The multinationals can be defeated only if there exists a powerful social movement, supported by a significant portion of the population. A provincial tribunal in Córdoba determined that Monsanto should halt construction of a plant for the treatment of transgenic maize seeds, located in Malvinas Argentinas, according a writ of amparo requested by residents of the zone who had camped for three months in front of the doors of the factory.
The mobilization was animated by small groups, including the Mothers of Ituzaingó, the Assamblea Malvinas Lucha por la Vida and other local residents, who had the strength to keep it up in spite of threats from the provincial government and the construction union. The people of Malvinas Argentinas sympathized with and supported the resistance, all of which led the courts to a resolution that paralyzed the work in progress as of last January 9.
The initiative is always taken by small groups, without taking into account the power balance, but rather the justice of their actions. Later on, at times much later, the State ends up recognizing that the critics were right. Subsequently, those who were treated as criminals tend to be considered as heroes, even by those who suppressed them. The crucial point, in my opinion, is cultural change, the spread of new ways of seeing the world, as the history of social struggles demonstrates.
Long before the segregationist laws in the United States were abolished, discrimination was defeated on the ground. On December 1, 1955, an ordinary woman, Rosa Parks, refused to sit in the seats designated for black people in a public bus and sat in the part reserved for whites. She was arrested for violating the law in Montgomery, Alabama. Dozens of people followed her example, and other dozens preceded it. Her act of disobedience had an impact because it was followed by many.
In 1960, Franklyn McCain, a black activist, aged 73, of North Carolina, sat with three friends at the counter of a cafeteria at Woolworths in the city of Greensboro. It was a site reserved for whites. They asked for coffee and waited all day but were not served. The following day they returned in spite of insults from whites and police threats. By the weekend they were hundreds and the protest spread to dozens of cities. The Woolworth chain felt obliged to permit the entrance of black people. Then between 1964 and 1965 the government was obliged to eliminate laws imposing racial discrimination, when there was a government that in today’s terms — taking into account that we are looking at the United States — we could call “progressive.”
I believe that this is one of the most important teachings that the victory of the people of Malvinas Argentinas against Monsanto has left us. We should take actions that are as intelligent and lucid as possible, but above all actions realized and felt by ordinary people, simple, peaceful actions, capable of unveiling the problems that afflict us, such as sitting where one wants to sit in a public bus, rather than in a seat imposed by rules, or to camp out in front of one of the most powerful multinationals.
What happens afterwards no longer depends on us. Whether a significant part of the population is in agreement and is with us, taking part in some way in the protest, depends on factors that no one can control and for which there are no recipes or pre-established tactics. From the point of view of the social movement and of necessary changes, we cannot defeat extractivism by appealing to legislation. The laws will be enacted when the model has been defeated culturally and politically.
It is clear that the governments of the region, beyond the concrete orientation of each country, depend on extractivism. But it is the organized ordinary people on whom it is incumbent to defeat this, with thousands of small actions, such as those of the Mothers of Ituzaingóand now the occupiers in Malvinas Argentinas.
(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)
Raúl Zibechi, an Uruguayan journalist, writes in Brechaand La Jornadaand is a collaborator with ALAI.