In Aotearoa (1), one of the major forms of social struggle is the indigenous Māori (2) struggling to reclaim the land stolen from them by the New Zealand colonial government as part of the capitalist settler colonisation of Aotearoa (3). Since 2015, the greatest land struggle in a decade has been happening at Ihumātao (4) in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland (5), where Māori and non-Māori from the Save Our Unique Landscape/SOUL (6) campaign have been occupying the land to stop the capitalist construction firm Fletchers from beginning a socially and environmentally harmful housing development (7) and return the land to mana whenua (8). This land struggle is the most recent event in Ihumātao’s long history.
800 years ago, Ihumātao was one of the first places where Māori arrived and established settlements in Aotearoa, in the area now known as the Ōtuataua Stonefields (9). There, they cultivated 8,000 hectares of land to grow kūmara, taro, yams and gourds to feed themselves and later the British settlers/Pākehā (10) when they began to colonise Tāmaki Makaurau to create Auckland following the signing of Te Tiriti O Waitangi (11) between some Māori hapū/sub-tribes (12) and the British Empire. However, such co-operation between Māori and Pākehā did not last, as the drive to accumulate capital inherent to capitalism led to the New Zealand government using various means to transform communal Māori land into state and private land, including the Native Land Court, land sales and war, in Aotearoa’s version of the enclosure of the commons (13).
When the Waikato War, part of the broader New Zealand Wars (14), began in 1863 between the New Zealand Government, led by Governor George Grey, their Māori allies the Kūpapa/Queenitanga (15) and the Kingitanga/King movement (16) that wanted Te Tiriti to be honoured, a British official was sent to Ihumātao and demanded that the Māori there take an oath of allegiance to the Crown and give up arms or be expelled to the Waikato (17). The Māori there refused, and in response the Crown illegally confiscated Ihumātao (18) and in 1869 gave it to the Pākehā family the Wallace’s to be developed into a capitalist farm, while the Māori there were left landless and destitute.
Over the course of the 20th century, while the Wallace’s were running their farm, in the surrounding land (19) from 1960 to 2000 the Māngere Wastewater Treatment Plant was built, polluting the air, water and sea bed, volcanoes are quarried for airport construction and Auckland’s road network. In 2009, Auckland Airport’s second runway construction leads to the bulldozing of a 600 year old urupā/grave site (20) on the Manukau Harbour foreshore, unearthing 89 graves. In 2012, Auckland Council tried to make the land a public space, but this was challenged in the Environment Court (21) and they had to rezone the land for future economic development. In February 2014, the local iwi/tribe Te Kawerau ā Maki (22) signed a treaty settlement (23) with the Government (24) to settle breaches of Te Tirti by the Government. In July 2014, the Government and Auckland Council designated 32 hectares adjacent to the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve as Special Housing Area/SHA 62 (25) for a future housing development.
When this was announced, Ihumātao local Pania Newton (26) along with several of her cousins, formed SOUL (27) in 2015 to stop the rezoning. In 2016, the Wallace’s sold the land to capitalist construction firm Fletcher’s (28), which planned to construct 480 homes. In response, in November 2016 SOUL began their occupation of the land (29) and demanded that Fletcher end their plans and that SHA 62 be dissolved. A month later, Joe Hawke, leader of the Bastion Point occupation (30), visited to support the occupation and provide advice. For the next three years, SOUL would use a diversity of tactics to try and stop Fletcher’s plans, including going to the United Nations (31), taking Fletcher’s to the Environment Court (32) as well as taking petitions to Parliament in Wellington/Pōneke (33) and to Auckland Council (34) with this all being complemented with an extensive (35) social media (36) campaign (37). However, none of these measures succeeded, with Fletcher’s development going ahead. In response, Te Kawerau ā Maki negotiated with Fletchers (38) to set aside some of the homes to be for the iwi and then supported the development, claiming that this was the best deal possible and that SOUL weren’t mana whenua.
With no more obstacles facing it, Fletcher’s now tried to begin construction at Ihumātao, with the Police being sent on 23rd July 2019 to Ihumātao to serve eviction notices and arrest three protestors (39). When this happened, the three years of SOUL’s campaigning now bore fruit, with hundreds arriving to blockade Ihumātao (40) to prevent construction from beginning, with members from Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists (41) being amongst them. Due to holding this blockade (42) the Government, after initially saying that they wouldn’t intervene (43) on 24th July then said on 26th July that construction at Ihumātao would stop (44) while a solution was being negotiated between Te Kawerau ā Maki, Fletchers and Auckland Council.
Unfortunately SOUL was not invited to negotiations and they continued the blockade due to this as well as due to the Police and Fletcher’s remaining at Ihumātao, with the katiaki/protectors (45) of Ihumātao being able to push the blockade line closer to Ihumātao (46) while also facing an increased police presence by 5th August. On the following day, there was a national day of actions in solidarity with the reclamation of Ihumātao (47). This helped keep pressure on Fletcher’s and the Government after the Kingitanga offered to hold a hui (48) between SOUL and Te Kawerau ā Maki to come to a common position on Ihumātao that both sides accepted.
As the negotiations continued, the blockade held, with the majority of the Police withdrawing from Ihumātao (49) on 16th August, while SOUL organised a hikoi/march (50) to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Mount Albert office to get her to visit Ihumātao, which she refused to do. The negotiations ended on 18th September, with SOUL and Te Kawerau ā Maki agreeing that Ihumātao should be returned to mana whenua (51). Since mid-September 2019, negotiations have continued, although SOUL have been locked out of them (52). However, there are positive signs that a resolution may be reached soon, with the Government stating on 16th November that it’s considering loaning Auckland Council money to purchase Ihumātao from Fletcher’s (53) to turn it into a public space, while Pania Newton announced on 23rd December that a resolution would be announced soon (54). This great news led to Ihumātao having a very Meri Kirhimete/Merry Christmas in 2019 (55).
The struggle for Ihumātao in 2020 started well with Fletcher’s removing their fences (56) at Ihumātao. In addition, there was an expectation that a resolution would be reached (57) before Waitangi Day, with the Kingitangi lowering their flag from Ihumātao to symbolise, as their work in helping to resolve this struggle had finished. Unfortunately, Waitangi Day 2020 came and went without a resolution being announced. However, the Kingitanga said following Waitangi Day 2020 that a resolution was imminent (58), but that some work still needed to be done to finalise the resolution.
This work continued throughout 2020 until 17th December 2020 (59), when it was announced that the Government would purchase Ihumātao from Fletcher Building for $30 million under the Government’s Land for Housing programme. This was done as part of a Memorandum of Understanding/He Pūmautanga that was signed by the Kingitanga, the Government and Auckland Council which set out how they would decide the land’s future. In the Memorandum, it was agreed that the land should be used for housing, which could take on various forms, including state housing, mana whenua housing or Papakāinga housing (60). The Memorandum also clarified that the agreement does not amount to a new Treaty settlement to ensure it didn’t re-open the previous Treaty settlement, as all Treaty settlements are considered full and final. In addition, the Memorandum outlined that a steering committee, or Rōpu Whakahaere, made up of three ahi kā/those with links to the land (61) representatives who are supported by the Kingitanga, one Kingitanga representative and two Government representatives, would be formed to co-govern the land. The steering committee will engage in talks for a period of five years to make the ultimate decision on the future ownership and use of the land, with one possible option being returning the land to mana whenua (62). Pania Newton (62) said at the time that the deal was a good first step and that it would be up to whānau to decide what to do with the land, although she said it wouldn’t necessarily be used for housing.
Since the deal was reached, as of 17th March 2021 (63), the steering committee has not yet been formed as the ahi kā representatives and Kingitanga representatives have not been selected yet. In addition, on 20th April 2021 (64), the Auditor-General announced that the Government’s purchase of Ihumātao was unlawful and Parliament needed to pass legislation to make it lawful to resolve this technical error. What both these reports show is that while mana whenua have won an important battle, the struggle for Ihumātao is not over yet.
Looking back (65), SOUL’s campaign to #ProtectIhumātao has been a phenomenal success, with them being able to transform their initially small reclamation action into a direct action campaign that has created a mass movement in Tāmaki Makaurau and across Aotearoa to stop Fletcher’s housing development backed by an excellent social media campaign. It’s also led to a new approach to Māori politics, with a new generation seeking to engage in direct action to return stolen land instead of relying on corporate iwi structures (to the exclusion of hapū) negotiating with the Government to get treaty settlements that provide monetary compensation and only return Government land, enriching a new Māori capitalist class (66).
However, there is still a long road to reaching a final resolution to this struggle. In addition, the Government ensured that the Memorandum did not set a precedent to return private land to Māori in future treaty settlements (67). If that had happened, then all stolen land in Aotearoa could possibly be returned to Māori, destabilising one of the pillars of settler colonial capitalism in Aotearoa: private and state land ownership. Despite this, SOUL’s campaign to reclaim Ihumātao has put into practice the anti-colonial cry from the Māori rangatira/chief Rewi Maniapoto (68) during the Waikato War: 'Ka whawhai tonu mātou, Ake! Ake! Ake! - We will fight on for ever and ever!'
Coincidentally, I started reading this book two days before an MEP from Scotland called Churchill a 'white supremacist mass murder' on twitter - a statement I already agreed with from what I knew of him. I didn't start this book completely uninformed, I certainly didn't think much of Churchill beforehand, knowing what I did about his opinions on India (amongst other places and people), and I had heard the odd quote from Amery in passing, however, reading Madhusree Mukerjee's book was eye-opening and the extent of which the Bengali famine could have been avoided, is both heart breaking and infuriating. Even more so within the context of the British cultural show of admiration for a man who deserves nothing but condemnation for being a racist, imperialist piece of scum.
It is a tough a read. It took me over a month, stopping and starting when it got too heavy and the statistics tired me down. I guess that is the nature of a book like this. The book is filled with sources and footnotes; however, I have to be honest and say I have not checked these sources so can't confirm their reliability. However, the fact that are so many provided, from so many different sources, certainly seems a good thing; maybe one day I will get around to looking at the primary sources. The author, who is Indian herself, also talks to survivors of the famine and relatives, which adds a more personal touch to a very dense book.
The books main focus is on the Bengali famine of 1943, where according to most sources, roughly 3 million people died. Mukerjee analyses the British response regarding food shortages at the time - many of the issues leading to which were caused by prior British policies and also the general disdain members of the British government felt for South Asians which lead to a lack of action. However, the book also looks at this within the wider context of World War Two and at British policy in India on a broader scale, including the potential invasion of Japanese ships, British efforts to divide religious persons to try to combat opposition to colonial rule and India’s huge contributions to the war effort.
Between Churchill and his aide, Cherwell, a eugenics fan and supremacist himself, it is clear that their neglect of this issue was not based on either ignorance nor necessity (whatever that actually means…but that’s a whole other blog post) but their racist, colonial attitudes and their personal hatred towards Indian people, particularly Hindus. This tragedy could have been prevented at numerous times by the British government but it was allowed to take place due to ideological reasoning, convenience and a desire to discredit, and weaken those who opposed British rule. Of course, this attitude wasn’t exclusive to India, it is part of Churchill’s wider attitude towards colonised peoples, the working-class and anyone who was non-white.
As I say, this is a tough read and it isn't a pleasant read either. However, in my opinion this is an important book about a subject that is often overlooked or defended as a necessary tragedy. I would recommend this book to anyone who is British or has an interest in learning more about the horrors of British imperialism; this book is about a man who is often idolised by politicians and media and a lot of discourse is left behind in favour of the old troupe 'he fought the Nazi's so he must be great'. I can’t imagine anyone reading this review is a fan of Churchill anyway, but for a more in-depth analysis of his role in the famine of 1943 this is book is great addition. ■
NorthernJam is an Anarchist and Feminist from reet up North. Passionate about cross stitching, reading and the downfall of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
Churchill's Secret War. Published by Tranquebar Press 2010 . Written by Madhusree Mukerjee.
The counterinsurgency strategy in regions populated by first peoples supporting the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) has intensified since President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador’s (AMLO) administration took power in Mexico, according to human rights watch groups deployed in Chiapas. In a report published on May 2, 2019, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center, (“Frayba”) stressed that in April alone, army units conducted 14 incursions into the territory surrounding La Realidad Caraol in the Lacandón rainforest.
Among the operations that were spotted, observers saw military patrols with tanks. In January, just days after the EZLN released a strong critique of AMLO’s government from La Realidad, soldiers entered the community four different times and conducted another four helicopter flyovers.
According to the watch groups’ report, personnel from the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena, its Spanish acryonym), dressed as civilians, had entered La Realidad to ask about the EZLN’s activities.
