Throughout history the rich have displayed the annoying habit of kicking the poor off land that the latter's ancestors have lived on for centuries when the rich discovered a way of making money from that land. Sometimes, it was done through conquest of one lord over another. Sometimes, it was blatant genocide as, for example, when the aboriginals were in the way of resource hungry invaders.
In Medieval times, in fact, through to the sixteenth century, there was a growing demand for woolen products. This triggered the need for more land for sheep rearing. The Enclosure Act was enacted in England, which often turned the local population into vagrants, and, with the usual sense of fair play, punished them for being vagrants.
During the Industrial Revolution, improvements in agricultural technology meant that landowners did not need as many manual workers. The surplus workers, with no livelihood, had no recourse but to look for jobs in the city to slave twelve, fourteen, or sixteen hours a day for pennies in the burgeoning factory system. Not that all farm workers did that. Some had to stay home while their children did the slaving because they could be paid less.
In 1868, after having vast territories taken from them, the Sioux Indians were given a reservation in the Black Hills of Dakota until gold was discovered there which meant the death knell of the Sioux. Nor does this special feature of capitalism apply just to those wide-open spaces. Just prior to the Beijing Olympics, thousands of people were ordered out of their homes near the Olympic stadium so the Chinese government could extend facilities needed for the games. History is replete with many more examples of land theft.
The latest example is the effort of the Botswana government to force the Kalahari Bushmen out of their desert home. For countless centuries they have lived there in harmony with each other and with nature. They have managed to develop a remarkable culture that enables them to survive a desert climate that includes going without rain for nine months of the year. They know where to dig for roots and tubers and which berries are good to eat. They spread out leaves at night that collect the morning dew to provide their water needs. They hold all things in common so there is no concept of ownership. They have no crime, police, or laws and no word in their language for possession. In fact, the very concept of bad or evil does not exist. One can almost hear the sophisticated city slicker saying, "What a crazy, primitive bunch. Let's straighten them out and help them into the twenty-first century." This would seem to be the attitude of the Botswana government, though with a little more compassion. It says, " We want to help you poor suffering people, but we can't if you are stuck out in the desert. You had better come into town where we can help." Of course, the fact that diamonds have been discovered there and the government wants to make Botswana a modern wealthy country has nothing to do with it!
According to the New York Times, November 14/2010, "the government is stinging from the reproach of interloping foreigners, especially Survival International, an advocacy group based in Britain, which claims the Bushmen were rousted to make way for diamond prospecting and tourism." Diamond exploration has begun in the desert, which is really brush and scrubland. Though there is no mine in operation, the government wants the Bushmen out of the way when one is ready. One tactic is sealing up water holes, forcing the Bushmen to walk to town to get water. Many have moved to resettlement areas on the outskirts of towns where their lives have become a matter of waiting. They wait for water, wait around for something to do, and wait for pubs to open.
In South Africa, there are about one hundred thousand Bushmen, about half of whom live in Botswana. Today, only a few hundred live in the desert. Some have attempted to return but are prevented. According to one man in Kaudwane, "We have been dumped here and when we try to get back, they stop us at the gate. There are no jobs. We will all end up in prison for stealing goats."
In keeping with most people who experience hardship, they do not analyze their situation in relation to prevailing economic relations. The attitude of their countrymen who treat them as inferior, rather then the economics of resources is cited, " You can say it's something like racism", said one 26 year-old graduate. It was almost inevitable that this conclusion would be drawn. Capitalism is a system that divides people when they should be uniting to replace this competitive system. The plain facts of the case speak for themselves. For many centuries, perhaps thousands of years, the Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari without outside assistance. Diamonds were discovered there and the Bushmen are being forced off their land without any recourse.
This is a natural development of the operation of capitalism. It can only work in the interests of making profit, and diamonds make big profit. Well-meaning politicians have tried for centuries to mitigate the worst effects but, in the end, have been changed by the system itself. If an opportunity to make money presents itself, capitalists, and politicians who attempt to administer capitalism, will be in 'like Flynn' and good luck to anyone who is in their way. Nor does it make any difference whether a government has been elected or is a dictatorship. The slaughter of American Indians was carried out by an elected government. The solution is not to get rid of the people who want to move people out of the way, but to get rid of the economic system that forces anyone to get rid of someone else for economic gain or any other reason. Once capitalism has been put in its rightful place, the garbage can of history, then we can put an end to the authority of some over others.
Socialist Party of Canada,