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Workshop 5 Daily Reports

Struggle For the Land and Environment Summary of Sub-Table Presentations

July 28-29, 1997
El Indiano, Andalucia, Spain
"The Word"
Newsletter of the Second Intergalactic Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism
Workshop: Struggle For the Land and Environment Summary of Sub-Table Presentations 1-5 July 28-29

1. Land and Rural Life. The agrarian question and the elimination of the small farmer.

2a-b Land occupancy and the struggle for the land. Human relations with the land and indigenous concepts of the earth.

3. The destruction of the earth. Polluting energies and industries. Ingestion of toxic residues. Climate change and desertification. Water as a resource for the few.

4-5. New technologies. Nature as a commodity of the world elite. Ecology as a business. Speci-ism, animal liberation, genetic manipulation, and patenting of life forms.

Table 1 July 28
Agriculture and Rural Existence

The workshop began quite late, like all the other ones, making it impossible to present ourselves personally and to present the collective to which we belong. The majority of our workshop is composed of people that represent different collectives and the rest of the people come on their own account.

After this introduction we talked from the morning until the afternoon about the way to organize our workshop, because it was decided before that first day we should not enter into the ponencias (prepared papers) in order to agree first about the proposed working method. Two persons volunteered themselves to be part of the workshop every day in order to guide discussion and write it down. After this we finished this part of the day trying to resolve the language problem and to decide who in the workshop could take care of simultaneous translations.

The Afternoon

In the place where we wanted to have a debate about the building up of a network for different struggles, it turned out that most of the people ignored the existence of networks that already have been established, and all the work that has been done this year. Therefore, the participants in the workshop asked the people in the group to have an exposition of all the information we have up to now about the network. After this, we started with an open debate about the principles or supports that the network needs in order to make it better known and to develop it more.

The few people in the workshop that took part in the first encuentro also brought forward how the network(s) for struggle and resistance should be considered, which polarized the debate around the theme of a supposed network of information and action with our own framework and means, in order to break through the wall of information that the big communication centers build around the small and big struggles, at once ignoring them and distorting reality.

The consensus that goes along with the political practice that was originated in Chiapas (although Sandanistas already had this long before) was one of the themes treated from the viewpoint of new ways to create politics that are horizontal and go along with bases. But at this point, the problem also came up that at this moment we cannot make decisions about campaigns and actions on a worldwide level.

The theme that was most discussed, with different contributions and various points of departure, was to interrogate and to ask ourselves who we are, which brought us to the necessity to recuperate our identity as a person and as a collective, as a way that could make possible an individual and collective questioning of the society in which we live. For this we looked at the example of the struggle for resistance of the indigenous people of America, who in spite of ethnocide and genocide, and in spite of rejection and humiliations, always kept afire the flames of their identity, reinforcing them with strong doses of imagination, affection, courage, and dignity.

It is because of this, or because of the mythology and the affection of their guardian gods that 500 years after we robbed them of their identity and dignity, we wake up to give ourselves mirrors without glitter in which we can meet ourselves, finding out and uncovering to others that we are all alike.

Table 1 July 29
Sindicato Obreros de Campo (SOC: Agrarian Laborers Union)

Andalucia is an autonomous community. It concentrates great latifundi (very large properties in only a few hands). The peasants' struggle has had as a goal the redistribution of land. In the eighties there were important mobilizations that were harshly repressed in 1983, Andalucia introduced the Agrarian Reform Act, but this was paralyzed by landowners filing recourses in the courts.

Consequently, this Act did not acknowledge the laborers' land rights: it did not put at stake the ownership of the land. The Agrarian Laborers Union (SOC) proposed the occupation of abandoned properties, firstly in a symbolic way and then settling on them, working them and creating cooperatives ("Tierra y Libertad," "El Basque," "El Indiano"). The problems, however, are numerous and are increasing with the Brussels decision to aid the abandonment of production.

