shocks” they turn out NOT to be a White Anglo Saxon native English speaker. Perhaps we can be a little more compassionate, welcoming, considerate and refuse to, “Buy in” to the hysteria that the DM,U.K.I.P and all the other bigots would like to create. It’s funny how British people complain about Europeans. But Europeans are not the ones on benefits. Europeans that come to Britain cannot afford to be on benefits and that is not how they were raised in their countries, that is why they migrate don’t you think??? Otherwise they could sit on benefits in their own countries and still have (most of them) sun all year round! If it wasn’t for foreign workers, Britain would be far worse than it is. Employers have found that foreign workers are prepared to work much harder than the locals so he employs mostly foreigners. This is not to say that the Brits are lazy, but I would say that people who immigrate from their home country do so in order to earn money and therefore they are prepared to work harder. The vast majority work hard, pay their taxes and contribute to the British economy. How are they able to move to the UK and get jobs? Simple – the 2.5 million Britons who are parasites on capitalism and too lazy to get a job. If the Britons who are state scroungers got off their lardy arses and got a job, there’d be no jobs for immigrant workers and they’d go elsewhere. The root of the problem is that state benefits in the UK are too high and people see no economic reason for becoming a decent member of society.

I have to say that this really can only be a good thing. If they are here for work, then great. These people provide better levels of service and are much more attractive and cosmopolitan. I have to say that I prefer the Mediterranean attitude to life. The Brits with their binge drinking, kebabs, street fighting and vomiting could really learn a thing or two from their new guests. So welcome, one and all. People from foreign countries have a reputation for working for a living, so what’s the problem? It’s people with a culture of thieving and dishonesty that I would baulk at.

Eight illegal immigrants are better than all those natives who spend all their lives on benefits. They are not illegal because they earn their living by working. They should be allowed to stay in this country. They are not doing anything illegal.

Stephen Gwynne

23rd November 2019 at 12:58 pm

“Migration has come to embody a clash between two incompatible ways of seeing the world”.

In basic terms this is the cosmopolitan model and the communitarian model with the former more globalist and social liberal in outlook and the latter more nationalistic and social conservative.

However, what is largely avoided in these debates, which ties in with the political issues that are avoided, such as national sovereignty and self determination, is the ecological debts that are accrued under different migration regimes.

In general, the Left seeks to maximise human growth and prosperity which in deep ecological terms translates as an extreme form of anthropocentism in which human population growth and human prosperity growth is ideologically seen as an inherent good. However, human population growth and human prosperity growth directly leads to the degradation of the ecospheric integrity of the planet, both at national scales and at the global scale.

Hence, open borders inevitably increases the human impact on the ecological integrity of rich nations as a result of the land use changes required to facilitate population growth and consumption growth. In other words, the cosmopolitan globalist ideal of maximising human growth and prosperity directly results in increased ecological debt in rich nations which has a direct impact on the nation’s capacity to sustain itself ecologically, whether in the form of food production or ecosystem services in general, with biodiversity loss and ecological degradation impairing ecosystem functions and resilience.

As such, the cosmopolitan worldview is intrinsically ecocidal in its outcome which not only actively seeks to increase carbon emissions, biodiversity loss and ecological degradation globally through its prosperity maximising moralism but also nationally in respect to rich Western states.

Clearly the cosmopolitan worldview with its prosperity without limits moralism is ecologically unsustainable and as such, the endeavour to maximise human population growth and human prosperity growth will destroy the ecospheric integrity of the planet.

The Right recognises the fundamental flaws of the Left’s progressive moralism of maximising human prosperity as being bereft of ecological awareness and acutely anthropocentric and as a result is more cognisant of the need for limits and restraint. These limits and restraints may seem heartless, cruel or inhumane to the maximising Left but are necessary to limit the degradation of our ecological means of survival both nationally and globally. Hence the Right is more cognisant of the (bio)capacity of its national systems ranging from the ecological, to the economic, to the cultural and finally to the political. Similarly, the Right will accept or tolerate humane levels of relative poverty, austerity and limits to human population growth and human prosperity growth with the view that restraining either builds longevity and resilience into systems rather than degrading and deteriorating them even if that means accepting reduced human life expectancy, reduced human immigration or reduced human expectations, since limits and restraint protects rather than destroys our ecological means of survival and the ecological integrity of our ecosystem services.

