Saturday, August 6, 2022

Frontierless World (2022)

Book Review from the August 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

Against Borders – The Case for Abolition. By Gracie Mae Bradley and Luke De Noronha. Verso. Paperback £9.99. 2022. 

Where at first glance Against Borders… has a single-issue focus, it becomes a multi-faceted explainer of how ‘migrants’ are seen under the terms of capitalism and how we could interact with our fellow humans in a future, more open world.

The book regularly refers to André Gorz’s concept of ‘Non-Reformist Reforms’ ( but gives socialists something to think about in terms of how borders can be abolished and other related issues solved in a future freed from capitalist constraints.

The book is broken down into chapters on race, policing and prisons and counter-terrorism among others but possibly the most thought-provoking is simply entitled ‘Capitalism’. Bradley and De Noronha refer to the ‘myth of race and nation’ and how these and other similar concepts persuade us to perceive a worker from abroad differently from someone who hails from the same locality. There is discussion around how and to what end migrant workers are criminalised and treated by police forces, and the book includes interesting explanations of how ownership of land and ownership of territories differ.

In a 2018 article, author, broadcaster and professor Gary Younge described how when his Barbadian mother came to Britain in 1962 to work as a nurse she was already a British subject – ‘My mother didn’t cross the border to come to Britain – the border crossed her.’ In Against Borders… Bradley and De Noronha include a chapter on race and what it means to be a ‘citizen’ including critique of the ‘hostile environment’ ( Why, for example, do we need to be a ‘citizen’ in order to claim basic human rights from a state and how might campaigns for particular groups of migrants be considered to be defeatist by virtue of their reformist nature, rather than attempting to get to the root of the issue.

Ultimately, the book could be judged as a modern revision of concepts around the position and power (or lack thereof) of the worker, both regarding capital and people’s ability to determine their own lives. The authors explicitly and interestingly leave open some questions about how we may restructure after borders are deemed obsolete. There are two thought-provoking utopian ‘interlude’ sections with imagined futures of people on the move and how this could play out in a post-capitalist world.

If Against Borders… is to be a (figurative) call to arms for a new audience to recognise that a radical change is possible in terms of how a state treats people from other (current) nations and possibilities around the building of a new realm, then the message is a positive one.
‘The abolition of borders requires that we challenge all of the social structures underpinning their permanence’ (p149).

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