ARGENTINA: PEASANT ORGANISATIONS IN THE CLUTCHES OF THE AGRO-EXPORT AND EXTRACTIVE MODEL
We believe that it is necessary to set out our position in relation to the concept of Food Sovereignty, Territories, and the role of indigenous and peasant organisations in the face of the Agro-export and Extractive model.
The main issue is that territorial resistance groups have retreating in the face of the advances of soya and mining. More importantly, the leading groups are accepting state funds and work in state subsidised programs, without worrying about any opposition, but they become victims when blood is shed within their organisations. At the same time, they do not question the rationale for production beyond the impact of agribusiness in their territories, perhaps thinking that they will protect pockets of ‘family farms’ and autonomous areas inhabited by indigenous people and peasants. These only serve to show the very few exceptions to the rule which are put forward as examples of the government’s concern to the affected minorities.
Without doubt, there is a substantial synergy between the unrelenting acceleration of the model (crudely set out in policy making with the Agro-food and Agro-industry Strategic Plan, the PEAA, and the emerging Land Law), and the incorporation of the peasant movements to the state apparatus through the important financial assistance that it provides, swallowing up large parts of the leadership of peasant movements and agricultural non-conformists1. In this way, the double role of being a non-conformist and a remunerated official becomes the norm.
It follows that, for years, we have witnessed an enormous deception that has put organisations like MNCI (the national movement of indigenous peasants) and its mentor, MOCASE (the peasant movement of Santiago del Estero) at the forefront of the peasant struggle, tied to the enormously prestigious international VIA CAMPESINA. This fact tends to make the actions and position statements of these Argentinian organisations be seen as genuine expressions of national agrarian resistance. It is a binding of symbolism and demands which causes instant reverberations in the media which creates the feeling that they are the authentic representatives of the oppressed minorities, the victims of the agro-export extractive model. A prestige which conceals the serious ideological limitations of a philosophy linked to the anti-imperialist slogans of past decades and actions focussed on setting up scenarios of autonomous indigenous production. Its objective is to demonstrate a presence, but despite so much economic and political, regional and international support, the results obtained are poor2. The Agricultural Reforms and Food Sovereignty, which are fundamental to the campaigns of Via Campesina International, conceal a landscape devastated by the advances of soya in the territories of the leaders of the peasant movements. The figures for the advance of soya in Santiago del Estero demonstrate this: (area harvested in 2005/2006: 719.508-2010/2011:1.100.000)i. . Meanwhile, in Argentinian universities, students who enthusiastically champion the revolutionary propaganda of ruralisation are eager to travel on a journey of discovery to the areas of the rural autonomies and agro-ecological produce.
In the last few years, with the consolidation of the production of GM monocultures and the high profitability of commodities, there has been an increase in the types of welfare and social controls over the affected communities and the devastated lands. From that production philosophy, many strategies and plans emerged, which necessarily included the active participation (or complicity) of those who, in other times, would have been non-conformists. The intention of this was to smoothe over the serious consequences of the system.
We are not asking them to abandon their radical slogans. We ask more than this. We encourage them to denounce the violations, to ban crop spraying near centres of population, to stop the ‘abuse’ of glyphosate, and to bring territorial disputes to court. These are all indirect effects which, when taken on individually as slogans, do no more than confuse and cover up the corporate and institutional core of programmed plundering.
We take part in substantial discussions about legitimate demands, but these are intentionally disrupted to cover up the reality of a complex model of neo-colonial power determined to sweep issues under the carpet in order to present the model as sustainable and responsible.
If the necessary strategy was to gather forces in the territories under threat and to focus campaigns in the rural and indigenous communities, we can say that this has failed. Not only have human lives been lost in these encounters, but also immense tracts of land have been given away. They are trapped in a situation in which at the same time as resisting the advance of commercialism they accept money and positions from a government that is expert in dividing and manipulating its opponents.
For many years, the GRR has campaigned for rural communities and local resistance. But we have also denounced, through all possible means, the tremendous impact of globalisation and neo-colonialism within our countries which today are subjected to multi-polarity and regional dominance by the so-called emerging powers. We have systematically maintained our solidarity with the rural communities and local producers. We carry out campaigns against crop spraying and the forced acquisition of land. Guided by the principle that Political Sovereignty in Argentina today is Food Sovereignty and that defence of the nation is inalienable, because it affects all Argentinians, not just rural and indigenous communities. We also understand that these campaigns need to be fought at the very centres of power. That is where corporate policies are decided and where the technological designs for GM and biotechnology are created. Commercial science overrides research and learning in our universities and state organisations in order to attend to specific private interests.
For us, it is about putting ourselves in front of the bulldozers, about cutting the barbed wire fences, defending our forests and jungles, whether in the Yungas of the Salto, the Jujuy regions, the Impenetrable, a native forest in the Chaco region, or the valleys and steppes of Patagonia. It is about publicly exposing the negotiations of the Chinese state companies and of Arab capital within our territory. It is also about finding evidencing for the collusions between Monsanto and the church, and also the corporate lobbying of the universities, the INTA (National Institute of Agricultural Technology), INTI (National Institute for Industrial Technology), CONICET (National Council for Scientific and Technical Research) and the Ministry of Agriculture. We believe that it is naïve, if not complicit, to debate Food Sovereignty and Land Ownership in the academic institutions when in these same spheres they train the future employees of the large soya companies and agro-exporters.
It is a dangerous game to encourage peasant campaigns in the affected territories and to denounce agribusiness while at the same time associating with the many State apparatus which wastefully distribute public money and public office posts. Even the most ardent local enemies of the State are engaged in this. This is a game in which we have never taken part. We note with unease that those who say that they oppose the model and that they defend victims, simultaneously close ranks with the “progressive” government and maintain the pretence of attempting to slow the unrelenting plunder. This takes place within the same State apparatus without the slightest acknowledgement of extractive Capitalism, the well-known Theory of Contradiction and the popular hegemonies.
We have patiently developed our thoughts in the hope of a necessary change that has not materialised. Furthermore, the leaders of the campesino movements and their intellectual allies, who continue along this path, have been encouraged by the recent electoral narrative to think that they are protecting themselves from the imminent global catastrophe.
When the blood of our brothers is spilled, it hurts us deeply. More so if it falls on soil made barren and desolate by the avarice of the soya industry. This solidarity also implies a confrontation with the successes of the model: the expulsion and forced urbanisation of the rural population, confusing the happiness of our people with the seduction of consumerism, surrendering Sovereignty, Independence and Justice in order to raise the colonial banners of Science, Technology and Productivity. Let us not ask for Capitalism when it is already in place, with its long lines of victims and destroyed ecosystems. A true National Project demands a return to the land that feeds us, to take back the strategic mechanisms of a Sovereign State and to disconnect ourselves from the unrelenting force of Modernity that drags us towards the abyss.
GRUPO DE REFLEXION RURAL
23th November 2011
1 i.e Primer Congreso Campesino en Buenos Aires:2010
2 See for example proposed peasant demonstration for 15/12/11 in partnership with-among-others Green-Peace and El Ceibal, the later cooperating with the Argentinean WWF and AVINA )
i Sistema integrado de informacion agropecuario
ii Primer Congreso Campesino en Buenos Aires:2010: http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1303124-primer-congreso-campesino-en-buenos-aires.
About joint demonstration and dialogue with the Government:
El Ceibal cooperation with vida Silvestre( WWF) and Avina