Brazilian rural workers mobilize: Unity for land, territory, and dignity!

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“We will continue mobilized in unity and struggle and, in combat against our common enemy, we will build a country and a society that is just, compassionate, and sustainable.”

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Declaration of the Unity Meeting of Workers and Peoples of the Countryside, Waters, and Forests, meeting in Brasilia, August 20-22, 2012.

From Friends of the MST


The rural social movements that gathered this week at the Unity Meeting of Workers and Peoples of the Countryside, Waters, and Forests Unity Meeting of Workers and Peoples of the Countryside, Waters, and Forests in Brasilia released a joint statement representing a demonstration of the political unity of the peasants, small farmers, landless, indigenous and afro-descendants, along with environmentalists, human rights activists and students who also participated.

The meeting is a response to the challenges of our country to overcome inequality in land distribution, which remains unchanged since the ’20s, but with economic, social, cultural and environmental risks as a result of the primary specialization of the economy.

The capitalist project underway in Brazil, represented in the countryside by agribusiness, aims to accumulate capital in the primary sector, serving the interests and the rule of foreign capital by means of the transnational corporations.

The offensive of this project causes the crushing and displacement of workers and peoples of the countryside and of the waters and forests. Furthermore, it prevents the implementation of agrarian reform, the recognition and demarcation of indigenous and afro-descendant territories.

On the other hand, it has negative social and environmental impacts, with increasing violence, violation of the territories of fishermen and forest peoples, the weakening of family and peasant agriculture, the subjection of workers and consumers to contaminated food and environmental degradation. The meeting demonstrates that a project is essential for life and work, for the production of healthy foods on a scale sufficient to meet the needs of society, which respects nature and creates dignity in the countryside.

For this reason it is necessary to carry out agrarian reform, defend our territorial sovereignty, ensure food sovereignty, develop agroecology, with the centrality of family and peasant agriculture and traditional forms of production and rural, indigenous and afro-descendant education as strategic tools for emancipation

You can read below the final declaration of the Unity Meeting of Workers and Peoples of the Countryside, Waters, and Forests.

For Land, Territory, and Dignity!

After centuries of oppression and resistance, “the oppressed and exploited peasant masses ” in a demonstration of their political unity and building a national proposal, gathered at the “First National Congress of Farmers and Agricultural Workers on the character of the land reform,” in 1961, in Belo Horizonte. By that First Congress peoples of the rural areas, assuming a role as political subjects, highlighted the centrality of land as a space for living, production, and socio-cultural identity.

This unity and political strength led the João Goulart government to incorporate land reform as a part of its basic reforms, opposing the interests of the elites and becoming one of the elements that led to the coup of 1964. The coup governments persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, and assassinated the leaders but did not destroy the dream nor the peasant struggles for a piece of land.

After decades of resistance and denunciations of oppression, the mobilizations and social struggles created conditions for the resumption and broadening of peasant organizing, giving rise to a diversity of subjects and agendas. Together with the struggle for agrarian reform, the struggle for land and for territory began to establish individuals as landless, afro-descendants, extractivists, artisanal fishermen, coconut breakers, traditional communities, family farmers, peasants, rural workers and other peoples of the countryside, the waters, and the forests. In this process of formation of political subjects, women and youth asserted themselves in the struggle against patriarchal culture, for visibility and equality of rights and dignity in the countryside.

In another demonstration of coalition building and political unity, we men and women of all ages, meet 51 years later, in Brasilia, at the National Unity Meeting of Workers and Peoples of the Countryside, the , Waters, and Forests, with the centrality of the class struggle around the world, currently expressed in the struggle for Agrarian Reform, Land, Territory, and Dignity.

We are building unity in response to the challenges of inequality in the distribution of land. As in the ’60s, this inequality remains unchanged, deepening the economic, social, cultural and environmental risks as a result of the primary specialization of the economy.

The first decade of the 21st century reveals a project in which the conservative modernization of agriculture, initiated by the military, interrupted in the nineties, has been revived and resumed as primary expansion project for the external sector in the last twelve years, under the name of agribusiness, which represents our common enemy.

This project, in its essence, produces inequalities in land and social relations in the rural environment, deepening external dependency and carrying out an ultra-predatory exploitation of nature. Its protagonists are finance capital, the large production and marketing chains for global commodities, the large estates, and the Brazilian state in its financing functions – including using public funding for large projects and infrastructure works — and deregulating the land.

The capitalist project underway in Brazil pursues capital accumulation, specializing in the primary sector, promoting the super-exploitation of agriculture, hydroelectricity, minerals and oil. This super-exploitation, in the name of the need to balance foreign transactions, serves the interests and rule of foreign capital in the rural areas through the agro- and hydro-business corporations.

This project causes the crushing and displacement of workers and peoples of the countryside and of the waters and forests. Its social and environmental consequences are that agrarian reform is not carried out, indigenous and afro-descendant territories are not demarcated and recognized, violence is increased, the territories of the fisher folk and peoples of the forest are violated, family and peasant farming is weakened, workers and consumers are subjected to contaminated foods and to living with environmental degradation. There are also socio-cultural consequences such as the masculinization and the aging of the countryside because of the lack of opportunities for youth and women, resulting in the lack of social reproduction of the peasantry.

These consequences were aggravated by a lack of adequate public policies for social welfare. These policies contributed to the process of social inequality between the countryside and the city, emptying out of the countryside and the increased vulnerability of the peoples of the countryside, waters, and forests. Instead of promoting equality and dignity, the policies and actions of the state often take away the rights and promote violence in the countryside.

Even creating conflicts and being the enemy of the peoples, the Brazilian state in its Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches historically has been investing in strengthening the model of development that is concentrating, exclusive, and degrading. Despite the problems created, the successive governments — including the current one — support the agro- and hydro-business option.

Brazil, as a country rich in land, water, natural resources, and biodiversity, attracts speculative and agro-export capital, intensifying the negative impacts on the indigenous, afro-descendant, traditional communities and peasant territories and populations. Externally, Brazil is becoming the lever for a neo-colonizing project, expanding this model into other countries, especially in Latin America and Africa.

A project for life and work for the production of healthy foods on a sufficient scale to serve the needs of society, which respects nature and creates dignity in the countryside is becoming indispensable. At the same time, the rescue and strengthening of the peasantry, the defense and recovery of their cultures and knowledge is necessary for alternative projects of development and society.

Given this, we uphold:

  1. Agrarian reform as an essential policy for a just, popular, compassionate, and sustainable development, presupposing a change in the land structure, a democratization of access to land, respect for territories, and a guarantee of social reproduction for the people of the countryside, of the waters and forests.
  2. Territorial sovereignty, which comprises the power and autonomy of peoples to freely protect and defend the common good and social space and place of struggle that they occupy, on which they can establish their relationships and lifestyles, develop different cultures and forms of production and reproduction that give identity to the territory
  3. Food sovereignty as the right of peoples to define their own policies and sustainable strategies for production, distribution, and consumption of foods that ensure the right to adequate nourishment for the whole population, respecting their cultures and diverse methods of producing, marketing, and managing these processes.
  4. Agroecology as a basis for sustainability and social and productive organization for family and peasant farming in opposition to the model of agribusiness. Agroecology is a way to produce related to agriculture that preserves biodiversity, the ecosystems, and the genetic heritage that produces healthy foods, free from genetic modification and agrotoxins, which values knowledge and culture of the peoples of the countryside, of the waters, and forests and defends life.
  5. The centrality of family and peasant agriculture and traditional forms of production and their empowerment through structural policies such as promotion and credit that is subsidized and adequate for the realities; technical assistance based on agroecological principles; research that recognizes and incorporates traditional knowledge; training especially for the youth, encouragement for cooperation, industrialization and marketing.
  6. The need for egalitarian relations of recognition and mutual respect, especially in relation to women, overcoming the gender division of labor and patriarchal power and combating all types of violence.
  7. Energy sovereignty as a right of the peoples, which requires social control over the sources, production, and distribution of energy, changing the current model of Brazilian energy.
  8. Rural, indigenous, and afro-inclusive education as strategic tools for emancipation of individuals, which arise from the experiences of struggle for the right to education and for a political-pedagogical project linked to the interests of the working class. These are counterpoised to rural education whose goal is to prepare minimally-qualified, cheap manual labor to enslave workers in the monoculture production system.
  9. The need to democratize the media, today concentrated in the hands of a few families and at the service of the capitalist project, which criminalizes the social movements and organizations in the countryside, the waters, and forests.
  10. The necessity for the State to recognize the rights of the populations affected by the huge projects, ensuring that they have open, informed consultation in advance and reparation in the cases in which rights are violated.