In other words, when it comes to ecological survival and the longevity of our ecological systems, the Right with its emphasis on communitarianism, national sovereignty, social conservatism and acceptable limits to human suffering is on much more surer ecological footing than the maximising Left whose limitless attitudes towards human population growth and human prosperity growth are causing irreparable harm, loss and damage to the ecospheric integrity of the planet whether at national scales or at the global.

Marvin Jones

19th November 2019 at 2:59 pm

Why would any nation, on a sentimental whim, let masses of people and culture which are incompatible to their own, enter their country in extreme numbers, bring with them the baggage of primitive cultures, beliefs and all that is alien and then be dependent on the hosts to provide for all their needs for eternity, and know that their allegiance will never be to the settled land but to a primitive alien god. Why all this self persecution for ungrateful foreigners.

Gerard Barry

19th November 2019 at 10:10 am

Brilliant thoughtful article. I totally understand Eastern European opposition to migration. I think there are three main reasons for the opposition:

1) Eastern Europe is economically not ready for immigration. Their economies may be growing but wages and salaries there lag far behind those of Western Europe. And I think there would be something quite perverse about countries such as Poland and Hungary welcoming large numbers of immigrants when so so many of their own citizens left in recent years to work in Western Europe – often in low-paid jobs.

2) The Eastern European nations quite rightly resent being told they have to accept refugee quotas by countries such as Germany that in the past have invaded them and killed so many of their people. This is an interference by the EU in something that should entirely be a matter for each member state to decide. It’s also something Western European nations should be aware of. Accepting refugees is a noble thing to do but doing so because the EU is forcing you to? No thanks.

3) Eastern Europe is culturally more conservative than Western Europe. In the latter, being nationalistic is often seen as problematic whereas in Eastern Europe it’s seen as something positive and normal. As the author rightly points out, Eastern European countries were colonised; they weren’t colonisers. In many ways, the mentality of the Eastern Europeans is not that different to that in Ireland, where I come from. The Irish are also very nationalistic (and, unfortunately, often quite xenophobic). Again, this has to do with our history as a colonised people, Without nationalism, countries like Ireland and Poland wouldn’t actually exist as independent nations and the idea of nationhood is very tied to the idea of a “people” or “race” who inhabit that nation. So it’s very confusing to us when the EU, and some of its member states like Germany with their obvious historical hang-ups baout nationalism, chastise us for being nationalalistic and tell us that we must change.

Robo Protectivefences

19th November 2019 at 9:26 am

Immigration and the importation of political islam is about one thing. Power. Regardless of the consequences. Civil war and insurgency are not as unlikely as those in the news media think. It’s well talked about on the streets of Britain.

steve moxon

19th November 2019 at 9:06 am

Come again? It’s only not about immigration for the Left; but it IS for everyone else.
* It’s seeing the disaster of uncontrolled mass migration into western Europe that makes eastern Europe rightly alarmed at western European polticians demanding the same should happen in the east.
* The Left are rabidly enthusiastic about uncontrolled mass immigration because of their hatred towards their own masses.

Hersch Schneider

19th November 2019 at 10:34 am

You’ve hit the nail there

Winston Stanley

19th November 2019 at 12:53 am


Winston Stanley

19th November 2019 at 12:52 am

I am focusing on the demographic-economic model in abstraction. It makes no difference on that count whether a country has FPTP, PR, joins or leaves the EU. Either a national capitalist state has the sustainable and expanding labour force that capital requires for its expansion and survival or it does not. I was concerned with ideology only in so far as it touches up the adaptation of the national capitalist state to implement a realistic demographic-economic model. Western capitalist states like UK and France, Holland etc. have been through imperialism and they understand through long experience that capital is global in nature, in its markets, resources and labour. It makes no difference to the capitalist state whether a worker is ethnic British or Jamaican, Indian, whatever. Thus at the end of the imperialist, colonialist period, the West was already wise to the extra-ethnic basis of the expansion of labour and capital. They long had other ethnic workers in their labour force. It was no massive shift of thinking to simply invert the process of colonialism and to invite foreign workers into the metropole. It may have been, and may even remain, a shock and a trauma for the ethnic people of the metropole but it was no massive shock for the capitalist state.

Hungary and the east have never been through that imperialist, international development that would have historically conditioned them to think of the workers of the national capitalist state in non-ethnic, transferable terms. They have been localised national capitalist states at best, with settled local ethnic workers, and they have not been trained by history to think in other terms. So, I am arguing that the attitude and adaptability of the capitalist states, and their state party governments, to the mass migration of workers into the metropole is historically conditioned by their historical economic and ideological development. The West was already predisposed to the ideological shift toward migration by the experience of the internationalisation of the capitalist state, and by the incorporation of foreign workers abroad into the national capitalist labour force, by the historical experience of the imperialist stage of capitalist development. Hungary and the eastern national capitalist state are not preconditioned by historical developmental experience to be disposed to think of migrant workers in such transferable terms. Historical development eased the ideological transition to migration and “anti-racism” in the West, while historical development rather reinforced the ill-disposition to that transition in the east.

Now, the western demographic-economic model may not be the only imaginable model that will serve to sustain and to expand the labour force of the capitalist states in the current circumstance – but it may be the only realistic model, the only one that will actually work. Hungary and the east are trying out natalism, they are trying to get more domestic births to boost the collapsed fertility rate. They are free to try that. And if it works then all well and good. But they are taking a risk. There is no instance of a reversal of collapsed fertility in modern, capitalist conditions to support the efficacy of such a policy. And the early indications are that natalist policies do not significantly boost a collapsed fertility rate. On the other hand, the western demographic economic model is tried and tested, it does work, in many countries, to sustain and to expand the labour force. So the obvious thing to do would be for Hungary and the east to follow the tried and tested model. Instead, they have an ideological ill-disposition to that model and they are trying out an unproven and doubtful model of their own. Their ideological disposition is the only reason why they are doing that. Only time will tell whether it works but the early signs do not look good.

So, far be it from me to suggest that the capitalist states of Hungary and the east must somehow mimic the west in every regard. But they do need a realistic demographic-economic model and they have rejected the tried and tested model for a dubious and untested model with no historical precedent of success. They have done that for reasons of divergent historical, economic development. They are capitalist states of backward economic and ideological development and that has ill-disposed them economically and ideologically to a successful strategy in the here and now. Bearing in mind that no migrants want to settle there anyway because they are relatively backward economies. They are hindered from pursuing the successful western demographic-economic model not just by their backward ideological development, but also by their current backward economic development. In that sense, it is questionable whether the western model is feasible not just ideologically but economically. They are capitalist states with a backward development and that may well have consequences for their future success.

I am not trying to sound facetious but those states failed at imperialism, they failed at socialism and it is quite conceivable that they will also fail at post-imperialist capitalism too. There is no guarantee today of developmental success any more than there was 50 or 150 years ago. EU membership does not guarantee that and especially not if they reject the proven demographic-economic model that the EU proposes to them. For their own historical developmental reasons they want to do things their own way, and the best of luck to them but the odds of success look stacked against them.

Ellen Whitaker

18th November 2019 at 10:57 pm

I think you are kidding yourself when you say that the V-4 have no reason to fear mass migration. They lived through 2015, with an unending stream of migrants trying to march through Hungary. When they realized that the stream of travelers had no end, that’s when they resorted to a wall. They also know that this migration pressure has not gone away; rather it could begin again at any time, and will probably grow more intense with time. They are also watching the consequences of 2015 in Germany, in Sweden, in France, in the UK. Large numbers of migrants are unemployed and not assimilating (in spite of the argument for the economic necessity of mass migration). European countries are less safe, especially for girls and women. Gang activity has increased. Swedish social programs and housing are under extreme stress. The UK has a housing problem too, and the NIH is approaching crisis conditions. Migration is good for a destination country, until it’s not. I think that certain levels of migration are very stimulating for a country, but at a certain point, negative consequences arise and grow, especially if numbers are uncontrolled, and there is no vetting at all. Eastern European countries are in a position to watch what is happening in the western countries. They are relatively small countries. They know full well that if they say “yes” to EU migrant quotas, that they lose all control of who and how many. That is why they are taking a hard line. Under different circumstances, they would probably welcome some migration. The forces in favor of mass and uncontrolled migration into Europe are so powerful, so inflexible, and so thoughtless, that they really are a menace to European countries, and especially to small ones.

Brandy Cluster

19th November 2019 at 3:25 am

Bravo, Ellen. Completely agree. To think otherwise is nothing less than magical – and that’s for fools and dope addicts.

Gareth Edward KING

18th November 2019 at 8:42 pm

So, as a Green Party MP in Hungary and your willingness to see that Hungary hasn’t done as well as expected prior to entry to the EU in 2004. Does this mean that you want your country out of the EU? I hope so. But given the record of ‘Green’ parties I can imagine that we’ll be waiting a very long time indeed for this to happen. Lucas our very own Green MP is about as anti-Brexit and anti-democratic as can be without actually calling for a military take-over.

