Borders are imaginary lines that have very real, violent implications. These dividers of nations block movement in the name of security and sovereignty, but they’re often a threat to the very things they’re theoretically supposed to protect, including people. Rejecting borders, instead of people, should be a top priority.
Many of us who reject borders seek out real ways to abolish them in our daily lives, as we work toward a broader movement for border abolition. One way we can reject the violence of borders is by being fully aware of what’s happening outside of the ones that have been drawn around us. In addition to this, it’s important to know what’s happening at them and because of them. This awareness can provide us with the necessary tools to develop a worldview that challenges state violence at its core.
Many members of the public sincerely do not understand what would drive people to risk their own lives or those of their family to trek across harsh terrain toward uncertainty. If anything is guaranteed along the way, it’s danger and suffering. That tells us a lot about what sorts of situations people are leaving if they’re willing to take such a risk.
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Caravans and large groups of people making their way to Western nations have recently drawn publicity. In Europe, the so-called “migrant crisis” has driven a variety of reactions ranging from state violence to “reception centers” (places where migrants, immigrants and refugees are detained) to right-wing vigilante efforts. The violence and destruction that the Global North has inflicted on the home countries of those fleeing is hardly an afterthought in the mainstream narrative. What we know to be true about how European military aggression, economic exploitation, and climate change are pushing people from their homes regularly gets left out of the conversation. The same can be said regarding the US.
Thousands of people heading toward the US in a caravan from Honduras were described by the Associated Press as “a ragtag army of the poor.” However, there was no mention of, for example, the army-backed, US-supported coup that ousted democratically elected Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. After this regime change, the murder rate dramatically worsened in Honduras from 60.8 per 100,000 in 2008 to 90.4 in 2012. Death squads and political repression, including assassinations, have taken place since the now legitimized post-coup government has gotten comfortable. The most vulnerable people in Honduras have been under great duress because of the growing violence. This was highlighted by the tragic murder of environmentalist and human rights activist Berta Cáceres in 2016. The situation at hand is no accident, and it was made worse by the forces of an empire that now attacks the victims who are approaching its gates.
The problem is similar for the people leaving their homes throughout the Middle East, Asia, the African continent, South and Central America, and more. One of the products of empire is displacement. Another, it seems, is the shameless violence that empires deploy against the people whose lives have been turned upside down by the imperial powers’ accumulation of capital and resources. People who are forced to migrate are portrayed as “freeloaders” by states that freeload off the rest of the world.
For those of us who live inside of the confines of empire, our solidarity with communities on the outside is of the utmost importance. Solidarity can delegitimize borders. By taking up an informed perspective and decentering empire, we can shift public consciousness. Simply knowing what’s happening – in terms of both the actions of empire and the resistance to it — beyond the neighborhoods, cities, states, and nations, where we reside, is important. Solidarity-based organizing grows from this kind of knowledge. We can learn from other struggles and respond to global repression against oppressed people all over the globe.
The premise of invalidating borders through solidarity is a view that’s consistent with Huey P. Newton’s intercommunalism. Newton, the cofounder of the Black Panther Party, once stated:
We say that the world today is a dispersed collection of communities. A community is different from a nation. A community is a small unit with a comprehensive collection of institutions that serve to exist a small group of people. And we say further that the struggle in the world today is between the small circle that administers and profits from the empire of the United States, and the peoples of the world who want to determine their own destinies.
If we don’t believe in borders and hope to abolish them, we can challenge their existence by viewing struggle through an intercommunal lens that brings together communities worldwide, and doesn’t affirm states or their boundaries. States don’t deserve our affirmation, loyalty, or love; people that states oppress do. Solidarity and awareness transcend borders and bring us closer to what we need, which is the end of racial capitalism.
States rely on our ignorance of the struggles of those around us, inside and outside the nations we inhabit. They want us to be ignorant of what’s happening because ignorance disadvantages our organizing and weakens our movements. Believing in borders looks like us not knowing what’s happening outside of them, not because we’re not allowed or prevented from knowing, but because we’re not well informed. Campaigns for the sake of a global collective of oppressed people should disseminate the needed information to everyone they can reach. The more that we know about each other, the stronger we can become.
We might also unintentionally affirm borders by romanticizing other places outside them as well. Other countries like Canada, New Zealand and Scandinavian nations in Europe have become increasingly tempting to people in the US considering flight. Rather than fighting to eliminate the global system of inequality and exploitation and its dependence on national borders, some consider merely relocating inside of new nation-states that are more fitting before conditions worsen where they live. Awareness requires that we don’t neglect the fact people are already fighting their own battles in the places some are thinking about escaping to. People living inside of empire, particularly those who are empowered or privileged by class and race, must acknowledge that the world is not their playground or a giant tourist destination for achieving comfort.
Of course, we should not ignore our immediate needs to an extent that’s damaging. This wouldn’t be beneficial to us at all. But we can denounce capitalism as a practice that prioritizes some communities over others based on borders, walls, and other dividers. We can and we do build movements that work with, not against other people fighting the same or similar problems. Cutting capitalism out of relationships includes transforming the relationships that we have in the name of solidarity.
There’s no purpose in seeking a perfect movement free from conflict and internal problems. There is purpose in seeking to form informational networks that strengthen our organizing. It’s time for us to abolish borders and focus on communities – and people.