The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Meanwhile in Hungary


The Hungarian government, led by Victor Orbán, the great defender of the worker from the hordes of cheap labour and cultural contamination knocking on Hungary’s doors, has decided to pass a law that:

  • Drastically raises mandatory overtime for 250 to 400 hours.
  • Allows employers to bypass union negotiations and make agreements with individual workers.
  • Allows employers to pay out overtime over three years, rather than one.

The combined changes make it possible for employers to make Hungarian workers work a six-day week rather than a five-day week.

Orbán is widely considered the leading figure of the “nationalist international,” promoting “family values” that will protect ordinary working people against the social and economic dilution brought about by liberal attitudes to culture and immigration. In reality, this type of nationalism (perhaps all types?) is not a real protection for the worker and typically presages a different set of extractive and exploitative compromises with capital.


Meritocracy? What Meritocracy?


The Rule of Alienation and Stability


  1. S Brennan

    So Mandos…am I to understand that your counter argument to every bad labor policy is massive immigration? One size fits all…eh?

    Not getting enough raises? Yo dude, you need MASSIVE IMMIGRATION !!!

    Not getting enough vacay? Yo dude, you need MASSIVE IMMIGRATION !!!

    Not getting enough otj training? Yo dude, you need MASSIVE IMMIGRATION !!!

    Whatever ails you…you need MASSIVE IMMIGRATION !!! MASSIVE IMMIGRATION will solve all problems !!! Yeah, it’s never worked before but, this time it’s different!–HrBkzhSS–/c_fill,f_auto,fl_progressive,g_center,h_675,q_80,w_1200/nv4kjnggvsey3pktzbcb.jpg

  2. The migration cannot be stopped. As the thin layer of potentially toxic gases we live in enveloping the only ball of rock we know of we can live on heats up and grows ever more toxic, as the equatorial, tropical and sub-temperate zones grow ever more uninhabitable due to drought, desertification and extreme “weather” the people living there are going to leave. Period.

    There’s no stopping them, the migration cannot be stopped.

    Prudence dictates we prepare for that.

  3. My counter to bad labour policy is (among other things) not to fall for a position that pits workers against other workers, not to believe oligarchs when they use discourses of “us” vs. the “other”.

  4. nihil obstet

    Who, in your vision of border-free populations, sets and enforces labor policy? If I remember correctly, you have argued that it’s a failing to propose something without implementation details. But I’m having trouble understanding how any organization, much less a government that administers rights and responsibilities, can operate without decision rules about who can do what and who gets to get what.

  5. It will be interesting to see how soon the protests start against Orbán. Isn’t Hungary part of the EU? Orbán has trampled over the rule of law since like 2010 and they’ve done nothing to stop him. No wonder fascists are emboldened.

  6. atcooper

    Language will be enough, on its own, to ensure there will be no global worker’s movement. And that may be for the best. Since language shapes so much thought, it is probably for the best we have many ways of thinking. That way there may be ideas to survive whatever comes next.

  7. nihil obstet: First of all, I was going to point out how ironic it is that when I demand details (of e.g. how to Brexit, how to unwind the EU, etc), I am accused of using details to obscure the need for visionary/revolutionary thinking and action, but when I try to propose a visionary/revolutionary programme, people demand details from me! 🙂

    But I think the answer to your question was already discussed in the previous thread. While borderlessness-by-administrative-convergence is something in my opinion to be desired, it is a long process that is not reachable in the near future. Instead, all I was suggesting on this topic was that local/national labour law be uniformly enforced, and migrant workers not be discriminated against, blocked by violent border enforcement, or prevented from working under the same enforced labour law. Under this regime, the incentive for workers to avoid documentation will be lower. This is not a programme to give migrants automatic citizenship and political rights upon moving.

    I am also not against tariff restrictions on goods and capital to prevent free trade races to the bottom prior to regulatory/administrative convergence. This is solely about not deliberately impeding human movement. As you can see, people like Orbán attack human movement but support free trade and capital movement — as a precursor to the exploitation of local labour,.

  8. nihil obstet


    Demand for implementation details on a visionary proposal often diverts from arguments for the proposal. However, I couldn’t pass up pointing out that you have excoriated the left as lazy, incompetent boobs for not providing implementation details on proposals you disagree with. I don’t think “ironic” means what you think it means. The debating issue is whether both positions should be held to the same standard or whether one side can airily dismiss the other’s points on grounds that it exempts itself from meeting. If that’s clear, can we now deal with the proposals?

    You’ve here answered questions that you hadn’t answered before. I’ll just briefly restate that my belief in self government gives me ideological problems with a disenfranchised work force. And note that the two major economic proposals coming out of the left are a job guarantee and a universal basic income; unrestricted immigration would end any hope of either.

