What Will The Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism Mean?
This piece returns to Michiel Bijkerk's letter but it is neither a critique nor pure agreement; rather, it is an agreement with a difference. The GroundUp agrees that the Moluccan case needs to be resolved by the U.N. and that there does need to be a new understanding of reality but we differ on what a "new understanding of reality" entails. Regardless, his imperative is crucial: Read this Report about the Moluccan struggle!
The United Nations General Assembly (General Assembly) Fourth Committee (also known as the Special Political and Decolonization Committee or SPECPOL or C4) is one of six main committees of the General Assembly. On Oct. 9, 2009 SPECPOL during the sixth session evening meeting debated on decolonization issues.
Member states were concerned that numerous colonized territories were still not provided the aid and reassurance that they would eventually have the right to self-determination despite the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism about to wrap up in 2010 (in 1990, the General Assembly proclaimed 1990–2000 the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism). Ethiopia’s representative stressed that some administering powers were unwilling to cooperate with the Special Committee on Decolonization, which he called a “flagrant violation of the right to self-determination.”
The end of 2020 nears and so to the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Come December the General Assembly will proclaim 2020-2030 the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. And what does this mean in relation to realpolitik statesmanship? Well, seeing as how many of its member states are colonizers themselves, the coming Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism might mean very little. This is so for many reasons. The first reason as Ethiopia's representative argued about ten years ago is that the international community operates in bad hope that the ascriptive and at times self interested United Nations (U.N.) advocacy strategy is always operating in the interests of the total international community and not its personal interest, which is either concomitant to the interests of founder states or other state giants or the unique persona of the U.N. wholly separate from its member states. The second reason is that the international human rights regime and the ideological corpus that define NGOs are at best neoliberal and at worst fascist (which means that organizations that are provided aid must meet criteria for worthiness for aid from the NGOs and this worthiness in some way must be conducive to the NGOs ideological corpus; meaning, for example that the Venezuela Anarchist Black Cross during the Maduro-Guaidó political crisis would not receive funding for insurgent struggle to pursue self-determination when the former actor kills peasants and the latter opens the door for neo-colonialism via state giants like the u.s. who intend on vulturing Venezuela). The third reason, discussed earlier in this paragraph is that flat out many member states of the UN are colonizers.
The GroundUp in the past has made the claim (and successfully proven) that the u.s. is an abuser to Mexico and Latino/a/xs, Hispanic people, Chicano/a/xs, migrants and immigrants but is it the case that the U.N. is an abuser? That is not a question that we will answer. The Groundup's position on internationalism is of course anti-imperial so it is sufficient for us to say that organizations of any size and states of any size that enable or utilize colonization are abusive. But our answering the question is the U.N. abusive is not the purpose of this piece. The purpose of this piece is also not to engage in socialist bannerism. Socialist bannerism is when citizens of state giants address anti-imperialism by means of a banner of solidarity or a march or rally in solidarity with the oppressed people of another country. To be absolutely clear: If citizens of a state giant are not funding resistance operations or traveling to aid persons combating oppression they are wasting time with their "solidarity" effort. A "solidarity" effort without real material engagement is mental masturbation and is not politically real. We also advocate against some fantasy of hand in hand world socialism (is world socialism possible and is it a desire of The GroundUp? Yes! But are there a lot of LARPing socialists alienated from the fact that the process towards it should not be "SOLIDARITY! ARE YOU IN EXACT ALLEGIANCE WITH MY EXACT BELIEFS!?" even at the local level? Yes.
