Land-grabbing and militarism is the theme of this Broken Rifle, a theme that it is as timely as ever. As I write, activists in South Korea are using their bodies to blockade the construction of a military base in Jeju Island - as reported in Angie Zelter's article.
Nonviolent Movements Against Land Grab and Militarism
By Howard Clark
From the men of property the order came:
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers' claim.
"Tear down their cottages. Destroy their corn!"
They were dispersed but still the vision carries on.
- Lines from Leon Rosselson's song celebrating the Diggers and their struggle for land in 17th century England
For five years, the Gangjeong villagers on the Island of Jeju, Republic of Korea (ROK/South Korea), have nonviolently and bravely resisted the construction of a naval base on their land. The proposed ROK naval base would cover 50 hectares of prime agricultural land and would be available for unlimited use by the United States (US) navy and military and would be used to host aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and AEGIS warships that are part of the US anti-ballistic missile defence (MD) system. It is also likely that the base would be used in the conflict with China that the US is planning and openly preparing for. The US Space Command have been computer war-gaming a first-strike attack on China (set in the year 2016) and the MD (really missile offence) is a key part of US first-strike strategy. MD systems have also proven to be capable anti-satellite weapons and they are driving a new arms race with Russia and China.
North European Aerospace Testrange (NEAT), Europe's largest overland military training area, covers 24 000 sq km of space in northern Sweden, right above the land that historically belongs to and still is used by the indigenous people of Sweden, the Saami. The land areas where the bombs are dropped during military exercises are the same areas where the reindeers are herded. According to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples”, but if so, the indigenous people need to be consulted through an official channel. This did not happen before military exercises started at NEAT.
In India, the most publicized land-movement was the Bhoodhan movement. In the 1950s and 60s, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, Vinobha Bhave walked across the country asking for land as gift. His strategy was to ask land-owning families to treat him as one of their own and give him one share of the land which can then be redistributed to the landless people. It took 14 years for him to walk across the country and collect a little more than 4 million acres of land. This was a very radical approach based on his philosophy of 'change of heart'.
As the British Empire collapsed, USA expanded into parts of it. When the USA-UK decided in the 1960’s to install a massive military base on one of the Indian Ocean Islands making up Mauritius, that is to say, on the Island of Diego Garcia, in order to implement this decision, they committed a number of crimes.
International Study Conference, Darmstadt, Germany 8-10 June, 2012
War Resisters' International is organising an international study conference on countering the militarisation of youth, in cooperation with German partner organisations and supported by the German teachers union (GEW). The conference will not just look at military recruitment and counter-recruitment actions, but will take a much broader view on the militarisation of youth, the creation of a culture and value system favourable to recruitment.
Despite decades of anti-colonial civilian resistance in Africa, a pernicious movement of land acquisition is overtaking the continent at a rate unprecedented since the conquests of the 19th Century. In a low-profile manner, significantly more than 125 million acres of land—more than double the size of Britain—has been sold to wealthy investors or foreign governments since 2010. With China and India leading the list of national purchasers, and Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan amongst the leading multinational corporate plunderers, the countries most affected by recent sales include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Oxfam International has reported that, in some cases, land has been sold for less than forty cents an acre.