  9. Willy

    Visionaries have proclaimed that someday there will be no borders. All human habitations will be on wheels rolling around fighting and devouring each other. I’m thinking that in such a world unrestricted immigration could overload the most desirable of the city-vehicles like some Bangladeshi train, to where it eventually gets stuck in the mud. This doesn’t seem like a good thing.

  10. Herman

    This reminds me of the attempt to throw Bernie Sanders into the same category as Donald Trump back in 2016. No, not all populism is the same and not all nationalism is the same. Orbán is similar to Trump in that for the most part their domestic economic policies are right-wing and bad for working people. I have even mentioned on this very blog that Trump is bad on issues like labor rights.

    Right now most people in the West have a choice between the neoliberal, cosmopolitan left made up of parties like the US Democrats, UK Labour and most of the mainstream social democratic parties on the European continent and a rising populist right that focuses on immigration, trade and culture war issues while usually supporting typical right-wing policies domestically. There is almost no nationalist or populist left in the West these days but it is not an impossible position to support. Was Cesar Chavez a fascist because he was critical of open borders immigration because of the negative impact it had on his United Farm Workers union? We might as well throw Chavez into the fascist camp now too I guess.

  11. Mallam

    Stop slandering Caesar Chavez’s actual positions with your fascist filth. Chavez opposed the utilization of “illegal immigrants” for the purposes of breaking strikes, which is the opposite of what Mandos is talking about. If we could have allowed those workers to join the union, the “problem” of “illegal immigration” washes away.

  12. nihil obstet: The discussion of “details” came up because an apparent lack of interest in how the EU worked, what was driving Tory Brexit, etc., was leading to…analyses I continue to believe were at odds with the situation both by Ian and by commenters. Most distressing was the idea that a post-Brexit UK had more options and power to better the lives of its vulnerable populations than a UK that was a member of the EU, something that does not pass muster when one examines the actual paths by which Brexit could take place. In that sense, it is very frustrating to talk about The Problem of Brussels without getting our Brussels on — dry, institutional, detailed. I was clearly using “ironic” in the Alanis Morissette sense, which I am allowed to do because Canadian. 🙂

    However, it surprises me that you see my comment as being the first time you had seen that proposal laid out, because I thought that that was exactly what I had been saying in my Deportation thread. I’m not sure how people hallucinated in the idea that I wanted to deliberately truck a million people into the USA for no reason. I have no desire to make people move any more than I have to stop them from moving. My sole issue is the very special kind of architecture of violence that is required to stop people from moving, regardless of why and how they move, and how many.

    I’m not entirely convinced that in the real existing world, as opposed to the world in which there is a flood of inchoate, pulsing human biomass coming to overrun Buffalo, NY, that some variant of basic income (I’m skeptical of the jobs guarantee but that is another discussion, and ugh, it presupposes the concept of “job”) couldn’t work. However, if it is absolutely necessary to actively stop border-crossing in some way to preserve these projects, then yes, I would indeed sacrifice those projects. That is because I don’t think those projects can really survive the politics of borders and national identities in the first place (see the original post above), so it is an easy choice.

  13. Herman


    Sorry but you cannot just call people “fascist” because they are opposed to open borders. This is the kind of rhetoric that is making the left look ridiculous. The debate over immigration is (or at least should be) more nuanced than good people vs. the fascists.

    Michael Lind has written some good articles on why progressives don’t have to support open borders. I don’t agree with everything he writes in these articles but he makes some important points about the choice between open borders and having a high-wage welfare state. Some of these articles are quite dated (one going back to 1998) but the main points are still relevant.

    Yes, I know, the National Review. But the article is still worth a read in my opinion.

  14. Willy

    The undocumenteds I know personally would consider unionization a lessening of their net wages and a restriction on their freedom. They’ve figured out some pretty effective we-win you-win government-lose black market solutions.

  15. Willy

    But “the government” doesn’t much care since K-Street pays a pretty penny for useful services, and that “deficits don’t matter”. Not for them personally, anyways.

  16. I vaguely recall a couple of those Lind articles. Unfortunately, Lind flees from the material objections to the actual enforcement of real existing immigration law, and so renders his writing on the subject rather irrelevant. The whole question of the feasibility of borders as a left-wing defense of the welfare state under capitalism hinges around the practicalities and effects of border enforcement. But Lind waves it away in one of his articles with an objection to the comparison of ICE to the Gestapo, which he deems “revolting”; maybe so, but some of ICEs tactics and practices nevertheless cause the bile to rise justifiably, and do no favours to workers.

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