Opening the borders – is it really unpopular?

The notion of opening borders is no longer a fringe idea of those on the Marxist Left and classical liberal Right. It has been implemented by Europe’s power-house and, to her great credit, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel is standing by her policy. And recent state elections and opinion polls show that the German people are not repudiating her. 

open borders x

 

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The Christian Democrat Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, opened Germany’s borders to more than a million asylum seekers, mostly those fleeing the barrel bombs of the fascist regime in Syria.

The recent elections in three German states resulted in a new right-wing party, the AfD (Alternative fur Deutschland) which opposes the ‘open borders’ policy, receiving 25% of the vote in one electorate, 15% and 12% in the other two.

Googling ‘Merkel’ and ‘elections’, the headlines overwhelmingly suggest this is a defeat for Merkel’s open borders policy: a “disaster” for her. She has been “punished” by the voters for her open borders’ stance. So say the media headlines.

Yet further examination of the actual results in the three electorates – Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttenberg – indicate that the results are a defeat for those who claimed the new party represents the silent majority.

In the elections, opponents of Merkel’s policy had their chance to test public opinion. And the result shows that they are marginal, averaging less than 15% of the vote.

It is true that the Christian Democrats, Merkel’s party, were defeated in Baden-Wuerttenberg. But they lost to the Green Party, which supported Merkel’s policy. Yes, they lost in Rhineland-Palatinate to the Social Democrats but the Christian Democrat candidate, Julia Klockner, stood as an opponent of her party leader’s open borders stance. The Social Democrat candidate was more favourably disposed to it.

In Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD did well with a quarter of the vote, but Merkel’s party came first with only a minor reduction in the Christian Democrat vote.

Moreover, opinion polls find that Merkel’s popularity hovers around the 50% mark. Currently, her approval rating is 54%.

A poll of voters about refugee policy in the three electorates found that Merkel’s approval rating is 58% in Rhineland-Palatinate, 54% in Baden-Wuerttenberg and 43% in Sachsen-Anhalt.

So, here we have a Chancellor who has shown that borders can be opened and, despite the inevitable chaos, the masses do not run from that Chancellor and her policy in anger and fear. Only a minority does that.

What Merkel has done is to change the paradigm of the debate over immigration and borders. Not just in Germany but everywhere.

The notion of opening borders is no longer a fringe idea of those on the Marxist Left and classical liberal Right. It has been implemented by Europe’s power-house and, to her great credit, Chancellor Merkel is standing by her policy. And the German people are not repudiating her.

She understands that ‘they’ are ‘us’ and ‘we’ are ‘they’, and that sharing the chaos does not preclude supporting measures to tackle the problem at its main source: the Assad regime.

She recently said that a million people is not many when you consider that Europe’s population is 500 million. The pity is that other governments are closing their borders rather than sharing the chaos caused by barrel bombs in a not-too-distant land.

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17 thoughts on “Opening the borders – is it really unpopular?

  1. Sorry comrades, but in today’s context I believe open borders is a pseudoleft idea/position. Open borders within the E.U. is part of the reason the fascists of ISIS were able to move freely between France and Belgium to plan and execute the Paris massacre at the Bataclan (and escape capture after the fact). I do not believe Marxists should support a laissez-faire immigration policy that enables terrorism and criminality generally.

    Furthermore, touting Merkel’s 54% approval rating as proof that only a minority are against her (now retracted) open borders position is misleading if you don’t also point out that her approval rating before the migrant crisis was 75%. Perhaps if she had retained her original open borders position her approval rating would now be below 50%. Then what would your argument be? That the majority is wrong and the minority is right? That may be the case and you are welcome to make that argument but to insist that the majority supports Merkel’s now-discarded open borders policy using her current approval rating flies in the face of the facts.

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    • Her approval rating before the open borders policy was indeed 75% and she lost some support because of it. But I still find it remarkable that such a position retains an approval rating of 54%. The policy isn’t right or wrong because of the ratings, obviously. Open borders is consistent with a Marxist understanding because the workers of the world have no country. A couple of years ago it would have been inconceivable that a major European nation would have opened its door to more than a million asylum seekers. Things are changing rapidly and what was once a ‘way out’ notion is no longer such.

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      • My point re: the approval rating is that the 54% reflects her current, anti-open borders policy.

        Yes, the workers of the world have no country, but nation-states are a fact of life under capitalism and will remain long into a socialist transition period, maybe decades, or even centuries. To ignore this reality in my view is to fall into pseudoleftism.

        You write, “a couple of years ago it would have been inconceivable that a major European nation would have opened its door to more than a million asylum seekers.” Yes, and a couple of years ago the suspension of the Schengen agreement that created open borders within the EU would also have been inconceivable. You seem to be focusing only on one side of the contradiction re: immigration/open border and not the other. If that is the only way you can sustain an open borders argument, then I would suggest that the case for open borders is weak and fundamentally non-Marxist because Marxism requires looking at the totality of a situation, not just 1 side of it.

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      • Seven of the 26 Schengen countries of Europe has imposed immigration restrictions, thus closing their borders during the current asylum seeker crisis. My understanding is that the agreement remains in force for all the others. Yes, it’s true that there’s a negative side, which is reflected in these governments no longer having the open borders required in the agreement and also in the new parties, like the one in Germany, the AfD, that are reactionary and opposed to Schengen. It’s basic to the basic question for all of us: which side are you on?

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  2. seems to me focusing on ISIS and terrorism is exactly what most governments want people to do. This allows them to walk all over civil liberties and set themselves up to be able to deal with the imminent economic crisis and the protests that accompany it.

    supporting or opposing a policy/program based on ISIS or terrorism is a mistake. Either open borders are a good thing or they are not. If open borders are what we envisage as the outcome of socialism or whatever replaces capitalism then we should support it. The fact that some terrorists take advantage of it only means that they have to be dealt with not that they can close down a policy we support.

    Saying that daesh gains the most is just meaningless crap. Refugees are the ones who gain the most . Daesh is a short term thing while refugees unfortunately may be a long term thing. I am not interested in pandering to terrorists

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    • So much for open borders and the ” focusing on ISIS and terrorism is exactly what most governments want people to do” argument. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/22/brussels-attacks-can-europe-keep-its-open-borders.html

      “supporting or opposing a policy/program based on ISIS or terrorism is a mistake. Either open borders are a good thing or they are not.”

      This is anti-Marxist black-and-white thinking. We Marxists start with historical context to determine what is a good thing or a bad thing from the standpoint of the struggle for socialism. Did the Soviet Union ever have open borders? Nope.

      “Refugees are the ones who gain the most.”

      So you support open borders even though ISIS will exploit them and repeatedly kill dozens hundreds of civilians in your country? Good luck convincing the working-class majority of your position.

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  3. I don;t have a position based on whether the majority support it. I think they call that opportunism and I am confidant that the working class as in Germany are not so self seeking as yourself and have compassion.

    “This is anti-Marxist black-and-white thinking. We Marxists start with historical context to determine what is a good thing or a bad thing from the standpoint of the struggle for socialism. Did the Soviet Union ever have open borders? Nope.”

    Not sure what this means other than lets not think lets just follow the soviet union. I don’t follow anyone I am not religious so telling me what marxists do or don’t do is of no interest to me. Either it is correct or not and whether Russia did it or a number of marxists did it doesn’t make it correct. If you have some argument why open borders are a bad thing other than your fear of ISIS I would like to hear it but I am not scared of bullies and don’t lay down for bullies. Daesh needs to be defeated wherever they are and bowing down to them only gives them more power.

    The last time I read Marx he said that history was the movement from necessity to freedom!!! We are not free if we dont have open borders so maybe you need to dust off those books and get a handle on what freedom is and where history is headed.

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  4. PW: ” Open borders within the E.U. is part of the reason the fascists of ISIS were able to move freely between France and Belgium to plan and execute the Paris massacre at the Bataclan (and escape capture after the fact).”

    This one sentence sentence argument is ritually preceded by an appeal to “comrades” and followed by a claim that opposing views are not Marxist. That is the typical signature of people posting to discredit the left as imbeciles. One expects the sandwiched “argument” to be maximally unconvincing and intended only to reinforce the conviction of most right thinking people that there is no point reading anything “leftist”.

    But this one reaches whole new levels of absurdity. The open borders within the EU allow millions of people to move freely between France and Belgium and other such countries just as the open borders between states of the USA or Australia allow similar free movement. In all 3 cases this includes the free movement of criminals including terrorists.

    Therefore “comrades” it is simply obvious that the open border of between France and Belgium should be closed and likewise the open border between NSW and Victoria and between New York and New Jersey. Elementary “dialectics”.

    Granted the people taken in by this posing as “left” are unbelievably thick.

    But why is anybody responding so such transparently ridiculous posturing and worse, ignoring what PW actually said pretending it was instead something actually worth responding to about the article itself?

