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(en) [caravan99] Report of PGA meeting in Bombay

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 29 Jan 2004 17:02:23 +0100 (CET)


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About 40 PGA people present for the WSF or for the parallel events (Mumbai
Resistance 2004 and Peoples' Movements Encounter II) had a short but
productive meeting in Bombay on the evening of the 20th of January. Among
those present were the asian convenors (Bangladesh Krishok Federation of
farmers, women, indigenous and landless), the european convenors (DSM of
Serbia); representatives of many of the state level indian farmers
movements and of the ICC (India Coordinating Committee of farmers
movements, an effective national coordination that was put in place
following the caravan ICC); of the National Association of Peoples
Movements (NAPM), among others of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the National and
World Fishworkers Forum and of the National agricultural workers Forum, of the
Nepal Peasant Federation, of Intergalactica of Argentina, representatives
of organisations of Aotorea (New Zealand), South Africa and about fifteen
other persons from various organisations of Europe and North America.

Several people expressed afterwards what a good meeting it was. No
long-winded speeches about evident problems. The limited time was used to
take a quick stock of where PGA is, generally and in Asia, to verify a
common need that is felt to give a new impulsion to PGA asia and to take
several concrete decisions on how we are going to do this. Short but sweet!

Now we must simply all make good on the engagements undertaken if we are to
go beyond easy criticism of FSM ...

We started with very brief informal presentations about the situation on
each continent and the current regional situations of PGA. We will not try
to report much on this point, hoping that we will be exchanging much more
effectively about all this due to the decisions (see below) taken at the
meeting !

Very briefly, we should just report that there will be a regional meeting
of PGA in Asia (april 2004), hosted by the Krishok federation of Bangladesh
in Dhaka, to which a large number of popular organisations from all over
Asia wish to come (they still need financial help for this, see below).
There will be a regional meeting for Europe in Serbia in July 2004. Latin
American PGA had its third regional meeting in Panama last july. The
latin-american PGA convenors, CONFEUNASSC (the peasant federation of
Ecuador), which is convening the Latin American Social Forum this spring,
is simultaneously convening a regional PGA youth encounter. There is also a
call out, from the Direct Action Network (DAN) which mobilised for Seattle,
to make a new meeting of North American organisations under the PGA
hallmarks. Finally, PGA people are working to organise a network in North
Africa and the middle east, with a focus on the palestinian question.

Among the the actions reported was the decisive role that our friends of
the indian ICC have played in blocking things in Doha and Cancun. The
attitude of the Indian government regarding agriculture was vital there and
they took such positions because they have to deal with constant
mobilisations of ICC organisations, by tens of thousands, more or less year
round. The last being a demo of 25 000 farmers squatting trains from all
over the country to Delhi on the 23 of December (5 000 from Karnataka, some
1500 kilometers to the south!).

Meanwhile, in Ecuador and Bolivia, the peasant movements involved in PGA
have brought down corrupt governments and are exerting a constant pressure
from below. In Europe, despite the feeling that the PGA dynamic is weak
now, it was pointed out that it was only the intervention of groups close
to PGA that made it possible to welcome Bush and the G8 by determined
blockades, rather than a purely symbolic parade. PGA, as a network whose
name is generally not invoked during local or regional struggles, remains
largely invisible. But quite naturally organisations recognising themselves
in PGA principles are always found where struggle is going on !

This brings us to the second part of the discussion:

What is the state of PGA as a worldwide network? Now that the movement and
the practice of Global Days of Action, that we initiated in 1998, has grown
so large and includes many other networks and calls, do we still need PGA ?
If so, to do what exactly ? What is its specificity ? What are the needs of
the various organisations that it could answer ?

These questions are not rhetorical.

State of PGA: Although (or even because) PGA organisations are very active
on a local and regional level, PGA has been dormant for over a year on a
worldwide level.

PGA has always had great difficulty maintaining communication and
developing real working relations between convenors, precisely because the
convenor organisations are not NGOs, but authentic grassroots organisations
(in India for example operating exclusively with very few unpaid activists)
engaged in huge, often critical and even desperate local struggles.
International coordination has consistently been a last, neglected point of
their agenda.

De facto, things have held together in large part due to the initiatives of
the support group and of other people or organisations in the network. This
finally created an uncomfortable situation for the support group. Some
people in Europe, and in the support group itself, felt that the support
group, which is made up of european volonteers, was taking too much the
lead. That the process was in danger of becoming Euro-centric.
Consequently, the support group stopped taking initiatives to push the
process. But so far, the convenors or other southern organisations haven’t
taken their place. The result was, for example, that for the first time,
PGA didn’t issue a call for a Global Day of Action for a WTO summit - in
Cancun - (although there were continental PGA calls in Asia and Latin
America). Also we have had no feedback on the actions resulting from these
calls, or from the Latin American regional meeting, for instance.

As said, we have been victims of our success. Global Days of Action are now
fashionable. The WSF, ATTAC and all kinds of networks issued calls for
Cancun. So is it still important for PGA to do so? The consensus in the
meeting was to say: Yes. It is, because our calls are different: because
their perspective is radical, anticapitalist and based on the strengthening
of local autonomy and peoples’ power ­ in contrast with social democratic,
statist or “good” world governance paradigms; and because they propose the
more confrontative forms of direct action and civil disobedience.

So PGA must occupy its place and strive to be visible in the “marketplace”
of antiglobalisation networks. However, there was immediate consensus to
say that we should call for action on the same day as WSF, etc., whenever
possible to avoid dividing the forces mobilised, which would be clearly
sectarian and negative.

The idea of launching calls on other specific subjects (Arunduti Roy’s
proposal of taking down one multinational such as Coca Cola was mentioned)
was advanced, but it was also clear that the most important subjects for
the organisations (WTO or agriculture, for example) already have their
days.

Concretely, the decision was taken to propose a call for a Global Day of
Action for the April 17th, the Day of the farmer, with the specificity of :

a) a more radical perspective on agriculture and capitalism. As I
understand it (this was not really spelled out in the meeting) there will
be calls for example to reform WTO on this aspect or to take it out of WTO
and give it to the UN, etc. The PGA call would go further to affirm the
necessity of food sovereignty in two senses: That local communities should
be able to grow as much as possible to cover their own needs, and that it
is up to each country to decide what it does or does not wish to import.
Saying that “international trade has to be regulated by some organisation”
implicitly admits that vital decisions must be taken by some global
governance institution. Why?

A PGA call might also question the whole capitalist development paradigm,
which assumes that the huge majority of the world’s population must follow
the western example, abandonning agriculture to seek ever rarer work in the
cities, what the indian friends call “job-loss growth”, etc.

b) It was also said that the call should perhaps be widened to include
general ecological issues, that is a healthy agriculture as a defense of
life forms on earth more generally: GMOs of course but also climate change
(the latest scientific studies talk of the extinction of 25% of all living
species within this century due to global warming!), the growing water
crisis and even the necessity of “negative growth”, particularly in the
North, in order to establish a sustainable civilisation. This larger
perspective would also make action from non-farmer groups more easy.

c) the call to direct action and civil disobedience.

Andrej of DSM and Badrul of Krishok Federation, as convenors present at the
reunion, have particular responsibility to propose a text very rapidly. The
form is less important than the rapidity. April is practically tomorrow if
we seriously want organisations to consider actions, but they can start
making plans already!

Preparing and going beyond Global Days of Action

But it was also said that organising Global Days of Action is today no
longer sufficient in itself. In 1998 people were thrilled and empowered to
hear that coordinated actions had taken place in 65 different places around
the world. Today, everybody knows that “resistance is as transnational as
capital”, everyone knows that WTO, WB, etc. are corrupt and hated world
round. So PGA as a network must take another step:

We must become capable of exchanging more than just the news that we have
done a demonstration! We must exchange our experiences, problems, forms of
struggle being tried, perspectives of resistance and social organisation.
This circulation of ideas is essential (as were the ideas of non-violent
direct action against WTO brought to the West by the KRRS, or Reclaim the
Streets’ idea of Street Parties). But we must go much further. So far PGA
has been an almost exclusively oral culture and exchanges mostly during
very unprepared conferences. This method is too wasteful and too slow.

The proposal is to create a PGA electronic Journal on the PGA webpage.
Different organisations from around the world must send articles concerning
their situation so that different movements can compare and learn from each
other, and really feel that they are in the same movement of resistance,
struggling for the same things. For example, the village and traditional
community based organisations of Karnataka and Bolivia have much in common,
much to share. And alternative groups in developped urban areas are also
trying to develop practices of local autonomy. We must be capable of
sharing all this! That will put life into the still very bare, abstract
structure of PGA.

Since we decided to make a call for action on agriculture April 17th, the
first “issue” of this electronic journal must be centered around the
question of agriculture. The Asian PGA meeting, also in April, will also be
well prepared if a certain number of texts concerning agriculture can be
shared in advance. The texts don’t have to be long or original. Most of
your organisations must have relevant texts already. If you can just send
them (in english or spanish) rapidly, the support group can take care of
the rest.

Please follow up on these decisions! The future of PGA as a worldwide
network depends on one absolute necessity: southern organisations
(convenors but not only convenors) must find some time to contribute to the
process !!! If you really want a radical network to exist, you must do the
footwork !

Asian Regional Conference

Time (30 minutes!) was too short to go into detail. Basically, the Asian
convenors explained the (mostly financial) reasons for the long delay in
organising the conference. The good news is that we have accumulated about
4/5 of the necessary amount, so a call for a conference in Dhaka could be
circulated in Mumbai.

However there remain to be found at least 4 ou 5 thousand dollars.
Complete applications for foundations, etc., have already been drawn up, so
if anybody can propose other possible sources (for instance in North
America or Europe), they only have to inform someone of the support group
(Peter Custer or Jon in particular) and they will submit the application
for the Krishok Federation. Please try to ask around to find sources!

It was also suggested that northern participants who can do so could try to
sponsor a second ticket for an asian delegate. (I think that everyone is
aware that the northerners in PGA are not rich, often working very little
for money and spending most of their time in activism. However, if they can
mobilise their local groups, paying a ticket ­ or part of a ticket ­ is not
so difficult.)

In view of the still short ressources, the idea was aired that it might be
necessary for the meeting, now planned for a week, to be shorter. However,
it was also pointed out that the cost of prolonging the conference is
certainly very small compared to the cost of transportation to Bangladesh.
Conferences are always too short to be able to really develop the
discussions, especially for us who wish to conduct them in a democratic and
respectful way. It is almost wasteful to move so many people (and pollute
the stratosphere) for only a few days.

The decision will finally depend on the state of the final budget.
Hopefully, Krishok will be able to get free food from its members and a
free place to stay and work, since this can be very simple.

The convenors did not have time to talk concerning the program, apart from
insisting on the importance of a specific program of two days on gender and
the struggle against patriarchy.

(The call for the conference, which is on the PGA webpage www.agp.org
specifies that organisations should if possible send two people, at least
one of whom should be a woman.)

Thanks to all for a warm and productive meeting!

The secretaries: Olivier and Andrej

P.S. After Bombay, I (Olivier) went to Bangalore to see Professor
Nanjundaswamy, who is, as you all know, very ill, but struggling as
always. Although he has great difficulty breathing and talking, he found
the strength to very definitely approve the idea of a Global Call for
Action on food sovereignty and the protection of small farming, but
also in particular the priority of extending it to the struggle to
defend "all forms of life".

All of us are sending him our best hopes and thoughts for his recovery.

Another proposition to strengthen PGA was hardly brought up in the
meeting, but we would like to mention it as it came up spontaneously
when I visited the KRRS in Karnataka afterwards.

In reality, a great deal of international communication and mutual support
has been a result of spontaneous informal contacts created by individuals
of the PGA network travelling and staying with other organisations in
Bolivia, Ecuador, Central America, Argentina, etc. The idea would be to
encourage this sort of longer term contacts. Their advantage is that they
can go much deeper than conferences or caravans. The problem now is that
generally only people from the North can afford to do this and that leaders
of organisations don’t have the time to make long visits. So the idea would
be to encourage this process, and also for younger activists of southern
organisations participate in this sort of exchange.

In Karnataka, they also had the idea that it was necessary to educate the
organisation much more widely, at the base, concerning globalisation, etc.
The problem is that the activists must generally first learn english. So
their request is for activists who know english who could come and teach
english (using texts on globalisation as english textbooks) for one or two
months at a time in a rural setting, close to the activists homes. Anybody
interested, contact Olivier. This is a fantastic opportunity to really get
to know one of the world’s most remarkable movements at the grass-roots.

From: Oliver de Marcellus <elviejo-A-greenmail.ch>


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