The Denunciations Increase
On April 10, 2019, during the commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of Emiliano Zapata’s assassination, the EZLN decried that, with the new government, “the military, police, and paramilitary presence has increased, as has that of spies, listening ears and informants. This, on top of the appearance of airplane and helicopter flyovers, “as well as armored vehicles, like in the times of Carlos Salinas de Gortari” [translator: Mexican president in office at the time of the Zapatista declaration of war.]
María de Jesús Patricio, spokeswoman of the Indigenous Government Council (Consejo Indígena de Gobierno), read the text, which was signed by Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés. “They show up in the communities saying that war is coming and that they’re just waiting for orders from ‘way up.’ Some of them make themselves pass for what they’re not and never will be, in order to learn the supposed ‘military plans’ of the EZLN. Perhaps ignoring the fact that the EZLN does what it says and says what it does… or perhaps because the plan is to set up a provocation and then blame the EZLN.”
Thus they asserted that López Obrador is really just acting like his predecessors, “but now he changes the justification: today, the persecution, harassment, and attack on our communities is ‘for the good of everyone’ and it’s done under the banner of the supposed ‘Fourth Transformation.'” [Translator: The Fourth Transformation is AMLO’s term for supposed broad changes in Mexican politics under his leadership. The first three “transformations” were independence from Spain, the reform laws of Benito Juárez, and the Mexican Revolution.]
This militarization that persists in Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s new federal government and Rutilio Escandón Cadenas’s new state government represents an assault on the lives of First Peoples’ communities in Chiapas that defend their right to autonomy, self-determination, and territory.
It’s worth recalling that on May 2, 2014, during the same action in which José Luis Solis López was extrajudicially executed, members of the Historic Independent Union of Agricultural Workers and Peasants (Central Independiente de Obreros Agrícolas y Campesinos-Histórica, a campesino organization and paramilitary group) destroyed the school and the autonomous clinic, also threatening to dismantle the Madre de los Caracoles del Mar de Nuestros Sueños (Mother of the Sea of Our Dreams Caracoles, another name for La Realidad Caracol). That action was a pretext for the Sedena to intensify militarization, which the Frayba pointed out was an act of intimidation, instead of looking for justice and for civil and peaceful means to resolve the conflict.0
One of the Causes: Mining and Megaprojects
This isn’t the first time this year that the
human rights group, based in San Cristóbal de las Casas, has
denounced military actions against organizations against communities
that defend their territories in Chiapas, in the south of
During the Women’s Rights are also Human Rights land defenders’ encuentro, which took place March 23, 2019 in the community of Lázaro Cárdenas, in Chicomuselo municipality, they denounced espionage actions against the activists and human rights defenders present at the event.
“Members of the Mexican Army’s 101st Infantry Battalion carried out acts of espionage during the encuentro. Victorino Morales Morales and Alejandro Yera Reyes, soldiers dressed as civilians, surveilled and photographed the activity, which was called for by the Women’s Diocese Coordination (Coordinación Diocesana de Mujeres, CODIMU), of the San Pedro and San Pablo Parish… this constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of association, as well as a risk to the personal safety and security of those who defend human rights in Chicomuselo,” the organization stated to local media. In that region of the Chiapan Sierra Madre, people are organizing against mining activity by a Canadian company called Blackfire that extracts baryte, titanium, and magnetite in several regions of Chiapas.
The parish of San Pedro and San Pablo, located in the municipal capital, has questioned the investment in construction of a military base in the vicinity, which would give soldiers easy access to the municipalities of Frontera Comalapa, Chicomuselo and La Concordia. “The huge investment of public funds in the construction and maintenance of a base raises questions for us, in a time where there are no resources to give Mexicans access to basic necessities like health, education, and water,” declared the campesinos who oppose the project. The project is currently suspended.
There are at least 99 mining concessions in Chiapas, spanning 15% of the state’s territory. Some of them are found in buffer zones for important protected natural areas like the El Triunfo and Encrucijada reserves in the Soconusco region.Hydrocarbon extraction projects and the installation of geothermic power plants remain active in the Zoque region in the north of the state, as do mini-hydroelectric plants and wind farms in the coastal-isthmus region.
Written by Ñaní Pinto This article was originally shared on the 7 May, 2019 on Avispa Midia, you can see the original here.
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