Action And Worth Reading On... Imperialism
issue 167 - January 1987
ACTION against IMPERIALISM
Winning the hearts and minds to act against foreign domination involves
more than concern about what’s happening out there. it may mean putting
our own houses in order- seeing how people in our own communities are
affected. And it should involve more than stale old formula-ridden politics
in which enthusiasm and imagination are killed by petty rules and endless
committees. Here we look at how new ideas turn into action.
The most important aspect of decolonization in Aotearoa is found in the philosophy of Kohanga Reo (language nests). Kohanga Reo means the need to retain, promote and recognise the Maori language as the first language of this land. Language will be an important medium for Maori people to assert their Mana Whenua (status as people of the land). The Kohanga Reo initiative has been picked up in tribal areas, where it provides a means of overcoming differences such as class and age. As a consequence of this action we are seeking an increase in Maori media coverage and asking for more bi-lingual schools. Most importantly, we want a recognition that the Maori language is alive!
National Kohanga Reo Collective, c/o Dept. of Maori Affairs, Private Bag, Wellington.
Waltangi Action Committee, P0 Box 61140 Otara, Auckland.
To Kotahitanga, c/o 32 Tyndall Road, Gisborne.
To Ahi Kaa, c/o Dr Pat Hohepa, Auckland University Maori Studies, Private Bag, Auckland.
Pacific People's Anti-Nuclear Action Committee, P0 Box 61086 Otara, Auckland.
To Whanua A Matarlki, P0 Box 1375 Dunedin.
Most of the energy spent on anti-imperialism is being expanded by local solidarity movements which support liberation movements overseas. Many groups offering support to these anti-imperialist struggles are not political, but are church or aid groups. Aborigine militants have recently taken white solidarity groups to task for ignoring the anti-imperialist struggle in their own back yard Activists are now trying to become more skilful in communicating through the framework of Australia’s conservative mainstream press. But there is still a long way to go to increase Australian intemational awareness and to overcome our own isolationism.
Sri Lankan Human Rights campaign, P0 Box 56, St Paula, NSW, 2031.
Free Namibla and South Africa campaign, 130 Little Collins St, Melbourne, Victoria 3000.
Australian East Timor Association, Tel: (03)4897661
Kanak Independnce Organisation, P0 Box 37, Leichardt, NSW, 2040.
Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, P0 Box A243, Sydney South, NSW 2000.
CANADA AND THE US
Foreign domination has been a constant theme in Canadian history - today it takes the form of a growing concern about US intervention in Central Americs. Groups that focus on the damage caused by US intervention in the Third World are increasingly aware of Canada’s involvement in the same areas. There is real pressure to forge a foreign policy independent of the US and to purge economic self-interest from Canada’s relationship with the Third World.
The unresolved demands of Canada’s native people are not receiving much attention. Major land claims battles are still being fought. And there is a critical fight to amend the Constitution to allow for Native self-government This ‘internal colonization’ is largely ignored by the Canadian public, although native people are determined to present a united front through the Assembly of First Nations.
GATT-Fly, 11 Madison Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5R 252.
Indonesia East Timor Programme, P0 Box 1672, Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7S4.
Latin America Working Group, Box 2207, Station P, Toronto, Ontario
Tools for Peace, 1672 East 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC. V5N 1X5.
Toronto committee for the Uberatlon of Southern Africa, 427 Bloor West, Toronto, Ontario M55 I X7.
Ten Days for World Development, 85 St Clair East, Toronto, Ontario M4T 1 M8.
American Friends Service Committee, 1501 CherrySt, Philadelphia, Penn. 19102.
Coalition for New Foreign Policy, 712 G Street SE, Washington DC 20003.
SANE (for nuclear and Third World Issues), 711 G Street SE, Washington DC 20003.
North American Congress on Latin America, 151 West 19th Street, New York NY 10011.
Riots on our streets illustrate the extent to which imperialism has deprived our black citizens: they have moved to the UK in search of work only to find they are the first to suffer when the job market collapses. The overseas picture is no different the UK remains one of the biggest investors in South Africa and it makes huge loans to Chile and other Third World dictatorships. Popular resistance to these forms of neo-imperialism does exist, however. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is increasingly turning its attention to connections between US imperialism, the arms race and Third World poverty. CND, like other fast-growing anti-imperialist groups, are learning from Band Aid that media-hyped rock concerts, sponsored bike-rides and boycotts are effective. They make politics the concem of those who usually think it is none of their business.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 22 - 24 Underwood Street, London N1 7J0.
Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, 23 Bevenden Street, London N1 6BH.
Chile Solidarity Campaign, 129 Seven Sisters Road, London N7 70G.
Eritrean Information Service, 391 City Road, London EC1V 1NE.
Troops out of Ireland Movement, P0 Box 353, London NW5 4NH.
Anti-Apaitheid Movement, 13 Mandela Street, London, NW1 ODW.
Namibia Support Committee, P0 Box 16, London NW5 2 LW.
Worth reading on. IMPERIALISM
There seems to be little point in trotting out a worthy but dull list; offering books that no-one would get any pleasure from reading. So I've made an idiosyncratic choice - picking books that I think are fun to read.