And social realities such as local loyalties and cultural barriers militate against a quick process towards internationalism and if any socialist internationalism is to be desired it should not be desired in a homogenous way as there should be autonomy but agreement in core values (especifismo). There should also be an understanding that all states (or post-states) and all cultures and all communities are composed of real, material people and therefore since rupture and repair exist in inter-subjective space the same goes for larger structures of political reality and their engagement with other larger structures. With that being said, the question of what the U.N. is has been addressed by Michiel Bijkerk who wrote to us recently about the Moluccan struggle. After Michiel Bijkerk's address we will continue to address how the coming Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism might amount to very little in terms of truly liberatory global politics while also encouraging fellow socialists to step up their activity and be more pragmatic and less LARPy about revolution and we will also encourage people involved with NGOs in the human rights sphere to aid socialists and anarchists as we have the right to self-determination:
The U.N. is irrelevant. When Bush-II suggested this back in 2002, it was hard to swallow. Now it is a fact. Launched after World War II, the U.N. began pushing the decolonization process. One could argue that this was a success. After all, many former colonies have become independent countries. At the time this was considered a great step forward towards peace, democracy and human rights. However, now 75 years later, it can no longer be maintained that this was indeed a success. The situation in many newly independent countries could hardly be worse. They have become economic and social disasters, corruption is rife and the level of democracy, peace and human rights is depressive to say the least, resulting in inevitable mass-migrations.
We need a completely new understanding of reality. Take the Moluccan case, for instance. That’s in the news again now due to a recent complaint to the Human Rights Council by an independent research-foundation (Federalism for Peace Foundation) stating the obvious and undeniable truth that Indonesia has been colonizing the South-Moluccas for 70 years now in full view and with the tacit approval of the U.N., which is supposed to promote decolonization!
Well, if the U.N. wants to be taken seriously, this is clearly not the way to go about it. And, by the way, the following countries are among the members of the Human Rights Council: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Libya, Mauritania, Indonesia and Venezuela. The first four of these are more or less in a permanent state of war. And while it is true that Mauritania finally abolished slavery in 1981 (yes, we kid you not), it was only made punishable there by law in 2007. And estimates are that there are still tens of thousands of slaves there. Indonesia has been colonizing the South-Moluccas for 70 years now and Venezuela, our beloved neighbor, has been accused of grave human rights violations by this very same Human Rights Council, while happily continuing to be a full member of this same U.N.-body!
If the U.N. believes to be boosting its credibility in this way, they are living in fantasy land. And as a matter of fact, it is not only the U.N. that has lost its credibility. We only have to listen to Trump for five minutes to understand that the World is in deep trouble. A total collapse is to be expected. Add to this the severe and obscene inequality of wealth and income, the dire threat to the environment with humanity’s very survival in the balance, the new arms race and last but not least severe corruption and rising criminality in an increasingly overpopulated world. And then in the midst of all this the Corona-virus has decided to go for a stroll around the globe. So, it must be time to die, don’t you think?
No, because all of a sudden there is this Report on the South-Moluccas, drafted by a number of dedicated people who have worked for years to be able to file a well-founded and detailed complaint with the Human Rights Council against Indonesia, aiming to pave the way for the Moluccan people to finally be given their own independent state. And they did this for the love of Truth and Justice. So while the night is pitch-dark there is still one twinkling star left. There is no need to die. For if there are still people who work this hard for a just cause, there is still hope!
However, the Report is much more than this. It focuses on the Moluccan case and explains in detail why the Moluccans have always had the right to form their own state. But it also gives the U.N. a chance to become relevant again. To stop glossing over the human rights violations by its own members and to expel Indonesia, if it does not grant the Moluccans the freedom they are entitled to. And the Report offers more suggestions on how the U.N. may rehabilitate itself by doing what this World-Organization was originally set up for. It is better to have fewer members than to maintain all of them and be forced to play the clown!
It is absolutely necessary that everybody should read this Report. Google it under the Federalism for Peace Foundation. Title: "From Cold Case to Hot Case."
Mr. M. Bijkerk
Bijkerk makes a very clear argument for how persuasive efforts like Federalism For Peace Foundation can be via their commitment to ideals that states will ignore because they pursue their self interest. A report like "From Cold Case To Hot Case: Why and How the United Nations Can and Must Free the Moluccan People" delivered to the U.N. can have the consequence of reminding Indonesia that state self interest often interferes with the self-determination of the people addressed by the state and will in the long game make it harder to pursue self-interest (because of the threat of insurgency and international intervention). And of course, the Moluccan struggle is one that should end with the emergence of a Moluccan state. But if we are really wanting to have a new understanding of political reality what we at The GroundUp want to suggest is of course, give the Moluccan people a state in this current system but then explore the very global neo-monarchism that operates via the game played with world organizations.
