Bob Gould, 2010

Population policy and migration
Credit where credit is due

Source: Ozleft, January 29, 2010
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

I went to a couple of sessions of the DSP-Socialist Alliance conference a couple of weeks ago, including a session in which Simon Butler made a sustained, eloquent argument as to why socialists should not support an implicitly chauvinist push for what is sometimes called a population policy, and why socialists should in general defend the right of migration to Australia for the poor of the world.

Since then Ian Angus and Butler have put up a paper on the Canadian website, Socialist Voice, and this is not a bad point of departure for a rational discussion among socialists on these problems. Hats off to Butler and Angus on these questions.

Similarly, more civilised members of the Greens are intelligently resisting the push for a so-called population policy by more conservative forces in the Greens.

In the national labour movement, the trade unions and the Labor Party, there’s an underlying tension building up on these matters. The Labor leadership in general cautiously defends high migration, but certain conservative Labor leaders, such as Bob Carr and Victorian MP Craig Emerson, are trying to appeal to the traditional caution, particularly in the unions, about mass migration in tough economic times.

So far, however, the unions have not been as vocal as might be expected in opposition to migration, which is a tribute to the better instincts of many union activists and officials.

The build-up of this poisonous support for a so-called population policy was underlined this week by a whole week of 7.30 Reports on the ABC heavily biased towards the anti-immigrationists, with all the usual suspects wheeled out: Bob Carr, Monash University academic Bob Birrell, paleontologist Tim Flannery, and others who oppose migration.

I’m a bit disappointed that Matt Peacock, a journalist I greatly respect for his investigative book about the asbestos racket, appears to have put these programs together.

It’s early days yet, but I unreservedly endorse Butler and Angus opening up the question sensibly from a socialist point of view. It crosses my mind that there are other possibilities concerning population in similar countries to Australia with severe climatic and environmental problems.

The classic solution to the population “problem” was, of course, that of the greatest butcher of supporters of the socialist project in the 20th century, Josef Stalin.

As maximum leader of the Soviet Union with its difficult climate — much Arctic tundra and much desert — his solution was forced collectivisation, the deportation of millions of so-called kulaks, and an artificially created famine, which together led to the deaths of many millions.

Later in the 1930s he further reduced the population by executing several million communists, socialists and others in the Great Purges, and killing millions of others due to dreadful conditions in the Arctic prison camps. He also decapitated the officer corps of the Soviet army, killing tens of thousands of trained military men, and massively disorganising the army, which directly contributed to the Nazi victories at the start of World War II.

That contributed to the deaths of many millions more Soviet citizens.

Stalin even ordered the execution of census takers in the 1930s because their work showed the dramatic reduction in the population.

Stalin, through these crimes, massively reduced the Soviet population, thereby in a sense solving part of the “population problem”. This is not, however, a method recommended to serious socialists, or any civilised human being.