SwatTalk: "Anti-Globalism, Then and Now"
with Tara Zahra '98
Recorded on Monday, May 22, 2023
Jim Sailer ’90 Hi everyone. Good evening in New York time. My name is Jim Sailer. I'm from the class of 1990 at Swarthmore. Delighted to see you all here. This is a presentation, brought to you by the Alumni Council, of which I am a member. The Alumni Council is a service organization of alumni of the school that tries to connect students and faculty and alumni, together, in service to the school. And one of the best things the alumni and the council does is put on these Swat Talks, which are all brought to you, supported by the college, but brought to you by the Alumni Council. And we are really, really, fortunate tonight, for our SWAT talk. So you're very happy you're here. Just a couple housekeeping things. I'll just say, this is being recorded. I think you can see that it's being recorded, this evening and the video of this. And I think a transcript too will be available on the Swarthmore website, on the SWAT Talks page in about two weeks after we're done. Very, very happy to introduce our guest speaker tonight, Tarara class of ’98. Tara has written a phenomenal book called “Against the World: Anti-Globalism and Mass Politics Between the World Wars”. We're not gonna assume we, we talked about this before. We're not gonna assume that you've read the book yet. I encourage you to read it. It's a fantastic read, and I was very happy when I was asked to moderate this, this session. So, what we're gonna try to do is, Tara and I are gonna have a conversation for about the next half an hour or so. And then we are gonna open it up to your questions. Your questions should be submitted. Please wait until we're just, we're done with a Q&A, so we can focus on the discussion. But then enter them into the q q and A button. You see that right in the middle of your screen, at the bottom of your screen. You should see it. And that's the Q&A button. And that's what I will use to select the questions for Tara.
So, what Tara's talking about is this against the world. And we're, we're talking about a time in America, America aware. We have new technologies that have increased the connection we have between different parts of the world. We have new laws and pro trade, which has brought the world closer, closer together in many ways. We have masses of immigrants and people desiring to migrate from one place to another around the world, sometimes, seeking the United States, and sometimes to avoid war famine. We have the prospect of war in Europe, or the actual element of war in Europe. And we have and we have a reaction to a lot of that, which is a populist movement that's often the nativist movement. So these are all things that are going on, of course, in the United States, but really these are all things that were going on in the United States a hundred years ago or so and that's the subject of Tara's phenomenal book. So, Tara, you write in the title of your book the term ‘anti-globalism’. So I think we ought to start by maybe you telling us what is globalism and what is anti-globalism as we get going.
Tara Zahra ’98 Sure. First, I just wanna say thanks. I was really honored to be asked to participate in this series. It's so nice to see so many friends have joined and hope to see some of you at the reunion this weekend. It's my 25th, and I'll be there and thanks also to all the people, I don't know who tuned in, I appreciate that as well. So, the terms for this book were a little bit tricky to choose and define. I started honestly thinking about globalization and de-globalization, but I quickly realized that there were a couple problems with those terms. One is that nobody was using those terms in the time period that I'm writing about so, you know, I couldn't go and look for the globalization or de-globalization archive and so to some extent they were anachronistic. I ended up using them in the book anyway, but with some caveats and caution to sort of explain that these were terms that really came into popular use in the 1990s in response to the collapse of communism. Another reason I went with globalism is that I really wanted to capture that what I was talking about is not just about economics and the movement of goods and capital, but about something much broader, which includes migration, but also the feelings and movements that emerged in response to various forms of internationalism. So sort of political internationalism, cultural internationalism is less of a topic in the book, but it looms in the background and also economic globalization. And then I guess I also decided that the term de-globalization was a bit misleading and that's kind of why I ended up with anti-globalism because sometimes these movements, these anti-global movements did actually slow down the movement of people - they had real consequences - walls were erected, borders were closed, trades slowed down, and so on and so forth. But sometimes they didn't and sometimes they had really surprising consequences. So anti-global movements might have actually inspired new forms of internationalism or globalization. So I wanted to capture that it wasn't a simple binary or a kind of pendulum swinging back and forth between globalization and de-globalization, but that the two things were sort of, that globalism and anti-global in some ways were producing one another.
Jim Sailer ’90 Great. So talk about, tell us about why you chose this particular time period and what was unique about this time period, beginning of the 20th century, and specifically the time kind of between the World Wars for your, for this topic.