We've made bold two sections (and one part of the second bold section we made the color of the letters red) of Bijkerk's letter for two reasons. The first reason is that all countries on the Human Rights Council exist in trauma and all countries in the inter-subjective space of international politics exist in ceaseless rupture and repair with one another. And that is to say that we disagree that "Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Libya, Mauritania, Indonesia and Venezuela" should not be part of the Human Rights Council. We made clear earlier that The GroundUp in the past has made the claim (and successfully proven) that the u.s. is an abuser to Mexico and Latino/a/xs, Hispanic people, Chicano/a/xs, migrants and immigrants. The u.s. is an abuser or oppresor to a multitude of states and the u.s. is not on this list so I ask what are the qualifications for getting kicked off the Human Rights Council?
In modern history certainly the u.s. and Russia and China should not be on the Human Rights Council. If we go deeper into history this would bar the U.K. and Spain and Portugal from being on the Human RIghts Council. Reies Tijerina for example stated that the way the English responded to their exclusion from the Treaty of Tordesillas, defying the so-called legitimate body of the time, the papacy, is the root of what he calls "Anglo psychopathy." Well, in modernity, the legitimate body of the time is the U.N. And with the second section that we made bold, we ask the question why is the U.N. the legitimate body of the time?
The sentence reads: [It gives the U.N.] the opportunity to stop glossing over the human rights violations by its own members and to expel Indonesia, if it does not grant the Moluccans the freedom they are entitled to. So in this scenario the U.N. is allowed (as it has done many times in the past) to say to a state "You are too problematic. You are out of here! Oh but you are free to continue doing with the people under YOUR care what you have been doing because they are not autonomous. They are YOUR burden!" This reminds us of a king hearing the pleas of some lord and saying "I am sick of your behavior! I am going to strip you of your title but you may keep your land and all of the serfs within it but you are no longer protected by the crown!"
The problem we have with this isn't at all with Bijkerk, in fact Bijkerk is exactly right —there is a need for a new understanding of political reality. But it must be so new that it completely escapes any form of divine right of sovereignty. The text in the sentence that reads "[It gives the U.N.] the opportunity to stop glossing over the human rights violations by its own members and to expel Indonesia" is viewed as a victory despite the remaining text in the sentence that reads ",if it does not grant the Moluccans the freedom they are entitled to." There is no victory in this sentence in the case of the "if." This is an example of the second reason that the next Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism might mean very little. Federalism For Peace Foundation works closely with Federal Alliance of European Federalists and their ideological corpus is neoliberal (imagine Oprah saying "You get a state and you get a state and you get a state!"). Again, this is not a critique of Bijkerk at all, he has expertise in human rights law and he is knowledgeable on this topic and most importantly to us he cares about this Moluccan people. The point is that ideological corpus in relation to international politics is limited to neoliberalism and fascism. And with the U.N. often pursuing its own interests and U.N. member states often engaging in colonization the next Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism might mean so very little.
The GroundUp believes that cynicism is rooted in meek fear and this piece is not cynical to the colonialism ending in the coming years. But it is time for liberals and socialists and anarchists to get pragmatic about various failings in relation to anti-colonial work. The inclusion of the story of Ethiopia's representative arguing about ten years ago about the interests of the U.N. is not for the sake frightening people from hope: It is the reality of the U.N. The U.N. for better or worse is not LARPing. They are royalty in the human rights regime and an organization like Federalism For Peace Foundation are for all intents and purposes courtiers.
Let us make it clear why getting pragmatic is essential. The foreign policy of the u.s. to Mexico, which we proved is abusive, demonstrates in the example of the forthcoming Agreement between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada (USMCA), which is a renegotiation of NAFTA, that trumpian "america first" foreign policy is corralled (in this case that is better than "american first") into softer diplomatic dealings with Mexico so as to avoid the u.s. and Mexican congresses. Ex-U.N. ambassador bill richardson refers to this strategy as the "skinny NAFTA", and he encouraged trump to embrace the "skinny NAFTA" and accept the deal. And trump ultimately did accept the deal and the u.s. conceded to some of Mexico's demands. But as the Trade for People and Planet campaign notes, "[t]rump’s new NAFTA has no objectives that seek to guarantee and enforce the rights of indigenous peoples." There are still a multitude of labor and migration issues still present in the "skinny NAFTA" and yet an ex-U.N. ambassador advised trump to make the deal. July 1, 2020 the deal goes into effect.