Jim Lawrie

19th November 2019 at 9:08 am

I think she would describe it as a “necessary” military takeover. For our own good.

Winston Stanley

18th November 2019 at 7:48 pm

Peter makes some good and no doubt valid points about psychology, the “right” want control over their own society and see themselves as victims (as does the left no doubt) and the left has a certain moralistic approach to the migration of workers (as does the right in their own way no doubt.) They have a difference of rhetorical emphasis.

However, it would be a mistake to suppose that migration is driven by the varied psychology of Europeans. Rather the West has a demographic-economic model – the capitalist states need to maintain and to increase their labour forces in order to maintain and to expand capital. Capitalism is a profit-based economic system and as such relies on constant expansion for its survival and development. Thus migrant labour supports the demographic needs of capital.

Especially these days. On the one hand, productivity growth is in terminal decline; Western Europe has been in economic decline since the 1970s, productivity growth has been downward, and it has collapsed with no recovery since the 2008 financial crash, to zero in UK over the last 11 years. Thus the only way that capital can maintain the expansion of capital is through more workers, putting in, over all, more working hours. Expansion of profits cannot be achieved in “mature” economies, for various reasons (zombie economy, falling rates of profitability etc.), through investment in the implementation of R & D; thus more workers are required to get more output from the same technology.

And on the other hand, European populations are in demographic collapse. That is associated on the one hand with growing prosperity, an urban, industrial lifestyle and the specific historical cicumstance of the present economy with its demands for women in the workplace and the destruction of the old gender division of labour (which is again associated with the decline in productivity growth and the fall in the rate of profitability, high debt, rent etc.) And on the other hand the demographic collapse is associated (in a secondary manner) with the ideological expression of that economic circumstance – liberalism, feminism, careerism, cheap and easily available contraception, abortion, gay rights etc. Marriage rates have collapsed and divorce has soared. Above all, the fertiliity rate has collapsed, the average number of live births per woman. Thus European capital must look elsewhere for the workers to maintain and to increase its labour force – especially in these times of collapsed productivity growth.

Western Europe currently has an average fertility rate of 1.6 kid per woman, a replishment rate of 76.19%. Thus the number of live births falls to 58.04% over two generations, and to 33.69% over four generations of the current number of births.

The Hungarian fertillity rate has fallen from 2.75 kids per woman in 1950 to 1.49 kid in 2018. 1.49 is a replenishment rate of 70.95% per generation. Thus the number of births falls by half (to 50.34%) every two generations – to 35.71% over three generations and to just 25.34% over four generations of the current number of births.

The mass migration of workers is driven by the needs of the economic base for more workers and in the face of low productivity growth face and demographic collase. That is an underlying, material circumstance. It is not a “left/ right” question. Both the “left and right” governmental parties have been totally committed to the mass migration of workers, both in theory and in practice. The Tories here in UK have let in just as many as Labour, six million over the last decade before emigration is subtracted. Mass migration is a capitalist state policy that expresses the needs of capital. The various parties are capitalist state parties and they exist first and foremost to represent and to further the interests of capital, so as to keep the economy going, which is the material basis of the societies.

The public image of the parties is secondary; Tories (TP) try to pretend that they are not pro-migration to try to get votes from one set of the electorate, while Labour (LP) pretend that migration is a moral issue and that the TP is against it, again to try to get votes. Anyone who pays attention can see that that electoral game is nonsense and that the TP is just as much pro-migration of workers as LP; and that LP is just as much a capitalist state party that represents the interests of capital as TP. The electoral images of the two-parties may well feed on the psychological split in the electorate that Peter speaks of but it would be a mistake to think that the migration of workers is driven by that psychology as some kind of “cause”. The “cause” lies in the needs of capital to expand capital and thus the need to expand the labour force, especially in the present circumstance of low productivity growth and demographic collapse. Both “left and right” (TP/ LP) support mass migration for the sake of the economy, the rest is electoral strategy.

Now, the Western European national capitalist states have pursued the demographic-economic strategy of the mass migration of workers, to maintain and to expand capital, for decades in the “post-wwii” period, or rather in the post-imperial period. Empires and colonies have been lost, with their labour forces, and the capitalist state have turned to mass migration into the metropoles (“home countries”) of the once-imperial national capitalist states in order to sustain and to expand the workforce. No longer can they just expand colonially into new territories with fresh labour, markets and resources, and they need a new strategy to expand capital. Mass migration into the metropoles provides that expansion of the labour force for the Western Europe national capitalist states and it has done for decades.

The state and civil society – laws, media, churches, schools etc. have promoted mass migration on a “moral” basis. Ideology reflects the economic base in its present stage of development and the imperial national capitalist states have switched from a “racist” to an “anti-racist” ideology. Formally the “racism” suited the states, during the imperial stage of capitalist development, as an economic-ideological strategy, to justify imperialism and colonialism, but now “anti-racism” suits them for the same reason, to expand capital with a fresh expansion of labour. Thus migration and “anti-racism” have become the norm in Western Europe, just as imperialism and “racism” were once the norm. The state and civil society have promoted and enforced that ideological transition to mass migration just as the capitalist states used to facilitate and to enforce imperialism as capitalist state strategy. The economic base and its needs have changed and the state ideology has changed along with it to reflect the changing needs of the economy.

Thus the “left”, who are consciously pro-immigration, reflect the present capitalist state ideology and they do so in the “moral” terms to which they have been trained by society. The “right” is more dissident and its morality and ideology are more in accordance with the previous “racist” ideology of the capitalist state during its imperial stage of development. They like to imagine that the national state is, or has ever been, an ethno national state rather than just a capitalist state. It suited the capitalist state for them to imagine that, and it still does to some extent, so that they identify and have “loyalty” to the state as obedient, docile national capitalist workers. And they do not like to face up to that the state is not ethno, and that they have no inherent security and superiority in this society. They have been deceived and used all of their lives for the accumulation of capital and understandably there is some resistance to that realisation, it would be traumatic for them to face up to reality. And they think that it is strategic to keep the pretense going in the hope that it may become a reality, the self-deception has a political aspect.

Hungary and Eastern Europe followed divergent courses of development. Hungary was always backward, less developed as a capitalist power, it was not a significant capitalist imperial power and it did not accumulate capital like Western Europe capitalist states did during the age of imperialism and colonialism. Eastern Europe was also under the Soviets. Anyway, the point is that, unlike Western Europe capitalist states, they have not for decades implemented the demographic-economic strategy of the mass migration of workers. They have not implemented the post-imperial state ideological transition to mass migration and “anti-racism”. The idea is something new for them. And to be honest, few migrant workers want to settle there even today. The more developed West is a more desirable destination. The refugee train basically waved “whatever, see ya later, much” as it marched north and westward. Bottom line, Hungary and the east do not have, for reasons of divergent historical economic development, the ideological acclimatisation to mass migration that has been promoted and enforced by the capitalist states in the west.

But their fertility rates are in collapse nevertheless – and so they are in the same demographic-economic dilemma as the west. Capital needs a stable and indeed growing labour force, not demographic collapse if capital is to expand and to not itself collapse. They however do not have the Western ideological adaptation and they are not currently a desirable destination for migrant labour anyway. Yet they still have the same need to maintain and to expand the labour force in coming decades. Western capitalist powers like Germany and France are like, “look if you want to play the normal game of capitalist development then this is how you do it in the present circumstance.” And Hungary and the east are like, “oh really that is the first that we have heard about it, not sure about that.” And so Hungary and the east want to pursue a divergent demographic-economic strategy, they want to maintain and to expand the labour force domestically through pro-natal policies intended to provide incentives for bigger families. They recognise the dilemma but they want a different solution. They know that their fertility rates are collapsed and they may even have worked out how capitalism works with its need to expand and they are resistant to the demographic-economic strategy of the the West European capitalist states. However, the early signs are that pro-natalist policies are not significantly boosting the collapsed fertility rates and the dilemma is not going away. Likely they will review the progress of natalism in a decade or so and then review their demographic-economic strategy.

So, what is going on in Hungary and the east? They have divergent, backward development, they did not go through the imperial, colonial stage of capitalist development and they were not conditioned to fully understand the nature of the capitalist state. It is not ethno, it is capitalist and money is the only bottom line. They have a stunted and distorted understanding of the capitalist state due to their backward, non-imperial development. They are stuck in a pre-imperial stage of ideological development, they still believe in the local, ethnoism of feudal times as if it is something eternal or “good” in its own right. They also have not been through post-imperial economic and ideological development. They have been backward economies that missed out on imperial development, and as under-developed they also never experienced the post-imperial switch to mass migration to further develop the economic base. They want to play the game of capitalism but they have a backward and divergent historical econimic and ideological development. And currently, hardly anyone wants to settle there anyway, they are backward and under-developed. And yet they will need to adopt an economic-demographic model akin to that of the western capitalist states if they are to make a success of capitalism in the coming decades. The west states all know that and they want Hungary and the east to get real and get some ideological development if they are to have a less divergent economic and ideological development in the future. It is paternalistic, but not in an entirely negative sense. Hungary and the east are like recalcitrant teenagers who want to enter adult life but do not accept that it has to be done on the terms of the wiser adults who have life experience. The west capitalist states know what they are doing and they want Hungary and the east to grow up and to learn how to do things in the real world of capitalist development.