Biological Agriculture as a Means of Integration of Different Marginal Collectives

The SOC promotes courses about ecological agriculture. From there, a group of six people was created, mainly marginalized people who started a project on a property situated in "El Tejar," Cordoba, which was lent for one year. They started with a lot of difficulties (lack of experience, of funds, of villagers' trust...). The moral support came from other collectives interested in them. The strong rains this year ruined the crops, the effort and the dreams of these people.

From Ecological Agriculture to Sustained Rural Tourism

Currently a big change is taking place in rural areas due to the dismantling of traditional means of production. In many areas people lived from the crops, and now they are living from "services". This is an assault on the traditional culture of Andalucian villages who are obliged to change their lifestyle. Agrarian society should reflect on this, see it the other way round and consider rural tourism as a viable alternative which would combine several services, and respect for the lifestyle of people with landroots. Any integral vision would lead us to biological cultures: the central focus of the rural project. It would be a more human and less mercantilist way for cities and country people to relate to each other.

As a result we could create trading networks which promote mutual awareness. Nevertheless we still have to approach the alternative bank issue to finance self-managed projects.


The session is opened with a question: which networks are already existing, how do they work and which problems do they face to be efficient? We start explaining Net 3, "A Fair Trade and Solidarity Network", composed of base nets, information on ecology, solidarity shops. Ecological and agriculture and stock farm (micronet), craftsmen and jugglers (self-managed). Network 3 trades products that are not essential in their source country, which are not damaging to the environment nor derived from exploitation.

This creates the necessity of looking for alternative financial ways: the Alternative Bank. Other experiences of this already exist in various countries: Germany, Japan, England. A database arises on how could this bank work without reproducing capitalist banking patterns.

Considering the people who are creating the Network, the discussion focuses on whether to start from nothing or use already existing instruments; the debate comes to the conclusion that we can work in every front by claiming our rights, by creating new forms of self-management and pressure on governments and multinational companies, which are imposing neoliberal policies.

There were many proposals, such as a world-wide boycott on certain products from multinational companies and requiring them to pay global salaries equal to those of their source country.

Table 2a-b July 28
Land Occupancy and the Struggle for the Land.

Relations with the Land and Indigenous Concepts of the Earth

This table has attracted a lot of interest in this, the first day of the Intergalactic Encuentro. Around 80 people have participated in the two groups we have made for the discussion.

In our subtable 2a we will discuss the following presentations, both written and oral, that our comrades have brought from the various countries. The presentations (Ponencias) are on the following subjects: Struggle for the land in Mexico, the Philippines, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, land collectives in Spain, Arragon and farmers in India.

The first day we got to know each other and organized the work for the rest of the week.

Struggle for the Earth and Environment

In the morning we heard the presentation of Comrade Jose, from La Ceiba de la Selva Margarita, Chiapas, Mexico. We spoke a bit about the Indigenous uprising and about some concrete proposals:

1. Distribution of Land

2. Organic Farming

3. Reforestation

4. Collective Work

We discussed as well the organization itself and the collective decision-making of the indigenous communities, about the assembly of resistance and about the influence of land reform issues in the recent Mexican elections.

From this we tied together the problems of land reform in Andalucia. Our comrades of the farm workers union (SOC) from the co-op "La Verde" made the point that the occupation of land is only one part of the struggle, along with appropriate commercial relations and maintaining and organizing collectives.

In the afternoon we spoke about the network of struggles and came up with some proposals and ideas.
- At the 1st Encuentro in Mexico it was decided that we need to coordinate the transmission of information to carry out campaigns and solidarity in the face of any injustice or repression.
- It is necessary that different collectives be open-minded to participate in the network because it is impossible to agree on everything. This way we don't need to lose our autonomy and diversity. And we can coordinate common causes next. The network is very important to denounce injustices and violations of human rights in other countries. (One person from Mexico told of how they had been kidnapped recently and solidarity actions from other women in her communities helped her release).
- It is necessary to keep in mind the different cultures and levels of education among the people that will be involved in the network.
- It is also necessary to coordinate our collectives into much larger networks, for example, the struggle against Maastricht, and the struggle against neoliberalism.

We also heard some real experiences of networking: The fight for land reform in the Philippines, a country with similar colonial history to Mexico. The experience of the autonomous network in Zaragosa and the march against unemployment and the lack of social security. Also, there is a network against the Maastricht and neoliberalism in Europe and another in solidarity with Tangiers.

