A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **

News in all languages
Last 30 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Català_ Deutsch_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ All_other_languages _The.Supplement
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) The Commoner N.6 - Winter 2003 - Mariarosa Dalla Costa - The Native In Us, the Earth We Belong To (2/3)

From <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 26 Jan 2003 06:58:47 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

of using Third World women as surrogate mothers
(Raymond 1989). There have also been
reports of cases - but how many? - of women whose
children have been snatched from their
wombs with a Caesarean (The Guardian, October
7, 1995)  for sale to child traffickers. And it is
now common knowledge that people in the Third
World sell their own organs because of their
desperate need for money, or are kidnapped and
have them removed forcibly. In this
connection, I can only add that, in the last few
years,  the sale of one's own organs as an
extreme means of procuring money has also begun
in Italy (Dalla Costa M. 1995).  Some
scholars like to argue that it is good thing for
Third World people to sell their organs because it
is a way for them to get the money they need. The
argument needs no comment, perhaps only
that, in India or other areas of great poverty,
someone who sells a kidney usually dies not soon
after since it is impossible to survive long with
only one kidney in those conditions of
The massive impoverishment created by
adjustment policies is, then, at the origin of a
major restructurisation of reproductive labour at
the world level; if women emerge as the
poorest among the poor, we would in any case find
no consolation if poverty also became more
male.  But parity of poverty seems to be the
hidden aim of numerous studies and much
research that isolate women's poverty from the
analysis of the macrofactors that cause it,
blinding both men,  many of whom  obviously
suffer from poverty too,  and women to what
needs to be done.
Annihilation Policies as an Effect or Corollary of
Adjustment Policies on
Populations rendered Superflous
Discussion of the effects of structural adjustment
policies would not be complete if no
attention was paid to the link between
impoverishment and the deaths propagated by
operations such as the expropriation of land and
the denial of monetary and non-monetary
resources,  policies  of annihilation designed to
achieve some of the effects aimed for with
adjustment policies or introduced as a
complement to them.
They include tolerance for the spread of
epidemics.  In sub-Saharan Africa, the
International Monetary Fund is called the Infant
Mortality Fund; in January-February 1996
alone, 2,500 children died of meningitis because it
was impossible to buy the necessary
vaccine for the equivalent of  $3.50.  The spread
of epidemics is linked to further paring of the
health system, leading to a failure of drinking
water supplies, the spread of infected blood and
medicines which have run beyond their expiry
date or gone bad or are fake or harmful7. Then,
there is the overall degradation of the
environment due to structural adjustment policies
maldevelopment projects.
7 The scandal of the 'false medicines' broke out at
the end of October 1996 and received amply
coverage in the major
newspapers.  How many deaths and how much
disease has been caused by 'illegal medicines',
'informal medicines'
and 'legal medicines' taken out of circulation in
the advanced areas because harmful or expired,
yet nonetheless sent
to the 'developing' countries?  For some of the
facts, see Il Manifesto, October 27 1996, which
includes  a  quotation
from Gianni Tognoni, a pharmacologist at the
Mario Negri Institute in Milan, for years active in
controlling the
pharmaceutical products in developing countries:
"The Monetary Fund makes no controls, and local
register any product. There is an extremely vast
informal market, reaching as high as 80% of the
total in the continents
we are talking about (Africa, India, Latin
Another series of annihilation policies involve war
8, genocide which has to all intents and
purposes been authorised9, and military and
police repression, all of which eliminate the
impoverished and expropriated from a world in
which, precisely because they are impoverished
and have been expropriated, they are seen as
'surplus'.  Then there is the 'enclosure of
populations' in refugee and concentration camps
more or less concealed in the war zones.  To
mention one case quite close  to home, cases of
suicide have begun to be reported among the
Tuareg (Dayak 1995; Gaudio 1993; Beltrami and
Vaistrocchi, ed. 1994) in the Algerian refugee
camps; previously, suicide was unknown in their
The execution of the Nigerian author, Ken
Saro-Wiwa, was followed by a massive
exodus of refugees from southern Nigeria to
Benin, most of them men, aged 18-59 and
members of the Movement for the Survival of the
Ogoni People10. At the same time, the
suspension of Red Cross aid caused scores of
deaths in the camps for about 60,000
Mauritanians in northern Senegal. The victims
were mostly children who died of deprivation and
disease; the refugees may go as long as ten days
without food,  and no medicines are
available. Further deaths came from marsh fever
since the camps are near the Senegal river (Il
Manifesto, March 27 1996). In November of the
same year, the refugee camps in Zaire became
battlefields thanks to a resurgence of fighting
between Tutsi and Hutu.
Yet further annihilation is produced by the
uprooting and forced transfer of populations.
The major hydroelectric and dam projects,
financed primarily by the World Bank, usually
major  population transfer and re-settlement
schemes (George 1989; McCully 1996). The re-
settlement is naturally the part of the project that
leaves the least permanent trace.But apart
from mega-hydraulic and agricultural projects,
there are also pure population transfer projects
funded by the World Bank. One of the most
striking, and most widely denounced,  is the
transmigrasi in Indonesia (George 1986; The
Ecologist 1986). Because of alleged
overpopulation on Java and Bali, due in fact to
the concentration of the land in few hands, the
government decided on a forced 'internal
migration' of 70 million to the outer and other
Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan (formerly Borneo),
and Irian Jaya in New Guinea. The scheme
was funded  to the tune of $75 billion. The total
population involved was later reduced to 'only'
20 million.  The scheme was a combination of
genocide, ecocide and ethnocide. One of the
aims of the forced introduction of new population
was to strike at the native communities in the
wilder islands, by creating conflict with the
newcomers because of the scarce resources,
cultural differences and different crop choices.
Very many of the 'migrants' died of   hardship
and hunger or were eaten by the animals which
deforestation had deprived of their natural
forest habitat. Some managed to escape, but were
imprisoned to stop them talking.  By
progressively depriving them of their resources,
the natives in the outer islands were supposed
to gain a sense of state and government and a
single god, to turn them into disciplined labour
8 How often do these wars sold by the media as
'tribal'  stem from a reality  of land expropriation
and the curtailment of
resources so that conflicts break out between
various parts of the population over what are now
insufficient resources
for everyone to survive?
9 In Brazil's Mato Grosso, the garimpeiros (gold
hunters), fazendeiros (landowners) and
madeireiros  (workers for
logging firms dealing in rare woods) are continuing
killing and  torturing the natives, with some cases
of castration.
Torture and other acts of violence have been
registered in recent months in the Amazon region
where an increasingly
pressing army of loggers is working for Asian
companies in searching for mahogany and other
expensive trees (Il
Manifesto, November 29 1996, p.18)
10 On Shell in Nigeria, see the article by Steve
Kretzman, "Nigeria's 'Drilling Fields'. Shell Oil's
Role in Repression", in
Multinational Monitor, January-February, 1995.
for the plantations and mines. First-hand
testimony tells how a thousand families arrived in
zone, but only twelve survived (George 1989, p.
206 et seq.). On Irian Jaya,  there was recently
a revolt of 3,000 tribals (Il Manifesto March 13,
1996) against Freeport Indonesia, the US
company which mines gold, copper and silver in
their territory and uses them as workers. What
is at stake is not only their working conditions,
but also their identity, their territory, their
commons and their culture11. But the
transmigrasi is just one of the best-known among
projects of this type in which the citizens of
advanced or less advanced countries unwittingly
finish by financing projects for the
impoverishment and uprooting of others.
Moreover, the
contributions from their own pockets  hang an
even heavier millstone of debt around their own
necks and the necks of others.
In conclusion, the overall thrust of my argument is
that, nowadays, the crucial
components in adjustment policies and the World
Bank's development plans are expropriation
of the land and the dissolution of communities by
uprooting,  transferring and enclosing their
people so as to weaken their identity and
organisational network. As when the enclosures
under way in England and Africans were being
traded  towards the Americas, they  are
essential for capital's expansion,  and therefore for
the construction and re-stratification of a
planetary class.