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, sure. So, there's a couple reasons that it makes a lot of sense to look at the twenties and thirties and why I focused on that period. For one this really was a moment in which global trade and migration did kind of shut down in waves. The early 1920s is one important moment, and then things kind of start connecting again in the late twenties. And then the Great Depression really, really kills the global economy and introduces a lot of skepticism about globalization and internationalism. So some concrete examples: before the First World War, basically, you didn't need a passport to travel, so that meant that as long as you were white, male, European and wealthy, you could kind of travel the world anytime, any place, and nobody would ask you for any documents really, or ask you any questions. The first World War put an end to that. They introduced passports basically as a security measure during the war, but of course, it was not lifted after the war. And not only could you not travel freely after the war, but it was even worse than what we have now, it was kind of like COVID regulations on steroids. So if you think about the worst point of COVID when every country had a different requirement and different documents and so on and so forth, and it was changing every day, that was bad enough, but in the early 1920s it was just like that, except there was no internet. So there was no way to find out really what documents you needed before you showed up at the border and somebody said, “Hey, you don't have visa 23x. That costs a lot of money”.
So the system we have now with a uniform, a relatively uniform passport system, was an approval, an improvement on that. Trade also reached a kind of all time high right before the war, it totally collapsed after the war and didn't return to pre-war levels until the 1970s. Communication also broke down globally, so messages that could get across the world in a day by telegram in 1913 took weeks to get there in the twenties. So there are all sorts of ways in which, actual movements of people and goods and information slowed down, but it was also a time when populous political movements were really thriving on a kind of anti-global message. One that was sort of targeting migrants, that was targeting Jews as emblems of globalization, Bolsheviks as emblems of internationalism and these movements were sprouting up on the far right, on the far left, everywhere in between, in democracies and dictatorships. So I focused on this moment both because it was the time when anti-globalism, I think, has been most pronounced in the last 150 years, but also because, you know, and I'm happy to say more about this, this was really a book inspired by the present and I had been studying the inner war period for a pretty long time, as of 2016 when I began this book. And it was the events of that year, the election of Donald Trump, the vote for Brexit, the migrant crisis in Europe that inspired me to write this book, largely because I saw those events, the twenties and thirties, the rise of fascism, the end of the first world war, that I'd been teaching and writing about for a long time in a completely new way in light of the present.
Jim Sailer ’90 So, Tara, you touched on three issues that we're gonna try to delve into in a little bit more depth, and includes this thing about the far right and the far left and and includes the parallels to today. But I wanna start off with something that is pretty interesting in, and I don't know, completely unique, but pretty unusual for a book of this type. So you start off in your book with quotes from some leading thinkers, and you have plenty of economists and major thinkers and you don't get any bigger picture than John Maynard Keens, right? So you start off with Keens and his analysis but then you do something quite interesting with two elements of it. One is that you take the pronouncements from those folks around issues like the travel, well, travel is easy, and so on and so forth. Well, travel's only easy for certain people under certain conditions, right? But the other thing that you did along with that was you decided not just to treat this as kind of a macro history and a macroeconomic phenomenon. You looked at particular stories of particular people as a way of telling this very, very gripping tale about anti-globalism. So can you tell us why, how you decided to use that technique? And then we're gonna ask you to maybe tell the story of at least one of your protagonists.
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, sure. I mean, it's a way I kind of like to work in general is thinking between scales from the national and international, to the local. But it was particularly important for this story, partly because the history of capitalism and globalization is really often told as a big picture story, right? Because there's lots of really large structural forces at work and I wanted to try and see if I could get at more at the perspectives of everyday life of less known people so, there's a lot of material about food in the book, radical gardeners and, homesteaders who were arguing for local foods and self-sufficiency, immigrant women department store owners. I wanted to show also that people weren't simply being irrational, right? That they weren't simply crazy. So, some of them were, but globalization in this period really was, exacerbating inequality, it was also creating a lot of insecurity in people's lives and people had real reason to be anxious about it. And you can really only get at that by going to a local level. So that's one of the things I wanted to do in the book. Also it's just a lot of fun to write about characters.
Jim Sailer ’90 To do that, I should point out to people that Tara did research in five languages for this book. The book, luckily for those of us, is all in English. You don't write it in five languages, but you have to do research in five languages. So one of the protagonists in your book, so there are villains in the book for sure, and Henry Ford comes across about as villainist, as you, as you can be. And that's an interesting story, but we're gonna focus on instead of the first big character that you really go into. Tell us about Rosika Schwimmer and what her story was, and how it relates to this theme of globalism and anti-globalism.
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, this is one of the first stories I encountered, and I knew I had to write about it, even though I didn't quite know how. Her life kind of embodies, I would say, the rise and fall of globalism at the turn of the 20th century, she was really at the height of her power. She was a Jewish feminist, pacifist, internationalist, and she was the head of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, which was a major suffragist organization. And she'd succeeded in bringing all of the delegates from around the world to Budapest, where they were really optimistic and self-congratulatory about their imminent victories, at least in the realm of female suffrage. And of course, that group didn't meet again for another five years because of the first World War. Schwimmer herself continued her pacifist mission in a very unlikely way - she went to the United States and actually convinced Henry Ford, who was already an anti-Semite, but was also a pacifist to embark on this really ill thought peace mission. They chartered a ship and sailed across the ocean with a bunch of pacifists. Not surprisingly, some of the archives from this mission are actually at the Swarthmore Peace Collection. And it was ridiculed from the start. Nobody, world leaders refused to meet with them, and Ford eventually snuck off the ship in the middle of the night and returned home and refused to speak to Schwimmer ever again. So that was a miserable failure. She then returned to Hungary where there was a, first a Bolshevik revolution, she was not a Bolshevik, so that wasn't good news for her, followed by a right wing counter revolution, which was actively, hunting down Jews and pacifists in the street. So she fled to the United States where she eventually applied for citizenship, but was refused citizenship on the grounds that she refused to promise to bear arms in defense of the United States. By that point, she was in her fifties, diabetic, also a woman so barred legally from serving in the armed forces. But that was enough to be grounds for denying her citizenship and that case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against her. So, she actually died in 1948, still stateless. She was nominated that year for a Nobel Peace Prize, but died before the winner was announced. So it's a very sad story and kind of emblematic, I think, of, some of the, the high hopes and, and dashed illusions of globalists in this period. But I also felt her story was one that deserved to be recuperated and written about in some way.
Jim Sailer ’90 It's an incredible story and the, and the story of this ship that they somehow had this idea that would be a great thing and changed the course of history by preventing the war, is the challenge to the notion that all publicity is good publicity, as you say in the book. So she's a good example, I think of, you know, you started off in, today, we're gonna get to the parallels today in a minute, but people often think of globalists being on the left, we're interested in more open borders, we're interested in more connection with other countries, so on and so forth and anti-global is coming from the right more nationalistic, closed border, et cetera. But you offer in your book, challenges and that this is a much more nuanced discussion. And I wonder if you can talk about the distinctions and, and, and where the, maybe the far left and the far right kind of come together in a way.
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, I was, I will admit, given that the book was inspired by current events, I was very, initially very focused on the right. But I quickly realized I did not wanna write a book that suggested that somehow all anti-globalization led to fascism, or that simply seemed like some kind of celebration of globalization. Not to mention that it simply the more I dug, the more I realized that anti-globalism in the past, as in the present, was a really politically promiscuous kind of idea. So the book, in some ways, it's a series of case studies, and I tried, I chose cases partly based on practical grounds, like where I could do research and the languages I spoke, but I also chose cases to highlight the diversity of these movements. For example, in India, there was a major anti-colonial nationalist movement led by Gandhi, was very invested in the idea of self-sufficiency, economic self-sufficiency, which meant a return to home produced textiles and banning foreign goods, burning them in bonfires even. But for Gandhi, this was not a this was not linked to political anti-globalism. His idea was that greater economic self-sufficiency would actually lead to a more universalist kind of internationalism that wouldn't be based on exploitation and, and inequality. So that's just one example. The United States also very, democratic had supporters of anti-global politics on the far left, as well as the far right. The back to the land movement was very politically ambiguous and really popular during the Great Depression. And in Austria, there were lots of socialists who were really, in this anti-global camp, and they had very utopian visions of sort of protecting workers from the fluctuations of the global economy by making them, turning them into farmers basically, and making them self-sufficient. So it really was very diverse. The differences were kind of in the, in theI would say in the way they defined the victims of globalization. So for on the right, it was usually the nation that was the victim on the left, it was often the worker, and the enemies, so Jews and migrants were often cast as the enemies on the right, whereas capitalists were the enemies on the left. They also proposed different solutions: subsistence gardens versus unemployment insurance, both could be seen as ways to ameliorate the effects of globalization. And most importantly, I would say they had different end goals, so Gandhi and Mussolini, had very different ideas about empire and what empire was good for or bad for. So I try to emphasize, I try to highlight both the similarities and, and the differences, the important differences in the book.
