In this conversation, we talk about Harsha Walia’s new fantastic book, Border and Rule Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism (Haymarket, 2021), which draws an international map of the border imperialist regime in its geographic, historic, and legal complexities. We then proceed in trying to envision the various forms of internationalist solidarities that emerge in the struggle against this global regime, following in particular Indigenous and/or Black resistance.
Harsha Walia is the award-winning author of Undoing Border Imperialism (2013). Trained in the law, she is a community organizer and campaigner in migrant justice, anti-capitalist, feminist, and anti-imperialist movements, including No One Is Illegal and Women’s Memorial March Committee.
EPISODE TRANSCRIPT ///
Léopold Lambert: Hello, everyone. Today my guest is Harsha Walia with our award winning author of undoing border imperialism, straining the law and community organizer and container and migrant justice, anti-capitalist, feminist and anti-imperialist movements, including No One is Illegal, and Women’s Memorial March committee, and she’s the author of a brand new book called “Border and Rule Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism,” which is exactly what we’re going to talk about today. Hello, Harsha.
Harsha Walia: Hi, thanks so much for chatting with me.
LL: Thank you so much for taking the time. I’m very, very happy we’re doing this.
HW: Me too!
LL: Thank you. And the book, the book is published at Haymarket books. And so before we mentioned the book, I know that I mean, as you know, the Funambulist puts a special emphasis on the politics of space. And I know that for you, it’s always very important to, to to acknowledge the land and it’s legitimate owners on which you are when you when you intervene, somewhere. So of course, want to give you a chance to do so. But also, I wanted to perhaps even talk a little bit more about this, this ritual or ceremoniality of an acknowledgement and why it’s still so important, despite many institutional people in in many settler colonies, which are using it as a sort of weird, very disturbing disclaimer, or some sort of white guilt, white-guilt appeasing ritual. So could you tell us a little bit about that?
HW: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for that. Great question. I’ll start by saying that I’m on the lands of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish indigenous nations. And these indigenous nations continue to steward these lands these waters and to affirm their jurisdiction and their laws on the lands that I’m on. And for me that, that land acknowledgement, if you will, is, you know, really to position myself and locate myself here on these lands in the context of migrant justice work, right. So as I’m talking about the struggles of migrants and refugees against borders, and in the context of settler states, it’s to constantly affirm and recognize that the jurisdiction and the laws on these lands are those not of the settler, colonial illegal Canadian state, but those of indigenous nations.
And I see these struggles as interconnected, right, in that there cannot be migrant justice unless and until there is also indigenous sovereignty and indigenous self determination. And that frames, the politics of movements that I’ve been part of like, the No One is Illegal Movement, because one of the things that we say is no one is illegal, Canada is illegal, that these are connected struggles. And for me, that is very distinct from the Canadian settler state who performs land acknowledgement, land acknowledgments, as these token gestures, these hollow gestures. And from, you know, for whom, you know, the State performance is not about solidarity. It’s not about land back. It’s about ticking off the boxes of having said that they’ve done a land acknowledgement and not meaningfully engaging in relationship or struggle, or solidarity. And so those are, you know, very different positions and intentions and actions. And so I think, for me, it comes from a place of—as someone who’s moved to these territories who resides on these territories, who has now settled on these territories, it’s to express my solidarity and my responsibility, and my relations, not to the Canadian State, or making appeals to the Canadian State, but to affirm and struggle alongside indigenous nations fighting for land back. And so for me, it’s personal. And it’s also deeply political, because it’s the orientation of migrant justice struggle.
LL: Thank you. So you’re starting to starting to engage with your book. And my first question is rather long. I apologize to everyone, but ever, every other is a little bit shorter. But I first of all wanted to say how incredible your book is that everybody should be really reading it. And it’s nice to be able to say everybody as in as in thinking of many people around the world and not in the sort of usual North American or West European centers, we’re, quite often we tend to stick on constraints into and the true internationalism of that book is really, really fantastic. And I think, and it contains, it contains many entrance doors, so much so that everybody seems to be able to relate in their own way. At least that’s what I felt when I was listening to your to the conversation you had with the author of your foreword, Robin Kelly. That’s a conversation that’s available online, as well as with the author of your afterwards and he gets this, which is also available online on the on the read media. And my own approach, unsurprisingly is more spatial.