The  major operations involved in adjustment
policies as well as in very many of the
World Bank's  development projects thus form
the channel for a grand strategy for the
underdevelopment of reproduction as the basis for
a further development of production. At the
same time, as I have tried to show, the
relationship human beings have with the land
the crucial moment in these policies and projects.
But, if all this is true, the issue of the land and
what relationship people should have with it must
return to the centre of the analysis, the
struggle and the political proposals.  I will now try
to indicate at least some of the implications
that I believe must follow.
A first implication is that, if a continual class
re-foundation and re-stratification in the new
world economy is made possible by major
operations involving the land, struggles
the land must take a central role in any adequate
political re-composition; international support
must be constructed with more  attention for the
North-South axis than the so widely debated
European Union. In this sense, it is fundamental
to know, transmit, interpret and support the
indigenous struggles, but also other struggles of
the populations and women of the planet's
various Souths in so far as their focus is the land.
Above all, get to know them as the first step
in thinking about how to support them, what
relationship to have withthem, and how to
them into our contex: All this implies giving
strength, but also receiving it.In this connection, I
remain convinced that it is important for people
to know and be informed of the victories as well
as struggles; it helps undermine capital's apparent
omnipotence and make people place less
belief in the coming highest level of development
which is just round the corner.  Papua New
Guinea may lie on the edge of our normal vision,
but its people have successfully built up a
11 Their territory has been devastated, their
natural hunting reserves and crops destroyed,
their rivers polluted,their
people killed, tortured and raped. The Papua
Liberation Movement is also making its voice
heard in the region. On
March 18, 1996, Indonesian troops opened fire on
a march of 2,000 university students in Jayapura
to mark the arrival
of the body of independence leader Thomas Wapai
Wainggai, who died in jail in Jakarta.
movement against structural adjustment and
privatisation, forcing the government to withdraw
measures which the World Bank wanted
introduced to end the common ownership of land.
same is happening in India. In some zones, the
agriculturists have succeeded in forcing
withdrawal of the concessions given to companies
for plantations to grow export crops.
One consequence is that it is important to link up
with the international networks which
place expropriation of the land and debt policies
at the centre of the agenda. Two examples are
the Debt Crisis Network and the 50 Years is
Enough! campaign, and both are forums in which
the various positions enter into debate. The large
regional meetings of the Zapatista rebellion
and the first intercontinental meeting "for
humanity and against neo-laissez faire" in late
July/early August this year in Chiapas are also
fundamental; the debate and the decisions
taken concern all of us.
Yet, these struggles have a long history in terms
of the networks formed round them and
as an organisational experience. Adjustment
policies and World Bank development projects
have in fact long been the source of conflicts in
the world, not only rurally but also in an urban
context (George 1989; Cafa 1990-96; Midnight
Notes 1988; 1990)
The women's struggles in Indian cities in recent
years have a precedent in organisations
created in the early 1970s against rice price
increases and the poor quality of the rice
by laboratory hybrids.  The Women's Anti-Price
Committee in Bombay started in 1972 (Omvedt
1980, 1987). The protest grew so strongly that tens
of thousands were marching the streets
and building barricades.  In the winter of 1973,
20,000 Bombay women marched on the home
of the Minister for Food to see what was cooking
in his kitchen. In the same way, organisations
were built up and rebellions flared against forced
sterilization. Women also spearheaded
protests against the Bhopal incident in 1984 in
which 2,500 were killed and hundreds of
thousands injured when a poisonous chemical
cloud descended on a slum neighbourhood
(Roosa 1988).  In India's slums, whose population
continues to be swollen by those expelled
from the land, there is the long history of urban
revolts for land as somewhere to live and
somewhere to have an address. Each year, 200,000
rural immigrants arrive in New Delhi alone
(Roose 1988).
But,  above all,  thanks to the analyses and
practical liaison work of scholars and
activists in the North and South of the world, the
revolts in India and elsewhere against the
effects of higher development in the urban zones -
price and quality of food, a place to live,
pollution, ecological disasters - have found links
to the struggles in the rural zones in defence of
the land, the forest, water and biodiversity.
