A very sincere thank you to Professor John Smith. Without his diligent research and exhaustive analysis none of this would be possible. The original text has been made available via download and all are encouraged to study Dr. Smith’s work.

In his PhD thesis, Imperialism and the Globalization of Production, Professor John Smith from the University of Sheffield approaches the topic of immigration; an issue that remains as controversial in the political sphere as it has mystified. In the chapter Southern Labor in Chains, Smith seeks to explain how the phenomena of international immigration in the epoch of globalization can be understood as a parallel process to imperialism and all the trappings of the Global Apartheid.

First, Smith highlights the different ways in which immigration developed through the separate periods of ‘economic construction’. In the core regions, from the 1850s onto the 1920s there were little immigration controls in place [1]. The multitude of landless laborers and farmers made mobile by the explosive market forces during the Industrial Revolution were able to move freely between core nations and unto the recently established settler-states in the ‘New World’. In fact, nearly 1/6th or 17% of the European population at the time immigrated to the Americas or other regions to what we today describe as part of the periphery [2]. This process helped displace much of the surplus labor which would only otherwise be poorly constituted into the sprawling urban centers of the time; minimizing the long-term detriments that rapid urbanization had.

Over the past several decades much of the Global South has experienced a wave of market expansion unprecedented in human history. Nearly every corner of the Earth is being or has already been incorporated into the global domain of capital commonly termed the world market. In contrast to the period of industrial development experienced in the core region, the neoliberal doctrine of “freely moving commodities” has met a wall, quite literally, in the bondage of Southern labor manifested by the immigration policies of the same core nations [3]. This contradiction between neoliberal rhetoric and reality can only be understood as a reflection of the imperialist desire to ‘have their cake’ and eat it too. The vast expansion of market relations has facilitated the super-exploitation of the periphery, building the conditions upon which the core sits. While endeavoring to maintain (and expand) this relationship the imperialist powers must necessarily limit the inflow of displaced labor. So far they have been very effective in doing so with only .8% of the developing world’s population able to immigrate into the developed world since the late 1970s. If the developing world displaced the same proportion of its uprooted workforce onto the developed world, as had happened conversely in the previous epoch, some 800million would have poured into the core regions [4].

Instead of allowing labor to fluctuate and ease the ‘shock’ of the neoliberal policies, the Global North has effectively tied Southern labor to its origin; preserving the Global Apartheid and intensifying the antagonisms found in the principal contradiction. A material expression of this intensification can be observed in the near exponential growth of slums where the increasingly stratified workforce of the Global South makes it home. This ‘slumification’ of urban centers in the Global South has dealt untold suffering to the already impoverished masses of the periphery multiplying the damage done by rapid urbanization and a general lack of vital infrastructure [5]. Even former World Bank economist Dani Rodrik stated that “relaxing restrictions in the international movement of workers” would “bring maximum benefit to poor countries” [6]. Equally so we must realize the aforementioned process has little to do with poor urban planning (although this has definitely exacerbated the impact), such is an undialectical analysis of the situation. The ‘slumification’ of hundreds upon millions within the periphery is a distinct phenemona from the same internal processes by which the global monopolists have apportioned the globe. The monopolists and their lackeys are constantly trying to shift the burden of this structural violence onto the poor and starved governments of the semi-periphery and periphery. The clear contradiction here being between this shift and the relationship between these governments which can often be described as neocolonial; thus building upon the antagonisms found between the oppressed and oppressor nations. The fault can only be found with the imperialists and their subsequent processes by which they have left the Global South in bondage.

This assessment follows a correct understanding regarding the conditioning of structural mechanisms by capital social relations. The qualitative advancement from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism and all the parallel developments of imperialism have necessarily conditioned functions of state power including immigration policy accordingly. This understanding is pivotal to correct theory and correct application. Without understanding the dialectical nature of immigration policy and its function within the realm of capitalist-imperialism we have failed to correctly apply the Marxist method. The importance of effectually applying said method cannot be stressed in so short of words and should not be delineated in a single paragraph. Regardless, it is our investigation (rather that of Prof. John Smith) into contemporary developments which constantly conditions our line; it is for this reason we hold our line as a reassertion of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in all spheres.

In accordance to the previously mentioned conditioning, the ideological backwardness of the core ‘masses’ regarding the issue can be seen as a reflection thereof. The growth of far-right anti-immigration groups in the US and Europe is no doubt an expression of these internal processes. While these groups claim to represent ‘working class’ interests nothing could be farther from the truth. Paraphrasing Comrade Mao, all thought comes stamped with a class character [7]. These reactionaries are actively reproducing the subjective conditions for the super-exploitation and systemic oppression of the broader masses; effectively their thought is of a bourgeois and ultimately reactionary character. Rhetoric about ‘securing the border’ is as deceptive as it is ridiculous. Secure the border from what and who? The oppressed and displaced laborers desperately seeking a better life? The incredible violence created by the stratification dividing Global Apartheid? A recent poll in the US showed only 18% of likely voters favored granting amnesty to ‘illegal aliens’ with 80% supporting “stricter border control to reduce illegal immigration” [8]. Similarly in Western Europe, a poll showed some 65% agreed that there were “too many immigrants” in their respective nations [9]. This anti-immigrant sentiment highlights the way in which bourgeois ideology is consistently estranging the wretched of the Earth in accordance with the increasingly materializing Global Apartheid. All of which makes perfect dialectical sense when considering the interplay between the global value transfer and the growth of a ‘labor aristocracy’ which no doubt reproduces itself ideologically among all privileged classes in Amerika and elsewhere.

