Local and international events show need to unite against racism and defend migrant workers

This article, compiled by writers for The Spark, looks at two anti-migrant events that occurred in July 2011 and asserts the necessity of defending migrant workers and advancing the socialist principle of open borders for working people.

Prime Minister John Key last month displayed an openly hostile attitude towards asylum seekers. The Elysia was carrying more than eighty Tamil asylum seekers who were detained by Indonesian maritime authorities near Sumatra. Many of those on the boat were videoed with hand written signs and New Zealand flags signaling that New Zealand is a desirable destination for them.

Key stated blankly, “Our very simple message is they are not welcome”. He continued, “It confirms what I’ve been saying for some time; it’s only a matter of time before large vessels, steel-hulled vessels capable of navigating their way to New Zealand… or far away parts of the world would try to make their way here. They would not be allowed into New Zealand.”

Key’s uncompromising position went further than other mainstream politicians – such as former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Key’s own immigration Minister Jonathon Coleman – who both asserted that it’s unlikely that such boats as the Elysia could make it down to New Zealand. It’s likely that Key’s position was driven by electoralism and an attempt to galvanise amongst non-liberal voters.

Some commentators though like to portray New Zealand as fair and decent. The Helen Clark-led government won some liberal sympathy when New Zealand took in some of the asylum seekers involved in the Tampa refugee ‘crisis’ in 2001. Such liberal sympathy towards that government was misplaced. In parts of Australia refugees are being kept in inhumane conditions for years in detention centers. It’s both morally deplorable and against the interests of working people. But the reality in 2001 and today is that the New Zealand government is in many respects worse than others. It accepts less asylum seekers than does Australia. It has a commitment to the UN to take up to only 750 refugees per year, a comparatively small number, and even then it usually accepts less.

It is increasingly important for the international workers movement to defend migrant workers.

Whilst New Zealand does have a tradition of deep conservatism, it doesn’t have strong traditions of fascism or right-wing extremism. The presence of the far-right in Europe has been highlighted by the terrible events in Norway.  

The bombing of government buildings in Oslo which killed seven people was carried-out by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Brevik as a decoy to distract authorities whilst he went about massacring 85 young people and injuring a further 67 at a social democratic youth conference on Utoya Island. Being a right-wing extremist, he blamed the social democratic youth for contributing to what called ‘cultural Marxism’ and     ‘Islamic colonisation’. Brevik’s ideology appears to be a blend of rightist conservatism and Nazism.

It is said that Brevik’s careful planning of the attack, including the financing of the attack, was carried out over a number years. This shows that he was a focused right-wing extremist, and it wasn’t the case that he is simply psychopathic. Whilst Brevik’s action is amongst the most extreme carried out by far-rightists in Europe in the post-war period, it shouldn’t be seen as a one-off act of violence.

Far-right activity carried out by boneheads and more organised right-extremists regularly occurs in Europe and in Russia. It consists of violence towards immigrants, leftists, and intellectuals, and has resulted in murders of immigrants. Organised groups on the far-right in Russia have achieved the capacity to execute people in the legal system who have prosecuted or convicted far-rightists.

What should be taken from both centre-right politicians like John Key and from far-rightists who are galaxies to the right of the political centre, is that the most predominant form of racism today is contained in theories against immigration. John Key displays none of the signs of a typical conservative racist. He works with the Maori Party and shortly before the Elysia asylum seeker saga he was touring India participating in sound-bite-sized activities which he probably hopes will shore-up support amongst conservative Indian voters in New Zealand. However, what we’ve seen from the ruling class in New Zealand is that it’s always at the ready to adjust its position on migrants when the economy contracts. Europe, which obviously doesn’t have the type of insulation as does New Zealand against the global financial crisis, is seeing heightened activity from the far-right. As Socialists, no matter what level of persecution is being meted out, we stand up for migrant workers and argue for them to have full access, full opportunity, and no lesser wages, conditions, or income than New Zealand-born citizens.


