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.
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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).
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).
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.
For further criticism of the concept of ecological crisis, see Plumwood (2002).
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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
- Decolonial practice
- Post-anthropocentric radical democracy
- Agrarian political ecology
- Human-soil relations
- Peasant resistance