The Peasant Way of a More than Radical Democracy: The Case of La Via Campesina

Abstract

We investigate the rural resistance of one of the world’s largest social movements, La Via Campesina, as a powerful enactment of radical democracy in practice. More than this, the paper describes how the movement challenges the framework of radical democracy by pointing towards the ethical importance of recognizing the relationship of human dignity with nature and considering ethico-political values inherent in the peasants’ way of living. Their resistance is a rejection of depoliticizing silencing, and their everyday life is a commitment to a “more than human” radical democracy in its most radical sense, as they are always already “in parliament with land”. We conclude by outlining a perspective which is both more than radical and more democratic, considering those who have not yet been heard but also that which, in the light of radical democracy, has never been counted as part of the political body at all: nature.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    In the following, we will use the term peasants and small-scale farmers interchangeably since we want to highlight their common struggle and argue that they are both intermingled with ‘the land’. This perspective does not aim to obfuscate differences in oppression or living circumstances, but to highlight what they have in common. As the title may indicate, we only speak of those small-scale farmers that feel connected to the movement of La Via Campesina. We do not use the term “family farms” as the term “family” in a normative reading in German contexts is too often related to heteronormative understandings of families (Gioia, 2019).

  2. 2.

    This violence has many dimensions. It destroys life indirectly when farmers commit suicide due to oppression and dependency caused by companies like Monsanto (Patel, 2006), but also includes explicit forms of direct violence, like the shooting of 19 people by military police officers that happened during demonstrations of the MST movement in Eldorado dos Carajás on the 17th April 1996. More than this, the loss of land means for many peasants the loss of income and food and lead to hunger and starvation. “Death is in fact a recurring theme, and reality, of the peasant struggle in Latin America and the world. It is both the deaths from hunger-related illnesses in impoverished rural areas and the deaths from the on-going criminalisation and repression of peasant struggles” (Martinez-Torrez and Rosset 2010, p.163).

  3. 3.

    We call into question the underlying connotations of the word ‘environment’. In the discourses which form part of the hegemonic narratives, environment refers to something which is held at a distance. The word supports an anthropocentric perspective which places the human being at the center, surrounded by a passive environment. Precisely this concept is questioned here, in the sense of indigenous and new materialist approaches and of that very entanglement which the peasants practice in their various locations.

  4. 4.

    For further criticism of the concept of ecological crisis, see Plumwood (2002).

References

  1. Agarwal, B. (1994). A Field of One’s Own: Gender and Land Rights in South Asia. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Alaimo, S. (2012). Sustainable this, sustainable that: New materialisms, posthumanism, and unknown futures. PMLA,127(3), 558–564.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society,28(3), 801–831.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Barad, K. (2014). On Touching—The Inhuman That Therefore I Am. In S. Witzgall & K. Stakemeier (Eds.), Power of material/politics of materiality (pp. 153–164). Zürich: Diaphanes.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bauriedl, S. (2015). Vokabular des Stillstands. Ein Interview mit Sybille Bauriedl über die aktuelle Klimapolitik und die Macht der Worte. RobinWood,127, 24–25.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bello, W. (2007). Foreword. In A. A. Desmarais (Ed.), La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the power of peasants (pp. 3–5). London: Pluto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bennett, J. (2005). In Parliament with things. In L. Tønder & L. Thomassen (Eds.), Radical democracy. Politics between abundance and lack (pp. 133–148). Manchester: Manchester University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Böhm, S., Spicer, A., & Fleming, P. (2008). Infra-political dimensions of resistance to international business: A Neo-Gramscian approach. Scandinavian Journal of Management,24(3), 169–182.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Borras, S. M. (2008). La Vía Campesina and its Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform. Journal of Agrarian Change,8(2–3), 258–289.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Borras, S. M. (2004). La Vía Campesina: An evolving transnational social movement. Transnational Briefing Series No 2004/6.

  12. Bové, J. (2001). A Movement of Movements? A Farmers’ International? New Left Review,12, 89–101.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Brand, U. (2009). Die Multiple Krise. Dynamik und Zusammenhang der Krisendimensionen, Anforderungen an politische Institutionen und Chancen progressiver Politik, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Berlin.

  14. Brown, W. (2015). Undoing the demos: Neoliberalism’s stealth revolution. New York: Zone Books.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Connell, R. (2014). Using southern theory: Decolonizing social thought in theory, research and application. Planning Theory,13(2), 210–223.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Corcoran, S. (2010). Editor’s Introduction. In J. Rancière, Dissensus On politics and aesthetics (pp. 1–34). London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

  17. Crouch, C. (2004). Post-Democracy. Oxford: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Coole, D. H., & Frost, S. (Eds.) (2010). Introducing the new materialism. In New materialisms. Ontology, agency, and politics (pp. 1–46). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Davis, H.; Todd, Z. (2017). On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 16(4), 761–780.

  20. Davy, B. (2009). The poor and the land: Poverty, property, planning. Town Planning Review,80(3), 227–265.

    Google Scholar 

  21. de La Bellacasa, M. P. (2015). Making time for soil. Technoscientific futurity and the pace of care. Social Studies of Science, 45(5), 691–716.

    Google Scholar 

  22. de La Cadena, M. (2015). Uncommoning nature. E-Flux Journal 56th Biennale. Retrieved May 01, 2019, from http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/uncommoning-nature.

  23. Desmarais, A. A. (2007). La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the power of peasants. London: Pluto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Desmarais, A. A. (2008). The power of peasants: Reflections on the meanings of La Via Campesina. Journal of Rural Studies,24(2), 138–149.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Dinerstein, A. C. (2012). Interstitial revolution: On the explosive fusion of negativity and hope. Capital & Class,36(3), 521–540.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Edelman, M. (2003). Transnational peasant and farmer movements and networks. Global civil society,2003, 185–220.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Edelman, M., & Borras, S. M. (2016). Political dynamics of transnational agrarian movements. Black Point: Fernwood Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Escobar, A. (2004): Beyond the Third World. Imperial globality, global coloniality and anti-globalisation social movements. Third World Quarterly, 25(1), 207–230.

  29. Flügel-Martinsen, O. (2017). Befragungen des Politischen. Subjektkonstitution—Gesellschaftsordnung—radikale Demokratie. Wiesbaden: Springer.

  30. Folkers, A. (2013). Was ist neu am neuen Materialismus? Von der Praxis zum Ereignis. In T. Goll, D. Keil, & T. Telios (Eds.), Critical Matter. Diskussionen eines neuen Materialismus (pp. 16–33). Münster: Edition Assemblage.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Fontoura, Y., Bharucha, Z. P., & Böhm, S. (2016). A transnational agri-food system for whom? The struggle for hegemony at RIO + 20. Revista de Administração de Empresas.,56(4), 424–437.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Friant, M. C., & Langmore, J. (2015). The buen vivir. A policy to survive the anthropocene?. Global Policy, 6(1), 64–71.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Gioia, P. (2019). Coming out! Gender Diversity in the Food System. In Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 11 (pp. 34–41). Heidelberg, FIAN International and Brot für die Welt

  34. Gioia, P., Redecker, S.v. (2018). Queerfeldein. Queerfeministische Perspektiven auf die Bewegung für Ernährungssouveränität. Dossier Ernährungssouveränität, LuXemburg, June 2018. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.zeitschrift-luxemburg.de/queerfeldein.

  35. González, P. A., Vázquez, A. M. (2015). An ontological turn in the debate on Buen Vivir—Sumak Kawsay in Ecuador. Ideology, Knowledge, and the Common. Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, 10(3), 315–334.

  36. Haraway, D. J. (1991). Simians, Cyborgs and Women. The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Ibarra-Colado, E. (2016). Organization Studies and Epistemic Coloniality in Latin America. Thinking Otherness from the Margins. Organization,13(4), 463–488.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Kimmerer, R. (2017). Speaking of nature. In: Orionmagazine.org. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://orionmagazine.org/article/speaking-of-nature/.

  40. La Via Campesina (2015a) Seed laws that criminalise farmers. Resistance and fightback. La Via Campesina International Peasant Movement & GRAIN, Harare/Girona. Retrieved March 01, 2019, from https://viacampesina.org/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/04/2015-Seed%20laws%20booklet%20EN.pdf.

  41. La Via Campesina (2015b) Peasant Agroecology. For Food Sovereignty and Mother Earth. Experiences of La Via Campesina. La Via Campesina International Peasant Movement, Harare. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://viacampesina.org/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/11/CUADERNO%207%20LA%20VIA%20CAMPESINA%20INGLES.compressed.pdf.

  42. La Via Campesina (2017a). Food Sovereignty is the true solution to uphold Peoples’ Right to Climate Justice. Retrieved June 27, 2018, from https://viacampesina.org/en/press-release-food-sovereignty-is-the-true-solution-to-uphold-peoples-right-to-climate-justice/.

  43. La Via Campesina. (2017b). Struggles of La Via Campesina. For agrarian reform and the defense of life, land and territories. Harare: La: Via Campesina International Peasant Movement.

    Google Scholar 

  44. La Via Campesina (2018). Food Sovereignty Now! A guide to Food Sovereignty. European Coordination of La Via Campesina, Brüssel. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://www.eurovia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/FINAL-EN-FoodSov-A5-rev6.pdf.

  45. Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. (2001). Hegemony and socialist strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics (2nd ed.). London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Lanka, S. V.; Khadaroo, I.; Böhm, S. (2017). Agroecology accounting. Biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods from the margins. Account Auditing Accountability Journal, 30 (7), 1592–1613.

  47. Latour, B. (1999). Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Martínez-Torres, M. E.; Rosset, P. M. (2010). La Vía Campesina. The birth and evolution of a transnational social movement. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(1), 149–175.

  49. Machin, A. (2013). Negotiating climate change: Radical democracy and the illusion of consensus. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Maia, João M. (2011). Space, social theory and peripheral imagination. Brazilian intellectual history and de-colonial debates. International Sociology, 26(3), 392–407.

  51. Marchart, O. (2014): The art of preenactments. Lecture 09.07.2014 HZT Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz Berlin. Retrieved February 26, 2019, from https://vimeo.com/114242197.

  52. Martinez-Alier, J., Temper, L., Del Bene, D., & Scheidel, A. (2016). Is there a global environmental justice movement? The Journal of Peasant Studies,43(3), 731–755.

    Google Scholar 

  53. McKeon, N. (2015). La Via Campesina: The ‘Peasants’ Way’to Changing the System, not the Climate. Journal of World-Systems Research,21(2), 241–249.

    Google Scholar 

  54. McMichael, P. (2011). Reframing development. Global peasant movements and the New Agrarian Question. Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement, 27(4), 471–483.

  55. Mignolo, W. (2000). Local histories/global designs: coloniality, border thinking and subaltern knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Mignolo, W. (2011). The darker side of western modernity: Global futures, decolonial options. Duke: Duke University Press.

  57. Mignolo, W., & Escobar, A. (2013). Globalization and the decolonial option. 1. Issued in paperback. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Montgomery, D. R. (2007). Soil erosion and agricultural sustainability. Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences of the United States of America,104(33), 13268–13272.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Mouffe, C. (2005). On the political. London/New Nork: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Mouffe, C. (2008). Critique as counter-hegemonic intervention. Transversal multilingual Web Journal. The art of critique. Retrieved June 27, 2018, from http://eipcp.net/transversal/0808/mouffe/en.

