The refugee crises on the Southern U.S. border are not the result of any foreign invasion that endangers national security. Nor are they the result of Washington’s ‘weak policymaking’, as repeated to the point of exhaustion by the politicians and mass media of the country. Instead, they are the result of an intersection between different contradictions within the current hegemonic capitalism.
On the one hand, we have the law of supply and demand, and on the other, a long tradition of interventionism by a superpower that, since the 19th century, without pause for respite and in the name of the fight against corruption, promoted exactly that in the ‘chaotic Black republics’. In the name of freedom, of democracy, of peace and of human rights, it established a prolific list of protectorates, civil-military dictatorships, paramilitary terrorists and death squads, even in the purported democracies. The border crisis, as it is repeated and magnified by the press and by politicians, is not a crisis for the United States. It is only a crisis for the poor and those displaced by the same system of hegemonic capitalism that demonises them.
To solve capitalism’s contradictions, viz., the undesirable consequences of the hallowed law of supply and demand, there lie the policies for the benefit of corporations and in the name of the defence of an entire country. In this sense, all of the laws are anticapitalist, since they contradict, limit or impede the immediate expression of supply (immigrant labour) and demand (national consumption). It is here where imperialism rears its head in an attempt to solve the contradictions of its own ideology; aside from its laws, narratives emerge about ‘our borders’ that must be ‘defended from the invasion’ of the poor, as well as the altruistic ‘selfless fight for freedom’ through interventions beyond foreign borders. In the fictitious free market, freedom is only accepted when it is imposed by those in power upon their liberated subjects. For these very reasons, in countries such as the United States, for more than a century, the laws are written by capitalist corporations to protect themselves from the unwanted consequences of the free market, and above all, from the freedom of those below them; in other words, from the poor, from ‘inferior’ races and from peripheral countries.
Without the excuse of communism to rely on (none of those ‘shithole countries’ is communist and is in fact even more capitalist than the United States), the focus shifts back to the racial and cultural excuses of the century before the Cold War. Each worker with black skin is viewed as a criminal, a rapist; not a human being, not an opportunity for mutual aid. The immigration laws are sent into a state of panic by poor workers. Anyone who has applied for a visa knows that before appearing at a U.S. embassy, in any part of the world, the word “work” must be eliminated from the vocabulary of the individual in question. You can be the archetypal rich freeloader, and boast about it, but never a poor worker.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Social Security and public health continue to sustain media attacks in the context of their progressive defunding by governments, with the aim of transferring further resources to the Pentagon and promoting private health and social security cover. More than 60,000 Americans die every year due to drug addictions, the majority because of opioid prescriptions. In 2017, according to the U.S. governments’ National Institute on Drug Abuse, 47,000 people died due to opioid overdoses. This drug epidemic began in the ‘90s when powerful pharmaceuticals assured doctors that their products did not lead to addiction, despite the studies which contradicted this assertion. The propaganda campaign and mass manipulation of doctors was closely reminiscent of Edward Bernays’ invention half a century prior to sell cigarettes, eggs, bacon and coups d’état.
But no one remembers any of this. They just see a few thousand ordinary poor people threatening to destroy the most powerful country on earth with their penises and vaginas. While the private prison industrial complex (which receives millions of dollars of federal funding) flourishes along the southern border of the country, illegal immigration and the legal refugees are criminalised both for being poor and for the sin of not being Caucasian. The prison business, like any other, exists for the sole purpose of increasing the number of clients. The problem is that here the clients are poor men and women searching for a better life, for a bit of peace and for hard work, which is the only wretched thing they know how to do. That is, when they are not refugees. Given that the desperation of others and individualised anger is a business, the prison enterprises drag out the days, the weeks and the months, turning sufferers into criminals, even if they are children, who must also be unnecessarily detained: against international laws but in compliance with the laws of the country of laws.
Since 1980, desperate emigration from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, Salvador) has increased tenfold. This is not because the borders have opened or because the conditions during the journey have now improved, since the migrants continue to use their feet as the primary mode of transport, and the borders have been militarised exponentially. Paramilitary terrorism financed by corporations from the North, Washington’s wars in the ‘80s and their coups d’état 2.0 in the new century have generated an immediate and sustained effect. By 2020, the flow of migrants attempting to escape the violence and the misery of the ultracapitalist neo-protectorates of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) would constitute 90% of the total. As it is impossible to blame communism (even worse, only 7% of the migrants come from the “Nicaraguan regime”), and the ultracapitalist neo-protectorates are not sanctioned countries, it is their culture which receives the blame. That is, when the colour of their skin is not blamed directly. In response, Washington refuses to take in these dangerous refugees, be they poor children or women. It is not a coincidence that the superpower of compassionate Christians receives 100 times fewer migrants per thousand inhabitants than Lebanon; it even receives six times fewer migrants than the impoverished and sanctioned Venezuela.
With no sign of things changing, politicians in the United States continue to sound the alarm about the terrorist threat posed by the poor who seek asylum. Nothing beats scaring the public with an imaginary invasion to avoid talking about the violence and the historic massacres perpetrated by white supremacist terrorists. Nothing beats scaring the middle class with the dangers presented of poor people with black skin to avoid the realisation that two men, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, already have more wealth than a combined 40% of the superpower’s population. Meanwhile, the numbers of the homeless and the labour precarity of the salaried slaves continues to grow; all of which produces a furious defence of the benefactors from above by those from below, with clichés such as ‘those parasites want to invade us to live off the government’, ‘the poor are stealing my tax dollars’ and ‘the solution is not getting rid of the rich but instead helping the others to prosper’, as if the wealthy had not already hoarded enough from all of history’s advances and from all of the work of those below, who in turn support them and defend them as if they were gods.
Racism, the business of exploiting those from below, is neither created nor destroyed; it is only transformed.
Illustrations by Patricio Betteos, Nexos magazine, Mexico