Canada: First Nations’ artist Zig Zag on the resistance movements today

Zig Zag interviewed about Idle No More: “In any liberation movement there are internal and external struggles”

by kersplebedeb

We are living in exciting times, with large numbers of people clearly fed up and taking action, no longer content to wait for the right moment or the right ideas or the right leadership to tell them what to do. Whether we think of Occupy, the Arab Spring, or the current Idle No More upsurge, spontaneity and taking a stand seem to be the order of the day. For those of us have lived through less exuberant times, it is a welcome change. That said, this new environment that clearly comes with its own potential pitfalls and weaknesses.

In order to try and understand this better, i asked some questions of Zig Zag, also known as Gord Hill, who is of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation and a long-time participant in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist resistance movements in Canada.  Gord is the author and artist of The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book and The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book (published by Arsenal Pulp Press) and 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance (published by PM Press); he also maintains the website WarriorPublications.wordpress.com.

Here is what he had to say…

K: What are the living conditions of Indigenous people today within the borders of what is called “canada”?

ZZ: Indigenous people in Canada experience the highest levels of poverty, violent death, disease, imprisonment, and suicide.  Many live in substandard housing and do not have clean drinking water, while many territories are so contaminated that they can no longer access traditional means of sustenance.  In the area around the Tar Sands in northern Alberta, for example, not only are fish and animals being found with deformities but the people themselves are experiencing high rates of cancer.  This is genocide.

K: Dispossession has been a central feature of colonialism and genocide within canada. Can you give some examples of how people have resisted dispossession in the past?

ZZ: Well in the past Native peoples had some level of military capability to resist dispossession, which ended around 1890.  More recently there have been many examples including Oka 1990, Ipperwash 1995, Sutikalh 2000, Six Nations 2006, etc.  At Oka it was armed resistance that stopped the proposed expansion of a golf course and condo project.  At Ipperwash people re-occupied their reserve land that had been expropriated during WW2, and they still remain there to this day.  At Sutikalh, St’at’imc people built a re-occupation camp to stop a $530 million ski resort. They were successful and the camp remains to this day.  At Six Nations they re-occupied land and prevented the construction of a condo project.

K: The canadian state has an army, prisons, police forces, and the backing of millions of people – not to mention the fact that it is completely integrated into world capitalism, both as a major source of natural resources and as an imperialist junior partner, messing up peoples around the world. What kind of possibilities are there for Indigenous people to successfully break out of this system, and resist canadian colonialism? What is the strategic significance of Indigenous resistance?

ZZ: Indigenous peoples must make alliances with other social sectors that also organize against the system.  The strategic significance of Indigenous peoples is their greater potential fighting spirit, stronger community basis of organizing, their ability to significantly impact infrastructure (such as railways, highways, etc, that pass through or near reserve communities) and their examples of resistance that can inspire other social movements. Continue reading

South Africa: Class Struggle, State Repression, and the tarnished myth of “the people’s” ANC

The Marikana Massacre and The South African State’s Low Intensity War Against The People
by Vishwas Satgar, Defending Popular Democracy

On Thursday, August 16, police officers fired into the crowd with automatic weapons. When it was over, 34 miners lay dead. Here, police check the bodies of dead mineworkers.

The massacre of the Marikana/Lonmin workers has inserted itself within South Africa’s national consciousness, not so much through the analysis, commentary and reporting in its wake.  Instead, it has been the power of the visual images of police armed with awesome fire power gunning down these workers, together with images of bodies lying defeated and lifeless, that has aroused a national outcry and wave of condemnation. These images  have also engendered international protest actions outside South African embassies. In themselves these images communicate a politics about ‘official state power’. It is bereft of moral concern, de-humanised, brutal and at odds with international human rights standards; in these ways it is no different from  apartheid era  state sponsored violence and technologies of oppressive rule.  Moreover, the images of police officers walking through the Marikana/Lonmin killing field, with a sense of professional accomplishment in its aftermath, starkly portrays a scary reality: the triumph of  South Africa’s state in its brutal conquest of its enemies, its citizens.

At the same time, the pain and suffering of the gunned down workers has became the pain of a nation and the world; this has happened even without the ANC government declaring we must not apportion blame but mourn the dead. In a world steeped in possessive individualism and greed, the brutal Marikana/Lonmin massacre reminds us of a universal connection; our common humanity.  However, while this modern human connection and sense of empathy is important, it is also superficial.  This is brought home by a simple truth: the pain of the Marikana/Lonmin workers is only our pain in their martyrdom. They had to perish for all of us to realise how deep social injustice has become inscribed in the everyday lives of post-apartheid South Africa’s workers and the poor. The low wage, super exploitation model of South African mining, socially engineered during apartheid, is alive and well, and thriving. It is condoned by the post-apartheid state. This is the tragic irony of what we have become as the much vaunted ‘Rainbow nation’. Continue reading

Bahrain: A world away from Manama

Bahrain’s impoverished villages see little benefit from billions of dollars being invested in the glimmering capital.

by Gregg Carlstrom

Karzakan, Bahrain — Driving through this cheerless village, 20 kilometres southwest of Manama, it is easy to understand why thousands of protesters have camped out in Pearl Roundabout for nearly a month.

Karzakan feels a world apart from Bahrain’s glimmering capital. A clutch of grim concrete buildings – a fruit and vegetable stand, a shawarma shop, a few construction firms – sit along the poorly-maintained main road. A group of schoolchildren ride by on the back of a pickup truck, chanting yasqat Hamad (“down with Hamad”) and bouncing up and down as the driver navigates the potholed street.

Many of Bahrain’s villages lack basic services – connections to the municipal sewage grid, regular garbage collection – and the stench of trash and waste hovers over some of Karzakan’s back alleys and side streets. Residents say the poor sanitation leads to occasional outbreaks of disease, particularly among young children. Continue reading