WSF Bulletin March 27th 2009

Tord Björk | global crisis,International action,popular movements,Repression | Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The situation is heating up in the follow up on the call of action from World Social Forum in Belem in January and other places. In London a whole university were the alternative summit to the G-20 meeting was scheduled have been closed. Among the speakers were a former minister, mayor, members of parliament, professors and many others. Today a call was made to not accept the closure.

Those in power seems to believe in attacking the infrastructure of the movement, only politicians are allowed to meet and have qualified discussions. The political opposition becomes physically impossible. It seems like a crazy strategy. It destroys possibilities for motivating a coordinated politically response and promotes chaos. The EU Summit in Gothenburg 2001 is a clear example when the closure of a counter summit and convergence center created disorder.

The strategy has been used against the global justice movements since 2000 as a proactive police tactic in response to what happened at the WTO meeting in Seattle. It was than brought to Europe by the US educated police boss Håkan Jaldung in Gothenburg. It seems like the London organizers responds in a more political way. In Gothenburg the whole organizational core was broken down as the police encircled the alternative summit and convergence center with 150 containers and then arrested 450 persons inside. In the chaos the organizers were not able to establish political alliances caught in the practical problems that occured. Lets hope that in London that the US kind of way to proactively attack the right to gather people and create chaos in the interest of mass media and the police will be met with more combined political alliance building and mass action.

Below you find the content of the WSF Bulletin March 27th 2009 as i could not find it on the official WSF web site:

Global  week of mobilisation and action against capitalism and war

From  the 28th March to the 4th April, women and men from all over  the world will be in the streets to protest against capitalism  and war and to affirm that they will not pay for the crisis.  Launched by the Social Movements’ Assembly, that gathered  during WSF 2009 in Belem. Three moments mark this week of  mobilisation:

*28th March: Mobilisations in protest of  the Group of 20 meeting (the G20), composed of representatives  of Central Banks and governments from the 20 countries that  represent two thirds of world commerce and population and more  than 90% of the gross world product. The World Bank and the  International Monetary Fund (IMF) are also members of the G20.  They will meet in London (United Kingdom) at the beginning of  April.

Demonstration in London. Pics from Indymedia UK, http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/03/425535.html
*30th March: Day of mobilisation against the  war and the crisis, and in solidarity with the Palestinian  people. This day coincides with Palestinian Land Day, which  remembers the 1976 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in  Galilee. It was chosen to strengthen the campaign for boycott,  disinvestments and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

*4th April: Day that marks the 60th anniversary of  NATO – North American Trade Organisation, an alliance of  military cooperation between the USA and several European  countries. NATO will meet between the 3rd and 4th April in  Baden-Baden and Kehl, in Germany, and in Strasbourg, in  France.

In Europe, movements will concentrate their  actions in London and Strasbourg. There are many different  street activities (such as marches, flyering and bike rides)  planned in the following countries: Australia, the Basque  Country, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Catalonia, France, Germany,  Greece, Kenya, Holland (the Netherlands), India, Italy,  Norway, Pakistan, Quebec, the Spanish State, the United  Kingdom (Scotland and England) and the USA.

During  this week and particularly on the days mentioned above,  movements will affirm that in order to overcome the different  crises (food, finance, economy, climate, energy and population  migration), it is necessary to tackle with the root of the  problem and build a radical alternative to the capitalist  system and patriarchal domination.

In the face of the  false answers presented by companies, banks and governments to  deal with the crisis – such as dismissals and privatisation of  public services, natural and energy resources – which merely  aim at socialising losses, social movements will demand a  number of urgent measures such as:

– Nationalising  the banking sector without compensations and with full social  monitoring,
– Reducing  working time without wage cuts,
– Taking  measures to ensure food and energy sovereignty,
–  Stopping wars, withdrawing occupation troops and dismantling  foreign military bases,
–  Acknowledging peoples’ sovereignty and autonomy, and ensuring  their right to self-determination,
–  Guaranteeing rights to land, territory, work, education and  health for all,
–  Democratising access to means of communication and knowledge.

Click  on the following link to read the full Declaration of the  Social Movements’ Assembly, held during the WSF 2009 in  Belém:  <http://is.gd/piHg> http://www.fsm2009amazonia.org.br/programme/alliance-day/results-of-assemblies/declaration-of-the-assembly-of-social-movements/  (ou http://is.gd/piHg  )

For  further information about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and  Sanctions) campaign, visit the website: http://www.bdsmovement.net/

Read below some of  the actions already scheduled:

AUSTRALIA
30th March: In  Melbourne, the Coalition of Palestinian Support Groups is  launching a campaign called “The Sack Connex, Boycott Israel”.

BELGIUM

28th March: In Brussels, an action drawing  attention to the financial crisis and the Palestinian question  will take place under the slogan “Palestine occupied, Dexia  implied”, as well as a symbolic action between 1.30pm and  16.30pm with the performing of the street theatre “Who will  pay for the crisis?” In addition, as part of the mobilisations  against the crisis and war, the largest Belgian trade union  (FGTB) has launched a campaign with the theme “Capitalism is  seriously bad for our health”. More information (in French):  http://www.contre-attaque.be/

BRAZIL

30th March: In São Paulo a national  demonstration organised by various different social movements  and Brazilian trade union networks will affirm that: “Workers  will not pay for the crisis!” The demonstration will begin in  the Avenue Paulista and will continue throughout the centre of  the city. The act will be accompanied by actions and  demonstrations in cities around the country. Look at the flyer  by clicking on the following link: http://www.cut.org.br/component/option,com_banners/task,click/bid,18  (ou http://tinyurl.com/c4pxdo)

Demonstrations  against the ratification of the Mercosur-Israel trade  agreement, and in support of the BDS (boycott, disinvestments  and sanctions) campaign against Israel will also take place in  the centre of the city, organised by the Solidarity with the  Palestinian People’s Front.

CANADA AND  QUEBEC

28th  March: In Montreal, peaceful demonstration in front of the  Guy-Favreau Complex at 1.30pm to say no to the G20, considered  an illegitimate forum in which to solve the crisis.

30th  March: In Toronto, “Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar”, a  talk by George Galloway organised by the Toronto Stop the War  Coalition.

30th  March: In Montreal, symbolic olive tree planting in front of  the Israeli consulate, and an exhibition and sharing of  testimonies with regards to the Gaza situation.

CATALONIA, THE BASQUE COUNTRY AND  THE SPANISH STATE

28th March: Demonstrations  against the crisis and G20 and in solidarity with Palestinian  people will be held in Albacete, Almería, Barcelona, Bilbao,  Cádiz, Córdoba, Alicante, Elche, Madrid, Murcia, Pontevedra,  Tarragona and Valencia. Check the agenda at: http://www.nodo50.org/?page=convocatorias&id_article=189 <http://www.nodo50.org/?page=convocatorias&amp;id_article=189>

FRANCE

28th March: In Paris, demonstration organised  by a wide coalition of organisations, movements, trade unions  and political parties will leave from the Place de l’Opera at  2 pm. Activities are also scheduled in a further 30 cities.  Read the full list at: http://www.stop-g20.org/

On this same day, various activities in solidarity  with Palestine, such as demonstrations, film exhibitions and  conferences will take place in Paris, Lille, Le Mans, St  Brieuc and St Denis, organised by the France – Palestine  Solidarity Association (AFPS, in French).

On the  4th April, under the slogan « No to war! No to NATO ! »,  thousands of people from all over Europe will meet in  Strasbourg where different forms of action will take place to  demand an end to  militarisation and to NATO: workshops,  flyering to raise awareness, street blockades, meetings and  civil disobedience actions. A large demonstration is scheduled  to depart at 1pm. An alternative camp also will be organised.  Further information (only in French): http://sommet-otan-2009.blogspot.com

GERMANY

3rd April:  Demonstrations and blockades are planned in the city of  Baden-Baden, one of the entrance points for Heads of State and  military chiefs who will participate in the NATO ceremonies in  Strasbourg. More information: http://gipfelsoli.org/Home/Strasbourg_Baden-Baden_2009/NATO_2009_Links

GREECE

2nd April: In Crete, demonstration in support  of sports boycott and protest of the Greece – Israel soccer  match in Heraclion.

HOLLAND (NETHERLANDS)

28th March – 31st March: Cycling event calling  for the suspension of the EU – Israel Association Agreement.  Bicyclists will begin at the International Courts of Justice  at The Hague on the

28th and arrive at European  Parliament in Brussels on the 31st to deliver a petition to  European MPs. Organised by The Peace Cycle.

INDIA

30th March: In Delhi, Exhibition, poetry and  films commemorating Palestinian Land Day.

ITALY

28th March: Demonstration will take place at  2.30pm in Rome under the slogan “Loro la crisi, noi la  soluzione” (“Their crisis, our solutions”), organised by  COBAS. Sit-in at various shopping centres in Milan, Turin,  Pisa, Bologna, Rome, and Naples, organized by Forum Palestine  will also be held.

4th April: large demonstration  organised by CGIL and other organisations and networks through  the streets of Rome in direction of the Circo Massimo.

KENYA

28th March: the World March of Women will  participate in actions in support of women artists, and to  affirm that women will not pay for the crisis. They will be  accompanied by a feminist drumming group and will base their  actions around the themes of women’s work, the common good,  food security, domestic violence and peace.

NORWAY

30th March: in  Kristiansand and Oslo debates and workshops around the  Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign as a tool to  pressure Israel. In selected neighbourhoods of Oslo, the  Socialist Youth will engage in a face to face boycott action,  going door to door and informing inhabitants about the BDS  campaign, which products to boycott, and how they can get  involved. Finally, the Palestine Committee and others will  hold a joint BDS demonstration at the Israeli embassy in Oslo.

PAKISTAN

In Karachi, a conference on the Palestinian  situation will be held on 28th March. On 2nd April,  demonstrations against the G20 will take place in the city  streets.

UNITED KINGDOM

28th  March to 4th April: London will receive participants from all  over Europe for the demonstrations against the capitalistic  system and the crisis, on the 28th March, and against the war  and the NATO, on the 2nd April. Surprise actions, meetings and  debates will take place during the week, as well as a camp in  the city centre. Further information:  www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk

In Glasgow and Edinburgh, in  Scotland, boycotts of supermarkets will take place on the 29th  March in solidarity with Palestine.

On 30th March,  mass calls to Waitrose and Tesco supermarkets’ customer  services to complain about the sale of Israeli products across  the UK.

UNITED STATES

29th  March: Film projections, discussion around BDS actions with  speakers recently returned from Gaza and on links between  Mexico and Palestine walls, will be held in Santa Cruz, and on  the
30th March in San Diego and Los Angeles, California. In  New York, the Campaign for the Boycott of Israel will launch a  broad boycott campaign against the Motorola Company on the  30th.

… And much more around the  World.

Wallerstein on MST as a model in the global crisis

Tord Björk | Brazil,global crisis,MST,Uncategorized,WSF | Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Follow Brazil’s Example

By Immanuel Wallerstein

Quotes from article that appeared in the March 23, 2009 edition of The Nation.

MST activists together with other Via Campesina women occupying Barra Bonita March 8 2009 to promote agrarian reform alternatives to corporate monoculture

“In my view, the only sensible attitude is that taken by the large, powerful and militant Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil. The MST supported Lula in 2002, and despite all he failed to do that he had promised, they supported his re-election in 2006. They did it in full cognizance of the limitations of his government, because the alternative was clearly worse. What they also did, however, was to maintain constant pressure on the government–meeting with it, denouncing it publicly when it deserved it and organizing on the ground against its failures.

The MST would be a good model for the US left, if we had anything comparable in terms of a strong social movement. We don’t, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to patch one together as best we can and do as the MST does–press Obama openly, publicly and hard–all the time, and of course cheering him on when he does the right thing. What we want from Obama is not social transformation. He neither wishes to, nor is able to, offer us that. We want from him measures that will minimize the pain and suffering of most people right now. That he can do, and that is where pressure on him may make a difference.

The middle run is quite different. And here Obama is irrelevant, as are all the other left-of-center governments. What is going on is the disintegration of capitalism as a world system, not because it can’t guarantee welfare for the vast majority (it never could do that) but because it can no longer ensure that capitalists will have the endless accumulation of capital that is their raison d’être. We have arrived at a moment in which neither farsighted capitalists nor their opponents (us) are trying to preserve the system. We are both trying to establish a new system, but of course we have very different, indeed radically opposed, ideas about the nature of such a system.

Because the system has moved very far from equilibrium, it has become chaotic. We are seeing wild fluctuations in all the usual economic indicators–the prices of commodities, the relative value of currencies, the real levels of taxation, the quantity of items produced and traded. Since no one really knows, practically from day to day, where these indicators will shift, no one can sensibly plan anything.

In such a situation, no one is sure what measures will be best, whatever their politics. This practical intellectual confusion lends itself to frantic demagoguery of all kinds. The system is bifurcating, which means that in twenty to forty years there will be some new system, which will create order out of chaos. But we don’t know what that system will be.

What can we do? First of all, we must be clear what the battle is about. It is the battle between the spirit of Davos (for a new system that is not capitalism but is nonetheless hierarchical, exploitative and polarizing) and the spirit of Porto Alegre (a new system that is relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian). No lesser evil here. It’s one or the other.

What must the left do? Promote intellectual clarity about the fundamental choice. Then organize at a thousand levels and in a thousand ways to push things in the right direction. The primary thing to do is to encourage the decommodification of as much as we can decommodify. The second is to experiment with all kinds of new structures that make better sense in terms of global justice and ecological sanity. And the third thing we must do is to encourage sober optimism. Victory is far from certain. But it is possible.”

Immanuel Wallerstein, senior research scholar at Yale University, is the author, most recently, of European Universalism: The Rhetoric of Power.

Article at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090323/wallerstein

The City that Ended Hunger

Tord Björk | agriculture,Brazil,food | Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Can local farmers produce food for local needs and put an end to hunger? That is a claim put forward by the well-known author Frances Moore Lappé on Friday, March 13, 2009 in YES! Magazine.

The article starts by stating: A city in Brazil recruited local farmers to help do something U.S. cities have yet to do: end hunger and quoting the ideal behind the solution: “To search for solutions to hunger means to act within the principle that the status of a citizen surpasses that of a mere consumer.” City of Belo Horizone, Brasil. The article continue:

“In writing Diet for a Small Planet, I learned one simple truth: Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but a scarcity of democracy. But that realization was only the beginning, for then I had to ask: What does a democracy look like that enables citizens to have a real voice in securing life’s essentials? Does it exist anywhere? Is it possible or a pipe dream? With hunger on the rise here in the United States-one in 10 of us is now turning to food stamps-these questions take on new urgency.

To begin to conceive of the possibility of a culture of empowered citizens making democracy work for them, real-life stories help-not models to adopt wholesale, but examples that capture key lessons. For me, the story of Brazil’s fourth largest city, Belo Horizonte, is a rich trove of such lessons. Belo, a city of 2.5 million people, once had 11 percent of its population living in absolute poverty, and almost 20 percent of its children going hungry. Then in 1993, a newly elected administration declared food a right of citizenship. The officials said, in effect: If you are too poor to buy food in the market-you are no less a citizen. I am still accountable to you.

The new mayor, Patrus Ananias-now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort-began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources-the “participatory budgeting” that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil. During the first six years of Belo’s food-as-a-right policy, perhaps in response to the new emphasis on food security, the number of citizens engaging in the city’s participatory budgeting process doubled to more than 31,000.
The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer mark-ups on produce-which often reached 100 percent-to consumers and the farmers. Farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food.”