All of that is prior to psychology, it is material, it is the historical economic and ideological developmental background to the current psychology of the various Hungarians and easterners and it is the historical and material context in which that psychology should be explained and understood. In fact the material development largely explains the psychology.

Hungary and the east lack the normal historical development and they still think that they can do things their own way. The west is like, “oh really, I do not think so, which is what we are trying to tell you.” Hungary and the east are pursuing their own demographic-economic strategy, and they are entitled to do so, but the early signs are that it does not work. Sooner or later, they will have to decide whether they want to pursue capitalist development and the demographic-economic strategy that implies in the post-imperial period. It is only a matter of time before theory will become reality for them. If their labour forces go into sustained contraction then capital will simply invest somewhere else, somewhere with a demographic future, as East Germany is finding out. There, the problem is not one of a lack of investment but a lack of workers. If the national capitalist state is to survive then it needs to expand capital and, to do that, it needs to sustain and to expand the labour force, and the way to do that, particularly at the current time, is through the mass migration of workers.

If Hungary and the east think different then they will soon find out. A failed demographic-economic strategy will lead to failed capitalist states. They have pursued divergent, backward development hitherto and they still refuse to get with the tried and tested programme of capitalist development in the post-imperial stage of capitalist development. That is their choice and their look out. Likely they will relent as their national economies go into crisis as capital abandons the national capitalist states that are in demographic collapse. Whether the west will then bother with them remains to be seen, it has not even managed to develop East Germany. They have their chance now to make things work and it really is up to them. If they do not really want capitalist development, with the demographic-economic strategy that implies, then that is also up to them. But it would be silly if it took decades for them to work out what the situation is and what they want to do. And they have a bad experience of socialism anyway with the Soviets. The USSR failed the east when it abandoned socialism and now Hungary and the east look set to fail at capitalism too. Who knows what they will decide to do, but likley they will get in line with the west sooner rather than later?

The migration debate is about… capitalist development and its preconditions in the current stage of development.

In Negative

18th November 2019 at 10:25 pm

So, I reckon I agree with you about our Left and Right – that the parties are essentially capitalist ideologies simulating political differences. They may offer up ‘alternative’ forms of capitalism, but their essential values are capitalist, as are most folks. Most of us are play-acting politics. So that’s fine. I’d prefer we had fewer homeless people while we did it, but what evs.

What I’m less with you on is the implication that the same capitalism’ is applicable everywhere – that the EU capitalism is the definitive model. You accept yourself that in a different historical moment a racist ideology suited capital whereas now it’s the anti-racist pro immigration ideology.

If the dominant social psychology is based on the material/structural conditions, then it must also supervene on technology and the existing social institutions. The structural, historical and technological base of the East European societies are very different to that of the capitalist West. I expect this is how you derive their ‘backward’ approach – that their cultural and material conditions have not fermented the “correct capitalist mindset”? I see no reason though to conclude that their development necessarily depends on the adoption of our own political modes.

China is probably a good example of how different political approaches can benefit different kinds of structural/cultural territory. Greece may well be a good example of how the application of inappropriate modes can also ruin a territory.

Winston Stanley

19th November 2019 at 1:56 am

That is in reply to I N.

Winston Stanley

19th November 2019 at 1:57 am

(see above)

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18th November 2019 at 4:35 pm

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Jim Lawrie

18th November 2019 at 2:40 pm

As usual, a politician telling us what we are really thinking.

It is easy to theorise from the comfort of a country whose people rejected 3rd world immigration and whose leaders enforce that. They did so based on what they were told by Hungarians living in Britain, France, Sweden, Germany and America. That is to say, those who had seen and experienced the reality of it.

Ven Oods

18th November 2019 at 6:45 pm

Spot on, Jim.
I echo your reading of that. No surprises it was written by a Green, so we’re probably unworthy to comment.

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