Thursday, March 06, 2014


Peasants and small farmers are most assuredly a part of what we call the multitude in today's world.  They make up half of the world population and grow at least 70% of the world's food. This group includes small-scale farmers, pastoralists, landless people, peasant fishers and indigenous people all around the world.

While these folks have been largely ignored, they have always been in the forefront of revolt.  Despite this the orthodox left, especially orthodox Marxists have traditionally refused to classify these hard working men and women as "working class."  They have usually described them as backward and underdeveloped.  As the Guardian wrote recently global capital is on the same page as orthodox left.  They, too, have nothing but contempt for the poor who work the land.

This contempt goes hand in hand with the free market policies in force for more than three decades that have banked (or placed a bet) on the disappearance of peasants' agriculture to be replaced by large agribusiness corporations and international trade.

In the new world of global capital these views are patently absurd.

These peasants, landless people, small farmers, and the like have organized themselves on a worldwide basis over the last few decades to protect their rights, their livelihoods, to defend small scale agriculture, and to simply be heard.

The international peasants’ movement La Via Campesina has been defending and expanding the practice and policies of food sovereignty around the world for 20 years. At the World Food Summit in 1996, La Via Campesina (LVC) launched a concept that both challenged the corporate dominated, market driven model of globalized food production and distribution, as well as offering a new paradigm to fight hunger and poverty by developing and strengthening local economies. Since then, food sovereignty has captured the imagination of people the world over.

Food sovereignty is different from what is called food security.  Food security doesn't care how food is produced, how it is distributed, who profits from it, or what the conditions are for  those working the land.  

The web site Helping Public Markets Grow points out:

National food security targets are often met by sourcing food produced under environmentally destructive and exploitative conditions, and supported by subsidies and policies that destroy local food producers but benefit agribusiness corporations. Food sovereignty emphasizes ecologically appropriate production, distribution and consumption, social-economic justice and local food systems as ways to tackle hunger and poverty and guarantee sustainable food security for all peoples. It advocates trade and investment that serve the collective aspirations of society. It promotes community control of productive resources; agrarian reform and tenure security for small-scale producers; agro-ecology; biodiversity; local knowledge; the rights of peasants, women, indigenous peoples and workers; social protection and climate justice.

 La Via Campesina is once again organizing for an international day of action on April 17 as part of its campaign to reclaim our food system which is being increasingly occupied by global capital. This date has been selected to commemorate the massacre of 19 landless peasants belonging to the Landless Movement (MST) in Brazil on the 17th of April 1996 during the second conference of La Via Campesina in Tlaxcala Mexico. 

The following is from La Via Campesina.

April 17th : International Day of Farmers' Struggles in defence of Peasants' and Farmers' Seeds

International Call of La Vía Campesina

b_350_0_16777215_00___images_stories_17april_entete17_avrilscaled.jpg(Harare, March 4, 2014) We, the women and men farmers and peasants belonging to the Via Campesina, are calling for this April 17th to be a global day of action and mobilisation in defence of the struggles of farmers and peasants, and, in particular, in defence of peasants' and farmers' seeds.
Seeds have a fundamental place in the struggle for food sovereignty. With every growing cycle, the crops that feed the world's peoples - how they are grown and by whom they are grown - depend on seeds. Seeds also transmit the vision, the knowledge, the practices and the culture of farming and peasant communities.
For a hundred years, our seeds have been attacked by capitalist interests that have sought to privatize and standardize them to the benefit of industrial agriculture. In recent years, this dispossession process has been intensified, both through the new "Monsanto Laws", which, by criminalising farmers for using their own farm-produced seeds, work to the benefit of industrially-produced registered or patented seeds, and through the genetic modification of seeds.
However, in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, year by year there is growing strength in the organized peoples' capacity for mobilisation and struggle against an agro-industrial system that gives rise to exploitation and death, grabbing land, poisoning food, and expelling peasants and indigenous peoples from their territories. In Colombia, there was a national standstill when the government passed a law that permitted the destruction of unregistered farm seeds; and, in Mexico, there was a hunger strike in reaction to the attempt to authorize the planting of genetically-modified corn. Throughout the African continent, peasant communities are struggling against a new "Green Revolution" that wants to impose industrial and genetically-modified seeds. In every continent, we are struggling to protect our seeds that enable us to have a healthy agriculture, rich in diversity, and that truly allow us to face up to climate change.
We are struggling in defence of peasants' and farmers' seeds, because they are essential for a comprehensive agrarian reform, as well as in defence of our agricultural model that is based on agro-ecological production. Peasants' and farmers' seeds are a heritage of the world's peoples in the affirmation of Food Sovereignty. Like land, water, and mineral resources, they are part of the common goods that must remain in the hands of the peoples.
On our International Day, we will also denounce the transnationals, agri-business, and the use of agro-toxics and genetic modification. In the same way, we reject all attempts at repression, criminalisation of protest, punishment, or assassination. We will continue to struggle to change all that is oppressing us, controlling us, subordinating us. Our struggle is growing and becoming stronger, and in response to each outcry from the people we will put into practice our indignation, solidarity, internationalism, and Struggle.
Since 1996, in memory of the massacre of 19 Brazilian landless peasants who were brutally assassinated by the military police and - indirectly - by the agri-business model, the Via Campesina has declared April 17th to be the International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggles, organizing actions to highlight the struggles that are taking place in different parts of the world. At the same time, the Via Campesina is seeking to create a dialogue with society in the construction of a large international alliance for the sovereignty of our peoples, in building an agricultural and social model that puts back into place justice and human dignity.
The Via Campesina International calls upon all of its member organizations, friends, and allies to reinforce this global struggle by carrying out actions in their respective countries and territories. Such actions could be mobilisations, land occupations, seed exchanges, food sovereignty fairs, forums on seeds and food sovereignty, cultural events, etc. We ask you to inform us of these actions and to send us information about them, so that we can create awareness of this great world-wide day of struggle. We will publish the map of actions around the world on   
Globalize the Struggle! Globalize Hope!

No comments: