Box 1

Violence and capitalism

Violence and capitalism are no strangers to each other. Indeed, they are twins. The necessary conditions for the emergence of capitalism in the 15th to the 16th centuries were the violent expulsion of peasants from common lands in Europe and colonial plunder, genocide, and enslavement in the global South. This toxic brew resulted in what Marx called the “primitive accumulation” of wealth that produced capitalism.

Today, in what has been described as “accumulation by dispossession,” the drive for profit globally is witnessing the deployment of force to turn into commodities the commonly held lands and resources that have long resisted the process. Whether they are indigenous people in the Amazons, smallholders in Honduras, the Maasai people protecting their lands from government-sponsored land-grabbing in the Serengeti in Tanzania, or the millions of Adivasis or tribal people defending forest lands in India, the devastating combination of capitalist expansion and state action in support of it is displacing millions of people.

The prominent use of force does not only occur when capitalism expands and needs to throw out smallholders and indigenous people that are in the way. When people are able to use democratic institutions to achieve reforms peacefully, the capitalist and state elites often resort to extra-constitutional means to reverse the process and preserve their economic and political hegemony. The outcome is often a massacre, as in Indonesia in 1965-66, where efforts at land reform and peaceful parliamentary change provoked the elites, led by the military, to slaughter from 500,000 to one million people. In Chile, the military drowned the Popular Unity’s peaceful road to socialism in blood in the seventies, killing thousands of people. While the violence in Chile and Indonesia was terrible in both urban and rural areas, it was especially vicious in the countryside and, in Chile, especially so against the indigenous Mapuches, who were defending their communal lands.

Today, capitalist expansion, commodification, and the preservation of systems of capitalist political hegemony are combining to promote a new wave of global violence. In the Philippines, drug users are being used as a scapegoat for the country’s ills stemming from the marriage of neoliberal economics and extreme agrarian inequality, with some 27,000 of them having been subjected to extra-judicial execution in the three and a half years that the Duterte government has been in power. In India, Muslims have been singled out as the “enemies” of “Hindu civilization” by the BJP, which has wed neoliberal economics to Hindu nationalism, leading to mob violence against them, including gruesome cases of lynching.

It is unfortunate that large numbers of the middle classes have bought into the scapegoating rhetoric and ideology of right-wing forces. This middle-class—and even working class–support for right-wing racist forces is also becoming prominent in the global North, where it is being directed at migrants who are being scapegoated for the loss of jobs, inequality, and poverty created by corporate-driven globalization. There is the very serious danger that anti-migrant mass sentiment might be transformed by demagogues like Donald Trump, the Brexiteers, Marine Le Pen in France, and Viktor Orban in Hungary into movements like those of classical fascism that ravaged Europe in the 1930’s.

More than ever, the demands of justice and peace necessitate the creation of the broadest possible front against capitalist and fascist violence.

Box 2

Against consercativsm! We live to resist, we march to transform!

Conservatism is essential for the rise of the extreme right. Authoritarian governments around the world promote the ideal of the heteropatriarchal family to reinforce the sexual division of labor and the responsibility of women in the reproductive work of life. Far-right forces attack the right to abortion, pursue dissident sexualities, promote violence and harassment against women, and institutionalize racism. It is an anti-feminist agenda that, in some countries and territories, is associated with anti-western discourse. In others, it classifies as “disorder” the actions of women organized in grassroots movements. What these regimes have in common is that they exercise brutal violence against women who lead resistance processes.

Capitalism advances on women’s bodies, on their work and on nature, strengthening corporate power and expanding militarization. In many parts of the world, women are at the front line of resistance. They have demonstrated a great capacity for mobilization: the challenge is to expand permanent and popular organization. This requires confronting authoritarian capitalism and building processes capable of reorganizing the economy, putting the sustainability of life at the center. And to confront nationalism with internationalism and solidarity among peoples.

For women who are under attack today, building alliances is more important than ever. For neoliberalism is diverse, fragmenting identities and depoliticizing historical struggles. Feminism is not for the few, it is a project of equality, freedom and autonomy for all, which will only be possible with a systemic transformation, with sovereignty and self-determination of peoples. Women are recognized in the resistance that saves lives and guarantees a collective community. Therefore, the motto of the World March of Women in the 5th International Action, in this 2020, is Live to resist, we march to transform!