  61. Mouffe, C. (2010). Postdemokratie und die zunehmende Entpolitisierung. Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte,1–2(61), 3–5.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Myers, N. (2018). How to grow liveable worlds. Ten not-so-easy Steps. In: Oliver-Smith, Kerry: The world to come. Art in the age of the Anthropocene (pp. 53–63). Gainesville: Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida.

  63. Ndlovu, M. (2014). Why indigenous knowledges in the 21st century? A decolonial turn. Yesterday and Today,11, 84–98.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Nyéléni 2007—Forum for Food Sovereignty (2007). Declaration of Nyéléni. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://nyeleni.org/spip.php?article331.

  65. Pahnke, A., Tarlau, R., & Wolford, W. (2015). Understanding rural resistance: Contemporary mobilization in the Brazilian countryside. The Journal of Peasant Studies,42(6), 1069–1085.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Patel, R. (2006). International agrarian restructuring and the practical ethics of peasant movement solidarity. Journal of Asian and African Studies,41(1–2), 71–93.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Penniman, L. (2018). Farming While Black. Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Petras, J., & Veltmeyer, H. (2001). Are Latin American peasant movements still a force for change? Some new paradigms revisited. Journal of Peasant Studies,28(2), 83–118.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Plumwood, V. (2002). Environmental culture. The ecological crisis of reason. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Plumwood, V. (2010). Nature in the active voice. Climate Change and Philosophy: Transformational Possibilities,2010, 32–47.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Quijano, A. (2000). Coloniality of power and Eurocentrism in Latin America. International Sociology,15(2), 215–232.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Rancière, J. (1997). Demokratie und Postdemokratie. In Riha, R., (ed.), Politik der Wahrheit (pp. 94–122). Wien: turia&kant.

  73. Rancière, J., & Corcoran, S. (2010). Dissensus: On politics and aesthetics. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Ranta, E. M. (2016). Toward a decolonial alternative to development? The emergence and shortcomings of vivir bien as state policy in bolivia in the era of globalization. Globalizations,13(4), 425–439.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Redecker, E. v. (2018). Praxis und Revolution: Eine Sozialtheorie radikalen. Wandels, Campus Verlag.

  76. Rosset, P. (2011). Food sovereignty and alternative paradigms to confront land grabbing and the food and climate crises. Development,54(1), 21–30.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Roth, K., & Ladwig, B. (2006). Recht auf Widerstand? Ideengeschichtliche und philosophische Perspektiven. Potsdam: Universitätsverlag Potsdam.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Swyngedouw, E. (2010). Apocalypse forever? Theory, culture & society,27(2–3), 213–232.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Swyngedouw, E. (2013). The non-political politics of climate change. An International Journal for Critical Geographies,12(1), 1–8.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Tønder, L., & Thomassen, L. (Eds.). (2005). Radical democracy. Politics between abundance and lack. Manchester, New York: Manchester Univ. Press.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Tsing, A. L. (2015). The mushroom at the end of the world. On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  82. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) (2017). Global Land Outlook. Bonn.

  83. Veltmeyer, H. (2010). Dynamics of agrarian transformation and resistance. Revista NERA,17(13), 29–48.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Watts, V. (2013). Indigenous place-thought & agency amongst humans and non-humans. Re-visiones,38(7), 1–22.

    Google Scholar 

  85. Westphal, M. (2013). Pluralismus und Antagonismus. Chantal Mouffes agonale Demokratietheorie, Preprints and Working Papers of the Centre for Advanced Study in Bioethics, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster.

  86. Žižek, S. (1999). The ticklish subject. The absent centre of political ontology. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christian Herzig.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

von Redecker, S., Herzig, C. The Peasant Way of a More than Radical Democracy: The Case of La Via Campesina. J Bus Ethics 164, 657–670 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04402-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Decolonial practice
  • Post-anthropocentric radical democracy
  • Agrarian political ecology
  • Human-soil relations
  • Peasant resistance