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    • Thanks for the comment, Arthur. I take your point. I responded to PW because there are other people reading this exchange (hopefully). As with the exchanges at the old Last Superpower site, it was because of the wider readership that I bothered. PS – Is this blog set up in a way conducive to what you sought for a renewed thread on Syrian links? If so, I’ll start a new thread, given that nothing has happened at ST for a long time.

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      • 1. I agree it is generally best to debate rather than ignore.
        2. Actually my irrititation was due to a mistake. I thought the 3 sentences before the video clip were the whole of PW’s argument and the subsequent discussion had not noticed what he actually said. I have only just noticed that what I thought were separate comments after the video clip were in fact part of his original comment so it was not in fact just the one sentence I claimed.
        3. Re PS Yes the comments facility is suitable. I cannot promise to contribute much but it would be good to have a Syria links thread.
        4. But if you could establish a separate section from the posts that appear on the front page and put it there it would be much easier to keep its focus on links and brief comments than if it appears like other blog posts.

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  5. Arthur, just consulted IT specialist who advises: “Due to security restrictions on wordpress, any .com site cannot have external plugins, with a forum being a plugin”. Thus, it looks like I can only put it up as a blog post for comment and discussion.

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    • Doesn’t sound right. But anyway may as well go ahead as an ordinary post (and start fresh one when necessary).

      BTW

      1. having your own domain name is cheap and ensures independence of WordPress (even if you have to pay WordPress a small fee to be able to use it for existing blog) – when you move to different service your web URL address remains the same for all who kow it). This also enables using subdomains for any add-ons you want from other providers – eg forum.c21stleft.net is run by a forum service provider and blog,c21stleft.net by WordPress or blogger or whatever.

      2, “Security” re “.com” makes no sense. eg you have a separate About page linked at top right, which also allows comments. Should be possible to modify layout so also have a separate Syria Links page with comments.

      PS Although my irritation at PW was based on a mistake I have confirmed that he is no loss.
      Followed link to his blog and commented in this thread:

      https://pplswar.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/ukrainian-marxism-vs-russian-red-imperialism/

      That thread is very peripherally related to both “Open Borders” and Syria as narrownationalism is relevant to both and a lot of incomprehension about what Russia has actually been doing in Syria is connected with similar incomprehension about Ukraine and Crimea.

      Result was the sort of dishonesty one expects from people posturing. My final response was deleted (after being told I was a “Holodomor denialist” (??!!??) and “liar”).

      Off topic but I will copy the deleted response here “for the record” as together with above link it confirms argument with PW would have been fruitless anyway:

      ====
      I won’t bother responding to you further. You even imagine that Ukrainian was not an official state language of the Soviet Ukraine. That demonstrates an incapacity to learn about rather than mere ignorance of the subject you are posting on.

      The article you posted but are not interested in reading or understanding includes:

      ” An early 1926 report to Ukraine’s central committee reported that of all Ukraine’s industrial and white-collar workers 59% and 56%, respectively, did not speak Ukrainian and that 78 % of the former and 33% of the latter were literate only in Russian. Approximately 35%-40% of Ukraine’s government bureaucrats and 25% of its top ministerial personnel were totally ignorant of Ukrainian.”

      Obviously achieving 60-65% knowledge of some Ukrainian among government workers and 75% among top ministerial personnel could only be the result of an extremely successful promotion of Ukrainian as an official state language given that 78% of Ukraine’s industrial workers and 33% of white collar workers were literate only in Russian.

      The fact is that Ukrainian nationalists even now actually enacted removal of Russian as a state language which directly provoked a large Russian minority and was only revoked on European insistance, This was not some sudden aberration but central to the nationalist platform advocated in this post – though usually without such pathetic attempts to dress it up as “leftist” and often explicitly far-right.
      ===

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  6. Arthur, could you send some points just to start the ball rolling for the new Syria links? I’ll then consult my IT friend with a view to setting it up a separate page later.

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  7. Ok, will post notes here, but may be delayed and already said I cannot promise to contribute much (ongoing major crisis so no time). Better if you take the initiative. I am more likely to contribute to something already going.

    On thinking about an introductory note I now think it would be better to have two such threads.

    1. Links only with short descriptions and comments.
    2. Separate place for longer draft articles and responses. This is partly to help preserve intended use of 1 and partly a substitute for simply posting links to items posted elsewhere because some people (specifically me if nobody else) are not willing to establish a blog or use email but may have longer draft material that others may want to see and respond to. Should still exclude really long items that obstruct scrolling through.

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