RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013
||Historical Geographies of Internationalism, 1900s-1970s (3): Claiming the International: Communism, Socialism, Radicalism
Political Geography Research Group
Mike Heffernan (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Stephen Legg (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Jake Hodder (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Jake Hodder (The University of Nottingham, UK)
||Friday 30 August 2013, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
||Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Lecture Theatre G34
Recent works in historical geography have engaged with the international as a concept, a scalar network, a form of mobility and a political affiliation that, though with earlier origins and later manifestations, was of particular significance in the first half of the twentieth century. These studies have examined the geographies of political networks, revolutionary friendships, the League of Nations, new forms of cartography, capitalist internationalisms and the critical geographies of international research. In part, these works mark geography’s growing rapprochement with international relations in recent years, based on a common and interwoven agenda to re-think the potential of the international as the most urgent scale at which governance, political activity and political resistance has to operate when confronting the larger environmental, economic and strategic challenges of the 21st century. However, this rapprochement has rarely acknowledged that internationalism has both a history and a geography, which is the epistemic space in which we situate these sessions. They will counter-pose investigations of “the international” and internationalism as a means of exploring the coherent and divergent usages of this amorphous concept. Speakers will broadly address these questions:
• How did the international relate to the imperial? How did they have different geographical (and scalar) imaginations and infrastructural networks?
• What does the “inter” mean in relation to the “national”? How does it relate to trans-nationalism? Who could articulate the international? To what extent was it an inter-nationa-state-ism?
• What were the racial assumptions behind internationalism? Who could perform it? Did it have immanent revolutionary potential? What is it relationship to cosmopolitanism? Or to anti-colonialism/de-colonisation?
• Did the international provide an ethico-humanitarian mask for economic imperialism? Can internationalism be seen as an aggressive international manifestation of American nationalism? How did Cold War geopolitics begin to transform the potential of internationalism?
• What moral codes were used to inspire internationalisms? Religious? Humanitarian? Secular humanist?
• What are the histories and geographies behind environmental problems and challenges, including climate change, which are often presented as requiring international agreements and solutions?
Historical Geographies of Internationalism, 1900s-1970s (1): Negotiating the international, the imperial and the colonial
Historical Geographies of Internationalism, 1900s-1970s (2): Envisioning the International: Beyond the State
Anti-colonial Communism: Internationalism, interwar India, and “The People’s War”
The early 1930s witnessed the growing influence of communism in interwar India. Communist influences were traced in revolutionary outrages, outlawed institutions like the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army, and more conservative groups like the Congress Socialist Party, Trade Unionists and various student movements. The decision in 1941 by the USSR to join the allies in the Second World War marked a radical caesura for anti-colonial communists. What had previously been described as a fascist or capitalist clash became the “People’s War”, as represented in the new title of a popular communist newspaper. This shift brought the Communist Party in India (and its newspaper) relief from official censure, but also made its allied internationalism a target for Indian nationalists. This paper will explore the various geographies that this shift created, from a renegotiated international relationship between Indian communists and the Communist Party of Great Britain, to different campaigning conditions for India’s urban communists, to very different framing of Indian nationalism in The Peoples War as global turns in the World War provided different frames for condemnation of the Quit India mass movement and of Hindu-Muslim violence, as the communists repositioned themselves as proponents of communal, as well as class, unity.
Universalism or Empire? The internationalist geographies of Élisée Reclus and Peter Kropotkin
The celebrated anarchist geographers Élisée Reclus (1830-1905) and Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) based their 40-year collaboration on internationalist political practices. They met for the first time in Switzerland, in the cosmopolitan political laboratory of the Fédération Jurassienne. Internationalism was the material condition where they built their geographic knowledge, as Reclus and Kropotkin, like other members of their scientific and political networks, lived in exile in different countries, practiced several languages, and corresponded with colleagues and fellows from all over the world. Although they were not included in the ‘national’ schools of geography, they were well-placed in many places of the production of knowledge, like scientific societies and editorial boards.
This paper aims to elucidate their contribution on the making of contemporary internationalism, by questioning their definitions of ‘universalism’: this word indicates now, in the field of the postcolonial studies, a concept recalling European hegemony. Nevertheless, Reclus’ and Kropotkin’s universalism had the features of what we call now ‘cosmopolitanism’, including an international imagination where geographers have to study a unique humankind, to realize the ‘universal brotherhood’ of all the peoples by mutual knowledge and understanding. This geography denunciated colonial crimes, fought against racism and for international workers’ solidarity, and didn’t recognize the Empire as an international concept, because it did not correspond to ‘internationalism’, but just to a different establishment of political boundaries.