Struggles against the degradation of the
environment and the lines laid for capitalist
development have joined up with struggles to
defend subsistence and the community as the
essential basis for elaborating a different form of
development.  I think this is the most feared
type of linkage because of the powerful political
recomposition of the population that it
represents. It is no coincidence if this chance for
political recomposition is continually
undermined by annihilation, forced transfer
(including the causes that force people to
ghettoization and the enclosure of the
populations. This chance is also undermined by
to create lines of conflict and division, even
representing conflicts as ethnic those which in
stem from lack of land or other scarce resources.
In very many regions,  struggles concerning the
land revolve around a defence of its
communal management where this is still
practised. This leads to the second implication of
what we have been saying: how far our land should
be defended and reinstated  as a public
resource and collectively usable space; how far
land rights should be won back as the rights of
all mankind.
The third implication concerns the fact that all
struggles for the land are at the same time
struggles to defend biodiversity and the different,
above all native forms of knowledge that
safeguard this biodiversity and work with it. It is
no coincidence if, in their struggles,   the native
peoples uproot eucalyptus saplings from the
plantations because they destroy soil and water
resources while giving no food or shade to the
villagers (Shiva 1990, 1995);  defend the batua12
from destruction by herbicides (Shiva 1995);  or
defend varieties of cereals and woods with a
high nutritional value as well as the animals
which, in millennia of natural evolution and
balanced cooperation between man and nature,
have proven resistant to, and capable of
multiplication in the most varied and hostile
climates. But the struggles of those who defend
earth's resources and their renewability and
biodiversity are also a vital moment of liaison for
because they are defending a piece of land and a
biodiversity which is also a life-resource and
a source of food and abundance for us.
The  fourth implication is closely linked to the
previous one since it is linked to
safeguarding biodiversity, by defending  the land
as a source of natural evolution. As such, it is
a common good whose  claims must be defended
against the pressing demands of industry
and laboratories to patent and manipulate genes
produced by nature in the course of millions of
These implications are already pursued by some
environmentalist movements in the
advanced world, and it is in our interest to pursue
them, too.  And, if this is the case, the
struggles on these issues in the world's so-called
South must be recognised as a defence of
our material and cultural interests as well.  To
welcome them into our political approach means
a commitment on two fronts:  to bring them into
our demands, practices and protest against
present policies,  inside and outside the
agricultural sphere; and to find concrete ways of
supporting them.
In particular, since the Zapatista rebellion, large
sections of the movement throughout the
world are involved in initiatives designed to offer
concrete economic, political, social and
cultural aid. In Italy, we mention only what is
developing around the Ya basta campaign.
But, as I said at the outset, struggles with deeper
historical roots in the advanced areas
such as those for income or wage or on working
time do not automatically translate into support
for Third World struggles.  If anything, experience
shows  that, when conflicts explode in the
advanced areas, capital has already  migrated or
exported productive processes to the world's
various Souths where the price of labour is lower;
or, by various forms of expropriation,  has
induced individual emigrants to move to the more
developed countries where they get the
worst-paid jobs. It is increasingly clear that
limiting the struggle to issues of time and/or
or giving priority to proposals in which only these
two aspects of the problem are considered14,
12 Batua is a grass rich in Vitamin A which grows
along with wheat. It is fundamental against
blindness.  Forty thousand
Indian children go blind each year for lack of the
vitamin which nature supplies free in the batua
plant, but herbicides
destroy when they eradicate it (Shiva 1995).
13 The problem is amply debated, especially in
connection with the Human Genoma project.  See,
among others,
Teresa Riordan's article in the New York Times,
November 27, 1995. On the dangers of genetically
manipulated food,
in particular, see Mae-Wan Ho (typescript, 1996).