Jim Sailer ’90 Right, and that may have been one of the very few things that Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi had in common was that they both argued, Ford, almost hilariously in the book, argues, so very strongly that, people need to go to their job at Ford during the day, and then have go and farm their plot, in their off hours and that that is going to be a help for them. Something that LaGuardia in your book Fiorello, LaGuardia kind of looks at with just the mystified, just give me unemployment insurance and forget this. It's another great scene in the book. That takes us to today and some of the parallels to today, so maybe you can talk about what are the apt parallels and similarities that you see, the themes that are so recurrent, they're just kind of hitting us in the face here. And what are some of the differences in distinctions between this period, the interregnum period and, and today?
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, I mean, I think the similarities kind of hit you in the face, right? Sort of the back to the land ideas, the anti-migrant sentiment, the, kind of America first-ism, ideas about returning production to national economies rather than importing essential goods. There's so much, that sort of, that you read about and you think, okay, I mean, even disease, it was something I didn't think about writing about until April, 2020. But the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 was a major one, created all sorts of anti-migrant, sentiment, right? That the disease itself was blamed on globalization and migration, but there are also important differences, and I think those are useful to think through as well. One is that, whereas I would say, there's a lot of anti-global rhetoric and some action that's been taken against global migration and against trade capital is still flowing pretty freely around the world and that's something that was not quite, the case, especially during the the height of the Great Depression. A second is the environment, so I think anti-global movements, movements for localizing production and food sovereignty and many other anti-global movements on the left today are often motivated by environmental concerns where, you might say that some of these movements in the twenties and thirties had environmentalist effects, but people weren't talking about them in that way, at least. I think technology and communication is another clear difference. People at the time in the late 19th century were also marveling about how, how fast you could get across the Atlantic in only seven days instead of twenty and how cheap it was, about the price of an airline ticket today, in relative terms. But things people and news does move at a different speed, but in some ways, I think maybe it's not so different after all, to the extent that fake news and censorship can have just as much an effect on curtailing communication as broken telegraph lines, which was the situation after World War I. So it's kind of debatable whether the situation is all that different in terms of communication.
Jim Sailer ’90 And so one of the, I mean the parallels are just in many ways, incredible, of course. One of the, one of the other elements that you really take a lot of pain to distinguish and to call out are that there are economic influencers and causes of globalist sentiment and anti-global sentiment, but they're also political ones. And people tend to focus on economic issues in this area - trade and GDP and GNP and things like that. But there were political ones that were kind of important too. And I wonder if you want to, could talk about a few of the economic elements and political elements, and then whether they tend to be more left leaning or right leaning in terms of what their effects are on, on anti-global sentiment.
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, that's a good point. Like whether you could categorize them in that way. I mean, I'm not sure I could, maybe you saw in the book a kind of neat separation - I wouldn't say so. I would say though, that, on the left, there tended to be more political internationalism that was coupled with demands for greater economic self-sufficiency and you see that both with anti-colonial nationalist movements and socialists who, for example, opposed migration because it threatened the livelihood of workers and so on and so forth. I would say, the political motivations were also, I don't know if you would count this as politics, but for example, in the case of migration, there was a lot of anxiety about the consequences of global migration on families and morality and religion. So particularly single women moving across the world and increasing numbers that really inspired a moral panic, I would say and that was on the left and the right. I'm not sure that those anxieties were linked only to one side of the political divide. I would say food is a huge issue in this whole book and I'm not sure, I think food is both a cultural and political issue as well as an economic issue. The countries that were most concerned about self-sufficiency in terms of food were those that lost the first world war, be partly they thought, because the ally successfully blockaded them, and millions of people starved because civilians couldn't get food. So, at the end of the war, you know, there was a very strong and widespread conviction that we never, ever again wanna rely on imported food for basic survival. The US is really different there because it was actually probably the only country in the world that could produce enough food to feed its entire population, and even had lots of excess to export overseas. People thought the Soviet Union could do the same, but behind the scenes millions of people were starving. So that was a bit of smoke and mirrors. So food was a big divider, and it, and it was economic of course, but it was also political. And there was also the sense that, you know, if you could be starved into submission, you weren't secure, your borders weren't secure, right? That, in the event of another war, or if somebody attacked you, that you wouldn't be able to defend yourself if you couldn't provide basic goods for your population.
Jim Sailer ’90 And we certainly see that today with even just things like microchips as being seen now as a national security issue, and something that has to get produced, in the United States. And among with many, many, many other things where we saw a supply chains really during COVID were disrupted, so much so that there became, kind of a reactionary movement to try to make sure that we produce certain things here.
Tara Zahra ’98 Absolutely. Yeah, I think that's, that's a real parallel.