What are the links between this scientific strategy and the ‘transnational’ and ‘anticolonial’ imaginations of that time, stressed by historians like Benedict Anderson? How can we take advantage of definitions like ‘universal’ as ‘cosmopolitan’ or ‘transnational’ as ‘internationalist’, for present debates on internationalism? We interrogate the works of Reclus and Kropotkin, as well as unpublished sources like correspondences and archives, to elucidate these points.
Red Clydeside and Internationalism: Reading Helen Crawfurd’s Memoirs – from Glasgow to Moscow
The retelling of the Red Clydeside period in Glasgow’s working class history has traditionally, but not exclusively, been addressed within its local and national historical boundaries (McLean, 1987, Foster, 1990). In contrast, this paper will argue that the international work of local activists and the broader political connections within and beyond the Clydeside context were crucial to the development of Glasgow’s labour history. Conceptually, the paper will propose a link between the history from below tradition and labour geography (Herod, 2001) which will facilitate a reimagining of how place is understood within radical history. The paper will consider Helen Crawfurd (1877-1954), a political activist within the Red Clydeside period, who held strong international beliefs and took part in a variety of international actions. Alongside her significant involvement within more local (rent strikes) and national (suffragette) politics, she is particularly notable for her strong internationalist positionality. She was a key organiser in the establishment of Workers International Relief and took part in many international meetings and correspondences – including a trip to Moscow to visit Lenin at the conference of The Second International. This paper will explore her experience of international travels, activities and the possible tension within the different forms of international agency she adopted (political, charitable, communicative, etc.). The paper will argue that Crawfurd’s unpublished memoirs illustrate a clear sense of internationalism within Clydeside whilst also highlighting the international intersections between different leftist traditions and actors, placed based political actions and gender politics.
Radical (Inter)Nationalists: Spanish Civil War, French Colonialism and Moroccan Jewish Communists
The establishment of the Moroccan Communist Party (PCM) and Jewish participation therein was fundamentally bound up with international leftist networks, Communist ideology, as well as conjunctural events within a French colonial context. At the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War (1939), many Spanish Communists crossed the straits of Gibraltar to reach French Morocco, principally Casablanca, Meknes and Rabat. This influx of radical refugees to pre-existing French Communist Party and local leftist activism infused Moroccan national and anti-colonial politics with new possibilities for agitation. Vichy rule (1940-1942) in North Africa brought anti-Semitic legislation, inspiring many Jews to reject France’s vision of republican assimilation. Betrayed by French republicanism and unconvinced by Zionism, many Maghrebi Jews expressed their patriotism through Communism. The 1950s and 1960s represented the height of Moroccan Jewish Communist engagement during which a leftist social universe was constructed, focused on radical activism. This universe was based on family and communal organizing, centered on specific cafés, cinemas, and homes, in which men occupied positions in the PCM, women in the Communist Moroccan Women’s Union, and youths attended Communist summer camps and scouting events. Communism allowed Moroccan Jews to participate in the national liberation struggle and express their patriotism in an idealistically internationalist, cosmopolitan framework. Based on newspapers, oral histories, memoires and archival sources, I suggest that peering through this Communist lens in Morocco of 1945-1975 reveals a unique Moroccan Jewish Communist social universe, extending through the PCF, the PCM and other Moroccan leftist groups allied with the PCM. I contend that studying Jewish radical political and social organization in Morocco reveals the porous, transnational and vexed colonial relationships of Maghrebi Jews to nationalist independence movements and the purportedly internationalist Comintern while shedding light on larger questions of Jewish visions of radical citizenship and national identity.
Black Internationalism, Anti-Fascism and Contested Universalities
This paper explores the relations between internationalism, universality and spatial relations. It develops a critical engagement with Susan Buck Morss’s reading of the influence of the Haitian Revolution on Hegel’s account of the master-slave dialectic (Buck Morss, 2009). Through this innovative reading Buck Morss seeks to retrieve and reassert the importance of understandings of ‘universal history’. Buck-Morss, however, counterposes universalism and diversality and through doing so makes an appeal to a ‘common humanity’ which has the paradoxical consequence of closing down political articulations of universality. This paper uses an interrogation of the relations between space, politics and universality to explore different political articulations of black internationalism. This argument is developed through a discussion of the figuring of connections between anti-fascism and anti-colonialism in the work of key intellectuals such as CLR James and Aimé Césaire. The resonances of such a position for forms of subaltern political activity is developed through a discussion of action by maritime workers in diverse geographical contexts in opposing Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.