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Where does the backlash against refugees come from?

2022-05-13 | Critique of ideology

Predictably, xenophobia is growing with the war and is now also affecting Ukrainian refugees themselves. What is fueling the fear and rejection of refugees?

The Ukrainian "exception"

Main outflows of refugees from the Ukrainian war. Poland is the

Main outflows of refugees from the Ukrainian war. Poland is the "first stop" for many of those who end up in other EU countries.

Backlash and resentment towards Ukrainian refugees is growing by the day. It happens not only in the so-called "pro-Russian countries" like Slovakia or Bulgaria, in Poland, praised for accepting several million people and employing 100,000 Ukrainians, friction and open cases of discrimination and mistreatment are beginning to appear, especially towards refugees with Ukrainian passports who are not "ethnically Ukrainian". Something not very different from what we hear from the Czech Republic or Hungary.

Austria, with insufficient excuses even for European Justice, tries to impose border controls again to close doors to a potential new "avalanche" to which it nevertheless says it is open. The delivery of refugee "surrogate mothers" in France is increasingly seen as "a danger" which could lead to the imposition of this commodifying practice.

All in a general atmosphere in which it has become normalized, from France to Sweden, for the right wing to demand the deportation of any refugee or migrant at the slightest brush with the police.

But how could it surprise us to see Ukrainian Roma being forced to return and even the Czech president denouncing them as "false refugees", when African students who fled Ukraine are going to be deported in the worst possible way from France itself and Afghan exiles are begging to be treated "like Ukrainians".

Read also: Refugees from Ukraine and the logic of asylum in the EU, 15/3/2022

The moral effect of war propaganda

Demonstration in support of the Ukrainian state with red-black flags, symbol of xenophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Polish Ukrainian nationalism.

Demonstration in Madrid in support of the Ukrainian state with red-black flags, symbol of xenophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Polish Ukrainian nationalism.

From the beginning of this war, the European media took for granted the virulent racism of Ukrainian nationalism, racism that fed the whole Russophobic discourse of the daily war propaganda.

Nobody raises an eyebrow when Zelensky speaks of the 46% of Russian-speaking Ukrainians as if they were foreigners or when his ministers and entourage congratulate themselves on the fact that nearly one million Russian-speaking Ukrainians have taken refuge in Russia since they will legally lose their nationality when the war is over. Let alone the more than 40,000 Ukrainians -many of them Roma- who have never been able to "enjoy" citizenship because they are not of a state-recognized ethnicity. The EU directly excluded them from the automatic refuge it guaranteed to "real Ukrainians".

And when one takes for granted the fact that 70% of Spaniards declare their Russophobia due to propaganda, how could one be surprised that anti-Semitism, that old filth, is growing again, from France to Finland.

The war propaganda of the European media, after making invisible the declared, brutal and genocidal anti-Semitism of the Azov battalion, with the lazy excuse that Zelensky is Jewish, ends up giving as legitimate the anti-Semitic speech of Zemmour, true parody of the anti-Semitic Jew, vindicating the WWII puppet government of PĆ©tain as "savior of the Jews".

And this is not only declarative. War propaganda produces practices worthy of the worst of the 1930s. The latest: Lufthansa banning "recognizable Jews" from flying because some Orthodox object to wearing masks on religious grounds. Couldn't they ask the passengers, Jews or Goyim, if they are willing to comply with the rules before boarding? Why, if the ethno-racist logic is blessed by the Ukrainian mirror of "our values"?

The "xenophobic consensus" and its usefulness for the state

Electoral event of Unidas Podemos, electoral coalition that groups Izquierda Unida (articulated around the old Stalinist PCE) and Podemos. The message: 'People, Fatherland, United We Can' is indistinguishable from that of the new nationalist ultra-right.

Electoral event of Unidas Podemos, electoral coalition grouping Izquierda Unida (articulated around the old Stalinist PCE) and Podemos. The message: "People, Homeland, United We Can" is indistinguishable from that of the new nationalist far-right.

How did xenophobia become state ideology?

That countries like Denmark, which expel refugees by the boatload and intend to intern asylum seekers in concentration camps in Rwanda, gave free entry and even built tailor-made villages for Ukrainian refugees, sooner or later had to turn against the Ukrainian asylum seekers themselves. The "social consensus" on which the break with the asylum tradition is based could not nurture Ukrainian exceptionality for long.

The question to be asked is how was such a "consensus" reached. For years, the main driving forces of xenophobia were the ultra-nationalist expressions of petty bourgeois revolt. Expressions contained at least by the state parties and the official ideology.

But things began to change when a certain amount of votes were transferred in France, Italy and other countries from the old Stalinist CPs to the "populist" far right. This posed a certain danger for the state - the perpetuation of crises in the political apparatus and the proliferation of hung parliaments - and so the established parties adopted the xenophobic proposals to a greater or lesser extent, incorporating them into the policies of the state.

The model is confirmed in countries such as Spain, where the new far right parties maintain the "neoliberal" discourse and the precarizing positions of the institutional right wing of the past decades. In these countries, despite the shallow expectations of the media, groups like Vox have not managed to significantly mobilize the previously left-wing vote. So, with all its characteristic hypocrisy and classist falsehood, the old asylum system is fundamentally preserved, without mass deportations or outsourcing to concentration camps.

In other words, if the vote transfers from the CPs to Lepenism evidence the long-term effect of the nationalist poison instilled by Stalinism, the evolution of right-wing nationalism incorporated a determining element in the explosion and incorporation into the state ideology of xenophobia. A key element taken from the left.

Left-wing nationalism: a sacred union with the state budget

The European Social Security systems, whether the Danish one created under social democratic inspiration, the Polish one created by Stalinism, or the Spanish one, generalized and deepened by Francoism, are based on the contributions - quotas - of workers and companies.

Despite its state-run character - "social and health spending" is nothing more than the socialization of the overhead costs of exploiting labor - the official ideology paints it as a closed system apart from the state itself. And with a financial system eager and increasingly needy to take control of it in order to gain guaranteed profitability, we have been bombarded for decades with bad omens about its "long-term sustainability".

The result has been the gradual consolidation, first in the left - which for decades sold state capitalism as an advance towards socialism - and now in the new petty-bourgeois rebellious right wing, of a nationalism with a perverse logic: the motherland is the public services... the fundamental ones - pensions, health care, unemployment benefits, etc. - "guaranteed" by the state and financed by the direct contributions of workers and businessmen.

My motherland is the hospitals, the schools, the public services where our rights are guaranteed.

Pablo Iglesias

In that framework the "sacred union", the supposed patriotic "common cause" of bourgeoisie and workers, is measured in hard cash: "the income that pays your pension and your health care". And the refugees are "pure expense". The nationalism of the patriotic left, which pretends to be inclusive and a friend of refugees and migrants, paves the way for the xenophobia of the right wing and legitimizes the "pragmatic" xenophobia of the state.