Table 2b July 28
Introduction to the Theme of Networks

We held an introductory session organized by themes.

We first heard a partial reading of the Second Declaration of La Realidad, in which the proposal was made to create a network of all of our individual struggles.

Moving to different concrete examples of struggle, we observed that:
- Concerning our environmental movement, we should first examine similar situations (such as the repatriation of foreigners).
- We should review experiences from other places, perhaps using electronic mail. This presents the following problems:
a) how to use the information and,
b) will it only be for computer science experts? Who has the means to get on the internet and who does not?

In some situations, we see the lack of a realistic outlook amongst those doing solidarity work who are not at the point of a gun. When a massacre occurs (such as in the case of the Japanese embassy in Lima) how does the network respond? In many places, they seem to prioritize the philosophical over the practical defensive actions.

The problem of public opinion: how to get activist information into the minds of the people? The problems of neo-liberalism are world-wide. There is only a difference of degree. Networks of resistance are not new. In Latin America, for example, many have been wiped out by low-intensity conflict. Drawing on what was learned in resistance to this, a method was constructed for coordinating actions and strategy.

To clarify our objectives:
-- To build a network without hierarchy, a horizontal organization
-- For each organization to agree on its own specific goals
-- To circulate information
-- To quickly arrange meetings over the internet
-- To construct nodes, keeping in mind the importance of grassroots work in each community

To keep in mind when thinking about the networks:
-- What are our objectives?
-- Who will participate?
-- How will technical resources be obtained?

When there is no phone service, it is almost impossible to do this type of work. We need to democratize information distribution in the following ways: -- To create nodes which are self organized at the local level -- To disseminate information, give mutual support, exchange experiences and possibly also to serve as alternative methods of communication if e-mail is to be boycotted or if it collapses

The debate revolves around these three points: -- Information networks: problems of getting resources, especially electronic -- Human networks: the need for forming flesh and blood connections -- Differences between places that share problems of equal intensity on one hand, and areas that do support and solidarity work on the other hand

The need to expand the world network was discussed, such that it includes more than just one method, and is not irreplaceable.

Remember the importance of local work.

Table 2a July 29

This morning we have heard three presentations: about the struggle for the earth, about the influences that neoliberal policies have over economies, about forms of organization and about the general life of small farmers.

The first was about the Philippine Farmers Movement (C.M.P.). In the Philippines, the present government of President Ramos is not responding to the need for agricultural and land reform, and is instead, opening up the country to multinational corporations. This is, of course, displacing more and more small farmers.

The C.M.P. was born in 1985 to organize the small farmers against development projects and government economic globalization plans.

The C.M.P. offers legal assistance to the farmers and lobbies the parliament to modify the laws. In addition, they create information campaigns and organize demonstrations and public protests. Some of the challenges that the group faces are gathering and coordinating diverse sectors of Filipino society (universities, urban struggles, etc.) and making ties to the struggles of small farmers on other continents. Their struggle lives as a part of the larger general struggle against neoliberalism.

In the discussion they spoke of the connection between the farmers' problems and immigration, the organization of educational campaigns, the destruction of the forests and environment by logging and mining companies (another foreign aspect of neoliberalism). We discussed the necessity to include traditional knowledge in the scientific outlook and the position of the Catholic church, along with other churches, that have supported the farmers' struggle.

The second presentation was by our CompaÒeros EfrÈn and Eva from the National Congress of Indigenous People of MÈxico and coordinators of the Emiliano Zapata Union of the People of Michoacan, MÈxico under the title "Tendencies, Concepts and Relations with the Earth" to work for the Commission of Communal Well-being and the Council of Vigilance. Nevertheless, the communal lands are in danger because of the amendment to the Article 27 of the Mexican constitution (the article that guarantees indigenous land-rights). Now the ejidos can be sold as private land and many small farmers can be kicked off their land. The governments intention is to do away with social property and sell off communal land. The communities fight against these reforms and governmental plans that place the individual above the collective, against the multi-nationals that want to exploit the mineral resources and hydroelectricity of Chiapas and against the plans to steal the land.

