Imperialism, migration and the international working class


Above is a scene from the aftermath of a semi-trailed packed with migrants overturning on a highway in Chiapas, leaving 56 dead and at least 100 injured.

By: Raúl Romero*

“We migrants are not criminals, we are international workers,” sang the more than 200 migrants who arrived after 7:00 pm on December 14 at the facilities of the National Migration Institute (INM, its initials in Spanish) in Polanco. The contingent arrived there to join the demonstration, called by Mexico City collectives, in memory of the 56 migrants who died as a result of the trailer overturning in Chiapas. [1] Accompanied by at least another 200 people in solidarity and residing in Mexico City and a batucada, [2] the group decided to move, causing astonishment among Polanco neighbors and workers, towards the offices of the same INM in the streets of the National Army. There, they lit candles, placed floral offerings, made a roil call and observed a minute of silence for the deceased. During their movement another significant slogan was constantly intoned: The borders are stained red, because the working class is killed there.”

Mexico knows that international working class well. For decades, millions of Mexican women and men have crossed the border to the United States (US) in search of better jobs and incomes. More recently, thousands of people from this country have also decided to go to the US, with or without documents, due to the increase in violence. It is estimated that 36 million Mexican migrants now live in the neighboring country; in other words, 10 percent of the total population of that nation. As reported in these same pages, remittances from Mexican migrants have become the country’s main inflow of foreign currency in 2021, even above tourism, oil and agri-food exports, and foreign investment.

The migratory phenomenon is not particular to America. We’re dealing with a global one that has been getting worse in recent decades. The neoliberal globalization process that implied the reorganization of life and work on an international scale made mass migrations necessary for the production process. The international working class that comes out of underdeveloped nations and regions because of plunder and dispossession, becomes cheap labor for the imperial centers; workers without rights or benefits, threatened with being denounced and expelled for any complaint or protest. That’s why the populations of countries in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central and South America seek to reach nations such as Germany, the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France and the United Kingdom, to name a few. These phenomena of mass displacements of the “reserve army” from the peripheries to the centers and from the south to the north, also occurs from the countryside to the city, because the megalopolis and the development zones seem to be the model of territorial reorganization that drives capital.

At the same time, some countries that expel migrants from Central and South America and also from Africa, have socio-environmental devastation as a common denominator, as a result of the role that was imposed on them in the production system: the extraction of resources and the supply of raw materials. Likewise, they are characterized by having a large development of criminal economies, not only in the drug market, but also in the illegal extraction of minerals, illegal arms trafficking, human trafficking, etcetera.

“We’re here because you were there,” read a banner at a mobilization of migrants in 2003, in Spain. The slogan summarizes well the historical character and the relationship between colonialism, imperialism and the recent phenomena of mass migration.

From those without papers (los sans papiers) in France, to the caravans in Central America, the international working class is facing obstacles that hinder its transit. Because of the institutionalized racism and exacerbated nationalism that derives into xenophobia, the international working class has to face the militarization of borders and repression all over the world, as well as the multiple violence of the million-dollar business of human trafficking.

Now that the government of Mexico accepts reproducing the immigration policy imposed by the most conservative sectors of the United States, even reaching the point of starting to demand a visa for people coming from Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela, it’s worth remembering our past and present as migrant peoples. Now that Mexico turns the “National Guard into a kind of surrogate Border Patrol, internalizing the United States immigration policy,” as Luis Hernández Navarro wrote, it’s necessary that our peoples and organizations deploy all their solidarity with the international working class and against imperialism.

[1] Recent articles on migration/immigration have been propelled by the December 9 accident in Chiapas (shown in the photo above) that claimed the lives of 56 migrants and injured many others. For details see:

[2] Batucada is a style of samba music heavily influenced by percussion instruments, with Afro-Brazilian rhythms.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, December 26, 2021

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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