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The Land Grab

category indonesia / philippines / australia | indigenous struggles | opinion / analysis author Thursday October 04, 2007 09:26author by MACGauthor email macg1984 at yahoo dot com dot au Report this post to the editors

Working class needs to take action

Non-indigenous people in Australia live on stolen land and a just settlement requires the abolition of capitalist property and the allocation of rights over land on the basis social and environmental need.

A government report, “Little Children are Sacred”, tells of child abuse and other problems in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. It’s the latest in a series, the previous ones of which have been sat on by the Australian Government. This time, however, it’s different. The Prime Minister announces that it’s a national emergency and drastic measures need to be taken. He outlines a set of sweeping actions that, in official terms, turn indigenous policy in Australia around completely. If you don’t smell a rat in there somewhere, you haven’t been paying attention.

The Land Grab

The most publicised measures of the Howard Government in response to the indigenous crisis in the Northern Territory are the program of emergency medical examinations and the influx of police and military personnel. This, in itself, would be bad enough – soldiers are the world’s worst social workers and coppers are the second worst, while involuntary medical examinations are a form of serious assault and stigmatise an entire population as child abusers. The most serious measures, however, have received lesser attention.

While the furore over medical examinations has grabbed most headlines, the most important measures are the compulsory leasing of Aboriginal land and the abolition of the permit system. Howard, who has opposed indigenous land rights since they were first conceded by the State, now has a pretext for the biggest land grab in Australian history – and he’s taking it.

Abolishing the permit system, by which visitors to Aboriginal land needed the consent of the community concerned, will provide more opportunities to sexual predators and sly grog-runners. The take over of Aboriginal communities through imposed 5-year leases strips Aboriginal people of their communal ownership and is aimed at introducing capitalist real estate. These measures to wind back Aboriginal land rights and the overturning of the Racial Discrimination Act are cast iron proof that the Government is a pack of liars and has no intention of helping indigenous children.

The ALP Joins In

What is the ALP, the great champion of the underdog, saying while Howard is doing his worst? Giving “in principle” support, that’s what. As in almost every aspect of political life, they are showing no difference from the Liberals except in matters of emphasis. There is a reason for this. The ALP aims to manage the same capitalist system on behalf of the same capitalist class as the Liberals do. This requires similar policies when it’s something the capitalists seriously want. What the capitalists seriously want right now is to mine as much uranium as they can, so as to cash in on the boom in other minerals around the world in recent years. And, of course, most uranium deposits are on aboriginal land. The rash of uranium exploration companies which have listed on the Stock Exchange in the last couple of years don’t want anyone, least of all indigenous people, standing in the way of their dreams of wealth.

How to Fight Back

Aboriginal communities have reacted with almost complete unanimity in opposing the Government’s plans. This makes it much easier for non-indigenous people to be clear about the necessity of acting in solidarity with indigenous people and opposing this despicable land grab. Indigenous people, however, are a small minority and are often economically marginalised within capitalism. Only the working class has the social power to defeat the capitalist class, because of our numbers and the fact that economic production and the flow of profits cease if we stop work.

It is also in our interests as workers to come to the aid of indigenous people in their struggles, because we can only struggle successfully by fighting against all manifestations of racism and backwardness. Firstly, most indigenous people are now part of the working class. Even people in remote Aboriginal communities have been drawn in through Centrelink and the CDEP. Secondly, the scapegoating of indigenous people as responsible for their own problems covers up for the crimes of governments and capitalists, past and present.

Finally, the working class needs to take action because a solution to the plight of indigenous people is not possible without the same revolution to abolish capitalism that we need for so many other reasons. Non-indigenous people in Australia live on stolen land and a just settlement requires the abolition of capitalist property and the allocation of rights over land on the basis social and environmental need. To do that, the non-indigenous population would do well to learn from the 70,000 years of experience indigenous people have living in this island continent.

* Article taken from “The Anvil” – No3, September-October 2007 – newsletter of Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG).

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