14 Here, I refer to these two dimensions which in
any case define the coordinates of what the
appeal's signatories
include in the 'third sector'. I will discuss this in
greater detail below.
is not enough, as can also be seen from
contemporary appeals as to "what is to be done"
as the Appeal of the 35 (Il Manifesto, October 27
The progressive privatisation and expropriation of
the land through which the world
economy's working class is continually
re-structured at bargain-basement prices cannot
ignored. However good the intentions may be,
failure to recognise the centrality of operations
concerning the land in the economy's new
globalisation betrays an approach which is
and development-oriented, on the one hand and,
on the other,  envisages  the rights of poor
people as no more than to pick up the crumbs
from the rich man's table.
The approach is North-oriented in that it looks at
the policies in the advanced areas
without analysing their roots in the other areas;
and it is development-oriented since it sees the
present type of development as something
ineluctable, for the evil it may do for us, but also
good. Yet, when it grasps the enormity of the evil
and the paucity of the good, it does no more
than ask for a small reduction in the evil. We
don't know how many crumbs Lazarus got, but at
least the bread of his time was a natural product.
Defences against unemployment, wage reduction,
and labour de-regulation are certainly fated
to crumble as long nothing is said or done about
issues such as expropriation, privatisation
and, now more than ever, the poisoning of the land
on which capitalist accumulation still rests.
Thanks to them,  accumulation continues to mass
together the new expropriated poor,  forcing
them  to work for any wage and under any
conditions in their homeland or as emigrants,
new technological leaps are piled on top of each
other -  aberrations, technologies for the
genetic manipulation of life. The earth itself is
destroyed as a self-regenerating source of food
and abundance, imposing an increasing
dependence on the market-laboratory and, with it,
poverty and hunger - and also representing the
most lethal threat to the reproductive power of
the working social body at the planetary level.
In any case, the debate on the wage, income and
working time now requires a strong
transnational liaison, at the trade-union level too,
to set acceptable bargaining standards for the
North, South and East. In this sense, the decision
of the US trade unions to schedule joint
bargaining with their Mexican counterparts is
important. But there are also numerous other
organisational examples, among the workers of
the maquilladoras in Central America or in the
Asian free-trade zones who have built up
autonomous contacts with the unions in Europe
the US. Then, there were the workers  at the
subsidiary of an American company in Guatemala.
The machinery was moved out during the night,
and the workers' wages left unpaid, but the
employees informed the unions in the US which
represented their case with the mother
company15. At the international level, the unions
must above all raise the increasing use of
prison labour and its conditions (De Angelis 1996
p.17). There must be a true globalisation of
the  perspective within which bargaining on time
and money is considered, and the struggles on
these issues so closely linked to survival in the
advanced areas must go hand in hand  with the
struggles for land, especially in the world's South.
Above all, while also pursuing struggles for
wage/income, the problem must also be
raised of which and how many 'commons' can be
won back, not only to defend ourselves from
the market, but also to strike back at the
market's pervasiveness.
How can struggles for money be linked to the
defence and reconquest of land as
commons? And, with them, the defence and
reconquest of biodiversity, integrity, and natural
15 These initiatives are described by Silvia
Federici in "The Worldwide Struggle against the
World Bank and IMF" in
Midnight Notes, No. 12, Studies in the New
Enclosures, to be published shortly.
renewability? - since, as the indigenous
communities teach and show,  they multiply our
possibilities rather than reducing them and
turning them into monstrosities.
To mention only the cases closest to home, I am
thinking of 'mad cows', trout that taste
of chicken, and chicken that tastes of fish. But in
the end everything will taste of petroleum.
