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(en) New Zealand, Dissident Voice* #7 - Bringing it all Back Home: Anti-globalization Activism Cannot Ignore Colonial Realities

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 23 Dec 2004 11:42:04 +0100 (CET)

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“We are faced with a two-fold challenge, to struggle as best we can to
deal with the immediate consequences of globalization. Secondly, and
more difficult, to contextualize those problems within the
500-year-and-more history of the culture of colonization”
– Moana Jackson, Ngati Kahungunu/Ngati Porou, lawyer and Maori
sovereignty advocate.

“For us, as Indigenous Peoples, we have noticed an interesting thing
happening in the last twenty years. We see the colonization process has
been redirected. It is now directed towards the non-Indigenous citizens.
The companies are cannibalizing their own settlers. Now, the shoe is on
the other foot. Where do you go for help against the multinationals who
are going to swallow up your jobs and your lifestyle? Indigenous Peoples
are not really interested in keeping companies within Canadian control.
These companies have been abusing our lands. What does it matter if the
company is Canadian or American or German or Japanese owned? All
these companies are abusing our lands and resources. Why should
Indigenous Peoples help non-Indigenous People protect their jobs and
security when these same people have been destroying our lands and
waters? Globalization for us is colonization continued without any letup.
The question is to the colonizers. What are the colonizers doing about
addressing the issues of colonization and its continued oppression of
Indigenous Peoples?”
– Sharon Venne, Cree lawyer and scholar.

Many on the left point out that opposition to free trade and the neoliberal
agenda is not necessarily anti-capitalist. They're right, of course – it
comprises a diverse range of organizations, movements, motivations,
agendas and goals.

Among anti-globalization networks there is widespread coinage of the
terms “colonization” or “recolonization” to describe the
current manifestations of globalization. But does that mean that the
mobilizations and activism against globalization are anti-colonial? For the
most part, I don't think so.

If those of us living in colonial settler states like New Zealand, Australia,
Canada and the USA are prepared to take on transnational corporations,
the Bretton Woods institutions, and the neoliberal agenda we must also
address Indigenous Peoples' struggles for decolonization and

There are relatively few anti-globalization initiatives where the perspectives
and struggles of Indigenous Peoples located in the “western
democratic” colonial settler states have taken center stage. Their
analyses and challenges are all-too-often relegated to the anti-free trade
movement's equivalent of a social clause or an environmental side
agreement; side issues to be partitioned off into a different space from
unity statements and conference declarations which tend to articulate
noble-sounding demands about people power, taking back “our”
country, regulating corporations, genuine participatory democracy, etc.

In his recent book, Human Rights Horizons, Richard Falk writes of the
USA's “perpetual rediscovery of its own perceived innocence... Despite
the dispossession of the Indigenous Peoples of North America, despite
slavery and its aftermath, despite Hiroshima and Vietnam, this
self-proclaimed innocence remains untarnished”. I've talked with
activists from several countries about this kind of phenomenon as it
impacts on the perspectives of “civil society” in the USA, Canada,
Australia and New Zealand. Many social justice campaigns, NGOs and
activists in these countries operate from a state of colonial denial and
refuse to make links between human rights abuses overseas, economic
(in)justice, and the colonization of the lands and peoples where they live.

The doomsday scenario of corporate rule, transnational plunder,
environmental and social disaster which many opponents of the global free
market economy warn of has long been everyday reality for many
Indigenous Peoples. Modern transnational corporations are after all the
heirs to the Hudson Bay Company, the New Zealand Company, the East
India Company – major players in earlier waves of colonization and the
commodification of peoples, lands and nature.

In our meetings, analyses, speeches and demonstrations we can talk about
transnationals, the WTO, globalization as recolonization, and perhaps
even the neoliberal agenda in the context of colonialism in the Third
World. But to advocate Indigenous Peoples' right to self determination
closer to home often seems a surefire way to fasttracking one to extremist
or pariah status – even among social and environmental justice
activists. It might “alienate” people, I've been told.

Many struggles against globalization taking place in the South are
connected to anti-imperialist, anti-colonial mass movements with long
histories. However, the voices heard most loudly and insistently in the
international media and at most major international gatherings opposing
the neoliberal agenda and building alternatives are rarely those of
grassroots community activists from the South, let alone Indigenous
Peoples in the countries of the global North. Well-resourced NGOs and
trade unions usually based in the West, tend to command considerable
power to set the parameters of the debate and direction of the campaigns
against corporate globalization.

Far too many times have I heard the history of globalization – and the
resistance to it – compressed into the last two or three decades, and
related in a way which downplays or ignores anti-imperialist movements in
the South and especially the resistance of indigenous nations in territories
claimed by Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. In Canada and
the USA I have shared platforms with North American speakers who
curiously trace the history of globalization back to the Trilateral
Commission. Here in New Zealand, I have seen white environmentalists
accuse Maori of “reverse racism” for daring to assert their rights to
protect indigenous flora and fauna under threat from bioprospectors and
the TRIPs agreement. At other international conferences on globalization,
activists have dismissed Indigenous Peoples' perspectives on globalization
as “narrow” and “nativistic”, arguing that they do not
attach enough importance to class analysis.

