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Working-Class Nationalism and Internationalism until 1945. Essays in Global Labour History.

Working-Class Nationalism and Internationalism until 1945. Essays in Global Labour History. Edited by Steven Parfitt, Lorenzo Costaguta, Matthew Kidd, and John Tiplady. (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018. Pp. 186. [pounds sterling]58.99.)

This collective volume is the outcome of a conference organized in 2015 by a group of postgraduate students at the University of Nottingham, whose explicit aim was to bring together early career researchers and trade union activists. From political instructors in the Soviet Baltic Fleet of the 1920s and 1930s to theoretical debates about Zionism in a social-democratic journal from Imperial Germany, from Spanish-solidarity movements in Britain to grass-roots opposition to Nazism, the various chapters of the book provide case-studies of nationalism and internationalism in several specific historical contexts. Consciously standing at the crossroads between activism and academia, the editors make no secret that they see the study of nationalism and internationalism as a means of rebuilding working-class solidarity across borders.

Their collective introduction provides a solid narrative of the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Internationals, arguing that both the social-democratic and communist experiences demonstrated that "working-class nationalism triumphed over internationalism", and they conclude that the small parties of the Trotskyist Fourth International "offered the only full-throated defense of internationalism in theory and to some extent in practice" (11). Later on, they address recent trends in labor historiography, such as the Global Labour History promoted by scholars at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, as well as what they call a "revival of the study of nationalism as a historical phenomenon" (16).

The editors propose an interesting perspective for further research when they suggest the potential of a dialogue between these two fields--studies of global labor, on one hand, and studies of nationalism, on the other. Indeed, such a conversation will definitely enrich our understanding of the working classes throughout the world. The global or international character of the contributions assembled in this volume, however, remains problematic. Its seven chapters do not engage in an open conversation about general topics, and they remain very specific case-studies with a single national, if not a local, scope.

Moreover, all of them focus mostly on European developments, with the only exception being an article devoted to Jiang Kanghu, one of the founders of Socialism in China. However, even the goal of this paper is to assess Jiang's relationship with the Western world. This Western bias is also apparent with regard to the participants in the volume, as all of them seem to be working and studying in the United Kingdom, the U.S., Germany, or France. The study of internationalism and nationalism among the working classes is definitely a promising endeavor--but it is also one that deserves a truly global conversation, which should include the experiences and contributions of the so-called "Global South".

University of Buenos Aires

Lucas Poy

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Author:Poy, Lucas
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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