What will we do with a wage when all we can buy
is poison?  Clearly, the question of the land is
also a struggle against the biotechnological
laboratories which manipulate living species16,
vegetable hybrids which are easily subject to
diseases (the Karnal Blunt fungus has infected
American hybrids of wheat and barley, destroying
1,200 tons in Arizona alone, Il Manifesto
March 17, 1996) to cows which make more milk
thanks to the Bovine Growth Hormone or
produce fatless meat. It is a struggle against the
progressive industrialisation of food
production, crop specialisation by geographical
area, and the liberalistic internationalisation of
the markets.  I see the following statements from
former Peruvian President Alan Garcia as
very significant:
Food imports aren't just a problem of foreign
currency; they also make a country
lose contact  with its own history and geography
(George 1989, p. 283)
Societies are born of food, they live off food and
they build their awareness of time
and space  through the food they eat...This is why
the  democracy we want in Peru
is not an urban democracy, nor a bureaucratic and
administrative  one. Peru wants
a new historic encounter with its  land through a
national confirmation of what our
food and our geography are...We want to pursue a
transformation of much larger
scope, inspired by the  indigenous food model
since this is the only way in    which
there will be a revolution on all fronts: national
independence, justice and social
liberation  (George 1989, p. 284)
But, following the natives' lesson, the question of
the land is also a question of a loving and
respectful relationship with other living beings,
whence a rejection of nutrition that comes, not
only from the genetic manipulation of animals,
but also from their cruel treatment in battery
conditions or in laboratories.  This is another
implication on which people should speak out and
make a practical commitment against the horror,
for example, of a calf which will never be able
to move, sometimes not even stand up, suck its
mother's milk, walk on grass or eat it, but will
only twist its neck to suck the chain holding it in
search of the iron it is denied so that its flesh
will be 'yet whiter'17.
To sum up, in the new techniques and
technologies, there is no life. I cannot continue
discussing future possibilities of liberation
inherent in future levels of development,  while
allowing these same techniques and technologies
to continue destroying life.
16 In this connection, significant documentation
was produced by the organisations of rural and
tribal communities as
well as women from the South and North at the
NGO Forum to develop alternatives to the lines
of action emerging from
the technical documents prepared for FAO's
World Food Summit in Rome (November 13-17,
1996). An example is the
Leipzig Appeal drawn up by Maria Mies and
Vandana Shiva, which I have proposed for
signature by men and women
in Italy. With Mies, Shiva and other women
scholars and activists from various countries, I
delivered a report to the
conference for the Women's Food Day held at the
Forum on November 15
17 The calf's "testimony" is from France, in the
book, Le Journal d'un veau by Jean Louis
Giovannoni (1996) in which a
calf speaks up about our world and its terrible
In themselves, the new technologies will never
give me food to eat. My food comes from
the earth. I cannot accept that it should come
from the poisoning of the soil or the destruction
and torture of animals in laboratories and
intensive husbandry. In the same way, I cannot
accept that it should come from forced labour or
the exclusion of an increasingly large share of
humanity from the possibility of feeding
If this is the agricultural solution lying behind the
new technologies, I think that this is
where the first battle must be fought, not only
linking up with the struggles of the Third World
agriculturists and agricultural labourers, but also
asking what it means here to struggle for
another relationship with the land and its
creatures, in order to win back our commons.
It is now recognised that the 'technological
solution' to agriculture and animal husbandry
has not worked18. The liberation from labour
based on a greater productivity of the land by
producing greater yields through the simple
application of  growing mechanical, chemical and
biotechnological inputs has proved to be a false
one. Through the various stages of the Green
Revolution up to the most recent biotechnologies,
each solution has simply opened up even
greater problems while destroying forms of life
and progressively poisoning the land.  The
impossibility of a 'technological solution' for
human reproduction (Dalla Costa 1972) and, if I
may be allowed the observation, also for the
production of new human beings, reappears for
other forms of life. What is alive needs care,
above all, and care is one expression of living
beings; technology can play a role only for
marginal aspects. The earth is alive, and its
technological manipulation  has shown that it
cannot be pulled on one side without ripping it
apart on the other.  But if this is true, and if
human presence, labour and care remain a
necessity for the earth to provide regenerative
food sources and territories in which to live, the
idea that, even in the famous last stage,
technology can produce liberation from work is a
Since labour of reproduction is linked, not only to
bringing up children and caring for
adults, but to all living things with which we want
and must have relations if we want to find the
resources and joy to regenerate our own lives, a
still greater terrain for struggle is opened up,
around the working time and the working day of
men and women.  The demand for the
necessary time to take care of interpersonal
relations is immediately extended to care for the
land.  At stake is not only the extension of the
time needed to take care of the 'reproduction' of
life, but the speed which has been imposed on
reproductive labour, in the overall intensification
of labour induced by new technological leaps
ahead.  To slow down  the working day is thus on
the agenda of a crucial battle for those who, in
their struggles around labour time, want above
all to free the processes and rhythms of life's
reproduction. The technological credo which has
compressed and progressively suffocated the
necessary time for human reproduction and for
man and his relationship with the land has simply
made the future more improbable.
