The New Revolutionary Peasantry


Latin America

The New Revolutionary Peasantry

The growth of peasant-led opposition
to neoliberalism

By James Petras

In
Ecuador the peasant and Indian movements spearheaded the movement that forced the
resignation of President Bucaram, on corruption charges and attempts to impose an IMF free
market agenda on the people.

  • In
    Brazil, the MST has settled over 150,000 families representing almost a million people on
    uncultivated lands through direct action—land occupation movements. Through actions
    in 21 states the MST has pushed land-reform to the center of political debate. One
    indicator of its success is found in recent polls in Sao Paulo (Brazil’s largest
    city) which indicate that over 75 percent of the population support land distribution
    favoring landless farm workers.
  • In
    Bolivia, the peasants, particularly the coca growing ex-tin miners, have led the struggle
    in defense of national sovereignty and recently swept the elections with their own
    candidates in the Cochabamba area.
  • In
    Colombia, the peasant-based guerrilla army, the Popular Army of the Revolutionary Armed
    Forces of Colombia, has extended its influence to close to half the rural municipalities
    in the country. While not strictly speaking a peasant movement since almost one-third of
    its recruits come from the town and cities, many of its programmatic demands are
    rural-centered: land reform, human rights in the countryside, unionization of farm
    workers, etc. With close to 15,000 mostly peasant combatants it is probably the most
    potent guerrilla army in the Third World today and gaining strength. One indication is the
    fact that the U.S. Defense Department has dropped the fiction that its multi-million
    dollar military aid program is directed toward fighting narco­traffickers. It publicly
    endorsed the shipment of arms to fight peasant insurgency.
  • In
    Paraguay, only a massive mobilization of peasants and students blocked a threatened
    military coup. Plummeting cotton prices have put hundreds of thousands of peasants on the
    verge of bankruptcy. Free market trade policies and state promoted agro-business exporters
    are undermining local food producers, inciting a cycle of peasant land occupations and
    violent military evictions.
  • In
    Mexico, the Zapatista movement (EZLN) has re-opened the question of Indian rights, land
    reform, and more fundamentally the whole NAFTA/free market policies promoted by Clinton
    and Zedillo. Without the Zapatista uprising in 1994, the signing and implementation of
    NAFTA would have passed as an elite ceremonial event. Since implementation of NAFTA began,
    over one million peasants have been ruined and tens of millions of salaried employees have
    had their incomes cut by half. The demands and critique of the EZLN resonate throughout
    the country.
  • The New Peasantry

    Culture and Revolution

    Militarization & State Repression

    NGOs

    Rural-Urban Alliances