Friday, July 22, 2022

The Landless Movement in Brazil

 Formed in 1984 during the military dictatorship (1964–85), the Landless Workers’ Movement ( Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem TerraMST) grew out of agricultural workers’ and peasants’ occupations of latifúndios, gigantic estates held by wealthy individuals and corporations. Over the past four decades, these farmers have taken control of millions of hectares of land across Brazil, forming the largest social movement in Latin America.

Approximately 500,000 households live in these MST-led occupations, meaning that the MST has organised about 2 million people into its ranks. The settlements’ residents organise themselves through various democratic structures, create schools for their children and community kitchens for the indigent and develop techniques for agroecological farming towards fulfilling their own needs and for sale in the marketplace. The MST is now rooted in the social landscape of Brazil, from the Amazon in the north to Arroio Chuí, Brazil’s southernmost point.

The central concept for the MST to elaborate this theory is agrarian reform. According to one of the members of the MST’s national coordination, Neuri Rossetto, this reform project fights “for an agricultural model centred on the production of healthy food for the Brazilian population alongside the struggle to democratise land ownership.”

Around 100,000 families live on encampments (acampamentos), which are occupations of fallow land to which they have not been given formal access; 400,000 families live on settlements (assentamentos), whose land they now hold by right through liberal provisions in Chapter III of the country’s 1988 Constitution, Article 184, which states that the government can “expropriate, on account of social interest, for purposes of agrarian reform, rural property that does not perform a social function.”

However, it is important to note that the Brazilian state nonetheless attempts to evict families from these legal encampments.

The MST organises peasants to improve not only their control over land, but also over agricultural production, including by avoiding toxic chemicals which destroy both the workers’ land and health. This project is now linked to an interest amongst consumers for food whose components do not harm them and whose production does not destroy the planet. The possibility of uniting the majority of the country’s 212 million people in pursuit of agrarian reform galvanises the MST.

Is the MST a social movement or a political party?

Neuri explains:

“We are aware of the responsibilities and the need to improve our political forces, both in their organisational and ideological senses, in order to have a greater influence in the class struggle. However, we do not claim to assume the role of a political party in its strict sense, as we believe that this political instrument is beyond our scope. This does not mean to say that we have a supra-partisan or non-partisan stance. We believe that the articulation of working-class movements, trade unions, and political parties is fundamental in the construction of another sociability which is alternative and contrary to the bourgeois order. … [W]e do not underestimate the importance and strength of political action and popular mobilisations as an educating element for the subaltern classes. The popular masses learn and educate themselves in popular mobilisations. There, in the mass movement, lies the political strength of the organisation; this is where the political-ideological level of the masses is raised.”

In other words, the MST is part of a process to build the organisational and ideological strength of the peasantry and it works alongside trade union movements and other organisations to create a political project for social emancipation. The MST has participated in building the Popular Project for Brazil (Projeto Brasil Popular), which, as Neuri says, “aims to consolidate a historic bloc that promotes anti-capitalist, emancipatory struggles and immediate economic gains that meet the needs and interests of the working class.” Advancing the confidence and power of the working class and peasantry is, therefore, central to the MST’s activity. 

Taken from here

Will the Morning Come? – Consortium News

No comments: