Tag Archives: migrant workers in Russia

Pyotr Prinyov: “If you want to spit on your future, spit on a migrant worker”

anticapitalist.ru

Pyotr Prinyov: “If you want to spit on your future, spit on a migrant worker”

Pyotr Prinyov is one of the most prominent figures in the Petersburg protest movement. You can spot him at rallies held by workers and forest defenders, dormitory residents and students, and before regular union meetings you can catch him reading Martin Heidegger and Eugene Debs. Having started as a labor activist at the company MM Poligrafoformlenie Packaging, Pyotr is now deputy chair of the interregional trade union NovoProf and one of the leaders at the Center for Workers’ Mutual Aid.

— Pyotr, NovoProf is one of the few Russian trade unions that work with migrant workers. Your campaign in support of Petersburg janitors made a big splash. Tell us how it all began and what the situation is now.

— It all started when workers at Evrotrakt approached us and asked help in organizing a trade union local. Evrotrakt is a property management company that also does cosmetic building repairs in [Petersburg’s] Nevsky district. According to rumors, a certain bureaucrat launched this little firm, which was incorporated in the [Leningrad region] village of Gostilitsy. They say that a Petersburg deputy governor oversees the firm.

The trade union local was formed last winter. The situation there is quite difficult: we are dealing with the issues of wages and migrant workers living in the area where they work. When the janitors started to fight for [better] wages and a more or less acceptable workload, eight out of twenty union members were immediately dismissed. They were also evicted from the place where they were living, in a building slated for resettlement.

— You’re saying the building is unfit for habitation?

— Practically speaking, yes. Evrotrakt lures migrants by providing housing; plus, they make some arrangements with the local police or the Federal Migration Service. Apparently, Evrotrakt, which is quite greedy, decided to house migrants from Tajikistan in this building, which it has been contracted to renovate. And make money off them in the process. Around two hundred people live in the building, ten to twelve people to a flat. There is no running water, and often there is no electricity and heat, as was the case this winter. Just today, we talked with Sevara, one of the activists. They offered to let her an apartment in this building for twenty thousand rubles, although the local council owns the apartment.

— What sort of wages do the janitors make?

— They’re ridiculous. According to the employer, they amount to fifteen thousand rubles a month [approx. 375 euros], but the real wage is much lower. And they have an entire thriving system of penalties [for infringement of work rules] in place. There are months when the workers take home six or seven thousand rubles [approx. 150 to 175 euros] – and this for people living in Petersburg! People are basically starving. Some of them pick leaves from trees to brew “tea.” The workday lasts from dawn to dusk, and they are forced to work on weekends. And they are constantly being conned when it comes to registration [with the Federal Migration Service] and work invitations.

— How are they conned?

— [Employers] use shady firms that ostensibly do the paperwork for the migrant workers, but really just fleece them of ten thousand rubles each [approx. 250 euros]. Then, when their documents are checked [by police or migration officials], it turns out they are fake. People disappear, and new ones arrive to take their place. Migrants are an easy target for law enforcement, and this is beneficial to employers. It is quite easy to force migrants to work a lot and for free or to get rid of undesirables. Especially if you have the right connections.

— Is the situation like this only at Evrotrakt?

— No, this is a quite typical situation. Two busloads of Tajiks are loaded up and taken to a construction site. The first week, they are give ramen noodles to eat; the second, they get nothing. And then they are told, “Beat it! We’re not going pay you. Be grateful we gave you back your passports.”

In fact, this is slavery, but no one pays any mind. Any law enforcement agency needs facts that are backed up by paperwork. But what sort of paperwork could there be in this case? You have to go to the work sites and actually check out what is going on.

— Does corruption play a big role in this business?

— Evrotrakt has close ties with law enforcement agencies, and with the prosecutor’s office. When the migrants filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, the owner of the firm, apparently imagining he was the Lord God, rang up our janitors and said, “Why are you complaining about me? I have everything under control. You won’t get anywhere.”

The previous company, Lyuks-servis, which Evrotrakt squeezed from the market, was also not known for its philanthropy. Thanks to Memorial [Anti-Discrimination Center], they were fined one and a half million rubles [approx. 38,000 euros] for employing illegal aliens. But Evrotrakt is still fighting this [outcome]. For some reason, the authorities are turning a blind eye. We’ve already taken one case, asking for the fired workers to be reinstated, to court. This is the first step.

—  Does the firm work under a government contract?

— Not under a government contract, but through the tender system. Because they work cheaply, they win bids [for provision of services]. And they work cheaply because they don’t pay wages to their workers, and when they do pay them, it is only enough to buy ramen noodles, which the workers have to wash down with water from the Neva River.

All this is beneficial for the city authorities since they have a workforce they can use to clean the city cheaply.

— But not very efficiently, as the past winters have shown.

— Who cares about efficiency these days? It is easier to hire several thousand Uzbeks than to purchase decent snow removal equipment. Because you can use those Uzbeks to write off a payroll bill that would be enough for them to live on, socially adapt and get job skills. But why pay them when you can just steal the money?

— How do migrants end up in Russia? Is it a spontaneous process, or is it organized?

—  The workers who come here have already been hyped into thinking they will have a place to live, a job and money. Special runners are sent to recruit this workforce. Most of the people who turn to us are from Tajikistan, where things are the worst in terms of social benefits, wages and hope for the future. There are also lots of people coming from Uzbekistan. As a rule, these are people from rural areas who sign up for a job whatever the pay just to be able to leave. It is not just families that come here, but entire villages. The population there has been reduced to total poverty. But on the other hand, we should realize that these are active people, people willing to pick up stakes in one place and move to another country.

—  How well do the migrants know Russian?

—  In our trade union local [for janitors], only three people speak Russian. This is one of the reasons why exploitation of migrants is so advantageous. Tajiks and Uzbeks will not go and file a complaint, simply because they cannot speak Russian. In the slave-trading states they come from, Russian is a nearly forgotten language: it is not taught [in schools] at all. The employer communicates with workers through so-called foremen, who are paid a bit more and have managerial ambitions. A “foreman” of this sort can pocket a portion of the payroll, thus bypassing the boss.

— There have been repeated attempts to create trade unions for migrant workers, but they failed. How do you view the work of organizing foreign workers?

— I see a great future here, but there is one “but.” It should not be a trade union of migrant workers, but a trade union that defends the interests of workers whether they are migrant workers or not. Migrant workers must be included in existing trade union organizations. The trade unions themselves must do this in order to obtain normal industry-wide pay rates for labor and develop their trades normally, rather than relegating them to the level of menials, as we see, for example, in the case of roofers.

At NovoProf, we are now developing a whole program for working with immigrants. Our union basically covers the food industry, one of those sectors where foreign workers are employed. We want to involve migrant workers in the trade union struggle. Otherwise, sooner or later spontaneous riots will kick off, which will scare the local population and play into the hands of nationalists.

— It is argued that migrant workers are an evil, because they take jobs away from Russians. What do you think?

— This is nonsense! The people who make this argument pay no attention to the job market or what is happening around them. Migrants are mostly employed as unskilled laborers, unlike Russians, who usually do not aspire to work as janitors and construction workers. What, if we up and closed the borders right now, the Sukhorukovs and Bondariks [well-known local nationalists] would rush off to work on a construction site or go clean courtyards?

— Why, then, is the topic of migrant workers nowadays such a red flag for many people, including workers?

— These workers do not realize that if you just remove the migrant workers, the niche for slave labor and semi-slave labor will not go away. Our own fellow citizens will fill it. So, if you want to spit on your future, spit on a migrant worker.

Unfortunately, our society has lost the culture of internationalism that existed in Soviet times. I remember very well the attitude to people from other republics in the Kursk region, in the village where I grew up. A lot of families from the south came to our village when the Soviet Union collapsed and the bloodbath began. They were seen as perfectly decent people.

People do not realize that there is this whole policy to ensure that workers fear workers just like themselves who have come from another country. While workers are busy fighting fellow workers across ethnic lines, they are not fighting their immediate exploiters.

It is not profitable for employers to create decent social head starts for the younger generation, so that people not only achieve a certain level of consumption, but also have the opportunity to realize themselves. I guess as long as capitalism exists, this will always be the case. Because it is much more complicated to extract profit from a literate, educated person.

May 21, 2012 — Russian Socialist Movement

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What a Pogrom Looks Like (Anti-Gay Protesters Attack Migrant Workers in Petersburg)

SP Times Online • May 18, 2012

The International Day against Homophobia rally held in Petrovsky Park on the Petrograd Side of the city was stopped less than half an hour after its start time Thursday due to the large presence of anti-gay opponents who shouted homophobic slogans, fired gas and pellet guns and threw objects. Participants in the rally, which had been officially authorized by the Petrogradsky district administration, left the park by bus. The counter-demonstrators, who threw stones, eggs and smoke bombs, then attacked two buses carrying migrant workers, whom they mistook for the departing LGBT activists, smashed the windows in them and attacked some of the passengers traveling in one of them. The police watched from a distance and did not intervene. The demo was supposed to be the first authorized LGBT rights event since the St. Petersburg law banning “the promotion of sodomy … to minors” came into force in March.

Photos by Sergey Chernov. See his complete photo reportage of yesterday’s pogrom in “Russia’s fascism capital” (©) here.

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Internet channel Piter.TV aired an even more horrifying and damning report on yesterday’s pogrom. We would have liked (so to speak) to repost it here, but that proved impossible, so watch it here if you dare.

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Chto Delat No. 33: Against Slavery

The latest issue of our newspaper — No. 33, entitled “Against Slavery” — is available online here. Produced in conjunction with the exhibition Towards the Other (State Museum of the History of Saint Petersburg, Peter and Paul Fortress, October 2011), the new issue features texts by Kirill Medvedev, Hito Steyerl, Ivan Ovsyannikov, Thomas Campbell, and Alain Badiou, artwork by Victoria Lomasko and Babi Badalov, and a migrant labor “board game” conceived and designed by Olga Zhitlina, Andrei Yakimov, Alexander Lyakh, Galina Zhitlina, David Ter-Oganyan, Tatyana Alexandrova, and Nadezhda Voskresenskaya.

Here is a sneak preview of the new issue, featuring our editorial, illustrations by Victoria Lomasko, and Ivan Ovsyannikov’s insightful, compelling outline for a “new abolitionism.”

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This issue of Chto Delat deals with migrant labor, an issue today at the center of not only Russian, but also world politics. Although our world has always been “globalized,” the numbers of people migrating in order to better their existence, whether economically or otherwise, are unprecedented. Discussion of this issue is complicated by the fact that we immediately find ourselves on slippery terrain occupied by the shadowy figure of the immigrant, who like the Wandering Jew in its time has come to function as a synonym for danger, contamination and the alien per se. Racists and nationalists of all stripes and lands rally round (so to speak) this fictional villain as they defend the supposedly homely but no less fictional spaces of nation, race and tribe from invasion by aliens. Judging by recent election results in certain “liberal democratic” European countries and legislative innovations in US states such as Arizona and Georgia, the “commonsensical” and “down-to-earth” slogans and prescriptions of the tribalists really are sometimes capable of generating a “groundswell” of “grassroots support.”

Some people have always found it hard to share their homelands, hometowns and neighborhoods with different languages, skin colors, and ways of understanding world, self and community. However, it is all too easy to accuse “the common folk” of being the source and support of xenophobic sentiments. As British sociologist Paul Gilroy has argued, when left to their own devices the “working classes” and “common folk” (whatever their “primary” tribal allegiances) are just as often capable of creating a “convivial” existence together, a life where each person’s allegedly essential difference informs and shapes a totally unexpected common good, a new commons. In reality, it is more often the liberal (or, now, neoliberal) talking and ruling classes, whose experience both with conviviality and the (non)realities of ethnic difference is frequently limited to a fondness for certain cuisines and holidaymaking in the global south, who shape the xenophobic and nationalist agenda via the media they produce and control, via the obscurantist norms and repressive laws they promulgate in the public space. It is this “common sense” from above that is the main instrument for stigmatizing and excluding people who sometimes lack the right language to tell us both about their plights and their joys, who frequently lack the right papers to exercise their individual civil rights and their collective right to struggle for a better lot in life.

Amidst this latest flowering of xenophobia, leftists often invoke the spirit of internationalism, which is supposed to immediately infect everyone with love and solidarity for the newcomers. Just like the old appeals for communism, the slogan “No Borders!” is not enough for those of us who want to popularize and implement the ideas of equality and emancipation. To resurrect the legacy of radical universal emancipation (as Žižek writes) we need to fundamentally reassess the world we have made and attempt step by step to free ourselves from the prison of post-colonial and “post-imperial melancholy” (as Gilroy calls it).

But this task is not simple. Wars, hot and cold, rage around us. The difference in living standards between the first and third worlds grows, and each of these worlds “colonizes” the other, producing Mogadishu-like slums amidst the west’s great cities, and oases of luxury and refinement in the deserts of the Middle East. These contradictions can and do provoke a radical rejection of any emancipatory project, especially when it comes dressed in the idioms of culture, art and critical thought, often perceived as the latest projection of a faltering western hegemony.

That is why today, both in Russia and elsewhere, we need to set ourselves the “modest” task outlined by Badiou: to loudly and visibly manifest our respect for working people, especially immigrant workers. They are doubly exploited, even though our present prosperity is largely underpinned by their ceaseless, invisible labor. Their presence in our midst is an object of scorn and neglect, just like the uncomfortable fact that we share the same planet with billions of people in the Third World who do our dirty work, whose countries are poisoned by our toxic factories, and whose own essentially slave labor provides us with our beautiful consumerist idyll, an unsustainable (anti)utopia incapable of recognizing limits and borders.

We imagine that intellectuals, artists, and all other people of good will and sound mind should constantly expose these fundamental inequalities. Collective repentance and charity are probably wonderful things, but they are beside the point here. The real point is that if our planet is to have a future, it can only be a common future. And this common future will be possible only if we learn how to build it in common. By trying to figure out how we can do this, we immediately call into question the current capitalist system and force ourselves to seek ways of moving beyond it.

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A Leftist Response to the Immigration Question

Russian Marxists do not often raise the issue of immigration. When the latest explosion of anti-immigrant passions puts the issue on the national agenda, leftists as a rule limit themselves to general declarations in the spirit of internationalism and humanism. However, a simple refutation of xenophobic myths or stating the obvious truth that the problems associated with immigration are the product of capitalism is not enough to counter nationalist propaganda and prejudices. A program is needed that would oppose both right-wing and neoliberal “solutions” to the issue of immigration.

Divide and Conquer: Xenophobia and Labor Market Dumping
The encouragement of xenophobia amongst workers is one of the oldest and most effective strategies employed by the oppressors. How it works is easily shown by a simple example from trade union practice. A South Korean corporation that produces automotive parts built a plant in a depressed area of Russia beset by chaos and unemployment. Faced with hyper-exploitation, the violation of elementary labor rights, and the boorish attitude of their foreign and Russian managers, the workers at the plant decided to organize a trade union. Using intimidation and repressive tactics, company management squashed this attempt at self-organization, thus reducing the number of trade union members to an isolated handful of activists. However, one of the main deterrents was the threat of mass layoffs and the hiring of “guest workers.”

Not content with verbal threats, plant management set about putting them into practice. Within several months, the number of immigrant workers from Central Asia at the plant had increased several times, while the hiring of local residents was practically curtailed. Hostility towards the newcomers began to mount both among the plant’s workers and in the surrounding community.

The roots of this resentment are understandable. Local workers perceive “guest workers” as unwanted competitors on the labor market. Wholly dependent on their employers and the government officials in their pockets, the immigrants are willing to work for lower pay, to slave away from dawn to dusk, on weekends and holidays. The unpretentiousness of these people from Central Asia, where the elimination of large farms and de-industrialization have led to truly appalling poverty, makes them ideal targets for exploitation.

Sensing their social superiority to these “Ravshans” and “Jamshuts” [translator’s note – Ravshan and Jamshut are immigrant-worker characters on the Russian TV satire program “Our Russia”], the locals likewise sense the total fragility of this superiority. And since the fear of job loss, the absence of successful experience in organizing collective actions, and a lack of confidence in their own strength prevent them from speaking out against their employer, their anger is directed against people who are even more downtrodden and powerless.