Box 3

Social networks: Promoting hate, maximising profit and social control

Fake news, data manipulation, hate speech, racism and misogyny. It is increasingly evident that the uses and abuses of the extreme right in digital social networks are part of their power strategy. Not only to win elections, but also to promote the normalization of violence that authoritarian capitalism needs to prevail in order to destroy democratic values.

Those uses and abuses take place in corporate infrastructure to which a significant part of the population is connected, such as Facebook. They are not public or democratic spaces. On the contrary, the algorithms and scopes are defined by a company that practices opacity and that is enriched by the collection and manipulation of data. The functioning of the system is not revealed, nor is it in dispute, and we users have to ‘accept’ the applicable terms and conditions, even though we know that Facebook does experiments, manipulating feelings, needs and opinions, and promoting extremism.

Data is converted into capital. And data is not there to be harvested, but instead is a product of people’s lives and relationships. Whether through phone apps or sensors in cities, coordinated mass surveillance between corporations and states is part of maximizing profits. And, as such, it is not isolated but systemic.

Racism and hatred of the poor and women do not multiply only as an idea, but are in daily life generating a social fascism. The virtual is nourished by the concrete lives of people who daily battle against living conditions with increasing precariousness and violence. The virtual has a material base, which drives and needs extractivism, energy and specific territories to store and process so much data.

The construction of counter-hegemony requires much more than a good communication strategy on social networks. It is a long-term challenge that involves expanding our anti-capitalist alliances with those who are fighting digitally, facing opacity and building free and non-proprietary technologies .

More info on this theme in the Nyéléni newsletter num 37 on The Digitalization of the food system.

Box 4

Peasant food production: a thorn in the side of the capitalist system

The challenges and potential of the struggle for food sovereignty against the global conservative wave

A substantial part of the battle against the capitalist system is fought in the countryside, specifically, around how food is produced. The rise of the extreme right wing in different parts of the world worsens the serious threats and human rights violations already suffered by rural workers.

In Brazil, a global leader in terms of violence against rural people, 1678 peasants were murdered between 1985 and 2003 according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT); moreover, Global Witness warned that 2017 was the worst year on record: 207 peasants, community members, indigenous peoples and environmental activists were murdered.

In the past years, agribusiness became the main cause of conflicts in the countryside. Large agroindustrial transnational corporations, the weak role of States (due to lack of action or collusion) and corporate abuses in each country reinforced an already deadly machinery, reaffirming the control of capital over natural resources with the new global fascist wave.

“We will not achieve food sovereignty if we can’t recover control over our communities and territories, if we can’t take back control over food from the corporations,” warned peasant Carlos Marentes, a long-standing leader from La Vía Campesina (LVC) and a representative of the organization “Border Agricultural Workers Project” from North America. Neofascism can be seen in the alliance between agribusiness-drug trafficking-militarization, which threatens and loots communities, dismantles public policies and attempts to go back to the patriarchal family model to prevent women and children from being key actors of system change, stressed feminist agronomist Miriam Nobre (World March of Women Brazil).

In Southern Africa, in response to repressive regimes and traditional authorities which control territories and make decisions to the detriment of peoples´ livelihoods, Mercia Andrews (from the Rural Women´s Assembly) said: “It’s important that organizations, peasant movements, farmers movements resist this level of violation of their rights. The Rural Women´s Assembly in many cases joins hands with farmers movements, with peasant movements and we have joined campaigns that say we have the right to say NO.”

In Europe, the fascist movement promotes xenophobia and a “false protectionism”, warned Andoni García, from the Coordination Committee of La Vía Campesina Europe. “Food Sovereignty implies an end to the fascist movement because it speaks of rights, of public policies based on the right to protect local agriculture, peasant culture, and these ways of living, without them conflicting with individual and collective rights, in solidarity, rather than in conflict,” he added.

Roma Malik also made reference to this false protectionism, which often relates to exacerbated nationalism. She also highlighted how important it is for the struggle for food sovereignty in peasant organizations to be linked to the right to land. “Companies are coming in a big way, they are building dams, power stations, privatizing the rivers, cutting forests, killing the people, evicting people from their homelands. So, in a way, the struggle for land rights is a struggle against fascist governments also,” she said.

Meanwhile, Marentes added that food sovereignty is “one of the aims to face this war against poor people that is related to a more vicious, predatory system determined to ensure that multinational corporations control food production and the means of production, as well as nature.” The key is in the work to organize, to raise awareness to defend the right to life, to food, and protect natural resources.

To read the full interviews check the section “On the front line” of this newsletter at page 4