If the approach is changed and the dimensions of
the problem resized, how much space
and what role can be given to technology? And,
above all, is it possible as of now to have a
technology which is not inspired by the capitalist
approach?  This is a question that a growing
18 I am referring, not only to the eco-feminist
literature, but also to very large part of ecologist
literature in general,
above all the documentation of the numerous
rural organisations which voice protest and pursue
rebellion in the world.
For an approach from the viewpoint of the
relationship of the crisis of Nature to the crisis in
the capitalist mode of
production,see James O'Connor's observations on
the 'second contradiction' in the US magazine,
CNS Capitalism
Nature Socialism, and published in  Italy by the
magazine of the same name, that took the name
Political Ecology in
1996, (O'Connor 1992).
number of men and women are applying
themselves to in various parts of the globe,and it
means they are giving up other beliefs in order to
do so, for example, the believe that one
should never look back.  As the English
recognised, their engineers were unable to surpass
irrigation works carried out on the Indian rivers
before their arrival (Shiva 1990).  In the same
way, much 'alternative' technology and many
fruits of man's cooperation with nature are
incorporated in many of the so-called 'natural'
seeds, which are by no means 'primitive' (Shiva
1995, Schwarz 1994). Does it make sense and is it
possible to preserve this technology and its
But what is the 'past' one looks back to? What is
the 'past' in general? It is the present of
the vast majority of the planet's inhabitants, and
it is a future that so many people are defending
against the present that others would like to turn
into the sole agenda.
Indications from Struggles and Alternative
The  struggle begun by the agriculturists in the
Indian region of Karnataka against the
GATT agreements agreed to in Uruguay in
March-April 1994 is indeed a great struggle
the question, Past? Present? Future?
The Karnataka Farmers Union was created
fourteen years ago and now enjoys a political role
in twelve of Karnataka's 19 districts, with ten
million members from all castes and religions. Its
targets include the patenting of seeds whereby
companies claim property rights that enable
them to deny the rights of the local people to
their seeds,  therefore prejudicing their survival.
The laboratory-produced hybrid seeds they sell
are sterile,  so once the agriculturists have
been forced to use them, they will have to rebuy
them every year, and they will also be forced
to buy the fertilisers and pest control products
needed to make them grow, most often from the
same firms. But if they try to use and sell natural
seeds, they finish up in court, charged with
illegally selling seeds derived from the hybrids -
and it is the defendants who have to prove their
Protest against seed patenting is flanked by
growing disillusionment with the Green
its devastating effects, the ecological and
economic unsustainability of the inputs needed by
hybrids, and their abnormal water consumption
have become evident.  The union, then, is
leading struggles against the patent system,
hybrids, single-crop economies, and the various
polluting and destructive technologies. It is also
defending the maintenance of natural seeds
and the land in the name of 'food sovereignty',
intended as the right to food self-sufficiency on
the basis of the availability of land and the
maintenance of its reproductive powers.  Its aim
thus to pursue a diversified, economically and
ecologically  sustainable agriculture based on
natural methods of reproduction for the various
species and addressed primarily to domestic
needs. As a practical alternative to the proposals
and solutions imposed by the multinationals,
major international organisations and
governments, these agriculturists have created a
series of
cooperatives to develop and sell their natural
seeds, calling them Seed Satyagraha,
'satyagraha' being the word for Gandhi's
non-violent struggle. They have also created a
in Bangalore where the seeds are preserved and
distributed. Major rallies have been held in
the same city,and meetings and links built up
with farmers in France and other European
countries (Schwarz 1994).
