This issue of WIN, “The Value of Land,” serves as a reminder of the different ways we understand our relationship to and appreciation for land. For corporations, the land only represents potential profit, a physical obstacle to resources that can be exploited. For us, land is a source of food, the site of our homes, and where we come together to gather and play.
The exploitation of land most commonly takes the form of resource extraction. In the opening pages of this issue, you will find a pair of news briefs about mining. Following up on this, Bill Weinberg has provided an in-depth piece on the resistance Andean campesinos are mounting against multinational mining corporations. These pieces demonstrate the deep connections made by looking at land struggles. In the same breath that we defend the natural environment we are also defending the workers laboring on the land, who are exploited just as much as the land itself.
Our varied relationships to the land demonstrate why we are so willing to fight for the land, on all sides. In defense of their interests, states and corporations will deploy the military, police, private security, and — that most dangerous of combatants — lawyers. On our side, in many cases we have turned to our most powerful weapon: our bodies. Whether in the West Bank or East Texas, protesters have laid their bodies on the line, literally, as they block bulldozers attempting to destroy their homes and livelihoods.
Looking at the world through the lens of “land” provides us with an opportunity to build strategic alliances. After all, we must live together on this finite space of the earth. In an interview with WIN, Rafael Hurtado, a community organizer from Chicago, tells us of the strategic relationship formed between his community and a community in Appalachia, Kentucky. Further south, Aidan McKinney tells us of the unlikely alliance formed between Texas landowners and climate justice activists struggling together against the Keystone XL Pipeline.
At the same time, we should not gloss over our differences. When we look carefully at how land is distributed we cannot help but see how divided we remain. Power plants operate solely in poor neighborhoods. Communities of color are suffocated through a slow process of gentrification, with the rate of home foreclosures exacerbated by the financial crisis. And then there are those whose land is not their own: In countries or territories occupied by foreign militaries, the struggle for land is a struggle for freedom itself.
It is imperative that we see the connections that we all have to the land and that we all have to each other through the land. But it is just as necessary that we see how the land divides us and keeps us from living, working, and struggling together. Anything short of this will lead to ineffective and misguided political action.
This issue of WIN, the first I have edited, is rounded out by three thoughtful reviews of three very different books. In particular, Michael Fiorentino’s review of the War Resisters League’s new book, We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in the 21st Century, stands out as it makes an urgent plea for why this book is a necessary and timely contribution for reinvigorating the anti-war movement.
On a personal note, I would like to say that I feel humbled and privileged to be a small part of the War Resisters League by editing WIN. I have been an admirer of WRL’s work and history for a long time. In my tenure at WIN I hope to maintain the same principled and insightful analysis that has characterized the magazine up to this point.
— Jay Cassano for WIN