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"Terra Nullius" and the modern colonialism

The global neoliberal dictatorship imposes policies without taking account people

An interesting story by Yanis Varoufakis*

"Terra Nullius" is a law term of Anglo-Saxon origin. Its roots go back to the philosophy of John Locke who developed the relation between human work with the right in land ownership.

Locke put the following question: When does someone has a true right on a piece of land? To answer this philosophically, he asks us to imagine a hypothetical case where some people discover a desert island where no man has gone until now, it's not even on the map. The people land on the island and declare that it belongs to them. Do they have the right to do that? Locke asks. Yes, he answers, under one condition: This land, not only should be empty of people - “Terra Nullius” - which means that no one else should have rights upon it, but also, the people who just arrived should work on this land, producing goods. Then, the part of this land that they will cultivate, will belong to them and no one - individuals or states- will have a right to take it from them.

In a sense, this was the beginning of the political economy which much later developed by Marx. It's not accidental that Marx starts, as Locke, with the hypothesis that everything resulting from human toil, that the value of things result from the work they contain. It's a hypothesis upon which Marx built his economic theories, the three volumes of "Capital", for example.

When the British arrived in Australia in 1788 as colonists, they were determined to declare it as their property. But how could that stand in the English law concerning property rights, as this was based on John Locke? The only way to persuade themselves that, in the end, they had rights on the Australian land, was to consider it as “Terra Nullius”, cultivate it and thus declare that rightfully belongs to them.

There was a "small problem" of course. The "Terra" was not "Nullius". It was already inhabitable by five million Aboriginals. How did they solve this problem? Simply, they supported that Aboriginals were not one hundred percent humans! They characterized this way Australia as "Terra Nullius" concerning people. The result is known: The wiping of Aboriginals who, today, questionably reach 150 thousands. This vulgar classification of pre-1788 Australia as "Terra Nullius", was abolished in 1988 by the Australian Supreme Court, that is 200 years later.

This story concerns not only Australia. It concerns all the cases of colonialism, of the systematic suppression of a people by another. Greece may not be considered officially-legally as "Terra Nullius" by the Troika, but Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, Irish, German poor, ghetto inhabitants around the Paris suburbs, were ultimately treated as less than one hundred percent humans. These countries and regions are considered institutionally empty, with no populations who have the right to shape their future. Any memorandums would not be written as they are written today, if their writers would not had a dose of "Terra Nullius" in their way of thinking.

* From the premiere of the radio broadcast "Terra Nullius" with Yanis Varoufakis at the Greek radio station "Sto Kokkino"

In such an environment everyone will be left alone to survive. Human life will totally lose value. This is the return to perfect barbarism. Many still believe in the myth of the free market. They have an ideal situation in mind where everyone will be free from the state suppression and the free market will drive societies and individuals to balance and prosperity. It's just an illusion because in reality the game is more rigged than ever. We are not talking about capitalism, not even neoliberalism. We are talking about the new global, brutal feudalism!

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