Efren talked to us about the concept of the Earth as our mother, not as a thing to exploit or as capital. He also talked to us about how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are influencing the government of Mexico.

Here is one of Efren's poems that speaks of the Zapatista struggle: (rhyming in Spanish)

Land, work, and home, welfare and security without impunity.
Necessary public services in the country and the city neighborhoods and towns.
Protection of the environment and the health of the people, with free education and guaranteed nutrition. And for the indigenous people, free self determination.
Human rights for the common people with the full value of their customs, traditions, and the daily use of their languages.
Consensus decision-making and their own institutions, laws, and constitution, without any subordination. . .

These are the permanent demands of the Zapatista communities that struggle in the Lacandon jungle. These are the demands of all those in Mexico who struggle to defend Mother Earth, our native cultures, and our communally-owned lands. These lands are very valuable, with petroleum and precious metals. other demands are national sovereignty, global independence, democratization with a transitional government, a constitutional congress, and a new constitution. Also, we must not forget the indigenous peoples, farmers, workers, intellectuals, and artists, teachers, journalists and the people in general. We want real equality and democracy, power for the people, liberty, justice, brotherhood and sisterhood and peace with dignity!

The third presentation was about the struggle in El Salvador, presented by the compaÒero Rafael from the Committee of the Displaced of El Salvador. He told us about the present, post-war situation. The government created state-run cooperatives, but left the best lands with the original, rich owners, while the popular cooperatives have had many problems and few resources. After the war the small farmers movement continued their mobilization to get credit for developing their farms. They want to buy the land but it is very difficult to get loans and if they occupy the land they get removed by the government.

There are hardly any jobs in El Salvador and the workers can only get work on the large farms for three months of the year. This is why they have set up collectives of displaced people. It isn't only a small farmers movement, but includes street vendors, the unemployed and the homeless. They carry out many kinds of actions and activities and fight all kinds of marginalization.

All of the problems of El Salvador have been made worse by the privatization of public resources, multi-national interventions, the growth of the consumer market and increasing unemployment. There is also the problem of the maquilas (assembly factories) that exploit displaced women, who earn almost nothing for long hours of work. The displaced populations have two fundamental difficulties: unemployment with the need to earn a living and the need to organize themselves.

Network Decisions:

To discuss the network, we met in small groups to come up with ideas that we can propose, and we came up with the following:

-- Expressions of support and the building of international awareness
-- Answers to the repression of the government
-- Construction of alternative aid
-- Establish an internet network
-- Local work to spread experiences and information
-- Start a multi-lingual newsletter
-- Alternative information
-- Creative protests
-- Set up a list and directory of contacts
-- Support equal and just commerce
-- Holistic ways of life
-- Spread information about the strategies of multi-nationals
-- Share strategies of struggle against multi-nationals

Table 3 July 28
The Destruction of the Earth.
Polluting Energies and Industries.
Ingestion of Toxic Residues.
Climate Change and Desertification.
Water as a Resource of the Few.

Declaration of MoisÈs Ghandi The first general meeting of health promoters and workers. "Health in the Hands of the People" MoisÈs Ghandi; the autonomous region of Toztz Chol, Chiapas, February 1997

In this gathering the issue of health in the indigenous communities was tackled. The starting point was a definition of the concept of health in an integrated, global sense:

"Health is to live without humiliation, to be free to develop as men and women and to fight for a system where the poor and especially the indigenous people can achieve self-determination and autonomy."

This welfare incorporates the physical, the mental, the political, the social and the human spheres. In this context: -- Health is not an individual but a collective requirement. It is a fundamental human right. -- Health work must be neutral, attending to each person without discrimination on the basis of race, color, language, age religion, gender, etc. -- Responsibilities: Health must be in the hands of the people, with an awareness that this relies upon the support of the people.

Currently, health has become a weapon (people are subjected to interrogation during consultations, male and female patients are separated to prevent mutual organization...). It is another tool for destroying the organizational force of the people.

Therefore, without justice, without respect for the dignity of the people, health has become the property of a small sector of the population, it exists only for the people who can pay.

These conditions of life and work for indigenous people, which are already bad, are affected even more during war. This war, not officially declared by the government, is something real in the communities, it is something permanent and of "high intensity",everyday there is more death and bloodshed.

Militarization profoundly affects the daily lives of the people. All the activities of the army are designed to divide and rule. We, the communities, denounce the pollution of our rivers, the rape of our women, the occupation of the schools and public places, the introduction of alcoholism, prostitution and drugs to our people, the forcible sterilization of our women and the deliberate obstruction of the work of health promoters and workers caused by continuous displacement of the population.

In the final debate there emerged some proposals aimed at formulating measures to fight against this situation:
-- The withdrawal of the army from Chiapas
-- To cooperate to send medicines--In Naples there are people who are working on this project (Laboratorio Occupato S.K.A., Callata Trinita Maggiore, I-80100 Napoli, telephone 0039 338 401494/mobile 0039 81-5420255/5420248).
-- To support this declaration in the Second Intercontinental Encuentro.
-- To continue to share mutual experiences and to deepen the discussion on the theme of natural medicines (although it was pointed out that these are often expensive, e.g. Europe).
-- To consolidate non-governmental support for the indigenous people of Chiapas and the world.

Table 3 July 29 Networking Against the Nuclear Industry

German activists made a presentation regarding their work against the German government's transport of high level nuclear waste to a permanent storage facility in Gorleben.

From 1979 to the present over hundreds of thousands of people have actively resisted this project and may have succeeded in paralyzing it. (For example, 100,000 people turned out for a road bloackade in 1996.) Each of three attempts at shipping waste to the facility were met by thousands of protesters from many different backgrounds who lined the route for miles, setting up roadblocks and encampments. About thirty thousand police were required to get a single shipment through to the facility. Despite their efforts, three shipments have arrived, carrying eight canisters of radioactive waste. However, because of the incredible financial and political cost of each shipment to the government, the protesters feel that the project may be canceled.

The movement has attacked not only waste shipments, but every stage in the nuclear chain, including, for example, the program to reprocess waste for nuclear weapons construction purposes.

The discussion also covered the existence of an international atomic Mafia, comprised of regulatory officials, business, insurance executives, and bankers that works to promote the nuclear industry world-wide and often works to facilitate illegal dumping and "recycling" of nuclear materials, often working hand-in-hand with the military. The military in many countries are attempting to reprocess nuclear waste for use in nuclear weapons. Representatives from Nigeria and Bolivia testified that illegal dumpings had occurred in their countries, and comrades from Southern Italy noted that illegal shipments of nuclear waste, among other forms of illegal traffic, often passed through their waters.

Future trends for the industry and its dangers were discussed. It was generally agreed that there is a trend of dumping nuclear waste (and indeed all waste) in poorer countries, or in poor or disenfranchised regions of relatively rich countries, such as in regions inhabited by indigenous peoples. It was noted that this trend is likely to accelerate as resistance to dumping in "first world" countries becomes more organized. The group recognized the need for these movements to the network and share resources with groups in regions targeted for dumping. It was noted that the building of a second generation of nuclear power plants in the USA is largely contingent upon successful construction of a new dump, which has been delayed for almost twenty years, but may be nearing reality in Texas and/or California. There is also a proposal for a special high-level waste dump on indigenous land in Nevada.

By 2004, the French company Framatome and the German company Siemens developing a new type of nuclear power plant, which they plan to first install in the Philippines and South America, and then later in Europe. The multi-national corporation Siemens stands out as one of the most prominent players in the nuclear industry. For this reason, there have been suggestions from England and Germany for an international boycott of Siemens' consumer products, such as their radios, televisions, etc.

At the same time, North American companies such as Westinghouse and General Electric have plans to build traditional reactors in new places, concentrating in Asia.

Group discussion identified common problems and collective strategies. Problems included:
-- dumping on poor countries or regions
-- the inability to track shipments of nuclear waste from origin to destination -- lack of basic information about nuclear power and waste in some are
-- lack of information on alternatives to nuclear energy
-- lack of progressive government/laws on energy policy
-- the "nuclear mafia" which seeks illegal or unsafe solutions to nuclear dangers
-- defamation of activists by government and industry, i.e.. as "eco-terrorists".

-- Strategies of resistance discussed by the group included:
-- energy conservation and commitment to alternative energy production like solar and wind.
-- exporting and importing activists from successful resistance projects.
-- trying illegal dumpers in international tribunals.
-- boycotting Siemens or other specific multi-nationals.
-- formal annual European conference on nuclear issues.
-- uniting people of different backgrounds in resistance.
-- developing international networks, perhaps using the World Wide Web and the Internet.
-- develop clearinghouses for basic information on all aspects of the nuclear chain.i.e.clearinghouse on waster transport.

Table 4-5 July 28
"New Technologies. Nature as a Commodity of the World Elite. Ecology as Business. Speci-ism, Animal Liberation, Genetic Manipulation, and Patenting of Life Forms"

India One cannot imagine biotechnology without patents. In the future knowledge and research will be completely patented. We have been led to believe that local varieties of species are inferior to commercial varieties. Due to the inefficiency in conserving seeds, they ought to be returned to the farmers, since their traditional knowledge provides for better conservation of seeds. Until this is carried out, they ought to have their own genetic banks.


-- In Germany, industrialization has caused cultural life in the countryside to suffer tremendously.
-- The introduction of genetically engineered organisms ensures genetic contamination of local organisms. We offer a general question. What will we do about this? We would like to propose a possible solution. Using this contamination in the difficult fight against transnational corporations that want to control the market.
-- There is a perception that genetic engineering is progress because it is a way to improve our health. However, the results are in reality unforseeable, because, among other things, bacteria and transgenetic viruses produce changes that may cause us harm.


1. That there be a network of information for farmers and citizens to give information about traditional nutrition, giving consideration to revived traditional methods.

2.That we make contacts with independent scientists that denounce the effects of genetically engineered food.

3. That we reject every kind of genetic engineering, proposing instead the revival of the traditional ways of life in each culture.

4. That we do not treat the problem as a scientific problem, but instead as apolitical question: to be conscious of what you eat, where it comes from, in what condition it w as produced; in short live a natural life. Finally , we recognize that there may be conflicts between some of these proposals, for example between number 2 and numbers 3 and 4.

Table 4-5 July 29

1. "Patents on Life" Isabel Bermejo
2. "Ecological Agriculture" Angel Caldo
3. "Eco-consumption experiences in Rome" Associazione "Le gramigne"

1. "Patents on Life"
Definition of patent: The first patent was granted to an individual cook; later on industry became the primary patenting entity.

In the USA there are no laws governing the patenting of biological materials, yet the practice of patenting animals and humans is approved.

In Europe, until recently there were no laws about patenting animlas; now a law has been made to permit it. We are aware of the difficulty of organizing a struggle against this law and the free trade.

Some data to keep in mind:

-- 4% of the global wealth is located in the poorest areas of the world.
-- 95% of biological patents are owned by corporations of the North.
-- 45% of the global economy is predicated upon biotechnology -- 70% of the world population is dependent on agriculture for sustaining itself.
-- More than 90% of world biodiversity is found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the South. Such biological materials are strategic for the development of new agricultural, pharmaceutical, industrial products.

What can we do?

-- Discussions around the topic and dissemination of the information.
-- Take care of our own biological material, so not to lose our culture.
-- Involve and work with peasants in order to increase awareness around resources and value of the land.


-- With the revision of GATT in 1999 we are going to discuss valid alternatives; we need to get started with proposals both at the theoretical and practical levels.
-- Put emphasis on this topic in the political world.
-- Seeing transplants as normal means that we'll develop contradictions inside ourselves between believing we have full rights over our body and not realizing the consequences.
-- Getting a prohibition around issuing patents in the European Union
-- We already know about the existence of projects aimed to study variations in the genetic makeup of tribes and the realization of a genetic map (the Human Genome Project)
-- They use popular knowledge to speed up the process of obtaining patents.

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