  1. Wonderful. So how many do we let in? A million a year? Or what. Do we only have educated migrants or the poor? These are issues that have to be talked about. Ray Spring.

  2. Don Franks says:

    There is no “we” in terms of authority to let people in. Working people have no real say in the matter one way or the other.
    Some of the poor are educated.
    As far as I’m concerned there should be no gates in the global village.

  3. Don Franks says:

    The ugly expression “boneheads” has no place in any serious social analysis.
    It’s a dismissive dehumanising expression.
    It creates space and legitimacy for the false idea that racism is an innate individual failing.

  4. Jared Phillips says:

    Boneheads is not used simply as an abusive term.

    It is a recognised term used to identify racists that call themselves skinheads. It’s an important distinction to make. Often the media refer to skinheads but the skinhead movement was never a racist movement.

    Please see interview with Roddy Moreno of Welsh left-wing and anti-fa band The Oppressed for a brief explanation:

    It is not out of context to use the term within this article.

    • Yes I used t think that it were on punks that were distinct from skin heads in opposing racism. Living in Timaru I have met a number of pakeha with no hair who are not punks but oppose racism.

      Bonhead would be a good description of that Norwegan nazi nutter. And yes nazis should be dehumanised when they make bonehead statements.

  5. Don Franks says:

    I’ve listened to the comments Jared, but, with all respect to Roddy Mereno’s efforts, that’s quite beside my point.
    Matt Gibson’s reduction of Anders Behring Brevik to a bone head nutter provides a very good illustration of where this approach leads.

    • It’s not really about Moreno’s comments Don. Where bourgeois commentators would write ‘skinheads’ or ‘skinhead gangs’ I have properly written ‘Boneheads’. I am not a Skinhead, but I refuse to misrepresent that subculture.

      Matt’s comments may fall within the problem you suggest, but as I say, it’s not used in the article purely as an abusive term, but rather as a recognized term for anti-immigrant racists.

      As per usual you try to pick somthing out of the article and make some contortion of some kind. You have been shown to be wrong in your assumption of the meaning of the term bonehead. You don’t have to pretend to be right on everything.


  6. I only made an off the cuff remark and was obviously not making a serious political statement. I should have called him an evil, pathalogical racisist nazi bonhead. I have no idea the dregree of help that norwegan bonehead received from organised or individual racisist nazis. I dont think it was part of a wider ongoing campaign to engage in the mass murder of social democratic youth. I fail to see how this attrocity could help the far right politically.

    Whereas the london riots are a spontanious collective unorganized expression of englands disenfranchised angry youth; individuals like brevik and gangs with rasist ideology are the products of decades of capitalist stagnation and decline both economic and moral.

    I guess the real boneheads do useually have short hair and its grey and they wear suits and like to be call Chief Executive Officer or the owner of their large corporation. Capitalists have long employed racist segragation on the factory floor and campaigned against immagration at the polls while profiting from the super expoitation of migrant labour when economic conditions allow them to do so.

    Capitalist live in a world without borders whithin which they are free to travel and live where they wish whilst they try to imprison workers within their own nations borders and encouraging them to hate their class brothers and sisters of other nations instead of their oppressors above.

    Without the provision of collective health, education employment and social services boneheads are bound to emerge within this system of capitalism and imperialism as Che said…

    “It is the very essence of imperialism to turn men into wild bloodthirsty animals determined to kill murder and destroy every last image of the revolutionary or the partisan in any regime that they crush under its boots because it fights for freedom.”


  7. Don Franks says:

    Well Jared, I still don’t see any value in the abusive term.
    Nor any need for all that personal stuff.

  8. Jared Phillips says:

    It’s an accepted term for neo-nazi racists, not just an abusive term. Then again, I’m not going to get carried away debating about what’s prim and proper terminology for neo-nazis.

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