And I’m reading I’m reading your book, I felt that I read your book in the same way I would be reading like a very complex and detailed map. And, and so I tried to I try to sort of summarize a little bit. What this map was would include, while most national state myth envisions borders as perfect and immovable geometric lines that are non-conflicted sovereign lands, you show in so many ways that these lines often move, they duplicate their thickness, and quite often, they reinforce the settler colonial conditions in which they have been traced. They are only one part of a carceral archipelago that counts islands, detention centers, jails, prisons, courts, etc. So that counts those islands inside, but also outside the nation state. And finally, that these borders delineate a legal media in which the various markers of racialization are explicitly or implicitly turned into laws that creates the conditions in which some will be deemed as law abiders or citizens, and others as criminal or undocumented—and/or undocumented. And, of course, labor and the various regimes of capitalist exploitation that are also front and center of the reality you’re describing. Could you perhaps address is very geographical dimension of your book?
HW: Sure, thank you. And thank you for that summary. I feel like that’s all I needed to write. Thank you. I guess I’ll you know, start by saying and in this way, I’m, of course, not the first person to say it, but which is that when we think about borders, oftentimes we think about borders, and, you know, border securitization and border controls as happening at the site of the border. Right, so at that, on that line on the map, if you will. But really, bordering regimes are, as you note, they’re multiplying, they’re everywhere, they’re internalized within the nation state, they’re externalize beyond the nation state. And for me, that’s, that’s central to understanding bordering regimes because bordering regimes are less about demarcating space and territory, though they’re also about that. But they’re also about creating and reproducing and maintaining systems of power, right, particularly racial capitalism, racial citizenship, imperialism, and more. And so the ways in which bordering regimes multiply, I think are as important, if not more important than thinking about the securitization that’s happening at the side of the border itself. And here I’m thinking about how important it is to, for example, not focus only on the border wall at the US Mexico border, you know, which is that the massive towering symbol of us exclusion and imperialism and nationalism. And most exemplified by Donald Trump, right, like shortly after he lost the election, one of the first places he showed up was the wall, right to reaffirm that MAGA message.
But really, the multiplication of the border and the elasticity of the border that we see, under, for example, President Obama, Bill Clinton, and now Joe Biden, that kind of multiplication of bordering regimes is just as if not more harmful, as the kind of symbolism of the border wall. And so thinking about that, through an international lens, at various sites is, you know, in various places is important because it helps us to see how the border multiplies. And the two kind of main ways in which I think through this is one, is the internalization of the border, and the second is the externalization of the border. And so the internalization of the border is, as it sounds, the ways in which bordering regimes exist within the nation state, right, such that when a migrant or refugee or an undocumented person crosses the border, the struggle doesn’t end once they have entered within the nation state.
And I think this is most evident in two ways: one is the ways in which the entire apparatus within the nation state is oriented towards the exploitation and creating immense fear and precarity for people with precarious status. Right, so if you are, even in supposedly putatively social democratic states, like Canada, or, you know, the Nordic countries. In those countries, the kind of public welfare systems, you know, from everything from hospitals, to child care to schools, become the kind of frontline of checking people’s immigration status, right of border exclusion. So people like teachers, people, like doctors, people, like childcare workers, people like social workers, who we tend to view, as you know, the public caring sector, can often mutate into effectively becoming border guards, right, whether they like it or not, or do it intentionally or not, their jobs become to police people’s immigration status, to turn them in if they’re undocumented, to refuse them service, such that even if people are within the nation state, they’re effectively not able to access any of those kinds of social welfare pillars of the nation state, right. So that is one of the ways in which internalization works.
