Methods of Struggle on the Land Question
LALIT held a half-day open meeting on the ongoing campaign to gain popular control over all the land and sea, and all their riches. The gathering was held on Sunday, Independance Day, the 12 March, at the LPT Mother Earth Hall.
Lindsey Collen spoke on the methods of struggle we have used – in particular, during the year since we began the phase of the struggle on the Land Question that opposes the Government strategy around new so-called Smart Cities and re-vamped Integrated Resort Schemes.
She began by saying how “land”, under capitalist reign, is an ongoing incarnation of “capital”, itself. So, when we turn our struggle to who actually controls the land that nurtures us all, we are in fact posing the question of who controls capital, at the same time. This means we have many enemies: big capital, the bourgeois State, and the whole ideological structure that intentionally conflates private property with social property, calling them both “private”, even though one is socially produced and socially developed, and even though it is necessary for the survival of all of us not just those who have somehow expropriated it over time. This means that we have to build up a huge amount of knowledge at the grassroots, a massive will amongst working people, and cannot just rely on centralized efforts.
When we oppose capital in this way at a nation-wide level at the same time, the very idea is so audacious that it is often mis-interpreted. What we in LALIT say is not what people hear. For years, every time we referred to the need to have democratic control over sugar estate land – which is the quasi-totality of good arable land – people in academia and in the press “hear” us saying that we want to ensure that a portion of State-controlled beach is not encroached upon! The selling off of the beach is also important. But, it is much easier for the people to get the State to take back a tiny bit of State beach-front from a pundit-party agent who was running a small restaurant there than to challenge sugar bosses’ control over what is planted on the whole of the arable land of the main island, or over how many workers get to get jobs linked to production on the land, and over generalized food security. So, the intellectual classes prefer to hear us saying the State must not lease beaches. This means that we need particularly deep common understandings amongst those of us in the struggle, Lindsey said.
And an additional reason for the difficulty in this struggle is that there has been a triple-pronged attack against the precise kind of political struggle that is necessary to challenge who controls the economy – and this has taken place over some 40 years. In other words, we are up against some defeats of the past half-century.
Firstly, “politics” has been completely dissected from “the economy” and placed by status quo ideologues in the compromising position of not being able to address the main problem. The bosses, the employers, the capitalists are the ones who are “in charge of the economy”, is what is now the current fashion to believe. Academics, the Press, trade unions – the whole intelligentsia has ceded the only important part of politics to the invisible (but real) rulers of the day, finance capitalists.
Secondly, “politics” has simultaneously been put in quarantine – away from undefiled people – because it is so putrid with corruption. “Good people” are supposed to stay out of it, turn their noses up against it with a certain pride. Thus people have further ceded “eternal” power to those capitalists who already wield it, by pure voluntary abdication.
Thirdly, NGOs have been encouraged to become so ubiquitous by the powers-that-be on condition that they operate with very tame, vague aims and impotent means. Capitalists fund them to do this non-political, a-political, work that is mainly useless, though it can be dangerous for working people. In particular, NGOs take on only single issues divorced from political context, or class context – never broad political challenges. They patch up the unbearable wounds on society’s body. They fill in the gaps as the State washes its hands of any responsibility. Then, and this is directly related to single issue-dom, NGOs take money from capitalists and the bourgeois State, which then quite naturally control them. He who pays the piper calls the tune. And finally, NGOs have ruined their own reputations by often taking money from capitalists, even competitor capitalists. For example, in opposing one hotel project in the South, an NGO Eco-Sud takes money from very neighbouring hotels that the new one would compete with! They announce this on their web-site, as though it poses no problem.
So, this means we have, in all our actions, to be very clear, and very political – in the most noble sense of the word. We must have demands, political demands that are part of a program. The right-wing relies on “values” instead of programs – simply because “values” are vague enough to hardly count. For us, we must check that every struggle we engage in advances (never impedes) our general program, Lindsey Collen said. So, every demand has to be considered in terms of the effect it has, and will have. We need to maintain the kind of flexibility that Ram [Seegobin] outlined in his description of the phases of the struggle on the land question, over time. (See article “LALIT’s campaign so far on the Land Question”.) It goes without saying, we need, in order to win, to keep ourselves independent of the ruling class.
And finally, it is important to note that this real estate business, this speculation on land, this phenomenon of “gated communities”, is part of finance capital that rules today. It rules not just over working people, and the broad masses of unemployed people, but also over other sectors of capital.
Lindsey then suggested that we should be alarmed by this new form of colonization that the IRSs, Smart Cities, and “gated communities” actually represent. She called on everyone present to do a tiny bit of research on how many people in the Emirates, in particular Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are from the country, and how many are ex-patriates who have bought up land and business premises and settled in colonial fashion, and how many work as migrants with no proper work conditions. It is from 80% to 90% non-citizens by birth! And it is important, at the same time, to bear in mind that this kind of destruction of whole peoples is possible there only because the Emirates are dictatorships of the worst kind: absolute monarchies.
All this to say, we are up against big enemies and vast world-wide tendencies. But the work has to be done. And it is political work. And it involves a great deal of thought-and-action.
So, here goes.
Types of political action
We have a number of types of political action that we routinely use, and that we always try to use creatively. Most of the list below have been used in our struggle on the land question. The list can be a basis for our discussion afterwards, she said. As we learn about the issues ourselves, we share what we learn with others, and we draw in others to help with the campaign. This is how it will build up strength. The more people we recruit to LALIT, through the campaign as it grows, and the more branches that are formed and become regular, the bigger the campaign can become, and then allow further recruitment. These are all things we know, she said, but we don’t often discuss like this.
- Leaflet distribution – at neighbourhood level, at work-site level, nation-wide.
- Pasting up posters – in one area on a localized issue, nation-wide.
- Holding Public Forums – our campaign has involved us in two Public Forums in the past year.
- Small neighbourhood meetings – we have held 25 or more over the past year.
- Publishing a regular bi-monthly publication – this is the theoretical basis of the campaign, as well as the main method of sharing neighbourhood struggles.
- Press Conferences – we have held some four over the past year, in the land campaign.
- Press Communiques
- An updated web-site
- Open letters – by post, as by e-mail
- E-mail “leafletting”
- Publishing Books – early in our campaign we published a book.
- Producing Films – in 2006, we produced a 20-minute film.
- Petitions – our land campaign has involved three neighbourhood petitions over the past year.
- Outdoor meetings
- Demonstrations (The last three involve a lot of simultaneous progress in the other methods mentioned higher up before they become useful for anything more than standing in a city square and at the very apex of their usefulness force one particular head of state to resign, often heralding in a military dictatorship soon after.)
Each of these forms of struggle becomes something rather different when we imagine it as not just “leaflet distribution”, but “a campaign of leaflet distribution”, not just “posters” but a whole poster campaign. We can discuss that too. And how different methods can be linked together, too.
So, this next year, when we come to planning it, later in today’s gathering, Lindsey said, we will be building on a common understanding of the political work already done, and which can be built upon. We can also have a common idea of the possible methods of struggle and how to fine-tune them, given our one year’s experience of this particular campaign, and how to bring deeper mobilization when holding new meetings, for example, in the same areas, and how to use all the methods more creatively.