Debate and discussion: Socialism, not Ingsoc!

Submitted by Anon on 20 April, 2005 - 2:17

I have just read your comments about Galloway and immigration controls (Solidarity 3/69). I’ve just finished writing a book (Deportation Is Freedom!) comparing controls to the regime in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. This also takes up Galloway’s position. Hopefully it develops the debate. Here is the relevant extract.

Steve Cohen

Farhat Khan would be at risk of deportation as a failed asylum-seeker whatever government was in power. But there is perhaps something doubly depressing in the fact that it is a Labour government which has put her under threat. There was one moment in time when Labour adopted a principled position against controls. This was in 1961 when the Tories enacted the Commonwealth Immigrants Act — the first legislation explicitly against the movement of black people. Hugh Gaitskell, the then otherwise right-wing leader of the party, said in parliament:

“It has been said that the test of a civilised country is how it treats its Jews. I would extend that and say that the test of a civilised country is how it behaves to all its citizens of a different race, religion and colour.”

Gaitskell and his objection to controls was quickly assigned to the memory hole. For instance, the Labour government of Harold Wilson was responsible for the notorious 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act which was designed to exclude from the UK East African Asians who had retained UK citizenship.

Labour’s championing of controls (which actually predates Gaitskell) relates to a political construct found within Orwell’s book [Nineteen Eighty Four]… the ideology of so-called “Ingsoc” — the Oceanic word for “English Socialism”. It is quite clear from the novel that Orwell regards Oceania alongside the then existing USSR as a perversion of what he saw as the socialist ideal…

Orwell is in every respect differentiating between democratic socialism from beneath and state control of the individual from above. In using the vocabulary of “Ingsoc” he is also seeking to make a clear distinction between the politics of the English Labour Party and socialism. This has a relevance for immigration controls. Throughout all the period when the Labour Party consciously advocated socialism it always defined the latter simply as the state owning or managing all resources.

So support for immigration control could be justified as just another form of state planning — as the state managing the movement of people. In this way there is masked the racism of controls.

At a Leyton by-election meeting in January 1965 Lord Sorenson said “We need planned growth of the economy and planned control of immigration”. Similarly even today the Labour Party has adopted the catch-phrase “managed migration” to justify immigration controls.

This is echoed by George Galloway, a former Labour Member of Parliament until he was expelled and who defines himself as a socialist. Galloway supports immigration controls which he claims in a newspaper article should be based on an “economic-social-demographic plan for population growth based on a points system and our own needs”. One may ask what is meant by “our own needs”, as controls certainly do not meet the needs of the undocumented.

In any event all the above truly are examples of nationalism and English Socialism (or “stateism” as some people call it) — as opposed to the internationalism which supports the free movement of peoples globally.

Ingsoc is not just a deviation within the Labour Party. It extends into the wider reaches of self-professed socialist organisations. Galloway is no longer a member of Labour and in fact his article appeared in the Morning Star — the paper of the Communist Party.

However, Galloway has added a new “socialist” gloss to Ingsoc in his justification of controls. He asserts that “urging all the most accomplished and determined people to leave the poor countries of the world and come to the richest [makes] the poor countries even poorer and the rich countries richer”. This really is doublethink.

Immigration controls are not necessarily about total exclusion. They are, literally, about control — about separating out the wanted from the unwanted.

The situation today is precisely that the “accomplished” are welcome here (or at least their labour is). The poor, the landless, the dispossessed, the persecuted — these constitute the unwanted whose means of entry is locked up in lorries or clinging to the underside of express trains. The idea that the unwanted will be helped by being excluded is ludicrous.

A socialist understanding of the fight against poverty necessitates not only free movement but also support for struggles by the dispossessed in their countries of origin — not forced imprisonment in these countries (because they are not allowed elsewhere) to be matched by forced detention in the UK for those who do make it here.

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