Galeano, E Open Veins of Latin America Monthly Review Press 1973.
A polemic: but all the more worth reading for its passion. Eduardo Galeano analyses the past five hundred years of imperialism in South America - showing how Western capitalism was built from the pillage of raw materials and cheap labour - but with an eye on the cost in terms of human tragedy. Sometimes the horrors he recounts are dreadful and you'll want to stop reading, but it's definitely worth persevering.
Rodney, W How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Bogle - L'Ouverture Publications 1983. This is a classic, but a readable one. Walter Rodney is a black Marxist whose account of imperialism's devastation of Africa is meticulously detailed.
Halliday, F The Making of the Second Cold War Verso/NLB 1983 and Brett, E The World Economy since the War, the politics of uneven development Macmillan 1985 are both well-thought out attempts to understand post-war history without prioritising the Western standpoint. Both authors integrate analyses of the Cold War and the arms race with an understanding of imperialism and in Brett's case an assessment of the validity of the major theories that supposedly explain its impact. A must for those who like history to read like a whodunnit.
Mies, Maria Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale Zed Books 1986. Only readable in patches unless you are a stalwart. It links women's history with colonization and connects the fate of white women in a brilliant manner, by showing how they have been incorporated into capitalist forms of work (and, at times, excluded from them). A must for those who want the whole picture.
Getting your hands dirty, working for low wages but supporting
practical change for the better in the Third World must have crossed
the mind of most NI readers. Volunteers are often accused of, at best,
getting a free lunch and, at worst, being modern imperialists.
Ex-volunteer, Canadian teacher Dorothy Rivers provides
a guide to non-imperialist voluntary work.
In 1976, Graham Greene was travelling through rural Panama. President Torrijos, a friend of Greene's, was locked in a struggle with the US. Torrijos wanted the canal zone returned to Panamanian control. Greene encountered a group of peasants in a poor area near Las Minas and asked them what they thought of their President.
'Half good and half bad', was the reply.
'What is the bad half?'
'He doesn't like the gringos'
'Why do you like the gringos?'
'We met a gringo. He was a good man, and he taught us many things. He drank with us,' Torrijos had earlier expelled the Peace Corps from Panama, but at least one of them had made converts.
That was ten years ago. The debate about volunteers was already three years old in the NI. Volunteers were 'killing with kindness' said Marie-Helene Matthews in the July 1973 issue. The more competent and sincere their efforts were, the better they served as screens for the failure of their home countries to do anything significant to combat underdevelopment. The best work of volunteers counted for nothing when compared to the perpetuation of unfair trade practices, the failure to transfer sufficient capital to generate self-sustaining development, vast military spending and the active destabilization of any Third World government which threatened Western commercial interests.
Moreover, volunteers themselves were often in the front lines of neo-colonialism. They moved easily into the jobs, houses, and social circles of the recently departed colonialists. They filled the schools and hospitals, skewing development plans towards the emerging elites and away from the poor. They served as role models for their local friends and students, creating consumerist values and desire for western products. As Ivan Illich put it, they transformed thirst into the need for Coca Cola.
One old India hand remarked to me at the time 'Colonialism is not dead; it's just wearing its hair longer'.
But not all volunteers are agents of imperialism. The early critics of international volunteerism were the volunteers themselves. One walked out of his job at Tanzanian technical school and went to work as a radio technician in liberated areas of Angola. When he returned home he worked tirelessly for the Angolan liberation struggle. Others chose less dramatic responses. A returned volunteers movement grew up and began to speak out about the failure of aid. Some ex-volunteers began working through smaller development and solidarity organisations.
The question of what individual volunteers can do to be more effective agents of solidarity still remains. If you are an individual volunteer, you could do worse than begin with the Handbook for Development Workers Overseas by Glyn Roberts (The Alver Press, London, 1978). It raises a series of questions designed to help you analyse your own views, your agency, and your position overseas. Roberts urges you to find out as much as you can about the agency you plan to work through, because advance training and volunteer positions vary enormously according to the philosophy of the sending agency.
Here are some questions that you might ask of volunteer agencies:
· Does it have a constitution or code of ethics to define its work? If so, does this embrace concepts of social justice, human rights, and the need to change the structures which maintain underdevelopment?
· Does it plan to support those who are fighting for progressive social change? Or does it respond uncritically to requests to fill gaps in the workforce?
· Does it have a program to carry out education campaigns at home? And does it lobby its home government for more progressive international policies?
Volunteer agencies could also develop long-term programs of co-operation with Third World action organisations. Co-operation could begin with simple actions, such as cosponsoring a conference or working together to lobby government on a particular issue. This could grow into mutual involvement in each other's programs. Placement of selected members of these groups as volunteers in suitable Third World postings could be one phase of a long-term plan of joint action for development. This would ensure more effective long-term follow-up on the volunteer experience. This could build long-term structures for the involvement of committed individuals. The new internationalism of the l98Os and l99Os demands no less.
Dorothy Rivers has recently returned from working as a volunteer in Chad.