When USMCA goes into effect the U.N. is not going to consider removing the u.s. from the Human Rights Council because the U.N. as an independent entity is not opposed to free trade. And certainly "skinny NAFTA" provides the appearance of better free trade or "ethical free trade." But the Zapatistas (or EZLN) in their Declaration from the Second National Assembly of the National Indigenous Congress and the Indigenous Governing Council make clear that "[E]verything has been put into place to guarantee profits for the powerful and terror for everyone else. Even if our collective self-determination were recognized by their corrupt laws, it’s impossible to stop or even slow the process of destruction and capitalist accumulation based on our extermination. Putting a stop to that destruction and extermination will only be possible when we dismantle the plantation, the factory, the concentration camp or cemetery that this country and this world have become."
This is an example of why we disagree about the merit in a country's dismissal from the Human Rights Council. We don't like the idea of supporting a world organization that picks and chooses who they recognize. The u.s. and countries like it (Russia and China) are state giants and with shrewd enough diplomats they can get away with oppressing any power that cannot match the power of giants. States like Indonesia and Mexico are not giants but they are none the less oppressing people but of course they are stuck in unfavorable deals with state giants (Mexico in NAFTA and still, albeit to a lesser extent, in USMCA) and many of their decisions are made to not get crushed under the iron heel of the giants. So unless people doing anti-colonial work want to continue playing the long game in preparation for the Tenth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism it is time to start working towards a new reality. And this reality requires leftists (yes this includes liberals) to be pragmatic and to work with a new epistemology of actions.
Yes, we all must know what to do in the face of oppressors or continually be ineffective at stopping the oppressors. To truly defeat colonialism everyone whose heart is ultimately in the right place needs to accept that everyone needs to do a little of this and a little of that and be accepting of when the other does what is more comfortable to them.
NGOs need to experiment with working with more anarchist and socialist organizations or risk not going deep enough into enabling the self-determination of others.
Anarchist organizations need to work on their public relation skills. Anarchists and socialists need to do away with black and white thinking and learn the difference between money or even capital for building power and money and capital for the reproduction of a system of oppression.
If you hold to truth and justice and educate truth and justice the ideological shift will eventually emerge in the form of the materially competent (liberals) becoming competent in the truth of their mental slavery and the mentally free socialists and anarchists will become materially competent as collectively we are materially incompetent. If we do this work there is no danger of becoming that which we fought when the old system dies and a new system of our making emerges.
To the further left: Create hedge funds. Work with gangs. Work with liberal NGOs who are willing to consider a different perspective (contrary to many anarchists we believe in the value of third party aid). Do what needs to be done to out think this system. Disowning the master's tools in relation to finance is necessary in the end but doing so before the system recognizes us as a threat leaves us in a perpetual state of throwing bottles at windows and tossing trash in the street to force cops to move the way we want them to (at the end of the day it is mental masturbation because it does not achieve what is truly desired). Just as it is meek to not use a gun when the situation calls for its use it is meek to not accept that money and power have a relationship to one another in this real, material world. The ability to use a gun doesn't negate the truth that they should only be used when absolutely necessary. See, right now money and capital are necessary because if we use a gun when it is necessary to do so our militants go to jail and we exhaust our small budgets bailing them out and then of course they still face prison time. And if prison takes that person from the struggle outside the wall (because there is a militant struggle within the walls) the organization or network must accept that despite a deep loss of our militant that does not mean that we have to be weakened as a network or organization.
If it seems as though we are being more critical to our fellows in the far-left than liberals this is because we are. Expecting major ideological shifting to occur is to be woefully optimistic and not pragmatic. But we in The GroundUp do believe that liberals can do better. We need them and they need us. But to our fellow socialists and anarchists: Do better now! There are a lot of better theoretical, organizational and praxial decisions that must be made. Ending political bannerism is just one of them. We are free from mental slavery and we need to have the realpolitik action that goes with it.