And then you know, of course, parallel to that is the massive carceral system of policing and prisons, which become an effective pipeline for deportation and expulsion. And, you know, within which, especially Black people, Muslim people, those who are most likely to be targeted by police are then also then more targeted, in the, you know, criminal legal system to deportation legal system pipeline. And so that is, you know, one of the ways in which the border is internalized, right, where immigration enforcement effectively becomes a function within the nation state, not only at the border. And in the United States, for example, you know, there was several years where half of all federal arrests were immigration related, right.
So we see this, the seamless connection between these kinds of carceral regimes of police and prisons and immigration enforcement. The other ways in which the border is internalized is, I would argue, is migrant worker programs. So migrant worker programs are increasingly becoming the template of racial capitalism, which you note, you know, where migrant labor is cheapened. And one of the methods of that cheapening is the border, right. So we know that labor in the global south is not cheap labor, it’s deliberately cheapened through centuries of extortion and exploitation, and colonialism and capitalism. And now, and increasingly, the border also works to create conditions of exploitation, right. So when migrants come without full immigration status, whether they’re undocumented or they’re on temporary visas, whether that, you know, that’s it’s effectively a new form of indentureship. And, you know, if migrant workers organize, try to unionize, try to assert their rights, then that makes them incredibly susceptible not only to termination, but also to deportation. So we have a system where the border acts as a fix to capital accumulation and effectively segments migrant workers as a different pool of labor, right. So they’re called “migrant workers”, they’re called “temporary,” all of which are euphemisms for third world workers. So effectively third world workers within the first world, but within third world conditions, if you will. And so you know, that’s one of the ways in which the border segments, migrant workers from so called “citizen workers,” and often spatially as well, right, like, active, effective segregation.
So, you know, domestic workers who are locked and contained in the homes of their employers. And you know, that’s not an exaggeration, there’s a report that was done in Lebanon about the Kafala system, where the report was called “Their Home is My Prison” because that many domestic workers experienced the employer’s home as a prison of you know, containment and control and, and just total surveillance of their lives. And, you know, many agricultural workers around the world are forced to live in labor camps, again, under conditions of curfew and surveillance where they’re not able to leave. So again, you know, effectively segregated in different living and working areas, then so called citizen workers. And so, you know, these are some of the ways in which the border is internalized, where that kind of exclusion and precarity and surveillance and policing is happening within the nation state against migrants and refugees, even though they’re effectively within the nation state. And the other side to this is the externalization of the border, which is that all the technologies of border control that we associate as happening only at the border, like you know, drone surveillance, you know, massive immigration raids, detention centers, mass concentration camps, etc., or even, you know, drownings, border killings in the in the desert, the Sonoran Desert at the US Mexico border, or in the Mediterranean, as we know, the world’s deadliest border, these kinds of controls are happening increasingly in other countries. So immigration enforcement is being externalized or outsourced, if you will, to countries in the Global South.
So we have for example, the US increasingly externalizing its border to Mexico, right. And so some of the scenes that we see about U.S., or sorry Mexican immigration authorities or Mexican government officials, tear gassing and detaining Central American migrants is at the behest of American immigration authorities and this was really championed and perfected under the Obama administration. And in the EU. We see of course, the externalization of the border increasingly into the Sahel region and to North Africa, West Africa, East Africa. And, you know, boots on the ground, billions of euros going into securitizing Mauritania, Tunisia, Libya, Niger just, as we know, the entire region, billions of euros are going into securitizing the countries on the African continent against migrants and refugees, or in the case of Australia, you know, Australia uses trade agreements, and kind of dangles them in a contemporary form of imperialism, to force countries like Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Iran, to accept border controls and migration prevention and outsource detention centers. And so, you know, one of the arguments that I make in the book is that the new frontiers of border militarization are not necessarily countries in the Global North and high income countries, and you know, imperialist countries, like the US or Canada or fortress EU or Australia, for rather, one of the contemporary forms of imperialism is imperialist countries outsourcing, migration prevention and border controls to countries in the Global South, right, by using an entrenching and maintaining and exacerbating dynamics of imperialism to force countries like Libya, like Papa New Guinea, like Nairobi, like Tunisia, like Mexico, and, you know, on and on and on, like Turkey, to enact border control methods and border militarization. These countries are the frontiers of border militarization because of the externalization of the border, because the border is multiplying, because the border is literally everywhere. And increasingly so with technology, right, like drone surveillance, has exacerbated that even more. And so I think, you know, those are some of the ways in which we can think about the spatiality of borders isn’t is existing beyond a line on the map, and really just increasingly encompassing the totality of the planet.
LL: Thank you for this incredibly synthetic account for all this very complex map. And you know, you said that you want it to move beyond the idea of looking at a line on the map, which is what you just did, of course, but it also you do not, you’re not fetishizing that line, but you’re also not moving away from it saying like, okay, there’s nothing happening there or anything. You’re showing how the thickness of this of this line is also is a murderous thickness, whether it’s in the desert between Mexico and the US, or the Caribbean Sea, or we could talk also about the Mozambique canal, or indeed, on the offshore of Australia. And then comes the line, the line in slightly thinner but still in bed with that thickness that, I don’t know, that I found, I found quite interesting for many years now. But anyway, that’s not the problem here. But this idea of this idea of the of the line here, you still you still look at it on the first part of the book, I mean, you, as you mentioned, the book also very much describes the bordering regimes in Fortress Europe, and its exteriorization with the calf ally in in the Levant and the Gulf states in Australia.
But if we go back to the very first part of the book, and going back indeed, as the line that separates those two central colonies that are called the United States of America, and the you know, the United Mexican States, and how you show remarkably well how the line itself has very much been splitting, I mean, is fully part of the settler colonial apparatus and has been splitting indigenous nations, you even quote, someone saying, “It’s not us who cross the border, it’s the borders that crossed us.” And also a very, very much necessary reminder that people that we we sort of, that many people deemed as, as migrants coming from Central America, are also from, for many of them, indigenous people from the continent itself. So there’s, there’s this double complexity here that are so necessary to the mind and so different from the sort of narratives that we usually, and when I say we, I mean even like, you know, people with the left, anti-racist activism and all this, we need to we need to bring this complexity, I think, can you can tell us about it?
HW: Yeah, appreciate that question, because I think one of the things that I was really trying to do out in this, in this book comes from a lot of thinking and, you know, necessary critique that’s been leveled against migrant justice movements, particularly in North America. You know, I don’t know the dynamics elsewhere as well, but I’m sure it may ring true, but leveled against the migrant justice Movement, and necessarily so, about, you know, the anti-indigenous and anti Black racism of the migrant justice Movement, right, were we, as you point out, I tend to think of migrant justice struggles as the struggle of non-Indigenous and non-Black people, right, the kind of the reproduction of the stereotype of, you know, brown Latinx people, for example, who are not Black or not indigenous, which is blatantly untrue.
And also it, you know, and it also ignores how anti migrant racism necessarily is constituted to the foundational violence’s of indigenous elimination, anti Black enslavement and imperialist expansion. And so I wanted to think through that, you know, and of course, in that sense, think through and learn from indigenous and Black organizers and scholars who have been thinking and writing about this. And, you know, here I would hear I would say that, you know, the work of the Red Nation for example, the work of Nick Estes, the work of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Audra Simpson, Shannon Speed and you know, indigenous scholars and organizers in that regard, and Black organizers and scholars where I am in Canada like, like Robyn Maynard, Dionne Brand, Rinaldo Walcott, Idelep Delahi, and many others who have also been thinking about borders and migration, and what it means in relationship to settler colonialism and anti-Black enslavement.
And so I’ll say two things here. One is, as you note that, when we’re thinking about people and communities who are displaced, and become migrants, it’s so important to think about that in relationship to indigenous and Black liberation, right. So that, for example, in the North American context, so many people from Mexico, and so many people from Central America, who are displaced from their lands, as a result of ongoing colonialism, and extraction and capitalism, are indigenous peoples. And also, if we think about it globally, it is it is true that the vast majority of people who are being displaced are disproportionately indigenous and Black communities, right. So it’s really important to not erase that, that complexity and that reality, as you note, in the US context, you know, a number of communities that are stuck in Mexico as a result of Trump’s “remain in Mexico” protocols are indigenous people and African people, right. So at the US Mexico border, a People’s Assembly that was started in in Mexico, was a People’s Assembly of people from across the African continent who were immobilized in Mexico.
