IMMIGRATION is one policy area that was until recently a taboo subject. To oppose or restrict immigration was to be seen to be racist, for reasons that do not stand logical scrutiny. Since 100 per cent of immigrants would be coming from foreign countries, the issue could not be concerned with race. And the objections were nothing to do with race but only the adverse consequences of rapid inorganic population growth on an economy and state services for which neither had been properly planned. However, rationality and politics merely overlap and this point has been seen to be acceptable to discuss only in the last decade or so.
On immigration, there is clear water between the parties. The Conservatives favour a points system, so that the right candidates for the privilege of settlement may be selected, on the basis of the benefit they may provide to our economy and society. Labour is in effect in favour of free movement, which is more to do with importing voters than making sure our best years lie ahead.
However the Labour leadership’s support for freedom of movement is quite hypocritical, and never more so than in this month. The tradition of socialism which has captured the Labour Party hails not from Fabianism or the various strands of social democracy. Instead it is of the Hard Left variety, and specifically that strain which had strong affinity with the communist regimes in Eastern Europe whose fall started thirty years ago.
The primary characteristic of Eastern Europe under Communist rule was dictatorship. The state supervised and controlled all economic and social activity using covert surveillance and networks of informers. Any social or professional group which functioned outside party or state control would either be banned or infiltrated by the secret police, or both. Being a socialist command economy meant that the state businesses were unresponsive to consumer demand; the central plan dictated what consumers could or could not buy. Shortages abounded. Given that socialist regimes are always male-dominated, this was quite rough for women, who found that supplies of cosmetics, hair dyes and sanitary products had next to no variety or were plain unavailable. For decades from the late 1950s, East Germans drove Trabants, a car little better than a Reliant Robin, for which there was a ten-year waiting list. West Germans drove Volkswagen Golfs they could buy any time.
The shortages and unavailability were particularly galling for those who were aware of the abundance on the other side of the Iron Curtain. So it was not unnatural that people exasperated with their state-imposed deprivation and unaccountable and incompetent governance might want to leave. But here these hapless people came upon another problem. They were prisoners in their own countries, allowed to move only between other slave states in the Warsaw Pact. The reason for this was simple. Given a choice, most people would vote with their feet to leave these failed states. Multiply that desire by a million, and a country would rapidly empty of its most productive citizens, especially those with desirable portable skills. It was official policy that anyone trying to escape these countries could be murdered by the state for doing so. This was most evident in East Berlin, where a wall complete with minefields and machine-gun towers was erected in 1961 to stem a westward exodus that was bleeding East Germany white.
It was into this communist slave state that Jeremy Corbyn took Diane Abbott on holiday in the 1970s.
Surely the young couple must have noticed the stringent security applied to restrict the movement of East Germans, and the rather bland and lifeless townscapes compared with the West. They could not comfort themselves solely on the basis that the deprivation on view was no different to that in the less salubrious parts of Islington and Hackney. The problems in what would become their constituencies were limited and specific. In Eastern Europe they spanned countries.
What might be more curious is that this couple did not notice, or if they did, they did not appreciate, the ease with which they were able to leave East Germany by comparison with the people who lived there. Here is the double standard. While advocating freedom of movement to this country, they also slavishly supported countries that restricted freedom of movement from theirs.
To my knowledge, Corbyn and Abbott have not been asked about their time in East Germany, and how they could not see the disparity between immigration they supported and and the state-suppressed emigration their journey demonstrated. At the very least they should be given the opportunity to defend or condemn East Germany, especially in the week of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Socialists are known for consistency in the application of their immoral ideology. It would be interesting to see how these free movement advocates reconcile the existence of the Berlin Wall, the killings of those who dared cross it and its demise three decades ago, and also what this says about their brand of socialism when put into practice.