When I was a Revolutionary Marxist, we were all in favour of as much immigration as possible.
It wasn’t because we liked immigrants, but because we didn’t like Britain. We saw immigrants – from anywhere – as allies against the staid, settled, conservative society that our country still was at the end of the Sixties.
Also, we liked to feel oh, so superior to the bewildered people – usually in the poorest parts of Britain – who found their neighbourhoods suddenly transformed into supposedly ‘vibrant communities’.
If they dared to express the mildest objections, we called them bigots.
Revolutionary students didn’t come from such ‘vibrant’ areas (we came, as far as I could tell, mostly from Surrey and the nicer parts of London).
We might live in ‘vibrant’ places for a few (usually squalid) years, amid unmown lawns and overflowing dustbins.
But we did so as irresponsible, childless transients – not as homeowners, or as parents of school-age children, or as old people hoping for a bit of serenity at the ends of their lives.
When we graduated and began to earn serious money, we generally headed for expensive London enclaves and became extremely choosy about where our children went to school, a choice we happily denied the urban poor, the ones we sneered at as ‘racists’.
What did we know, or care, of the great silent revolution which even then was beginning to transform the lives of the British poor?
To us, it meant patriotism and tradition could always be derided as ‘racist’.
And it also meant cheap servants for the rich new middle-class, for the first time since 1939, as well as cheap restaurants and – later on – cheap builders and plumbers working off the books.
It wasn’t our wages that were depressed, or our work that was priced out of the market. Immigrants didn’t do the sort of jobs we did.
They were no threat to us.
UPDATE: Reader Chris Roberts adds:
Having lived in the UK for eight years, I recognize what this column is describing. I am less certain how well it transfers to American circumstances (I am a dual US and UK citizen, living in the US now), where I think the situation is more complex. But the contempt of certain metropolitan London elites for traditional Englishness and for life in the provinces is a real thing. There are many good reasons to welcome and be hospitable to immigrants, and I warmly embrace the leadership of the US Catholic bishops in this country (a political stance which confounds ordinary American political labels) on this point. But like any political movement, pro-immigration conversations can also have their dark side. Casualness about the rule of law on the border is one of them. Seeking to subvert traditional social orders is another one, arguably more visible in the UK. Because these dark sides exist does not mean that all liberals have dark motives – not in the least. It does mean that the movement needs to look in the mirror and name the issues so it can do better as a whole. Rod’s post is helpful if taken in that spirit.