April 18, 2021 | 3 minutes read | Tags: News & Analysis

Kalaallit Nunaat; Colonialism and the Right to Self-Determination

This election in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) was most of all a question of what kind of independence is wanted. A bourgeois social-democratic republic, governed by international capital? Or an indigenous-led socialist nation, governed by the people?

Kalaallit Nunaat; Colonialism and the Right to Self-Determination

There are many questions that we could consider when thinking about the situation facing the Inuit (people) of Kalaallit Nunaat (“Greenland”).

How does an indigenous population reach independence when they rely on financial support from their colonisers? How can they ensure the economic welfare of their people without endangering that same welfare and indigenous way of life by allowing resource extraction on their ancestral lands? How can they defend themselves from imperialist aggression without the military backing of the same imperialist nations? How can they sustain their way of life when the very ground they stand on is melting? Recent parliament and council elections show that the Kalaallit (“Greenlanders”) are willing to face these questions on their own terms.

The severe oppression of the Kalaallit by the Danish government has a long history. When Portuguese and British explorers arrived on the island in the early 16th century, the Danish King swiftly pronounced it his property, using ancient Viking settlements as a flimsy justification.

This colonial influence is everywhere in Kalaalit Nunaat. The “Greenlandic” structure of government is practically copy-pasted from the Danish system, down to the everyday bureaucracy of teachers, judges, social workers etc. Not only that, but half of the Naalakkersuisut (home rule government) budget is made up of financial support from the Danish government making Kalaallit Nunaat de-facto dependent on Denmark to sustain it’s Scandinavian style social-democratic government. This is just one side of continued attempts at “Danification” by the Danish government. These colonial projects have, for many centuries, served to strengthen the so-called cultural bonds between the peoples of Denmark and Kalaallit Nunaat, to justify continued dominance. In fact, these social, cultural and legal structures are a result of a project of ethnic cleansing by the Danish government. From centuries of corporal punishment for indigenous social and religious practices by the Danish Church and Feudal State, to the abduction of indigenous children to be raised by Danes in the 20th century, to the relegation of Kalaallit immigrants in Denmark to the lowest class in society, left to die in the streets by a so-called welfare state that opportuninists from all over the world point to as a vision of decency, to the ever increasing suicide rates among Kalaallit teenagers and young adults, as a result of their alienation from their land, work, society, and culture.

In 2019 Donald Trump, then president of the United States, publicly announced his intent to purchase Kalaallit Nunaat from the Danish government. While his proposal got treated with confusion and ridicule by the bourgeois press, giving immigration hard-liner prime minister of Denmark a boost of international popularity as a snappy girl-boss, the real question remains: why did Trump offer up this purchase to the state of Denmark, and not the home rule government of Kalaallit Nunaat?

This bring us to the recent parliamentary elections, held in April 2021. The Inuit socialist independence party, Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People), won a majority of the vote, granting them the power to initiate the forming of a coalition government. The position of indigenous democratic socialists at the head of the negotiating table means an end to a much discussed mining project in the south of the country.

This mining project could have served as a path to independence from Danish colonialism. The Danish government provides 50-60% of the Naalakkersuisut budget, but the income generated by mining project agreements with foreign companies would more than cover that percentage, meaning Kallaalit Nunaat could completely sever its financial dependence on the Danish state. However, it would replace this dependence by one on international capital.

There were also environmental objections to the proposed mine due to high amounts of radioactive uranium in the ground of the proposed mining site. Such mining operations of precious minerals are also necessary for so-called Green New Deals proposed by opportunists globally, in their futile attempts to save capitalism from its self-perpetuating climate doom.

By centering this issue of the proposed mine, the election was most of all a question of which kind of independence is wanted by the Kalaalit. A bourgeois social-democratic republic, governed by international capital and great power competition? Or an indigenous-led socialist nation, governed by the people?

“One should listen to the people, and the people have spoken.”

– Múte Bourup Egede, leader of Inuit Ataqatigiit

The Kingdom of Denmark must pay reparations to the Inuit people of Kalaallit Nunaat for five hundred years of genocide and colonisation, which Norway, Canada, USA, and all of NATO must also answer for. Socialists from all over the world should show solidarity with the Kalaallit in their demands and efforts for land back through continuing to fight for climate justice and recognising the importance of the right to self-determination for indigenous people displaced by colonialism.  The Kalaallit must be allowed to take full democratic control of their legal system, their military, and their international relations.