Jim Sailer ’90 Yeah. So I have one more question to ask, which is the most softball of all softball questions. So, now is the time where people can start putting questions into the Q&A. Please, put your class year if you can, in your question - it's always helpful to know and fun to know who's here. I know a few questions have started to arrive already. But this last one is, is there any chance, just, you know, spitballing here that possibly, your Swarthmore education might have had something to do and might have been helpful in terms of the research and analytical process you use for this book? Just a guess here.
Tara Zahra ’98 Just a guess. Yeah. I mean, anybody who knows me and who's read, uh, the acknowledgements of my books knows that, it definitely started at Swarthmore for me. In fact, it's interesting, this is the first time I've ever written about fascism explicitly, but my interest in history and my decision to go to graduate school was really inspired by, Peter Judson's honor seminar in fascism and you know, so it's exciting to a, after all these years, returned to that subject. But I definitely would not be a historian and certainly would not be writing about Central Europe, if not for having been a history major at Swarthmore.
Jim Sailer ’90 Excellent, excellent. I think this question gets asked from time to time, and I'm happy to say that at the Swat Talks, no one has yet said that their undergraduate education was irrelevant to their life and I'm glad you've continued that streak for us. Now, we're gonna open this up to questions that are starting to come through the chat, I'm gonna start picking them. We won't be able to get to all of them, I'll try to pick ones that I think have a general interest for people. And the first one is a great question from Louis Lazarus who says, the anti-globalization of the twenties and thirties culminated in a World War, and do you see a similar risk that the current anti-global is leading to a similar outcome and wants to know what are the, what factors might be different or worse vis-a-vis the risk of a world war from what we have now?
Tara Zahra ’98 Right. So I think some things really are different. So, I mean, the book is in some ways pessimistic, but, I don't think we're headed inevitably toward a World War. I mean, it's a possible outcome, of course. But, for one, the fact that the second World War happened changed a lot of things. So, one of the things that really came out of both the crisis, the global economic crisis in the 1930s and the experience of the Second World War was a conviction that nobody wanted to go back to 1929 and already in the late thirties, economists, experts of various kinds were really sort of trying to think about how to make globalization more equitable, more secure, more fair. And whether or not they succeeded is open to question, but for example, you know, a lot of the principles of Keynesian and economics, the idea of full employment, of having a welfare state, these were ideas that were intended to protect people against the extreme shocks of the business cycle, which were themselves compounded by globalization, by the fact that, you know, a bank in Austria collapses and that's gonna affect Wall Street. So, you know, those protections have been eroded a lot in recent years, but it's interesting that we've seen a kind of real return to Keynesianism in the last decade or so, in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis, I don't think that's coincidental. I would say, you know, also, I'm not saying we're in a better place now than we were, but, we are no longer, the world is no longer at least officially divided up into empires, most of the world is not officially controlled by European powers. So its decolonization made a difference, as did, you know, new ideas about economic development and addressing global inequality, they haven't been entirely successful, many have failed miserably, but at least there have been. There's been much more attention to the idea that you can't, that you need to address issues of global economic inequality, in order to create a stable world, right? So, I think that's something, I, you know, I think to be optimistic, what could come out of this moment, and this is really the most optimistic reading, is a new attention to the inequalities that are created by globalization that inspire backlash. So whether that's globally or domestically, you know, more attention to the real ways in which globalization has exacerbated inequality and more policy efforts to address that. That that would be my hope rather than the third World War.
Jim Sailer ’90 Excellent. Thank you. Have an interesting question from Jason Zengerly now, and he said, you talked about how much you like characters when a historian a hundred years from now sets out to write a book about the anti-global of the two thousands who will play the Henry Ford role.
Tara Zahra ’98 Ooh, that's really good. I'm open to suggestions. You know, who is, I mean, who is working hardest to bring production stateside? That's one question. The weird thing about Ford though, I mean, of course I'm gonna return to the history that I know better - he was both, crazy anti-globalists and globalists at the same time, and I think that's kind of more what you're likely to see. So, you know, he made millions exporting cars overseas, but what he did that was very clever is that, instead of,you know, exporting cars, which are expensive, he exported factories and his model, right? And increasingly in the thirties and forties, those factories were nationalized. So in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union andFrance, they brought in local bosses, they bought in local labor, and more of the companies were locally owned and that was a kind of effort to combat the anti-globalization in those countries. So you might see more of that. But I don't, I don't have a character for the, for the twenty first century may, but maybe it's, it's not where my imagination sits.
Jim Sailer ’90 I'm gonna answer that for you, it, it's a special answer just for Jason and say that I think the villain out of all this will be Tucker Carlson, Jason, you should look him up.