And you know, that’s often not talked about or discussed when we’re thinking about people who were immobilized as a result of the “remain in Mexico” protocols—we think of Central Americans but not Africans. And within that, when we think about Central Americans, we tend to think about it as this kind of pan-Latinx kind of identity. But as Shannon speed would remind us, it is so important to think and highlight the particular struggles of indigenous people who, she argues, you know, that there’s a structural vulnerability to the reality of indigenous migrants, right, because their migration represents a, she would say, a transit between Latin American and Anglo American Settler State structures, both of which are built on indigenous elimination.
And so it’s really important to recognize that a large proportion of Central American migrants and also Mexican migrants are in fact, indigenous peoples, right, who were colonized by the Spanish and captured by Mexico and Central American nation states and will become kind of subsumed into this pan-Latinx identity, but really had been criminalized through the imposition of borders on their lands. And so both of those are very important to hold in terms of the reality of indigenous and Black people who are migrants and disproportionately impacted by border militarization. Because, of course, you know, carceral regimes are underwritten, foundationally, by anti-Black and anti-indigenous violence. And in that way, the second point that I wanted to make, and you know, you’re asking about the first part of the book—one of the first parts of the book is to interrogate the formation of the U.S. Mexico border, because again, you know, oftentimes in the contemporary conversations, when we’re talking about the U.S. Mexico border, we’re talking about migrant exclusion, oftentimes, you know, the narrative, the real narrative of Mexican and Central American migrants being excluded, detained, deported.
But if we were to interrogate the formation of the border, I think what it would, what it would show us and reveal to us is that it is impossible to think about border exclusion and bordering regimes without also understanding how, you know, early US bordering practices, were conceived as a method of eliminating indigenous people and controlling Black people. So, U.S. border violence is structurally bound up in anti-indigenous and anti-Nlack genocide. And, you know, without going into a whole history there, you know, I’ll just point out a few things. One is that the entire formation of the U.S. Mexico border was born out of conquest. And, you know, that was the conquest of when the U.S. seized more than 525,000 square miles of territory in Mexico, in 1848, right, the forced Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which really was forced annexation of half of Mexico, by the United States, right, so the border was written through conquest.
And that includes the conquest, of course, of indigenous peoples indigenous peoples whose lands were seized sovereign nations, who were forcibly assimilated into the U.S. nation state. And then, you know, forcibly assimilated into U.S. citizenship, and that kind of genocidal elimination was furthered. And in relationship to anti-Black enslavement, one of the kind of central methods of U.S., early U.S. bordering practices in the United States was shortly after the annexation of Mexican territory in 1848, like two years after came the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. And under the Fugitive Slave Act, you know, slaveholders were allowed to kidnap and capture Black people that they claimed had escaped to the so called “free states” and/or to Mexico.
And so some of the earliest kind of border patrols as we can, you know, when we think about border patrols and when we think about borders working to keep people out, one of the earliest methods of border controls in the United States was actually to keep Black people in. Right, it was to maintain the power of, of slave owners and slave holders, who would you know, and so they formed border militias, and they swelled their ranks from slave patrols. And the slave patrols would conduct cross border raids in the quest to capture Black people to prevent them from escaping to Mexico. And so, you know, here again, I echo the work of Robyn Maynard and cite the work of Rinaldo Walcott, and Idila Dilabi, all of whom really emphasize how it is impossible to think about the politics of migration outside of anti-Black racial logics. So they argued that the entire politics of migration is embedded in anti-Black racial logics and really take their logic of control of movement and carcerality from the transatlantic slave trade.
