Donald Trump. Nigel Farage. Marine Le Pen. Geert Wilders.
The rise of these four politicians is emblematic of growing anti-immigrant hate sweeping the imperialist countries. Basing their campaigns on xenophobia, they’ve been able to convince millions of people in their respective countries that immigrants are the source of their problems.
And at a time when there are more international migrants than ever before in human history, anti-immigrant hate can’t get any more dangerous.
In public discourse, the dominant narrative explaining this phenomenon is largely based on race and religion. Many have correctly pointed out that Latino, Black and Muslim immigrants are being targeted because of white supremacy.
While this argument is certainly true, it doesn’t fully explain why there are more immigrants — and anti-immigrant hate — than ever before. This analysis recognizes an important symptom of the problem, but not its root cause.
People are looking for explanations that mainstream media and academia won’t give them. That’s probably why a growing number of people are turning to revolutionary philosophers like Karl Marx for answers. Sales of Marx’s “Capital,” which he wrote 150 years ago, have been on the rise since 2008, the Guardian reports.
Marx, who is primarily studied under the lens of critical theory and philosophy, dedicated most of his time writing about economics. He believed that by understanding the underlying economic system of a given society, all other phenomena, like immigration, could be better understood. Metaphorically speaking, economics determines society in the same way soil determines the outcome of vegetation. This is called economic determinism.
In accordance with economic determinism, Marx believed that capitalism, an economic system based on profit and private ownership, is responsible for most of society’s problems. While mass migration and anti-immigrant hate weren’t Marx’s main areas of investigation, his economic theories can still be used to examine them. After all, the global capitalist system that he wrote about in 1867 was the embryonic version of the advanced one we live under today.
Marx’s crisis theory is perhaps his most important in the realm of economics. It posits that capitalism creates constant crises within society because of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Profit is defined as financial gain accumulated from the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent in buying, operating or producing something.
Here’s an illustration of how the falling rate of profit and crisis theory works.
Suppose a shoe company in the United States spends US$50 on wages and raw materials every hour to produce one pair of shoes. If the company is able to sell the pair of shoes for US$80, they make a profit of US$30 an hour.
Given the rising cost of wages and raw materials in the U.S., the shoe company, like most capitalists, turns to developing nations for profit. Let’s say the company decides to move to Haiti and spends US$30 on wages and raw materials every hour. If they are able to sell the same pair of shoes for US$80, they make a profit of US$50 an hour.
The owners of the shoe company walk away with more money, the U.S. worker is sent to the unemployment line and the Haitian worker is severely underpaid and super-exploited.
As workers around the world make less money because they are forced to compete with each other, they are unable to purchase the same products they produce as consumers. This creates a situation where the shoe company, for example, is unable to sell their products because no one has enough money to buy them. Thus, their profits steadily decline.
Because capitalism is based on this process, crisis becomes commonplace. Unemployment in the imperialist countries and mass migration from the developing world embark on a collision course. Politicians like Trump, Farage, Le Pen and Wilders convince millions that immigrants are the problem, while the capitalist system itself is responsible. This directly contributes to the growth of anti-immigrant hate in the most developed countries.
Understanding Marx’s crisis theory and the falling rate of profit is crucial to understanding this phenomenon. It explains why jobs are leaving the dominant capitalist countries, why people are leaving third world countries and why all workers have a shared interest in abolishing capitalism. It also debunks the myths that “immigrants are stealing jobs” and that workers in countries like Mexico are “getting a better deal.”
As capitalism reaches a crisis and decline that it can not overcome, as it reaches a dead end, it is more important than ever to unite the world's working class.
As Marx said, “There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.”