Tara Zahra ’98 Fair enough
Jim Sailer ’90 You should look him up. So we have a very thoughtful question from Mark Risk, and Mark, so this is gonna take a couple sentences to go through. Professor Danny Roderick of Harvard calls the period since the 1990s hyperglobalization and says, it has generated tremendous inequality in the US. It's destroyed the sovereignty of nations to make public policy, to protect their own social contracts. He says the issue is what kind of globalization we have and how much it inhibits democratic politics and the nation state. And also that hyperglobalization has turned loose the ethnocentric right. Does your work support or question that kind of argument?
Tara Zahra ’98 I mean, I am a really big fan of Danny Rodrick's work, not least because I'm not an economist myself, and I needed to rely on the work of other economists, to sort of better understand what was actually going on in this time period. And I think that, I think that he's basically right. I think maybe, you know, he underplays the extent to which there have been, anti-global movements on the left that have also had power, and that, there can be, also left wing and progressive responses to globalization. But I certainly would agree that the rise of inequality associated with globalization, was the problem in the past as in the present, and that it had a lot to do with the rise of populist movements of all kinds. So I, yeah, I'm very appreciative of his work.
Jim Sailer ’90 Terrific. We're just gonna keep going. There are a lot of great questions here. Dave, David Harrison, class of 89 says, thank you for your work. One strain of anti-globalism today concerns sexuality with nationalist leaders such as Orban or Putin, claiming that they need to protect their cultures from LGBTQ identities, which are posited as Western. Do you see similar arguments or issues in the 20 and thirties beyond the issue of women's suffrage?
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, this is really interesting. And the whole, kind of, anti gender movement, anti LGBTQ movement is global in nature, first of all, which is really interesting, especially in the ways in which the money flows, from, you know, Catholic organizations in the US to Hungary and so on and so forth. And yet, it's really, especially in Hungary, or in Russia and Eastern Europe, appropriated this language of anti-colonialism, right? Which is really, a neat trick, to sort of argue against gay rights so, you know, which are a western import and so on and so forth. You know, I didn't see, well, I mean, I think that kind of argument did exist already in the early 20th century, so for example, you know, back in Poland or in Italy or in Europe, countries that were losing migrants to immigration, worried a lot about the morality of, and gender in particular, they worried that all these women who were migrating overseas alone were all going to become prostitutes and so on and so forth. The other ways that gender is relevant to this story is a little more surprising. One of the really big focuses of the book and of these movements was autarki - self-sufficiency and particularly returning food production and other kinds of production to the home, so back to the land homesteading. And those movements in some ways, I think were also about gender anxieties, because what did it take to have a successful homesteading operation? You really needed, you know, one critic in the nation said a husky wife with lots of appetite for domestic work and nothing else to do with her time. They were hugely reliant on the unpaid labor of women and children also. And I think to some extent, that was quite, I wouldn't say intentional, like that was the point of the movement, but I would say there was a way in which globalization was seen as a threat to gender roles and kind of sexual morality and anti-globalization was an attempt to kind of root people in the earth in the home and was not always, but often kind of, opposed to that.
Jim Sailer ’90 Great. Jim Wilson, 74 says, in general terms, were labor unions pro or anti-globalization?
Tara Zahra ’98 I think it's hard to generalize. So famously, a lot of American unions were hostile to immigration, you know, for the reasons that they wanted to protect the wages of American workers. At the same time some of the characters I write about in early chapters were immigrant women, who themselves became major trade union organizers and they recognized very quickly that, one of the strategies of of factory owners was, very, deliberately to hire people from all over the world and mix them up so they couldn't talk to each other and, and sort of organize. And they set out to create internationalist coalitions of workers, so that International Ladies Garment Worker Union is a great example of that. So, you know, I don't think, I would say by, you know, in the 1930s, the, during the Great Depression, the American labor movement was often, officially anti-migrant or in favor of restrictions, but that there were lots of examples of trade union movements and labor movements that, really sought to create international coalitions of immigrants.
Jim Sailer ’90 Excellent. So I'm gonna stick with the topic of migration and immigration for a second. And take a question from my friend, Serge Danielson-Francois. Hi, Serge. Does your research suggest an antidote to the current moral panic tied to mass migrations? How should thoughtful people counter the politically expedient caricatures of refugees and asylum seekers?
