The left and migration: How to converge the common struggles between migrants, non-migrants and national minorities?

Date: 29/30 mai 2013
Venue: FGTB, 42 rue Haute à Bruxelles
Languages: English, French

Organization: ACJJ (Association Culturelle Joseph Jacquemotte), Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Brussels, Transform!, REALPE
Contact: Anna Striethorst


The attitude of the left towards issues linked to immigration and the inclusion of foreign origin groups in the struggle for social emancipation.
Description of the theme: The idea of organising this colloquium is based on three observations: For the past three decades and with the issue of immigration now ensconced in the political agenda of western countries, the parties that identify with the left find it hard to define a clear and progressive position on this question. At one time accused of being lax and naively optimist on these issues, the social-democrats now hold policies that differ less and less from those, more repression-oriented, implemented by the conservative parties.

The left of the left finds itself in a delicate position. Its ability to convince a working class population, severely affected by neo-liberal policies, of the need for a systemic change is hampered by the advance of the far-right which, surfing on the havoc wreaked by global capitalism, maintains a discourse that stigmatises immigrants as the objective allies of capitalism and as such a threat for the national workers. The trend is demonstrated in certain countries by the working class's tendencial shift towards the extreme right.

Lastly, in 'civil society' - associations and social movements - a growing segmentation in struggles for social equality can be discerned. This phenomena particularly affects populations of immigrant origin who tend to be fragmented and (quite legitimately) defend their rights without placing the question in a broader context. However, as these populations are a social category especially affected by exploitation by the economic system, their inclusion by the left in the broader framework of the struggle for social change is crucial. This is why it is important to take another look at the fight against racism and integrate it more largely in the movement of workers' demands.


To organize a discussion on the attitude of the left towards these questions and to stimulate the reflections on what kind of policy the left should have on questions relating to immigration. Through the involvement of speakers and participants of immigrant origin to foster reflections on the interest of converging individual struggles into a broader fight for justice and emancipation which ideally characterises the mission of the left.


This event will be organised as a colloquium. We opted for this format in the aim to encourage openness, dialogue and the constructive nature of exchanges on a subject that certain members of the left see as 'taboo'. One challenge of this colloquium will be to break down these 'taboos' in order to help renew the stance and ongoing reflection of the left on these subjects. The colloquium will thus be organised in three cycles: a) the left and policies on immigration and asylum, b) a fragmentation of the struggles within the immigrant populations and need for a broader progressive union, c) the left vis-à-vis immigration-based diversity (see below).

The colloquium will be a series of debates spread over two days (an afternoon, then the next morning and afternoon). The report prepared after the event will be published (in a form to be defined). On the basis of this report we intend to prepare an analysis summarising the topics discussed and the substance of the debates, thus inspiring subsequent reflections on the subject, in particular in the context of work ongoing in Transform (plans for an analysis for Transform magazine).

In order to further stimulate thinking and discussions, the attendees and speakers will receive a set of texts to read, along with a list of reference works for more in-depth study.

The focus will be on comparing different national situations. In order to enrich the discussions, the speakers will include people from academia, associations and politics (including social-democrats) from countries with a broad range of social-political contexts. A particular focus will be the stance of the left as regards various national models for integration, especially the French republican model and the British integration model. We shall also attempt to juxtapose experiences on the ground (movements in favour of undocumented persons, personalities of immigrant origin, empirical analyses by researchers, etc.) with other presentations that are more analytical and theoretical.

In order to give voice to those most directly interested, the speakers will also include people who are immigrants themselves or their descendents. We are hoping that the themes to be discussed and the choice of speakers will attract a multi-ethnic public from varied cultural and socio-economic horizons.

In the aim to encourage interaction with the public, each cycle of speeches will be followed by a question-answer period insofar as possible. Depending on the number of participants and the time available we will either collect written questions during the speeches and group them, or else have the participants ask their questions directly. In order to stress the dynamics of this colloquium and avoid it seeming too fixed, we will place particular emphasis on the role of the moderator who, depending on the subjects under discussion, will be able to intervene during the speeches to ask additional questions or request clarification for one statement or another.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Day one is devoted to policies on asylum

I. Is an asylum and migration policy of leftist inspiration possible?

- European migration policies: critique and the issues at stake.
- Asylum policies: is there an alternative to repression and 'Fortress Europe'?
- The question of opening borders.
- How can the left adopt a humanistic and progressive discourse on this subject that can prevail among the working class?
Thursday, 30 May 2013

Day two will focus more on relations between the left and people of immigrant origin


II. The fragmentation of social movements promoting the rights of people of immigrant origin: how can they be assembled?

- How to include immigrants/people of immigrant origin in the left's broader struggles?
- The fight against social injustice vs. the fight against cultural and symbolic discrimination of people of foreign origin: are these struggles contradictory or complementary?
- The role of immigrants in class struggle.
- How can the demands of various social groups of immigrant origin be assembled with a view to including them in broader struggles by the left?
- Does the ethnicization of social demands hamper class struggle?
- The role of the associative, trade union and political sectors in converging various fights for the rights of minorities
- Taking a new look at questions of racial and cultural discrimination in the context of capitalistic exploitation.


III. Managing immigrant-based diversity: can the left make itself heard?

- Is there something special in the left's day-to-day administration of neighbourhoods with a high immigrant density? Talks by three elected officials or mayors of cities that are generally on the left and with a high immigrant population. Provisional proposals: Bobigny (France), Molenbeek and Schaerbeek (communes of Brussels, Belgium) and Berlin (Germany).
- The left's position in debates on non-sectarianism: is religion conservative or a factor for emancipation? The question of cultural and religious demands by people of immigrant origin.
- The left's position on the specific rights of minorities suffering from discrimination: positive discrimination, explanation of the terms: 'concerted adjustments', 'reasonable accommodation'
- How can immigrants and their descendents be included in the workers movement, and how can their demands be heard? Speakers from trade unions
End of the afternoon: Conclusions and close of the colloquium

Download programme
Event at website of Jacquemotte