8. Beyond the Border


“The world is about to change its foundation. We are nothing, let us be all.”

The Vanity of Nations

ROAR Issue #8: Beyond the Border is out now.

Illustration by
Zoran Svilar

“Arise, ye wretched of the Earth. Arise, ye prisoners of want. For reason thunders in its volcano. This is the eruption of the end.” Thus wrote Eugène Pottier, veteran of the Paris Commune, in his legendary poem L’Internationale. An anarchist transport worker and lifelong revolutionary internationalist, the 54-year-old Pottier had been elected to the Parisian municipal government following the popular revolt of March 1871. He wrote his historic words, which would go on to serve as the official anthem of the First International and a hymn of the emerging socialist movement, following the suppression of the Commune in June. Nevertheless, despite this defeat, Pottier ended his poem on a decidedly optimistic note: “The world is about to change its foundation. We are nothing, let us be all.”

Today, Pottier’s solemn call to arms registers discordantly against the increasingly vocal cries for a reassertion of national borders. While the isolationist charge has so far been led by the xenophobic far-right, the so-called “progressive” parties of the advanced capitalist countries have by no means proven themselves immune to this siren song of the nation, whose treacherous refrain appears to be growing stronger by the day. Indeed, the left’s long-standing commitment to solidarity across borders — once so central to its historic mission and collective identity — now increasingly plays second fiddle to social-chauvinistic concerns about immigration and the plight of the “white working class.” From Mélenchon’s left patriotism to Sanders’ economic nationalism, it is the electoral opportunism of social democracy, much more than anti-imperialism or the internationalist ideal, that calls the tune on the left.

And yet, if you keep your ear to the ground and listen closely to the thunders of reason, you will find a very different sound emerging from the rumbling volcano below. It is the sound of people on the move, of borders under strain, of movements on the rise. This eighth issue of ROAR Magazine, our last one to appear in print, sets out to map the contours of these movements as they challenge, subvert and transform the international border regime from within.

In a way, the essays collected on these pages help bring our print run full circle. In March 2016, we marked the 145th anniversary of the Paris Commune by releasing our first issue on the revival of the commune as a revolutionary political form. As we noted then, “the Commune’s commitment to a radical working-class internationalism,” which included the granting of universal citizenship rights to immigrants, “was powerfully expressed in the celebrated slogan that ‘the flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic.’” Today, we conclude our series with a reaffirmation of that internationalist horizon as a foundational principle for the emerging anti-capitalist politics of the twenty-first century.

Against the overpowering hypermobility of global capital and the impotent vanity of nations, the left urgently needs to develop a new revolutionary internationalism in the spirit of Eugène Pottier and the Parisian communards. Faced with a catastrophic convergence of thoroughly global challenges, from de-territorialized financial markets to planetary climate change, it is clear that there can be no resort to the false prophets of parochialism. In these tumultuous times, it is our historic responsibility to demonstrate through a combination of political education, direct action and transnational mobilization that the only hope for the wretched of the Earth lies right here, beyond the border.

ROAR Collective

The ROAR Collective published ROAR Magazine (2011-’22), an online journal of the radical imagination that provided grassroots perspectives from the front-lines of the global struggle for real democracy.

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Source URL — https://roarmag.org/magazine/the-vanity-of-nations/

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