The Nordic delegation visiting MST

Tord Björk | Friends of the Earth,MST | Thursday, February 26th, 2009

The concept delegation is an old word that one cold guess is outdated in our modern individualistic times. That there could be such a phenomena that is a collective and furthermore that this collective is representing a larger collective seems against the essence of our times and the future, at least European times and futures. I get reminded about this seemingly backwardness on the world delegation reading a book about the first travels to Soviet Union when photographers came as tourists for the first time within some limits deciding their own places to visit and making their own choices of what they saw as important. Tourism was such an unimaginable concept that delegates became the description of these first adventurers when Soviet Union opened up for tourism in the early 1960s.

Most of the Nordic delegation: Tord, Mitra, Noora, Lennart, Miranda and Sebastian at MST 25 jubilee

One can also question the concept Nordic delegation in other aspects. That the delegation is defined in geograhic terms and not social, gender, class, age, ethnicity or other aspects can be seen as arbritarily or clinging to old nation-state geograhic limitations. From another aspect one can question whether there is any real collective reality behind a delgation claimed to represent not only one country but a group of countries. To complicate the matters the quite unknown term Nordic is used and not the more well-known Scandinavian. The difference is that Scandivian only refers to Denmark, Norway and Sweden while Nordic also refers to Finland and the North Atlantic islands Iceland, Faeroe islands and Greenland. When Nordic cooperation was dominated by Danes, Norwegians and Swedes this seemed a smaller problem but today in many processes as the MST solidarity work or World Social Forum influence Finns are crucial and at times in majority which makes the term Scandinavian more and more questionable. So the concept Nordic delegation built on national identities is sometimes problematic.

But together we were from  the start of the MST 25th anniversary celebrations in Sarandi in Rio Grande do Sul and as a delegation we felt. I hope also the nestor in the delegation, Berge Furre. Alone from Norway representing the only peasant organisation and thus an organisation most close to MST, The Norwegian farmers and small peasant union. With his long time back ground as chair of the Left socialist party, official investigator of Norwegian security police, member of the Norwegian nobel prize committee and Norwegian Academy of Science, professor in history with special interest in carismatic movements in the third world, knowledge of portuguese and  twelwe visits to Brazil he represented a country were peasants still have an important role in national politics and can mobilise many million euros for development cooperation with MST. We have our oil money says Furre with a smile.

The Finnish nestor was Pertti Simula, a Finn living in Sao Paulo on bicycle distance from the MST head quarters and long time active with developing the pedagogy at MST schools around the country. The Swedish nestor was Lennart Kjörling or Leonardo as he has to call himself in Brazil were noone can promouce Lennart to not talk about Kjörling. He is a free lance journalist that has been following MST since many years living in Bahia and active in Friends of MST Sweden. In the Nordic delegation there was also Noora Ojala from Friends of the Earth and Friends of MST Finland, a photographer with strong equal interest in the social side of the MST settlements and scientific arguments for and against monoculture. The biggest national delegation at Sarandi was Swedish with three more members of friends of MST, Miranda, Mitra and Sebastian involved in media production as part of their participation in a course at the Nordic peoples high school at Biskops-Arnö and myself from Friends of the Earth Sweden. Interestingly there were noone from Denmark, the Nordic country with most peasants, but also to a high degree industrialised agriculture. All in all the Nordic 8 person delegation was a strong part in the international delegation of in total 40 persons at the 25th anniversary in Sarandi.

As the 25th anniversary celebrations continued at the Carajas Social Forum held as a travelling seminar and visit to places of struggles, industrial projects and MST settlements the Nordic delegation shifted and expanded to become even larger but also fragmented in Belem were MST maintained their own indepedent activities outside WSF and influenced also some inside.

At the Carajas Social Forum Kirsi Chavda from the Finnish environmental foundation Siemenpuu joined the delegation together with Eirik Stavenes from Norway studying the social forum process from Norway and one student as well from Finland. In Belem we could finally also meet a Finnish family that had done so much to prepare the Finnish-Swedish cooperation efforts with MST and now also offered housing for some of the Nordic delegation in Belem. The Finnish family consisted of Ruby van der Wekken, Mika Rönkkö and their young children. In Belem a number of other MST friends also joined the Nordic gang as Bosse Johansson, long time activist in Brazil working much with media projects, Johanna Suhonen trying to learn Swedish when being part of the Biskops Arnö media delegation making a documentary about the movements in Brazil and Johanna Gruvsjö from Friends of MST Sweden. As a shadow follower of the Nordic delegation one can also include Robert Nilsson from Sweden that some months before us had followed a similar route making interviews with MST activists for his study on how a movement makes history.

Thus the Nordic delegation had a very wide range in age, less so in back ground although. Peasant organisations were marginal, environmental organisations were small but in accordance with the main cooperation partner of MST in Rio Grande do Sul which is the environmental movement and espcially Friends of the Earth Brazil. The pedagogy interest was also in accordance with the strong eductional interest of MST and so is critical journalism. Solidarity organisations was the main part of the delegation which can be seen as natural. But the special character here is that the solidarity organisation represented is built specifically to support MST, something uncommon as solidarity organisations mainly have been state centric in support of a specific country or continent. What was missing in the Nordic delegation compared to the Brazilian allies that were important to MST at the celebration were trade unions, liberation theology, indigenous people, feminists, minorities and civil disobedience occupants.

The limitations of the back ground of the Nordic delegation we seemed to share with the rest of the international delegation. From Italy Ya Basta reprsented social centers which have some similarity with MST settlements and can be seen as an urban counterpart, a kind of movement missing in the Nordic delegation. The delegate Benjamin Bunk from Germany showed great interest in liberation theology and had close links to Caritas, the Catholic development organisation. But basically the limitations were similar.

All international guests were invited to the stage at the final solidarity party on Friday night at Sarandi and given a warm reception. The international guests that were chosen to speak to the audience during the 25th anniversary celebrations were Abdullah Aysu, a leader of Via Campesina in Turkey, Aleida Guevara from Cuba, Monica from a Sandinista organisation in Nicaragua and Berge Furre from Norway.

No Comments

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI