|From:||shaista husain <email@example.com>|
|Sent time:||Monday, October 24, 2011 9:56:27 AM|
|Subject:||[september17discuss] Critique of Occupy London's initial statement: "An Anticolonial Perspective" by Sakura Saunders|
OK, so I wrote this in response to being offended by the initial statement of Occupy London, and have since started a working group to address and revise some issues with the initial statement. I also think that it serves generally as a response to old-school Socialists who might think that it is only about the redistribution of resources and not about respecting self-determination or maybe even just consuming less ;)
Since then, I have found that a small group of folks at the camp has a real aversion to using the words anti-colonial or anti-imperial. I'm trying to come up with a statement that expresses solidarity with these movements, but am having a hard time coming up with more appropriate terms. (maybe economic oppression? holding transnational corporations accountable?)
Anyways... thought that I would make this article available to my Indigenous Solidarity and Enviro Justice friends out there! If you have any suggestions for how to deal with this issue of people being afraid to use these terms, lemme know!. Doing a big teach-in at our Tent City University tomorrow, but somehow I don't think that will be enough.
here's their initial statement: http://occupylsx.org/?p=221 (don't worry.. the We are ALL ethnicities is on it's way to revision as well ;)
author's note: While I could not participate in the assembly that approved the initial statement of the occupation, I have spent many days and nights at the occupation since its inception. This critique comes from a place of love and respect for the occupiers, as I am one of you. I am simply trying to share the wisdom that I have gained through years of supporting Indigenous communities on the front lines of current Anti-Colonial struggles. It is written to encourage reflection and hopefully the revision of the camp's official demands, so that we may fully understand what it means to join a global struggle against Neo-Liberalism!
Ever since I first heard Occupy London’s initial statement read before an evening General Assembly, I have to admit that it rubbed me the wrong way. Specifically, I feel that the way the initial statement is phrased, especially with respect to the section on the world's resources, reflects a poor understanding of where natural resources come from, and therefore should be revised. Additionally, I think that a statement from an occupation seemingly aligned with global struggles against Neo-Liberalism should have a statement within it that is explicitly anti-colonial or at the very least pro-environmental justice. To be clear, this is not a request that an unrelated side-agenda be tacked on to the group's demands. Rather, an analysis of how and where resources are extracted is at the core of struggles against Austerity, Privatization and Neo-Liberalism, and for tax justice and self-determination globally. Please, let me explain...
Let's start with the section (7) regarding resources that is already in our group's statement. This section states that "We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich."
While this sounds nice, anyone following the reality of world resources realizes that the extraction process itself is often part of a war that cannot be justified with some redistribution scheme. Would the war in Iraq be justified if the oil was used to heat poor people's homes? Would the toxic pollution and killings at Africa Barrick's gold mines in Tanzania be redeemed if only the proceeds went to fund charity? How about the assassination of Ken Saro-Wiwa? The displacement of communities for coal by BHP Billiton? The devastation of the Alberta Tar Sands?
I hope I'm making it clear that if the group is to include any statements about "the world's" resources, it better include some statement advocating for justice for the communities from whose land those resources are taken.
Beyond a basic appeal for justice, let's reflect on the fact that these extractive corporations are raising money on the London Stock Exchange to then benefit from unjust wars and pillage the lands of Indigenous peoples around the world. Yes, these tax-evading corporations – who corrupt our politicians and demand that we love them for their jobs – are using their corporate profits to expand their destructive industries to extract every last bit of our planets resources at an alarming rate, starting with the poorest and often indigenous areas. This just adds to the reasons why people should pull their money from their banks and throw it into credit unions, because it is the big banks and pension funds who are investing in these industries.
And how does all of this relate to Austerity?
Well, Austerity and Privatisation are the first phases of Neo-Liberalism. They proceed the large-scale exploitation of labor and resources, or at least that has been the model in the global south. I could give many examples, but here's the basic model:
A country, many times through a corrupt leader, is tempted to take loans that it cannot repay, the IMF and World Bank come in to "save the day" offering "structural adjustment loans", these loans require that the country cut social services (IMF), privatize key sectors of the economy or agree to huge "development" projects carried out by corporations in the global north. These large-scale "development" projects are either used to build infrastructure for resource extraction (i.e. dams, highways and pipelines) or they are the extractive projects (i.e. mines, smelters and large-scale agro) themselves.
Austerity and Privatisation take control away from the public domain, they isolate people, take away their safety nets and make them vulnerable for exploitation.
There is a global struggle against these policies, and if we want to consider ourselves part of that movement, an understanding of how Neo-Liberalism has played out in those circumstances is central to that relationship.
Why Environmental Justice?
The concept of Environmental Justice acknowledges that polluting industries target areas where poor people and other politically marginalized communities – such as Indigenous communities – live. Statistically, this analysis is spot on, with power plants, waste incinerators, and other polluting industries almost always residing in the poorest areas.
With the expansion of corporate globalization, Indigenous peoples have been disproportionally targeted for large-scale extraction, in particular mining and large-scale agriculture, such as oil palm. For example, over 50% of gold mining and 70% of uranium mining is done on Indigenous lands. This is linked to Colonization because these industries rely on power relationships left over from Colonial times to engage central governments to sell-out their Indigenous peoples, often without consultation let alone consent.
Given Britain's historic role in the Colonial process, and given the role of its companies and the LSX within the current Neo-Colonial and Imperial processes, it seems a large oversight to not acknowledge this role in any Anti-capitalist political formation.
To make this critique as constructive as possible, the following are a couple of suggestions for how the initial statement can be modified to better communicate our collective values:
• we stand in solidarity with Anti-Colonial and Anti-Imperialist movements globally, and acknowledge the role that our finance centres and corporations play in perpetuating economic oppression throughout the world
• we want a political system wherein people impacted by decisions are consulted and have decision-making powers over those decisions
• strike any reference to the "world's" resources, to perhaps make a general statement about resources
Thanks so much for reading my thoughts on this subject. Being a part of the camp has been an inspirational experience and I write these words with an incredible amount of respect for everyone who has made it possible! I hope that this contributes to a productive debate on these important issues. To quote the Zapatistas, "we make the road by walking" and I believe that is what we are all doing in the beautiful processes making our assemblies and creating our occupation.
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