We are committed:

  1. To strengthening the social organizations and intensifying the unity process among the workers, peoples of the countryside, the waters, and forests, placing them as the center of the class struggle and the confrontation with the common enemy, which is capital and its current expression in the rural area, agribusiness and hydro-business.
  2. To broadening our unity in the coming period, constructing common agendas and unifying processes for the struggle to carry out agrarian reform, for the recognition, entitlement, demarcation and withdrawal from indigenous lands, lands of afro-descendants, and traditional communities, ensuring territorial rights, dignity and autonomy.
  3. To strengthen the struggle for agrarian reform as a unifying banner of workers and peoples of the countryside, waters, and forests.
  4. To build and strengthen alliances between people in the countryside and in the city on national and international levels, in class strategies against capital and in defense of a society that is just, egalitarian, compassionate and sustainable.
  5. To struggle for a massive agro-ecology transition, against agrotoxins, for the production of healthy foods, for food sovereignty, in defense of biodiversity and seeds.
  6. To construct a common agenda to revisit the criteria for construction, access, scope, character and social control over public policies, such as the National Program for Strengthening Family Agriculture (PRONAF), National Program of School Nutrition (PNAE), PAA, National Program for Education in Agrarian Reform (PRONERA), National Program for Education in the Countryside (PRONACAMPO), research and extension, among others, focusing on the peoples of the countryside, waters, and forests.
  7. To strengthen the struggle of women for their rights, for equality and for an end to violence.
  8. To broaden the recognition of the strategic importance of youth in the dynamic of development and in the social reproduction of the peoples of the countryside, the waters and the forests.
  9. To struggle for changes in the current production model delineated by the petro-dependents, with high energy consumption.
  10.  To combat and denounce the violence and impunity in the countryside and the criminalization of the leaders of the social movements that is being promoted by public and private agents.
  11. To struggle for the recognition of the State’s responsibility for the deaths and forced disappearances of the peasants as well as for the rights of redress for their families with the creation of a Peasant Commission for Amnesty, Memory, Truth, and Justice to affect the works of the Special Commission on the political dead and disappeared, aiming for the inclusion of all those affected by repression.

We workers, peoples of the countryside, the waters, and the forests, demand that the policies and actions of the Brazilian state be redirected because the rural areas cannot take it any longer. We will continue mobilized in unity and struggle and, in combat against our common enemy, we will build a country and a society that is just, compassionate, and sustainable.

Brasília, August 22 2012

  • Association of Rural Family Homes (Associação das Casas Familiares Rurais , ARCAFAR)
  • Association of Brazilian Women (Associação das Mulheres do Brasil, AMB)
  • Brazilian Association for Agrarian Reform (Associação Brasileira de Reforma Agrária, ABRA)
  • Brazilian Association of Forestry Engineering Students (Associação Brasileira dos Estudantes de Engenharia Florestal ,ABEEF)
  • National Coalition for Agroecology (Articulação Nacional de Agroecologia , ANA)
  • Coalition of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil , APIB)
  • Indigenous Ministry Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário, CIMI)
  • CARITAS Brasileira
  • National Coordination of Quilombolas (Coordenação Nacional dos Quilombolas , CONAQ)
  • National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura , CONTAG)
  • Pastoral Commission on Fishing (Comissão Pastoral da Pesca, CPP)
  • Pastoral Commission on Land (Comissão Pastoral da Terra, CPT)
  • Workers Center of Brazil (Central dos Trabalhadores do Brasil, CTB)
  • Central Workers Union (Central Única dos Trabalhadores, CUT)
  • Federation of Agronomy Students of Brazil (Federação dos Estudantes de Agronomia do Brasil, FEAB)
  • Federation of Workers in Family Farming (Federação dos Trabalhadores da Agricultura Familiar FETRAF)
  • FASE
  • Greenpeace
  • Institute for Socio-economic Studies (INESC)
  • Global March of Women (Marcha Mundial das Mulheres, MMM)
  • Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens, MAB)
  • Popular Peasant Movement (Movimento Camponês Popular, MCP)
  • Movement of Peasant Women (Movimento das Mulheres Camponesas, MMC)
  • Movement of Rural Women Workers of the Northeast (Movimento das Mulheres Trabalhadoras Rurais do Nordeste,MMTR-NE)
  • Movement of Small Farmers (Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores, MPA)
  • Movement of Artisinal Fishermen and Women (Movimento dos Pescadores e Pescadoras Artesanais, MPP)
  • Landless Rural Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST)
  • Interstate Movement of Women Babaçu Coconut-breakers (Movimento Interestadual das Mulheres Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu, MIQCB)
  • OXFAM Brazil
  • Rural Youth Pastoral (Pastoral da Juventude Rural, PJR)
  • National Network of Human Rights (Rede Nacional de Direitos Humanos, Plataforma Dhesca)
  • CEFAS Network (Rede Cefas)
  • National Syndicate of Workers in Agricultural Research and Development (Sindicato Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento Agropecuário, SINPAF)
  • Land of Rights (Terra de Direitos)
  • Unicafes
  • Via Campesina Brasil