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8th International Conference of La Via Campesina: An overview of the Global Political Context

By staff - La Via Campesina, December 4, 2023

On the afternoon of Sunday, December 3rd, La Via Campesina representatives from every continent and Palestine offered critical analyses of their regional contexts, drawing connections between the climate crisis, migration, and political instability. This is a critical component of building and advancing a global movement for food sovereignty to foster critical consciousness of disparate geographic realities, struggles and victories.

César Villanova, a LVC representative from El Salvador, shared that Latin America is one of the final critical battlegrounds in the struggle against neoimperialism. A war is being fought over the blood—that is the resources—of Latin America, and that war is not simply symbolic but very real, and felt in territories from Mexico and El Salvador, through Colombia, and to the south in Chile.

Building upon Villanova’s discussion of territorial conflict, Albert Bahana Manzambi (COPACO, Democratic Republic of Congo), next offered insights into the African experience, emphasizing that a number of multinational corporations are pushing to destabilize Africa. “We see the lack of security increasing,” Bahana Manzambi suggested, “taking the form of increasing coup d’états and contestation governments.” Importantly, this lack of security is deeply rooted in questions of food sovereignty, and its interconnections with the political context. Bahana Manzambi drove home the point that “there is no security, and no one is protecting peasants”. The question of political instability is driving an increasingly grave migration crisis. “People are fleeing to Europe, and are trying desperately to get there in whatever way possible, and are dying on the way, and when they die, whole families are lost, children, partners; everyone is losing.”

From Africa, the panel moved to Asia with Chukki Nanjundaswamy (KRRS, India) connecting immediately with Bahana Manzambi’s points and placing the climate crisis as a central factor driving migration. The climate crisis Nanjudaswamy shared is not some distant reality; “this is a crisis we are feeling throughout Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe.” Beyond the climate catastrophe, Nanjundaswamy drew attention to the debt crisis as one affecting the entire world. From Pakistan to Argentina, to Greece, each node of this crisis is connected to the role of financial institutions. “We need to push back against blaming one country or another country, but instead recognize the role of financial institutions in building this crisis. Unemployment is blamed on immigrants instead of the financial agreements that promote them.” The third critical conjuncture that Nanjundaswamy highlighted was the criminalization of social movements. Over the last several decades, social movements and their leaders have been accused, vilified, attacked, and murdered, as governments and corporations use social media to generate social unrest against movements. Nanjundaswamy called on all LVC activists to work to develop strategies that bring us together, underscoring that “what brings us together is our collective hope for a better future; we may be confronted by a global crisis, but with our hope we can build new proposals that are equitable, feminist, and revolutionary. This conference is one more space for imagining a world of social justice.”

Moving to Europe, Leonardo Van den Berg (Toekomstboeren, the Netherlands) argued that water provides a clear entry point to understanding the materiality of the climate crisis: the usage of water is deeply unequal, being used for golf courses and swimming pools, for example, by the rich, whereas people are in need of potable drinking water throughout the world. Van den Berg reminded the hundreds of LVC participants that the only real solution is the redistribution of land, seeds and water, which means that the ruling class, controlled by multinational corporations, must be forced to relinquish control on local territories and the resources that have been wrested from local communities. Van den Berg ended on a powerful note, critically deconstructing colonization, and offering the reminder that colonization is an ongoing process. Palestine, he reminded everyone, is a tragic example of this reality. However, colonization is not only out there, it is also in here, in our minds; Van den Berg finished by imploring the audience that we need to decolonized our minds as well.

Yasmeen El-Hasan (UAWC-Palestine) concluded the session by offering a deeply grounding analysis of the unfolding genocide in Palestine. In the last 24 hours, El-Hasan began, Israel has massacred 700 Gazans. Recounting the scale of the structural violence that has taken place, El-Hasan made very clear the connections between Israel’s territorial violence, and questions of food sovereignty. As she argued, “the number of farmers who have been murdered is simply without number. Fishers have been murdered when their boats were bombed as they were going in search of food.” Emphasizing the interconnections between structural violence and food sovereignty, El-Hasan argued that Israel has a clear vision of attempting to “destroy all infrastructure, to use starvation as a weapon of war, and to ensure that those who survive the bombs are looking at a future without sustenance.” Rather than just a symptom of the last two months, it is clear that “this is not new, it’s been going on longer than I have been alive, than any of us have been alive.” However, El-Hasan argued that this is not only taking place in Israel, but also in Sudan, and throughout many other parts of the world; these conflicts are created by neocolonialism and climate capitalism.

El-Hasan closed by emphasizing that LVC activists are here to “globalize the struggle, globalize hope.” Looking into the audience, she declared that “as we stand in the midst of this catastrophe, we are energized; we are witnessing the largest mass mobilization we have ever seen for Palestine.” While the crowd erupted in applause, she continued saying that “we are not only seeing this among long time activists, but across every continent, Asia, Africa, Latin America, in the United States—the very belly of the beast—all in support of Palestine. Solidarity liberates. It is a liberatory tool. And LVC is a space of liberation. Decolonization is not a metaphor. We will not be liberated by saying please, by being the perfect victim. We will be liberated by standing in solidarity with the peoples of the world, through dismantling settler colonialism. And how do we do this? We continue making noise. We continue bringing the pressure. We feel it from Palestine. It is working. And Palestine liberation is not in a vacuum. It is women’s liberation. It is LGBTQ liberation. It is liberation of all the people. We will persevere, and we will be free. And from the rivers to the sea, we will be free.”

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