Territorialization Of Emancipatory Struggles – OpEd


In an age of digital revolution, capital and its markets continue to be highly mobile, while human beings and their struggles against exploitation and inequalities remain territorialised in the name of nation states. This disparity highlights a significant imbalance: financial resources and economic opportunities can flow freely across borders, yet the efforts of people fighting against exploitation and inequality are often confined to specific regions or communities. This territorialisation limits the potential for widespread solidarity and collective action, perpetuating the challenges faced by those striving for social justice and equitable treatment.

Emancipatory struggles against feudalism, patriarchy, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism were not confined within national territories. The English, Scottish, and Welsh working people actively opposed apartheid and led numerous anti-colonial struggles across the globe. One notable example is John Harris, a white anti-apartheid activist and leader, who was perhaps the only white man executed in South Africa for his steadfast commitment to anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles. In all these movements, the working classes played a crucial role in driving social and political transformation in their societies worldwide. 

The involvement of working people and groups transcended geographical boundaries, demonstrating solidarity with oppressed people in different parts of the world. Their efforts were not merely local but were part of a global resistance against various forms of oppression. The sacrifices and contributions of freedom fighters like John Harris highlight the interconnected nature of these struggles and the universal desire for justice and equality. Through strikes, protests, and other forms of resistance, the working classes have consistently pushed for significant changes, challenging the status quo, and advocating for a fairer, more equitable world. Their legacy continues to inspire contemporary movements for social justice and human rights.

American students and youth have historically struggled against American imperialist wars, such as the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other conflicts. Similarly, the British people have opposed their government’s involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israeli students and youth continue to challenge their Zionist government in defence of Palestinian citizenship rights. These examples illustrate how citizens often fight against their own state and government in the pursuit of justice and solidarity beyond territories. 

Protests, teach-ins, and demonstrations became common as young people voiced their opposition to what they saw as an unjust and imperialist conflict. This opposition was fuelled by a desire to promote peace, justice, and an end to unnecessary loss of life. These anti-war movements were driven by belief in the principles of international law, peace, and universal human rights, as well as a desire to prevent further destabilisation people’ lives, livelihoods, and the planet. These struggles are motivated by a commitment to equality, human rights, and the vision of a just society where all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, have equal rights. These examples highlight a broader trend of citizens actively engaging in political and social movements to hold their governments accountable. Whether it’s opposing wars, advocating for human rights, or fighting for social justice, these movements demonstrate the power of collective action and the enduring spirit of solidarity beyond reactionary ideals of territoriality. 

In recent years, despite numerous attempts to contain and territorialize emancipatory struggles in different parts of the world, working people have shown remarkable unity in opposing imperialist wars across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. This reveals the profound power of people to rise above their immediate territorial, cultural, social, and political identities, extending solidarity with the struggles of others in distant lands. This collective resistance underscores the universal desire for justice and peace, highlighting the interconnectedness of global struggles against oppression and exploitation.

The territorialisation of emancipatory struggles is a strategy designed to weaken these movements and undermine people’s abilities to overcome crises in their everyday lives. By confining struggles to specific regions or communities, those in power aim to isolate and fragment efforts for social justice, making it harder for people to unite and address broader systemic issues. This tactic not only hinders the effectiveness of emancipatory movements but also diminishes the collective power needed to address and resolve ongoing crises.

In the name of stabilisation and the acknowledgment of cultural identities and unity, territorialisation in the context of nation-states becomes a tool for majoritarian mobilisation. This is the foundation of majoritarian dominance over politics, resources, and culture. This approach often serves to consolidate power by promoting a singular national identity, marginalising minority groups, and suppressing diverse voices. By framing cultural and territorial unity as essential for stability, those in power can mobilise the majority population to support policies that entrench their dominance and maintain the status quo, often at the expense of social justice and inclusivity.

In order to accelerate solidarity and minimise conflicts, it is crucial to uphold and celebrate the working people’s natural ability to live harmonious lives, free from the individual and institutional parasites created and sustained by colonial boundaries that territorialise, exploit, and dominate. By recognising and fostering this inherent capacity for unity and cooperation, people can better resist the divisive forces that seek to maintain control through territorialisation and oppression. Global emancipatory struggles play a vital role in this process, helping to unite disparate movements and amplify their collective power against exploitation and inequality sustained by colonial, capitalist, and imperialist power structures. 

Global and universal citizenship rights, grounded in science, secularism, and collective ownership of natural resources, along with egalitarian distribution mechanisms, can guide the world toward a peaceful and prosperous future. By embracing these principles, societies can ensure that all individuals have equal access to resources and opportunities, fostering social justice and reducing inequalities. This approach promotes a sense of shared responsibility and cooperation, essential for addressing global challenges and building a peaceful, prosperous, sustainable, and harmonious world.

Bhabani Shankar Nayak

Bhabani Shankar Nayak works as Professor of Business Management, Guildhall School of Business and Law, London Metropolitan University, UK.

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