On 29 and 30 May the Joseph Jacquemotte Cultural Association organised, jointly with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the transform! network, a European seminar of reflection devoted to the relations between the Left and immigration. For two days, about thirty people took part, coming from political, trade union and academic circles as well as voluntary associations, considered the conditions for a greater degree of convergence between migrants, non-migrants and minorities.
The origin of this seminar was the acknowledgement of an imperfect contact between the Left and people who appear foreign to the national entity: migrants, the descendents of migrants and minorities (especially the Roms). The complexity of the subject but above all the determination to make headway in thinking about this subject determined the choice of an interactive seminar in the form of a Round Table. The presence of academics, or migrants’ organisations and of representatives of Left trade unions, political and voluntary bodies was based on the necessity for creating dialogue between these circles, too often not connected with one another.
The organisers were most pleased to see participants from a dozen European countries who were this able to share with great interest the experiences of joint struggles in a variety of fields. The main issue was the new opportunities for solidarity resulting from the crisis, which reveals the common fate that unites migrants and non-migrants faced with social distress. The accounts of initiatives in Greece and Spain where migrants and nationals worked together against the consequences of the austerity measures thus cut across the idea that national withdrawal was the only possible reaction in times of crisis.
The need to defend the migrants on a universal basis of class struggle was also developed at length. Rather than basing solidarity on moral criteria, it is, indeed, by insisting on the fact that migrant and non-migrant workers share the same condition of being exploited that convergences are most likely to take place. This fact places progressive trade unions in the front line since they are confronted with the need to include migrants in their struggles for a better sharing of collective wealth.
The constructive character of the discussion did not prevent persistent divergences. Thus opposed views appeared between members of Left parties, who considered that class consciousness of the migrants should be stressed more and a representative of the Rom Inirromnjaassociation who stressed, on the contrary, the importance of progressives seeking to ensure the convergence of struggles by taking into account the minorities and migrants’ feelings of self-identity. A heated exchange made it clear that it is important that the Left overcome certain paternalist attitudes if it wants to have a discourse that the migrants find audible.
In the end, the quality of the discussion and the enthusiasm of those taking part strengthened the organisers in their wish to continue reflection on this issue since the brutality of the antisocial offensives is making the necessity for joint struggle more imperative than ever.
N.B.The transactions of the seminar as well as a more detailed synthesis of the principle lessons of this encounter will soon be available on the web site of the Joseph Jacquemotte Cultural Association (www.acjj.be).
Find pictures below, and more pictures here