Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Politics of Solidarity: Six Nations, Leadership, and the Settler Left

The European settlers who colonized most of North America, were themselves uprooted from the land through capitalist enclosure and the commodification of land and labour – a process later exported to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the rest of the world. By becoming small farmers and independent commodity producers in the early stages of Canadian development, poor and working class settlers in North America clearly benefited from the theft of indigenous lands. However, over the past 100 years, capitalism has extended and intensified its reach. Non-native people have become increasingly concentrated in large cities (Canada has the most urbanized population per capita in the world) and have been integrated into the capitalist system as workers. Because of the inherently exploitative dynamics of capitalism, workers in North America have faced a decline in living standards since the neo-liberal offensive of the late 1970s.

As William Robinson has argued, the contemporary resurgence of indigenous struggle in the Americas is happening as the few remaining autonomous indigenous communities are being forced into compliance with the demands of capitalist world market. This market seeks to commodify their labour and their land. At the same time, it seeks to drive down living standards and commodify the lives of non-native people as well. These pressures are just as evident on the Haldimand tract as they are in Canada's far north, in the mountains of Chiapas, or in the jungles of the Amazon. Traditional indigenous resistance to enclosure and commodification is increasingly assuming a directly anti-capitalist character. When this resistance takes place in large urban areas where a relatively small proportion of settlers directly occupy the land in question, new opportunities for joint struggles arise. Doing this kind of work will not be easy. Building radical organizations and combating white racism within predominantly white communities, workplaces, and political organization will be particularly hard. But it remains necessary task as a pre-condition to building meaningful solidarity with indigenous struggles.

Read this article by Tom Keefer via Whenua, Fenua, Enua, Vanua (originally published here), discussing how non-native activists can support indigenous struggles, like that of the Six Nations reclamation in Caledonia, breaking away from the "leadership" model, and turning towards work within our own comminities as well as alliances with indigenous communities. It is a long article, but worth the read.


Scott Neigh said...

Hey Jenny...just to add citation information, since the site where you found this seems to have omitted it: this article was originally published in Upping the Anti issue #4, its author's name is Tom Keefer, and it was originally reproduced online here.

Dirk Buchholz said...

Jenny you posted..."breaking away from the "leadership" model, and turning towards work within our own communities as well as alliances with indigenous communities"....

Exactly right,another thing non-indigenous allies can do,is work towards breakingc down the racism and intolerance within their own ethnic group.Speak up every time a friend,brother,sister,parent etc etc mouth bullshit.
Most of all listen to indigenous people,understand before opening one mouth

Red Jenny said...

Thanks Scott. I have updated the post to reflect the proper citation.

and Thanks Dirk for your input. I agree with you, that this is an important role for allies. It is the one which takes little organization or time, and even if not always successful it is important to try to address racism and sexism within groups of privilege.