Thus, our greatest failure would be not to make this crucial criticism. The bourgeois will continually seek to bury the antagonisms within their settler-states but in doing so will intensify the antagonisms in the contradiction between the core and semi-periphery/periphery. We must use this opportunity to criticize reactionaries and their thought but more importantly to draw the progressive elements within the core under the helm of a global united front. In this way we can strengthen our standing against the global monopolists, their imperialist lackeys, and all reactionary elements.

Now clearly, immigration as well as its controls will continue on into the epoch of socialism. However, only bourgeois conceptions of metaphysics would have us describe some concrete and objective understanding for immigration in every context. Our duty is to investigate the characteristics of imperialism and its internal developments and contradictions. Therefore an attempt to describe that which has not even formed the subjective conditions for its existence would be at least partially unscientific. Instead, we will assert that immigration and borders after the establishment of the people’s dictatorship, of socialism, will serve the needs of the broader masses. They will not divide, stratify, and alienate the people in the way the the borders of capitalist-imperialism have. These borders, as state earlier, are concrete expressions of the Global Apartheid, a constant reminder of a world being shaped by the struggle between the Global North and South; the oppressors and the oppressed; the exploiters and the exploited.

In the words of Comrade Fidel Castro: “The proclaimed free movement of capital and commodities must also be applied to that which must be above all else: human beings.  No more blood-stained walls like the one being constructed along the American-Mexican border, which costs hundreds of lives each year.  The persecution of immigrants must cease!  Xenophobia must end, not solidarity!” [10].

The development of a distinctly alienated and exploited strata of the global proletariat, economic migrants, offers a ripe opportunity for anti-imperialists and revolutionary socialists. Within Amerika in particular, our goal should be to join these peoples in their struggle and to create the subjective conditions for a revolutionary movement. The migrant struggle may act as a lightening rod for other struggles of oppressed and exploited peoples in the core to rally all potential allies against capitalist-imperialism. This may be perhaps the most approachable and scientific method by which to develop a model of anti-imperialist resistance especially within the core. Now that we have analyzed conditions the next step is to put this analysis and our logic into practice. Only through successful practice can we verify this truth-value. Unlike philosophers of the past our goal is not to interpret the world and its material conditions, but to change it. Change real material relationships through real material struggle. Only real material struggle will ever bestow the masses a real material victory; destroying the old and building anew.


[1] Smith, John. Imperialism and the Globalization of Production. University of Sheffield March 2010. p. 107

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. p. 108

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid. p. 111

[6] Rodrik, Dani. Feasible Globlisations. 2002. p. 18 note: as cited in Smith p. 112

[7] Mao Tse-Tung. On Practice. Selected Works Vol. 1 p. 297

[8] http://www.fairus.org/facts/illegal-immigration-and-amnesty-polls

[9] http://www.euractiv.com/socialeurope/europeans-overwhelmingly-immigra-news-507074

[10] Castro, Fidel. Speech to the 12th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. 1998. note: as cited in Smith p. 107

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. […] Due to the political priority of the First World to keep the labor pool of the Third World shackled …. The few immigrants from the Global South who manage to successfully enter the First World, in an attempt to escape the impoverishment imposed on their home countries by the First World, are generally forced into positions of absolute destitution. The meatpacking industry can without a doubt be classified as an industry that relies heavily on the consequences of racism and imperialism – it preys on the most economically vulnerable and socially immobile stratum of society to perform its excruciating and grotesque labor. And grotesque it is. Gail A. Eisnitz, in her unsettling persynal account of laboring in the meatpacking industry entitled Slaughterhouse, depicts in gruesome detail the miserable conditions in which both humyn and nonhumyn animals alike are forced to live and die.[1] Without racist-imperialist relationships dominating our society, it is rather unlikely that sufficient laborers could be employed in such a practice; as Brian Luke notes, […]

  2. […] of labor would jeopardize the exclusivity and competitiveness of the inflated amerikan wages, as elaborated by Smith. However this militarization was a small price to pay, and indeed it was not amerikans who were […]

  3. […] those who were already there!) would strain the imperialist economy to the point of collapse. Wages could not be kept competitive with the totally free movement of labor, and the continual introduction of refugees seeking shelter from the hell that imperialism has […]


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