Tara Zahra ’98 I really like this question. Again, I've been thinking about this a long time. I'm not a policy maker, but I like that you use the term moral panic, because I think that's exactly what we're often dealing with. I don't have a prescription, but I do have maybe, I don't know, an anecdote or some data that's interesting, which is that, before the first World War, at the peak moment of mass migration to the United States, 30 to 40% of the people who came to the United States left and went home. And that was something that surprised me, and that was kind of the subject of the last book, the book I wrote before this, cause I was so interested to learn both that people left, I wanted to know why they left - for some, that was always the plan, but others left because they hated it here, they were homesick, they found the work exploitative, and so on and so forth. And I also wanted to know what happened to those people when they went home, and what impact emigration and return migration had on countries that were sending migrants. Anyway, one of the things I discovered was not only that there was all of this return migration and back and forth migration, but also that, not surprisingly, once they closed the borders in the 1920s, lo and behold people stopped doing that. People came to stay, people scrambled to bring their families over, right? And that was because once the borders were closed, there was a lot of anxiety that if you went to one place and went back, you'd never be allowed to, to return again. So I think in some ways the regime of border control, the modern regimes of border control that we've erected not just in the United States, but globally, have in some ways had the opposite effect of what they intended. You could see a similar thing, I think with Brexit and the EU that before Brexit, Polish migrants in particular, that's just a group I'm most familiar with, were really moving back and forth between the UK and Poland and very responsive to small shifts in the economic situation. And once the ability to do that was threatened, people either returned for good or mobilized to stay for good and bring their families. So that happened also in the seventies in Europe, after the oil shock. So kind of time and time again, we've actually seen that, higher borders in some ways they don't work necessarily to deter migration, and they may even encourage it in a, in a, in a strange way.
Jim Sailer ’90 Terrific, thank you. We're gonna go to a question from Bruce Rockwood class of 68. Bruce says that climate change is a challenge that is globalized, and can we see anti-globalization as an opposition to a global solution to this crisis?
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, that's a really thoughtful question. Because I have thought about the ways in which today's anti-globalization is often driven by anxieties about climate, that you should eat locally or buy locally because it has less of an impact. But you're right at the same time that hostility to joining the Paris Climate Accords or other international agreements that would make a real difference is based on this anxiety about sovereignty. That America does what it wants and doesn't wanna be constrained by, foreign agreements or foreign powers. And, and that's the same reason that the US didn't join the League of Nations, in 1919 so, there's a lot of continuity there in terms of, fears and anxieties about the possibility that international organizations, international law, and international agreements could, somehow infringe on, well infringe on democratic politics to some extent, I mean, those fears are, are sometimes justified, and infringe on national sovereignty.
Jim Sailer ’90 Thank you. So just a quick program note here; we have about 10 minutes left. I see two of you have your hands raised, but I don't have any mechanism for turning on your audio. So if you can type your, Jamie and Barbara, if you can type your questions into the chat, it would be great. We'd love to hear your questions, so please, please feel free to do so. Our next question is from Sean McHale, class of 85. Sean is a professor of history and international affairs at GWU, and he says, now you've just written a fantastic book. Sean wants you to imagine a book that was not centered on Europe and the US but on the so-called periphery, what we might call the global south. How would this change, perspectives, in terms of the analysis and, and kind of what's going on looking at migration, looking at economics and so on and so forth, and workers are even traveling within regions, world regions. Does this change the argument at all or change the analysis?
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, I think, obviously a big weakness of the book is that it is not a global history of anti globalism. So I did manage to look at India, but some of the most interesting cases might have come from, may, maybe not the global periphery, but outside, certainly outside of Europe and, and North America. So for example, Japan would be an amazing case to look at, in part because Japan very much like Germany and Italy was very anxious about its global status and sought to sort of had these ideas about creating the greater East Asian prosperity sphere, which was going to be this autarchic mini empire or regional empire that would be free of Western oppression. I think Latin America is also another obvious place that I could have looked to examine these movements, and I would love to know more, honestly, I tried to read more on other contexts. I think it does change the perspective in so far as you're seeing much more, I think much more of a link to empire and anti-colonialism in these movements. I also think you'd probably uncover some really interesting and surprising movements between regions. So I was speaking recently to a historian of Africa who was talking about how it's always written about globalization in, the, the global south as though, you know, basically, jobs are being shipped out of Europe and, and North America to, of these other parts of the world. But in fact, he was telling me about, for example in factories in Africa that had been moved to Asia, to South Asia or China and so on and so forth. So there people are today, and I think probably in the past, have been displaced by globalization in all different parts of the world. And I do think it would create an even more complex and, and rich picture, and I hope that someone will do that work, I'd love to read that book. I mean, I would love to as well, but I've been pretty committed to focusing on countries where I could read the language at least and get somewhat into the primary sources. And so yeah, my linguistic talents only goes so far, but it's a really important area.