Naturally we feel outrage at security clampdowns against popular
Mobilizations in Auckland, Vancouver, Seattle, Melbourne, Quebec City
and Washington DC. But shock and surprise? Colonial governments have
always used police and military as an army of occupation against
Indigenous Peoples. State-sanctioned abuses against indigenous
communities have long been a dime-a-dozen but have frequently failed to
register with many folk.

I have heard the fairy story, told with passion, authority and a touch of
nostalgia, by non-indigenous New Zealanders, North Americans and
Australians who speak earnestly of the freedoms and democratic rights
enjoyed in their countries. Apparently things were pretty good until the
neoliberal ideologues and big business seized control, opened up the
economy, started hocking everything off to the transnationals, and saw Joe
and Jill Citizen dispossessed of things that they thought were theirs. So say
dozens of activists, academics, politicians as they state their opposition to
the neoliberal agenda. This version of history begins when globalization
started impacting non-indigenous peoples. The words
“democracy” and “sovereignty” crop up time and time
again in their talks, and in anti-globalization literature and campaigns in
these countries. What do such appeals to democratic traditions, concepts
and values mean when they ignore past and present-day realities of
colonization in these countries?

While attending the 1997 Peoples Summit on APEC in Vancouver I
remember being struck by how speaker after speaker attacked
transnationals, and identified them as the driving force behind APEC, yet
utterly ignored struggles like that of the Lubicon Cree Nation in Northern
Alberta – the next province – against gas, oil and timber
transnationals invading their unceded territory with the complicity of the
Canadian state. Nor did the fact that a “liberal democratic”
government of Canada, like the one which through hosting APEC hoped
to influence Asian trading partners with “Canadian values”, had
sent more armed forces against Mohawk people defending their lands in
the 1990 standoff near Oka, Quebec than it sent to the Gulf War rate a
mention. But then again, the Vancouver Peoples Summit itself was
part-funded by the same NDP British Columbia provincial government
which in 1995 initiated a massive military operation at Gustafsen Lake
only a few hours drive away, against a small group of Indigenous Peoples
defending their sacred lands.

Many critics of globalization play down the role and relevance of the
nation-state, attributing power almost solely to transnational corporations
and international institutions like the Bretton Woods triplets. Yet this takes
the focus away from the nature and power of the state and even
romanticizes it. Such global campaigns run the risk of distracting people's
gaze from long-standing injustices underfoot. In delegitimizing these
global actors we must be very aware of the dangers in uncritically
legitimizing nation-states which are themselves based on the dispossession
of Indigenous Peoples. We cannot ignore the centuries of resistance by
many indigenous nations against incorporation into the colonial state. We
cannot ignore the colonial foundations of the countries in which we live.
To do so is to mask the true nature of our societies, and the extent to
which they are built on colonization and exploitation.

How can Indigenous Peoples be expected to validate, affirm and seek
incorporation into national or international movements dominated by
non-indigenous activists, organizations and agendas which are reluctant to
address domestic issues of colonization with the same vigour and
commitment that they put into fighting transnational capital or the WTO?

Of course some important alliances have been forged between Indigenous
Peoples and non-indigenous organizations confronting globalization. Many
(usually small, under-resourced) activist groups struggle hard to draw the
connections between corporate globalization and colonization, to support
local indigenous sovereignty struggles and educate non-indigenous
peoples about these issues.

Movements to expose and oppose corporate globalization have a very real
potential to mobilize support from non-indigenous people for meaningfully
addressing the issues of colonization in New Zealand, Australia, Canada
and the USA. We should be challenging the jurisdiction of these colonial
settler state governments as they move to sign international trade and
investment deals, in the light of their continued denial of Indigenous
Peoples' rights, jurisdiction, and title.

The centuries-old culture of colonization holds the key to understanding
and defeating the current wave of globalization. If we understand how
“democratic” governments like Canada can sanction the ongoing
assault on indigenous lands and communities it isn't hard to understand
why such governments subscribe to free market international trade and
investment policies.

In determining the values and foundations on which we build alternatives
to the neoliberal agenda our movements must be prepared to examine our
own propensity to oppress. We cannot build alternatives to globalization on
the rotten foundations of the denial of occupying indigenous lands and the
ongoing suppression of Indigenous Peoples' rights. “The colonizers
are always building rotten foundations and expecting us to step into a
completed building” says Sharon Venne.

If anti-globalization activists and organizations do not address these
questions with some urgency then I fear that the growing resistance to
neoliberalism in the global North risks being as inherently colonialist as
the institutions and processes which it opposes. Our usage of the term
colonization will be little more than empty rhetoric if our analysis does not
acknowledge the context in which corporate globalization – and the
worldwide opposition to it – is taking place.

Those of us active in anti-globalization struggles in Canada, the USA,
New Zealand and Australia need to examine our role in the colonization
and globalization of the earth. Only then can we seriously talk about
liberation and real alternatives to the neoliberal agenda.

--- Aziz Choudry
# Aotearoa Dissident Voice - New Zealand's most unrespectable
revolutionary rag. Aotearoa Dissident Voice is a free volunteer-run
magazine that aims to provide an open space for the free flow of
anarchist and libertarian left news, analysis and creativity.
www.dissidentvoice.org.nz edcollective@dissidentvoice.org.nz

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