The most frequently cited examples of abuse of
the patent system include the neem
root,  from a plant which grows everywhere and is
used for its medicinal properties, even as an
insecticide.  A multinational has patented its
derivates, provoking a particularly tough and
ample struggle in the region (Burns 1995).
The Karnataka Farmers Union is part of a much
vaster network of rural organisations, La
Via Campesina, which was founded in 1992 and is
very strong in Central and Latin America,
with solid liaison points in various other
countries. Its second international conference was
at Tlaxcala in Mexico on April 18-21 this year.  Its
main concern is "food sovereignty" as
described above.  But self-organisation to defend
the foundations of subsistence -  land and
natural seeds,  above all - and the rebellion
against policies that everywhere tend to destroy
them are growing in, and penetrating into various
regions of the planet.   Against these policies
and the major economic and financial agreements
supporting them, the Zapatista rebellion is a
crucial moment of struggle and self-organisation,
not only to guarantee land and life, but also,
as Marcos has put it, "to be able to choose another
In any case, it is interesting to note that
community forms of organisation to guarantee
life and land have taken on very different shapes,
in Latin America as in the rest of the world.
Also linked to La Via Campesina is  the New
Frontier cooperative in the Brazilian state of
Santa Caterina do Sul, where collective
organisation is applied to the land, labour,
and infrastructures and allows sixty families to
live better than the small private farmers in the
area. Although divided into sectors, the work is
shared equally among all.  The cooperative
started out by occupying land in 1985 and, in 1988,
legal rights were won over 1,200 hectares.
Today, the families in the cooperative enjoy
decent housing with water, light, telephone and
sewers, and their cereals, vegetables and fruit are
produced ecologically. They have pasture
and animal husbandry, trees and plantations of
matè grass, a mill and a clothes factory.
The cooperative's founding members are active in
the Sem Terra Movement which, in
the last decade, has won the assignation  of many
hectares to hundreds of landless families
and is now organising land occupations in the
Mato Grosso (Correggia 1996). The guarantee
offered by the cooperative against hunger and
poverty already suffered rests, first of all,  on the
fact that there is an abundant distribution of the
food produced within the cooperative every
day or every week. The surplus is sold, and the
profits distributed. Guaranteeing internal food
consumption irrespective of market mechanisms
is the greatest defence against the wheat,
which arrives at much lower prices from nearby
Argentina, bringing hunger with it rather than
nutrition. There is a kindergarten and, according
to reports arriving from the cooperative,
domestic work is shared between men and women.
The commonest question raised in the past about
situations of this kind was how the
young people experiencing something so
'backward' could fail to flee and seek
emancipation in
the city. But, given the disasters of the global
economy, it seems much more important that
these citizens of the earth should have found a
way of avoiding the ranks of the 800 million who
go hungry. It may also be worth considering what
Esteva (1994) has to say about the city's
failing magnetism. Commuting between town and
country is becoming more common; the city
is being 're-ruralised' and, if the commuter stops
traveling, he tends to stop where he set out
from. In a global economy which uproots
'marginalised majorities', the strengthening of
deep,strong roots has begun. The greater the
disenchantment with the promises of
development, the greater the growth in a sense of
self-organisation, inventiveness and,
provided the urban context is not required,  the
alternative use of whatever has been brought
19 I am referring to the statements made by
Marcos and reported by the press for the Venice
film festival where the
video documentary by Gianni Minà, Images of
Chiapas, was shown this September.

       ****** The A-Infos News Service ******
      News about and of interest to anarchists
  COMMANDS: lists@ainfos.ca
  REPLIES: a-infos-d@ainfos.ca
  HELP: a-infos-org@ainfos.ca
  WWW: http://www.ainfos.ca/
  INFO: http://www.ainfos.ca/org

-To receive a-infos in one language only mail lists@ainfos.ca the message:
                unsubscribe a-infos
                subscribe a-infos-X
 where X = en, ca, de, fr, etc. (i.e. the language code)

A-Infos Information Center