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Lunch Seminar Lucas Poy: Social Democracy and the Limits of Internationalism in the Interwar Period

30 March 2023 @ 12:00 - 13:15

In recent years, scholars of the anti-Communist and social democratic tradition developed an interpretation in which socialist internationalism is no longer portrayed as opposed to nationalism, but rather as complementary. This allowed them to move away from older perspectives and to examine the main features of international cooperation among socialists under a more positive light. Its substantial and convincing contributions notwithstanding, this literature also displays important shortcomings. Not only does it minimize the challenge that nationalism did pose to transnational solidarities: it is also too focused on Europe and therefore overlooks a more serious limit to internationalism, namely a perspective that proclaimed a principle of colour-blind solidarity among all peoples of the world, but in practice built a much more limited transnational community of workers either born in Europe or from European descent.

In this presentation I complicate our knowledge of socialist internationalism in the 1920s by exploring a unique and under-researched event, the “World Migration Congress” organized in London in 1926 by the International Federation of Trade Unions and the Labour and Socialist International. Drawing on the idea that international organizations and meetings can be used as ‘observation points’ for studying global history, I use the prolegomena, the preparations, and the discussions of this congress as a lens to understand the stances of socialist parties and reformist trade unions regarding the question of migration in the 1920s, explaining to what extent, and for what reason, they have changed in comparison with the pre-war period. Moreover, I also show that these stances were intertwined in many ways with perspectives on colonialism and condescending views of the ‘coloured peoples’ of the world.

This seminar will be given by Lucas Poy.

Location: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Forum 7 (HG-1D09)

To attend this seminar, please send an email to m.bakkes@student.vu.nl


30 March 2023
12:00 - 13:15
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