Jim Sailer ’90 And Danny Allen is gonna ask kind of, ask kind of a, a related question which focuses on one part of what you just described, which is how related are globalism and colonialism,
Tara Zahra ’98 Right? Yeah. So clearly very related, although, you know, so an important, I think, point about the 19th century and for example, the British Empire, we always, the Brit - we always think of the British Empire as like the, the place that most represented the idea of free trade and globalization in the 19th century. And yet, if you think about 19th century globalization, there was a way in which it really was enforced by gunboats, right? And countries were open to foreign investment because they were colonized or they were, you know, they were forced into unequal trading relationships. So I think that one thing it shows you is that globalization and empire were very closely linked, but not in some kind of invisible hand sort of way that politics was always really central to it, that it wasn't, there's nothing natural about it, right? And that's the way economists were kind of writing about globalization in the 1990s, that it was a sort of natural product of capitalism and it was something that would kind of continue to develop inevitably except if states unnaturally interfered in some ways through politics. I think the history of empire capitalism and globalization show the extent to which politics is essential, and all of these processes are shaped by both political decisions and institutions that are subject to change, right? So I think that's an important insight.
Jim Sailer ’90 Great. Jeffrey Ruda, class of 69, has a question that says, were you surprised by any continuities that overrode the economic break in 1929?
Tara Zahra ’98 Yeah, I mean, I think, well, I think that the twenties and thirties are a sort of continuous period in some way. I mean, the book itself I divided into three parts - one is focused on the pre-war era and the first World War, the second on the immediate post World War, war I era, and the third on the 1930s. But there is lots of ways in which movements that begin in the twenties really just accelerate in the thirties. So if you wanna think about food and the movement for agricultural, greater agricultural self-sufficiency, that's something that's often promoted very locally at a kind of grassroots level in the twenties, and then it's taken up by states in the thirties. And so you see a kind of, amplification and I don't know, stratification of movements that start as, as kind of popular pressure groups and, and movements. So that's one example. I think also some of the migration stuff, it just intensifies. I mean, the biggest anti-migrant law in the United States, the most important one is passed in 1924, the Johnson Reed Act, but then in the 1930s, the pace of deportations really quickens. And in some ways, some of these laws just get more teeth as literally, there's a great book called, I think, what is it called? Not Deportation Nation, but there's a recent book about deportation in the US that shows the extent to which people were sort of pressured into self deporting. So I think you can see how the illegal groundwork was created in the twenties that was then enforced with greater intensity and violence in the 1930s.
Jim Sailer ’90 Great. So we are actually, believe it or not, just about at the end of our hour, which has gone by so fast, you've said so much I got to most, but not all of the questions, which are fantastic. So I'm gonna give Tara the last word here in just a second. But I do wanna thank everybody for attending on behalf of the Alumni Council. This has been a fantastic talk. The book is every bit as good as it sounds from Tara's discussion today and your questions. And I can tell by the nature of the questions and how interesting and intense they are, that this is a topic that really is grabbing people and, and taking a hold. Tara, when you think about what you really wanna convey in this, I'll give you the last word to kind of sum up maybe your book or your thoughts or things either, perhaps that you haven't had a chance to talk about today that are important to you and that you want people to take away, from this fantastic piece of work.
Tara Zahra ’98 Thanks so much. Yeah, I mean, one of the main points I'd want people to take away, one is one that really probably seems banal right now, but did not seem obvious I think in 2016, which is again, that globalization is not a teleological process that is natural and can't be stopped. That it has these mo pauses and reversals and that it's very much shaped by political processes, by an architecture, right, that sustains it. And that architecture also has real consequences for the terms in which globalization takes place and I think the second major point I would want people to come away with is maybe this idea that anti-globalization has no inevitable political content or consequences. And I think one of the most interesting insights for me was just to see how anti-globalization actually produced new forms of globalization and internationalism in response. So, I think we're probably in a similar moment today. I'm very hopeful that we'll see more efforts to address inequality, and to make globalization work better for more people. That's my hope, and that's I think, what I'd like to end with.
Jim Sailer ’90 Fantastic. Thank you, Tara. Thank you so much. Thank you for writing the book, and thank you for spending some time with us tonight. And again, thanks to everybody for being here on a great swat talk, signing off. Have a great night, everyone. Be well. Take care. Thank
Tara Zahra ’98 You. Bye
Jim Sailer ’90 Bye-Bye.