Read more at: http://www.mstbrazil.org/?q=node/599

Waggon at MST 25 anniversary celebrating the food that reforma agraria brings us

New Offensive Against the MST

Tord Björk | Brazil,MST,Repression,Uncategorized | Sunday, March 29th, 2009

There is a growing offensive against the landless movement MST in Brazil. This is adressed by Plinio Arruda Sampaio in Folha de S. Paulo, March 16, 2009. He writes:

“Today, the MST is struggling against an intermittent type of attack: an attack sponsored by enemies visible and invisible.

The MST (Movement of Landless Rural Workers) is subject to two types of attack: the permanent and intermittent. The first type is directed daily by UDR (Democratic Rural Union) and the “rural bench”. The second form of attack happens from time to time. Today, the movement is struggling against this second type: a major offensive sponsored by enemies, visible and invisible. One of the visible enemies is the current President of the Supreme Court. Clearly going beyond his duties, the judge is instigating judicial measures to investigate alleged irregularities in the transfer of federal funds to entities linked to the MST. The prosecutor’s eagerness to attack the landless, while being accused of tolerating crime, caused an angry reaction from the Attorney General, the honorable Dr. Antonio Fernando de Souza.

Each offensive, as explained in military treatises, must have a clear central objective. The current ongoing offensive against the MST is to “clean” the land of a real organization, which can be a serious obstacle to the deployment of the new agricultural model adopted by the government, that is, the model of big agribusiness. The order, therefore, is to bury land reform.”

read the rest at: http://www.mstbrazil.org/?q=node/602

Women Struggle against Agribusiness, for Agrarian Reform and Food Sovereignty

Tord Björk | global crisis,monoculture,MST,Women | Sunday, March 29th, 2009

700 Via Campesina women occupy the fazenda Ana Paula

Women from La Via Campesina mobilized last week on March 8th for International Women’s Day. The fight is our historic tool to denounce the agribusiness model which is socially unjust and environmentally unsustainable. We also question the role of the State, which in the wake of a deep structural economic crisis, chooses to aid big private companies which exploit our country, its biodiversity, our natural resources and leave our workers unemployed.

We live in a period where there is a new right-wing offensive against social movements. With this campaign, we show the enemies of Agrarian Reform and of the worker, that we will continue confronting agribusiness, creating an alternative project for the Brazilian countryside.

While factory farms receive R$65 billion in financing from the government, family farmers, which generate jobs and produce food for the people, are left with less than R$13 billion. In 2008, BNDES gave to various sectors, including mining, stockbreeding, cellulose and paper, nearly R$17 billion.

In the wake of the crisis, these sectors were the first to throw their negative effects onto the backs of workers: firms tied to agribusiness left 134,000 people unemployed in the country. It was the second highest sector of unemployment since September, when the international economic crisis began.

The actions of our struggle transform the sentiment of all workers in cities and in the countryside into struggle:

We won’t pay for the crisis!

We denounce monocultural production, and for that reason we occupy sugar cane and eucalyptus plantations. Those crops advance over food production and damage our biodiversity. For that reason we occupied the Cosan power plant in São Paulo, a Votorantim farm in Rio Grande do Sul, a Vale eucalyptus farm in Maranhão, we cut stalks of sugar cane in Paraíba, and planted beans and corn in their place.

We denounce dangerous working conditions that lead to slave-like exploitation, and for that reason we occupied sugar plantations in Pernambuco and marched in Paraná. We denounce the project calling for the transfer of the São Francisco River and we occupied Codevasf in Pernambuco.

1300 female workers occupy the harbor Portocel

We denounce the agro export model, which prioritizes the profits made by large companies. We occupied Portocel port, used and operated by Aracruz Cellulose, in Espírito Santo state, questioning the exportation of 96% of disposable paper from its production to consumers in the north.

We questioned the agribusiness model and its financing of the State. The alliance between large property owners and transnational corporations has been deemed legitimate by the government, which doesn’t prioritize the family farmer. In Brasília we occupied the Agricultural Ministry, we occupied Incra offices in Rio Grande do Norte and in Paraíba. We occupied the Banco do Brasil agency in Santa Catarina.

We protested in front of the Federal Supreme Court, whose president, Gilmar Mendes, has assumed the role as a leader of the right in Brazil. He defends his interests as a large property owner and the interests of his social caste. He doesn’t want Agrarian Reform or to see land redistributed. We will continue with our promise and remain mobilized and we won’t waver against those most reactionary sectors, the transnational corporations and financial capital.

And while land, water and seeds are threatened, we will be ready. We are the progeny of so many men and women who did not submit to inequality and injustice. We have a plan for Brazilian agriculture, with its base being food sovereignty, family agriculture and Agrarian Reform, to address the necessities of the Brazilian people.

At this moment, we place ourselves at the side of Brazilian society to discuss how to confront the economic crisis and construct a popular development plan, with social justice and popular sovereignty.

MST National Coordinators

MST organizational principles and pedagogy

Tord Björk | education,MST | Sunday, March 29th, 2009


” MST pedagogy based on direct democracy, social and self consciousness is what every school should be based upon everywhere in the world.”

Pertti Simula

Pertti Simula at MST Headqarters in Sao Paulo

Interview with Pertti Simula, bar Cortas, Avenida Alfonso Bovero, esquina Rua Apinajes, 18.1 2009, Sao Paulo

Food time at Jair Costa MST camp

What are the key organizing principles behind Movimento Sem Terra?

Their model of social organisation is based on participatory democracy locally in groups with about 10 families each, so called nucleo de base. This makes it possible to have all important decision making be taken through a direct democratic process. In MST this is called organizidade – it means more than just organisation – it is a living organisation.

The other important aspects of organizidade is ”critica – auto critica”. That means that everybody is supposed to take part with a process of selfconsciousness. This takes place in collective forms for instance once a year or when needed. So that everybody in the collective gets an idea how others are seeing upon ones performance in relation to work and collective actvitity.

A third point could be that organizadade is a loose and open form of organisation. Local as well as state level are independent and it is not possible to command the organisation from the national level.

Besides this two other aspects are important:
1.    Rotation principle for different functions and responsibilities in the movement, everybody is nourished to leran so many activities and functions as possible.
2.    The women schould be represented by 50 percent in coordinating positions, Many times hard to live up to but it is always addressed.

In organizidade there are a traditional representative democratic organization, too, that means that in the local , state and national levels representatives and cooprdinators are elected to different activities. To speak in the name of MST one refers to his/her area of responsability.

Pupils cleaning at Escuela Educar in Rio Grande do Sul


How do you look upon the pedagogy of MST?

I Believe that MST pedagogy is based very much on Paulo Freire and Anton Makarenko. A pedagogy very much based on social consciousness, participatory organized school forms with direct democracy and self consciousness. The children take part in the discussion in pedagogical methods and in developing rules and cooperation principles. It is a challenging process.

Pertti Simula to the right educating in the field

You have been to the schools. How would you say that the key problems are in implementing the vision both in terms of the different aspects?

As the teachers usually have the normal pedagogical schooling, they are not familiarized in participatory school systems. First they have to ”buy” the idea and then can implement it with the children. The social and self consciousness are also matters that teachers who come outside the MST culture have to learn first. The classroom of for instance 60 students is divided in 6 basic teams (nucleo de base). And the discussions in decision processes start from these units, their recomendations are taken to the group of coordenators. It´s members are elected by usual democratic process. The group of coordinators analyzes the recomendations and then formulates the decision. The democratic decision is taken to the executive organization to be implemented. Basic teams discuss everything, like  pedagogical goals, pedagogical methods, the rules of how to cooperate, how to maintain discipline, the criteria of evaluation of students and educators.

Group educational work at Cooptar

The student support concerning the individual and social well-being, pedagogical development and discipline is organized  partly by the students selves. E.g. when one class graduates a couple of students are invited to follow up the next class.

Pedagogical goals are mainly decided by the board of the school but students can discuss and analyze them. I have especially contact with schools like ITERRA, CEAGRO, Educar and Escola Nova Sociedade. There are differences between the schools, they are in different phases of the process.

The public schools at the settlement areas have special difficulties to implement the principles which are not standard. This means that there is a constant discussion and gradual implementing.

MST meeting at Vuoma

What is the problem when MST ideals collides the ideals of the public schools system?

In an ordinary public school the students are prepared to be laborforce (employees), not to think and analyze the social structure, not to create a critical look, not to create participatory manners. But the goal is to submit the children to the capitalism. MST will develop a critical view on social problems and injustice. MST want people to take responsibility and initiative in their lives instead of developing dependency on employers or/and state. MST will that people can really participate, that they develop self confidence and self consciousness, so they can live a happy life. MST want to foster social responsibility, so that everybody feels responsible for others,  and cooperation as the main principles of the society instead of competition and individualism. MST want to protect the nature against the exploitive agrobusiness. MST want that all the people have the same power and not power based on how many dollars or euros one has. MST want democracy in economy. So you see that there are a lot of conflicts with the existing power structure. But conflicts makes it possibilities to create something better. It is through conflicts that we grow to more mature and caring people.

Pupils at MST cooperative

How can MST show that these principles can be good base to be applied in the rich countries?

MST pedagogy based on direct democracy, social and self consciousness is what every school should be based upon everywhere in the world. We are exporting this kind of experience to Sweden and Finland. In Scandinavia the schools are rich materially but are poor in human aspect. There are lot of passivity, loneliness, individualism, depression, nothing matters –attitude, disturbing, bulling and  violence. The schools atmosphere suffer the common economical and social values. In November 2007 five school directors from Sweden and Finland visited  some MST schools in Brazil. This group became convinced that the MST model really works. Especially they pointed out the importance of nucleo the base (basic teams) as a real direct democratic alternative, because it is generally known that representative democracy does not work, people are alienated from decision making. The MST school model is a vanguarda,. Now in Finland and Sweden there are many schools which apply these principles in different and colourful ways. The model is applied by many teachers and directors in loose way, what they feel is best, easeast and most important, experimenting. There are a permanent discussion group which systemizes the ideas and results and develop the documenation.

Tord Björk

The crisis will be profound and prolonged

Tord Björk | global crisis,MST | Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

João Pedro Stedile in Belem 2009 discussing plantation issues, photo Tord Björk

by João Pedro Stedile

It’s been several months since the crisis of capitalism was unleashed on the international level, with its epicenter in financial capital and the US economy.  Now we have more evidence that this crisis will be profound and prolonged, affecting all the peripheral economies — including Brazil.

