DEBATES on the left in Britain over immigration tend to polarise between those committed to open borders and others obsessed with cutting newcomer numbers.
The former is portrayed as an expression of internationalism — “no worker is illegal” — and the latter a defence of working-class living standards by holding back competition.
Jeremy Corbyn has previously appeared to favour the first proposition by emphasising the positive role played by migrants in the NHS, transport, public services and agriculture.
But he appreciates that the capitalist class is adept at turning situations to its advantage by exploiting progressive-sounding legislation.
The European Union has at its heart the “four freedoms” — the absolute right to freedom of movement across national borders of EU member states of capital, goods, services and people.
Every EU treaty since that of Rome in 1956 set up the European Economic Community has embodied those principles, defining the motive force of the bloc as capitalist free markets dominated by big business.
Left-wing parties and trade union federations campaigned against membership of the EEC/EU on precisely that basis.
But this opposition was weakened in the late 1980s in the run-up to the Maastricht treaty when a new “social Europe” image was sold to labour movements and widely swallowed as the Soviet Union led European socialist bloc — seen as the major alternative to free-market capitalism — imploded in 1989-91.
Previous critics of the EU from a socialist standpoint turned to portraying the ever-expanding bloc as the only game in town, an alternative to US-UK “Anglo Saxon” neoliberal capitalism or even a precursor to a United Socialist States of Europe.
This “new Europeanism” encouraged notions of migration between EU states in search of work as a form of internationalism and EU supervision of individual countries’ economies as solidarity.
The brutal treatment of several states, most notably Greece, by IMF, European Central Bank and EU Commission imposition of harsh restructuring regimes in return for bailing out banking systems has tarnished the EU glow somewhat.
But free movement of labour retains an attraction for governments happy to see hundreds of thousands of jobless workers emigrate and send back remittances to their families.
Unemployed workers in the poorest EU states see the chance to earn a living in advanced economies, even paid below going rates, as a godsend.
But it is a curse for workers in some regions or industrial sectors where employers have used the posted workers directive to boost profits by holding down wage levels and working conditions.
The European Court of Justice has issued several judgements banning trade unions, regional governments or national legislation from undermining that capitalist “freedom.”
Only by leaving the EU can this mechanism for raising profitability through heightened exploitation of labour be ended.
That means ending the selective, discriminatory free movement demanded by the EU for Europeans and restoring equal rights to non-EU immigrants.
Corbyn accepts that the people have spoken on the EU and rejects undemocratic plots to try to overturn that decision. He proclaims the goal of building “a better Britain out of Brexit.”
The Labour leader rejects the notion that this can be constructed on a fearful, divisive and discriminatory agenda of racism, xenophobia and blaming societal problems on immigrants rather than on the economic system and its government champions.
Corbyn rightly commends the huge contribution by migrants and nails his colours to the mast of people’s unity.
Above all, he insists that Corbyn-led Labour will be committed to creating “a more equal country in which power and wealth is more fairly shared amongst our communities.”