And Robyn Maynard particularly argues that, and I’ll quote her here, is that, you know, is that “the global positioning of Black life as enslavalable placed Black migrants in a structural position that differs from other migrants of color,” and I think, you know, these are some of the ways in which we’re being pushed, necessarily pushed to think of borders as anti-migrant, and that that is constitutive of anti-Black and anti-indigenous racism, right. These are not just parallel structures of racism, they are constituted through each other, and that we cannot think of processes of border formation outside of empire, enslavement, and elimination, that they work through each other. And I think in that way, that history is an instructive for us to think in our contemporary era of, you know, how do we how do we think of relationships between migrant justice struggles between Black abolition struggles between indigenous decolonization struggles, and I think it informs us and perhaps orients us slightly differently than the ways in which we’re trained to think in the left as you note.
LL: Talking about relationships and, and maybe another word that I’d like to bring here because I think what your book does such an incredible job at is to demonstrate the interconnectedness of, on the one hand, of the Imperial fascist regimes of violence: as a BGP in India, Bows and Arrows, Brazil. I was gonna say Netanyahu in occupied Palestine, but of course, in the case of Palestine, it goes back, Netanyahu sometimes is, is an easy straw man to show that when clearly, it’s so much deeper, but it’s probably it’s probably true for India and Brazil as well. But so could you talk about those this interconnectedness, and then the other integral interconnectedness, which involved circuits of internationalist solidarity, which, of course, we want to push forward?
HW: Yeah, sure. And, you know, I think, for me, that internationalism is so needed, because oftentimes, exactly as you point out, we either tend to focus on, you know, strawmen, particular right wing leaders, like Trump or Netanyahu or Modi without interrogating these more structural kind of state formations, and the ways in which they travel. And I think also the internationalism, which I think is necessary, because sometimes we can become ironically kind of focused on the nation state, right, and you know, which state is worse than the other? And whether you know, the US is, is worse than the UK or you know, whether Australia is worse than New Zealand, etc. And that, that doesn’t really give us that transnational lens that we desperately need, because these structures travel. Many of them were rooted in British Empire and European empire and so of course, travel.
LL: If I may Harsha, it’s even a very I am more and more convinced that this whole like, oh France is worse than the other and everything is still a very nationalist kind of way of thinking. Like it’s like no, we’re the worst! We’re the worst!
HW: Yeah, it’s like a perverse perverted kind of left nationalism, right like the opposite of “we’re the best” it’s like “we’re the worst.” And of course, you know, depending on the position of particular nation states in the current global economy, they may or may not be worse in terms of their capacity to enact violence. But of course, you know, so many empires have worse histories, right? So sometimes the kind of myopic view on the United States really leaves Europe off the hook, for example, or Canada. And so yeah, I think precisely, as you’re noting, right, that kind of who’s worse, really just leaves out the whole global lens and can be paradoxically nationalistic. And then, you know, paradoxically, the Right ends up building this kind of internationalist right-wing movement, if you will, and we’re left still kind of hobbling in our national frameworks.
And so, I think, you know, for those reasons, it’s really important that we, that we see and understand the ways in which despite the important differences, and sometimes contradictions between forces on the right, that there are homologies, and similarities. And, you know, here, one of the ones that I trace in the book is, you know, some of the relationships and similarities between white nationalism, Zionism, and Hindutva, which, you know, may seem contradictory on its face, because, you know, white nationalists are completely racist and anti semitic. But really, if we, if we think about them as ethno nationalism, we see how they merge, and particularly how they merge at the political level, right at the state level, the relationships between the United States, Israel and India is some of the most dangerous alliances in the world as countries that control the world’s largest and most powerful militaries, regardless of who those figureheads are, right, some figureheads will escalate that right wing rhetoric, but structurally they’re founded, all three, as settler colonial settler states, right. And in this way, I say that deliberately, because the United States is a settler colonial state, which is genocidal, as is Israel, when it comes to Israeli apartheid and Zionism.
And as India, right when we think about Kashmir, which is the world’s most militarized zone in the entire world. And so there are differences and also there are homologies. And I think those homologies are more important, if we are to think critically on the Left, so that we don’t allow countries like India, and leaders like Modi to get away with this kind of, you know, this rhetoric of post colonialism or, you know, right now in the context of the farmers protests, where Modi is telling other countries not to interfere, because it’s a form of imperialism, which is a really, again, perverted kind of rhetoric, right, really weaponizes anti-colonial struggle to actually further colonialism and fascism.
And so this, this kind of global escalation of the right, I think, is really important to be countered by a radical and internationalist left, that is transnational that is internationalist and committedly internationalist for all the reasons I’ve just mentioned. And you know, the last one I’ll mention that I think is particularly important in relationship to the border is because really, so many forms of right wing rhetoric and nationalism really hinges on anti migrant xenophobia, right? And nationalism as a force kind of creates the dividing line between the us and the them, the foreigner and you know, the person who belongs and that kind of social organization of difference that maintains power by which you know, race and class and nationalism are reproduced, really operates through anti migrant xenophobia, not only but it is one of the main ways in which that operates, you know, in that kind of rhetoric of, you know, protect our borders, protect our jobs, protect our culture, that kind of, again, really dangerous, nationalistic jargon, which entrenches racial citizenship really is a unifying kind of issue among the far Right. So I think it’s really important that progressive movements get clear, get very clear on their positions, when it comes to migrant rights and migrant justice, right.
So for example, not calling for for the expulsion of migrant workers as a Left response, so we’re increasingly seeing have historically seen and are again, I think, seeing an uptick in labor unions, for example, or certain strands of labor movements, that are calling on the protection of the working class through border controls, right, who’s who are seeing migrants as somehow an attack on the working class. And that is really just racist Right-wing rhetoric that is racist, and also a misreading, a misreading of how borders work, right borders work in the service of capital, not the other way round, they don’t protect against capital, they work in the interests of capital. So to think that the border will protect against migrant workers to think that migrant workers are somehow responsible for lower wages and not bosses, right, like all of this is a really misplaced, and again, frankly, racist rhetoric that we have to counter, again, in the kind of spirit of internationalism.
LL: Thank you. Well, I talked a lot already. So my last questions will be very short, but hopefully yours, your answers won’t. So you finish the book with a very located vision of, of abolitionist and solidarity weaving futures. Could you simply describe them to our listeners?
HW: Yeah, I think, you know, following on the idea that the border is more than a map, or a line on the map, for me, that kind of abolitionist vision is rooted in the fact that, you know, it’s not enough to say, open the borders, you know, but we really have to call for no borders, and calling for no borders, means radically altering the social relationships of power beyond the sight of the border itself, right, like, in order to dismantle borders, and the kind of fundamental divides that they entrench, between, you know, the so called Global North and the so called Global South, the divides that they maintain, between black and brown people and white people, the divides they maintain between rich and poor, right? The divides that they maintain between sites of extraction, and sites of consumption, these kinds of divides, can only be eliminated through a radical transformation of our entire world, and all of the systems as we know it, right.
So we can’t simply organize to fight for migrants and refugees outside of fighting for an end to imperialism. Right. So to me, for example, the freedom to move and the freedom to stay are necessary corollaries of each other, that people have the right not to be displaced from their lands, and people have the right to move, you know, because that really has to grapple with the fact that people should not be forced out of their homes, right? We want an end to imperialist wars, to conquest to extractive capitalist trade agreements, to climate change, you know, corporate fueled climate change, all of this must end. Because people have a right to remain in their in their lands, and in their homes, and people again, have the right to move. So these are, I think corollaries to each other.
And, you know, really to dismantle that kind of racial citizenship ideas of racial citizenship and ideas of racial capitalism. These are systems that have to be dismantled because they work through each other. Citizenship and capitalism and the state are seamlessly connected to each other. And again, you know, giving some of those examples that I gave earlier about the early kind of formations of the border, which was completely underwritten by racial capitalism and racial citizenship. And so for me that kind of abolitionist vision, which demands that there are no borders, which demands that there are no prisons, which demands that there are no wars, which demands that there are no police, which demands that there are no sweatshops. These are all connected visions of freedom and liberation, and really, completely transform and allow us to dream outside of the confines of the structures that were currently confined in.
LL: Well, Harsha, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I was very, very happy we had this conversation.
HW: Thank you so much for chatting with me.
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