Many analyses of the crisis have been published in academia and the media.  There are all sorts of positions and ideological currents.  But they all converge on this diagnosis: it is a profound crisis, worse than the crisis of 1929.  It will affect the entire world economy, which has been increasingly internationalized and controlled by fewer than 500 companies.  It will be worse, because it combines an economic crisis, a financial crisis (of the credibility of currencies), an environmental crisis, an ideological crisis due to the failure of neoliberalism, and a political crisis due to the lack of alternatives on the part of the dominant class at the center of capitalism or the governments of the periphery.

In the history of crises of capitalism, the dominant classes, owners of capital, and their governments have adopted the same prescription to exit them.

First, they need to destroy a part of (over-accumulated) capital (lacking demand) to make room for another process of accumulation.  In recent months, over 4 trillion dollars in paper money have gone up in smoke.

Second, they call for wars.   War is a way of destroying goods (weapons, munitions, materials, facilities) and getting rid of the social tension of workers.  And it does so in such a way as to also eliminate the industrial reserve army.  Thence the First and Second World Wars, and then the Cold War.  Now, given the fear of atomic bombs, they stir up regional conflicts instead.  The attacks on the Palestinian people by Israel, the provocations in India, and the threats against Iran all fit in this strategy as well.  The strategy is to increase military spending and destroy goods.

Third, magnify the exploitation of workers.  That is to say, in crises, lower the average wages, and bring down the living standards and thus the costs of the reproduction of the labor force, in order to restore the rates of surplus value and restart accumulation.  Hence also the expansion of unemployment, which keeps multitudes surviving only on the basic baskets of goods, etc.

Fourth, a greater transfer of capital from the periphery to the center of the system.  This is accomplished by the direct transfer from enterprises in the periphery to their headquarters, as well as through the manipulation of the dollar exchange rate, the payment of interests, and the manipulation of prices of goods sold and bought in the periphery.

Fifth, capital goes back to using the state as the manager of the savings of the population to shift these funds for the benefit of capital.  For this purpose, capitalists again valorize the state, not as the caretaker of the interests of society, but as the steward of their interests, to use its compulsory powers and thus collect money from everyone, through taxes as well as savings deposited in the banks, in order to finance their way out of the crisis.

We are witnessing the application of these classic measures, reported in the press every day — here in Brazil, in the center of capitalism, and in the rest of the world.

But, as with everything in life, there are always contradictions.  For each action of capital, the government, etc., there will be its contradiction, which society and workers can recognize and exploit to change the situation.

The historic periods of crises are also periods of change.  For better or worse, there will be changes!  Crises create openings and rearrange the positioning of classes in society.  In Brazil, we are still apathetic, amorphous, listless, watching the description of symptoms of the approaching crisis on television.  There was hardly any reaction or feedback from nearly 800,000 workers who lost their jobs just in December 2008.  Nor are there comments on the IPEA research showing that, of the 17 million poor families in Brazil in the general register of beneficiaries of government programs, 79% of them are unemployed!  For they received some benefits, they are not seeking more jobs, and they are left out of even the statistics of unemployment.

It is vital for the organized sectors of society — in all existing forms, whether in churches, trade unions, schools, colleges, universities, the press, social movements, or parties — to do something about the crisis.  The first thing to do is to debate the nature of the crisis and find ways out of the crisis, from the point of view of workers and the majority of society.  It is urgent to encourage all manner of discussions in all arenas.  Paraná Educational TV’s initiative to promote this kind of public debate is welcome.  But it is still insufficient.  The crisis will be long and deep.  We need to involve the largest possible number of militants, politically conscious men and women, to discuss the situation, so we can collectively build popular alternatives.  Without mobilization and social struggles, there will be no way out for the people — except for capital.

João Pedro Stedile is a member of the national coordination of the MST and Via Campesina.  The original article “A crise será profunda e prolongada. . .” appeared in the February 2009 issue of Caros Amigos, Sao Paulo, Brasil, republished by the Agencia Latinoamericana de Información on 16 February 2009.

Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Women raise their voices against tree plantations

Tord Björk | Environmental movements,Friends of the Earth,monoculture,Stora Enso,Women | Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Quote from email:

Brazilian women protesting against plantations March 8 2009

“I would like to draw your attention to following video produced by World Rainforest Movement – an international network involved in efforts to  defend the world’s rainforest and forests peoples.

Over the last years World Rainforest Movement has been carrying out a
campaign against the expansion of large scale tree monocrops. And within that campaign we have been working on and documenting the differentiated
impacts that monoculture plantations have on women.

World Rainforest Movement has recently produced a 12 minute video called “Women raise their voices against tree plantations. Testimonies from Brazil, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea” (available at http://www.wrm.org.uy/Videos/Women_Voices.html) which was announced on  March 8: International Women’s Day.
The video is the result of three workshops conducted in PNG, Nigeria and Brazil within the framework of a project on the Role of the European Union in disempowering women in the South through the conversion of local ecosystems into tree plantations. The video is accompanied by a written report containing further information on the findings of the workshops. (summary report at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/subjects/women/summaryreport.pdf // full report at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/subjects/women/fullreport.pdf )

In the case of Papua New Guinea the workshop refers to oil palm plantations that are being mainly promoted to feed the European market with palm oil (used in products such as cosmetics, soap, vegetable oil and foodstuffs)  as well as for the production of agrofuels.

The second case is that of Nigeria which is about rubber plantations established on the lands of a local community by the France-based Michelin company for producing rubber used in the manufacture of tyres.

And finally the Brazilian case is about eucalyptus plantations set up by three companies -the Swedish-Finnish Stora Enso, Aracruz Celulose and Votorantim- for producing pulp for export to Europe for converting it there into paper.

World Rainforest Movement hopes with this tool to raise awareness on how European policies, consumption levels and corporations  are impacting on women’s lives in Southern countries.

Best regards
Barbara
Barbara Specht
Advocacy Officer, WIDE”

Footnote. It can be added that Friends of the Earth International also have co-produced the video together with WRM.

School for landless at Ministerial entrance

Tord Björk | education,MST,Repression,Women | Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

At the entrance of the Ministry for Agriculture in Brasilia, the peasant women established School for Landless Paulo Freire, with about 50 children, in protest against the recent decision of the Public Ministry of Rio Grande do Sul in closing the schools of the MST (Rural Landless Movement dosTrabalhadores) in gauchos encampements.

Public school for Landless – Closing schools is a crime!

Women protest against agribusiness

Tord Björk | Latin American movements,monoculture,MST,Repression,Women | Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

On this Monday (9 / 3), women of Via Campesina are protestng to denounce the government support given to agribusiness and transnational corporations of the export sector – especially agriculture – in the context of global economic crisis, while neglecting the rural workers, the small farmers and agrarian reform. So far, the protests were held in four regions: Central West (Brasilia), Southeast (Espírito Santo and São Paulo), South (Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná) and Northeast (Pernambuco). All are part of Day of Struggle on the International Women’s Day.

Only in December, the agribusiness fired 134 thousand people across country. The agribusiness sector has in the economic crisis resigned second most in the country, despite the high profitability of the last period and the investments of the government. In 2008, BNDES disbursed to the sectors of mining, agriculture, pulp and paper around 17 billion Reais. Of the total of 1.51 trillion Reias forecatsed for the period between 2008 and 2011, the agribusiness has forecast only 45.1 billion Reias in investments.

“The economic crisis demonstrates that the current economic model supporting the agribusiness and transnational companies submit our country to international capital and are responsible for global collapse. Now, they are asking the government or the states for help and dismiss their workers. Brazilian society and workers can not pay for the crisis of neoliberalism, “says Itelvina Masioli, of the Via Campesina.

“It’s time to change the agricultural model, bringing to reality the land reform and an economic model that is strengthening the internal market and increasing the minimum wage to protect workers and guarantee the national sovereignty,” he concludes.

Occupants at the Agricultural ministery in Brasilia

In Brasilia, 800 women from Via Campesina occupied the building of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, in Brasília. The demonstration denounced the government’s agrarian policy, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, controlled by big landowners, upholding the large, transnational companies and financial capital, responsible for the crisis.

The rural workers also complain about the development model imposed by the government, transnational corporations and banks for the Brazilian countryside, and charge the implementation of a model based on small farm agriculture through the implementation of agrarian reform and an economic policy geared to the generation of jobs for the population.

Occupants entering Fazenda Ana Paula

In Rio Grande do Sul, 700 women organized by Via Campesina occupied the Fazenda Ana Paula, owned by Votorantim Celulose e Papel. The occupation began with the cutting of eucalyptus in the area. After speculation against the Brazilian currency and take losses on the financial crisis, the VCP has received 6.6 billion Reias from the Brazilian government to acquire Aracruz Celulose, by buying half of Banco Votorantim’s portfolio and a loan from the National Bank Economic and Social Development, BNDES. The cost of purchase was 5.6 billion Reias.

The VCP had promised to generate 30 thousand jobs in the state and even receive tax exemptions and resources of federal, state and municipalities, the Aracruz caused the resignation of 1.2 thousand workers in Guaiba, between workers and engineers, and other VCP 2 thousand workers. The agribusiness sector has resigned second most of all sectors in the present financial crisis. Only in December, the agribusiness fired 134 thousand people across the country.

Occupants at Portocel

In the Espirito Santo, about 1,300 women from Via Campesina occupied the Portocel, port of exports of the company Aracruz Celulose, located in Barra do Riacho, Aracruz municipality to terminate the transfer of public resources of the state to the company. Women entered the port, did an act with the destruction of part of the production of eucalyptus, and left the area. Aracruz is recieving public resources, but does not create or guarantee jobs, destroys the environment and does not contribute to national development.

To save the Aracruz’s bankruptcy, the government pass through BNDES – with funds from the FAT (Fundo de Amparo to work) – 2.4 billion Reias for the Votorantim group to buy shares of Aracruz. Even with the resources to support the employee, the company does not guarantee employment, and has fired more than 1,500 outsourced workers. The case is a demonstration that the interests of private companies do not overlap with the interests of the Brazilian people.

The planted area of companies in the sector of paper and pulp totals 5.5 million hectares in our country, not counting the 304 hectares of fields belonging to third parties but used by companies for the plantation of eucalyptus (because of Votorantim). Still, this was the sector of the economy that felt the changes more quickly toward the economy, due to speculation in the financial market.

The Aracruz, Votorantim Celulose e Papel (VCP) and Klabin had a combined loss of 2, 7 billion Reias in the third quarter of the year. The speculation of Aracruz caused losses estimated at approximately 2 billion Reias (equivalent to the amount of revenue a year of exports of pulp manufacturer, for 2.1 billion Reias in 2007). “Companies make money on our natural resources, speculates in the financial market and, in time of crisis, dismiss workers and runs to the state government for help,” wonders Itelvina Masioli.

Occupants in Barra Bonita

In Sao Paulo, about 600 workers from Via Campesina occupied this Monday (09) an area of Cosan in the municipality of Barra Bonita, the region of Jau, 280 km from the capital. The group Cosan operates an area two times larger than the total number of acres intended for Agrarian Reform in the State of São Paulo: 605 hectares by the group, only 300 thousand to 15 thousand families in state and federal settlements.

Occupants at Barra Bonita

The unit of Barra, the place of the manifestation, is the largest sugar and ethanol mill in the world capable of crushing the cane, a symbol of the sugar-alcohol sector. According to analysis by the BNDES (2003), the plant operates more than 70 hectares of land, of which about 18 hectares are owned by the company itself, and the others are rented, covering six counties in the region. “The land of the group Cosan does not meet its social role and thus are in total disagreement with what the Constitution provides for the country. Therefore, their land should be designed for Agrarian Reform immediately, scores Soraia Soriano, Via Campesina.

In Pernambuco, more than 200 rural workers from Via Campesina held a demonstration in Cruangi Mill, located in Alliance, Zona da Mata Norte in Pernambuco against the model of monoculture of sugar cane and slave labor in the State. The mill became one of the symbols of exploitation of rural workers when, in February, in an operation of the mobile inspection group against slave labor, were rescued 252 workers, among them 27 minors. All found in the mill, under slavery.

The sugar-alcohol sector was the branch of economics that is most used in labor-slave in the year 2008. According to CPT, 2,553 workers were rescued last year in the fields of cane. This number represented 49% of workers found in the system of slave labor in the country in 2008. In Pernambuco, 529 workers were found in situations of slavery and extreme exploitation in the factories in the state, last year. One of the most emblematic case was the Victoria Mill in the town of Palmares, here more than 240 rural workers who worked in degrading situations were rescued.

In Paraná, 1,000 workers from Via Campesina organised a march through central Porecatu, in the northern partt of the state. The demonstration began in the morning, leaving the City Hall Community Center to the central square, where a celebration was held with the sharing of food for Agrarian Reform. During the journey the women denounced the model of agribusiness, production of monocultures (from sugarcane, soybean, eucalyptus, pine, among others) and transnational, that destroy biodiversity, peasant culture and prevent the Agrarian Reform.

The Paraná workers also made a collect for the settlement of 6 thousand families remaining camped out in about 65 camps in the state, and the expropriation of fazenda Variante belonging to the Gorup Atalla in Porecatu, where workers were in a state of slavery. The area is occupied by 300 families from the MST, since the beginning of November last year.

There are in Brazil 130 thousand families camping out and more than four million households of landless. “The implementation of land reform and consolidation of a new agricultural model dependent on the defeat of the current economic model. The provision of rural credit from the federal government for the agriculture business in this season (2008/09) is 65 billion Reias and only 13 billion Reias to the family farm, with exemption of taxes on exports. Export only raw materials do not develop the country, and income distribution, ” says Itelvina Masioli, of the Via Campesina.

Other actions:

Affected by dams claim rights in Paraíba

Since the morning of Monday (9 / 3), activists from Via Campesina and People’s Assembly are mobilized in João Pessoa, in Paraíba. The actions, which continue throughout the day, mark the national day of struggle of women and international day of struggle against the dams.

In the morning, around 350 women occupied the Association of Planters of Cana and the state in a symbolic gesture, cut feet and cane planting beans and corn. The action was in protest to the impacts of the production of ethanol in Brazil: exremely explottive and degrading conditions of work in the cane fields, the contamination of soil, air and water, the land and the concentration of expensive land, which further weaken programs of land reform, and threatens the production of foods that are consumed in the country.

This afternoon, about 800 protesters march to follow in the seat of government of the state. They demand the immediate resettlement of all families affected by the dam built to accumulate water and causing the displacement of approximately 4,500 people.

Women burn eucalyptus logs of the Valley in Maranhao

In a political action of protest, women of Via Campesina burned this Monday (9 / 3) a production of logs of eucalyptus in the Valley ranch, in Açailândia in Maranhao.

The action that is part of the National Day of Peasant Struggle of Women. Women protest against the advance of the monoculture of eucalyptus in the area, practiced by transnational companies that are installed in the Brazilian countryside. The eucalyptus planted in the Valley is intended only to supply acoal, creating air pollution in the region and the assault on health of inhabitants of the surroundings.

The coal industry is located just 800 meters from the California settlement, the result of an occupation in 1996. The more than 1.8 thousand people suffer every day of the settlement with the burning of coal by 70 industrial furnaces and the Valley is causing respiratory diseases, headaches, eye irritation and sinusitis. Therefore, it became common, settlers suffer breathing stops and starts up the spills.

Last year, the company had promised install filters on chimneys and coal burning process of the interim of eucalyptus in the coal, but nothing was accomplished.

The progress of the ‘green desert in the Amazon region started in the early 80s. Companies arriving in the region and taking over the ownership of the best land for the production of cellulose, which in the last ten years has been used to produce charcoal. In Maranhão, are more than 10 municipalities affected by the aggressive and damaging monoculture of eucalyptus
(rudimentary translation by Tord Björk from mst article in portuguese with the help of google translate, photos from MST website)

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