Other – cultural – factors complicate this picture even further. Thus, the unsanitary conditions in which the immigrants often dwell (which are partly the fault of their employers, and partly due to habits imported from their homelands) often cause revulsion against them on the part of Russians. For example, at the plant we have just been discussing, local workers have demanded separate tableware for immigrants who eat in the factory canteen, for fear of contracting hepatitis and other serious illnesses. Their irritation is also aroused by the poor qualifications of the newcomers – everyone pays for substandard work and delays in meeting quotas. The language barrier, as well as the social isolation of “guest workers” from locals, also does not contribute to rapprochement between the two groups.

Is Solidarity Possible?
The classic leftist response to the challenges posed by immigrant labor is to declare that local workers and immigrants should battle exploitation side by side, demanding equal rights, pay, and work conditions. This approach is fundamentally sound. As long as the demand for a cheap, disempowered labor force is maintained, no police measures, no quotas on the recruitment of foreign labor (which merely increase the share of illegal workers), and, of course, no nationalist terror can stop the slave trade. On the contrary, the more downtrodden and isolated from the rest of society foreigners are, the more profitable is their labor for Russian and transnational capital.

However, the simple desire for solidarity amongst workers regardless of their country of origin is clearly insufficient in order to make this solidarity a reality. There are many formidable obstacles – both objective and subjective – on the path to self-organization and protest on the part of immigrant workers, and to their recruitment into the labor movement. The first such obstacle is the weakness of militant trade unions in our country, which still have not managed to permeate any notable strata of relatively high-paid and skilled workers at modern manufacturing facilities. Much more vulnerable categories of workers – employees at failing enterprises, service industry workers, temporary workers, and immigrants – will probably be able to join the organized movement only after the more advanced strata of the working class show them successful examples of militancy and acquire enough strength to defend the class’s weakest members. However, no matter how hopeless the task of trade-union agitation amongst “guest workers” at plants with mixed workforces might seem, this work has to be done. If they fail to recruit temporary workers and immigrants to their ranks, progressive trade unions will be condemned to live under a permanent threat that will deter and even completely halt their development.

However, the foregoing considerations in no way imply that immigrants, the most oppressed segment of the working class, are incapable of independent resistance and should be regarded as “scabs” or followers. It suffices to recall the heroic 2005 strike at the Don-Stroy construction company in Moscow, as well as the other, lesser-known strikes by construction workers in Yekaterinburg (2008) and Russky Island in Primorsky Krai (2011). In many ways, these events are reminiscent of the labor protests that typified the nineties in Russia. In all these cases, the cause of work stoppage was the non-payment of wages. The strikes broke out spontaneously and did not lead to the emergence of any sustainable forms of organization. Apparently, if protests by immigrant workers do continue to occur, then they will occur only in the form of sporadic, radical outbursts, which may affect government policy but are unlikely to have a significant impact on the development of the labor movement in Russia.

The organization of immigrant workers in manufacturing is not the only possible form of militancy, however. The problems associated with immigration concern broad sections of the Russian populace. The fact that ultra-rightists now wholly occupy this “field” should not frighten leftists away, but encourage them to advance an alternative program for solving the issue of immigration. The xenophobic rhetoric of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) has to be countered with a stance that we might characterize as a new abolitionism – a movement against slavery.

A New Abolitionism: Outline of a Program for the Left
The favorite “anti-fascist” argument of liberals is to point out that immigrants are useful and necessary, that they do the “menial” work that no Muscovite or Petersburgers would consent to perform. The very existence of an entire sector of labor relations in which slavery and poverty exist at a level outrageous even for hard-to-shock Russians provokes no protest on the part of liberals. They call on society to be tolerant towards the Ravshans and Jamshuts, but not more than that.

In fact, aside from the greed of corporations that exploit cheap human resources from the peripheries of the former Soviet Union, there is no objective basis for the existence of this vast sector of what essentially amounts to slave labor. We hardly need to underscore the excess profits raked in by the construction sector, which is closely linked to the political elite. However, it is precisely the construction industry where the exploitation of immigrant labor has become most widespread. A similar situation can also be observed in the new industrial enterprises owned by transnational corporations. Thus, according to the Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA), immigrants make up seventy to eighty percent of workers employed in production at facilities in Russia that supply parts to the Hyundai plant in Petersburg – and this despite the fact that in 2011 this Korean corporation ranked first amongst foreign auto manufacturers in Russia in terms of cars sold.

When the populists from DPNI propose introducing a visa regime and securing the borders with the republics of Central Asia and Transcaucasia, they of course conveniently forget that there are depressed areas with enormous levels of unemployment within Russia itself: it suffices to recall the Russian hinterlands, not to mention the North Caucasus region. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, “Over the past twenty years, the population has flocked to the Central Federal District, primarily to the Moscow area. Seventy to eighty percent of the increase in immigration is accounted for by an influx from other regions of the country, primarily from within the Central Federal District itself.” However, the situation of “Russian guest workers” is often no better than that of their counterparts from Central Asia, as is shown by the scandalous story of how female workers are treated at the Babaevsky chocolate factory in Moscow. The prescription proposed by the far right thus amounts not to eradicating poverty and criminality, but to Russifying them.

A system of quotas is just as useless. In practice it leads only to an increase in the proportion of illegal immigrants, as was illustrated by the situation in 2008, when a sharp reduction of quotas put thousands of foreigners outside the law overnight. As Nikita Mkrtchyan, a researcher at the Institute of Demography at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, rightly notes, “Quotas […] do not perform any of the functions invested in them. They do not protect the domestic labor market because all workers not covered by quotas swell the ranks of illegal immigrants – the most powerless, lowest-paid and, consequently, the most attractive workforce for business, a workforce that has a de facto presence on the market. […] The number of foreign workers that are needed is exactly the same as the number present on the market, if you add up the legal and illegal segments. The majority of immigrant laborers come to fill jobs that already exist, by prior arrangement with employers or their intermediaries, the so-called foremen. There are very few workers willing to buy an expensive ticket from, say, Tajikistan, to collect money from relatives [for the trip], without being sure that they will find work.” However, the abolition of quotas, now being pushed by the Federal Migration Service in defiance of the Ministry of Health and Social Development, is unlikely to produce any significant change. In fact, this measure would amount to a consolidation of the status quo, an admission that the previous system was useless. Whether “legalized” or not, immigrants will remain slaves as long as slavery is still in demand.

As concerns the police measures of control over immigrants strongly advocated by the fascists, they are useless in the absence of a coherent policy for eliminating the social causes of crime, as is shown by the entire history of policing. Drunkenness, drug addiction, theft, rape, and murder – all the long-familiar “charms” of modern life – flourish in any impoverished society without any help from immigrants. When they become part of such a society, newcomers are not always able to avoid its vices. According to data from the Federal Migration Service, however, the contribution of foreigners to crime statistics is small – only 3.5% of all crimes committed – although there are between seven and twelve million immigrants in Russia (that is, they constitute five to eight percent of the overall population). The myth of terrifying, criminal migrant workers is beneficial, especially to our truly terrifying and criminal law enforcement agencies, who pretend to be terribly busy fighting crime even as they collect tribute from silent Uzbeks and run protection rackets for the capitalist slave owners who employ the labor of illegal workers.

In the public debate about immigration, leftists should talk not about vicious Tajiks, Uzbeks, Moldovans or Chinese, but about the enormous numbers of the working and unemployed poor. It is obvious that without eradicating this vast island of humiliation and poverty it is impossible to talk seriously about combating the problems generated by immigration. This means a total ban on temporary and agency labor and other forms of precarious employment, and raising the minimum wage to match the real cost of living. Depending on the region, the minimum wage should in any case be no less than fifteen to twenty thousand rubles a month [approx. 350 to 450 euros], with obligatory annual indexing for inflation.

It is necessary to combat illegal employment, of course. But this campaign should be directed not against guest workers, who in this case are victims of a crime, but against slave-owning businessmen. At present, the penalties for employers who use illegal workers are laughable, which cannot be said of the immigrants themselves. Here is a typical story. After an inspection by the Petersburg prosecutor’s office, the construction firm LenSpetsSMU-Komfort was fined 825,000 rubles [approx. 19,000 euros] for employing forty-seven illegal workers during construction of a power plant. That is, the company paid out 17,500 rubles [approx. 400 euros] for each of its virtual slaves. It is also reported, however, that the workers were prosecuted under Article 18.10 of the Russian Federation Administrative Code, which stipulates a fine of two to five thousand rubles [approx. 45 to 115 euros] and possible expulsion from the country. Even government officials, however, acknowledge that most immigrant workers become illegal through no fault of their own. “For various reasons, not everyone wants the immigrants to be visible – for example, when an employer did not participate in the quota or it is simply not to his advantage to do this,” said Federal Migration Service spokesman Konstantin Poltoranin in 2009 (that is, before he was fired from the agency for his tireless concern over the “survival of the white race” and the “proper mixing of blood”).

Fining and deporting illegal immigrant workers is tantamount to punishing a victim of fraud. Is it any wonder that the vast majority of employers who use illegal labor go unpunished? For, unlike Russian workers, who fairly regularly appeal to the courts and the labor inspectorate, immigrant workers do not file complaints against their employers, who can always come to an understanding with police and bureaucrats.

It is an obvious truth that if a person works (and thus benefits society), he or she should work in humane conditions and be protected by labor laws that are identical for all working people. If labor laws are violated, then it is the employer who should be held responsible for the violation, and no one else. Instead of rounding up illegal immigrants, holding them in detention centers, and either deporting them at public expense or releasing them so that they can join the army of the homeless, the government should force their “owners” to restore the violated rights of workers: to provide them with a work contract, decent housing, medical insurance, a pension, and safe working conditions.

To the working people who today, echoing nationalist propaganda, accuse the newcomers of taking jobs away from Russian citizens, we reply: the only way to limit the influx of immigrants is to provide absolutely equal conditions for all workers, whether they are citizens or not. It is not Uzbeks or Tajiks who take away our jobs, but the capitalists and bureaucrats who profit at their and our expense.

Immigration Should Serve Society
We owe the fact that Russia’s major cities have turned into typical Third World capitals, where grinding poverty exists side by side with Asiatic luxury, to the collapse of the Soviet Union, along with its planned economy and well-developed social infrastructure. Migration from peripheral regions to places where heavy industry is concentrated, from the countryside to the towns and cities, has always existed, and it was never more massive in scale than during the twentieth century. However, the millions of peasants who were the ancestors of the majority of today’s city dwellers did not merely migrate to the cities. They were absorbed by the growing industrial sector and integrated into urban culture. They were provided with education and the other benefits of civilization. Whatever the horrors that accompanied the Stalinist industrialization, during that time the allocation of labor resources did not occur spontaneously, but according to plan. New regions of the country were explored and developed; new cities and gigantic industrial complexes were built. Yesterday’s peasants and residents of the former imperial hinterlands were given the chance to receive an education and job skills, to move up the career ladder.

Today, of course, everything is different. As Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, “Even given the political will and economic opportunities […] there are no benchmarks of any kind, and ‘policy’ in this area is entirely reduced to ritual incantations. […] In the foreseeable future, the formation of poles of growth in the country’s eastern regions will be almost exclusively due to large-scale projects for the extraction of mineral resources. However, these do not require the hiring of large numbers of specialists and can be implemented using workers on a rotational basis. So there is likewise no point in counting on business having a stake [in solving the problems associated with immigrant labor].”

The new Russian capitalism, which emerged from the ruins of Soviet industry, requires skilled specialists less than it does arms and backs obedient to their master’s will. We can stop our large cities from overflowing with beggars and semi-impoverished people, and from nourishing an army of menial laborers, the unemployed, and déclassé elements, only by developing the economies of our country’s regions. We need a policy aimed at re-industrializing the country, a policy that introduces intellectualized forms of labor, revives agriculture, and creates conditions from relocating workers from depressed areas to new industrial centers. In other words, we need to make the transition to a socialist planned economy. Only in this case can immigration be transformed from a festering societal sore into a powerful lever for our country’s progressive development.

Ivan Ovsyannikov
Russian Socialist Movement

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