Food is a constant need. Of what use is it then, to the study of history and politics, to constrain a narrative to the axis of this need? This could only be a practical course; to render an outline of actions which describe the narrative of economic and ecological truth. This is not a philosophical exploration of the relationship between physical power in the sense of energy which metabolic process provide and political power in the sense of action taken to secure primary needs. This narrative suggests, if only through the application of arbitrary method, a possible linear narrative which of itself invokes the other elements of narrative used to treat of History proper, that is the story of Life itself in its totality and completeness.

Though this suggested method is methodical, the attempt to portray something which resembles it here is rather unmethodical. The articles below will demonstrate key points which I think are most important to comprehend at this stage of human history. Today, we face a technological revolution which concentrates social and political power in the hands of those who inhabit the niches which they are creating for themeselves. In another post, I will demonstrate that the City has become for the first time the only center of political power in that the industrialist capitalist has only in the last forty to twenty years completely come to dominate agricultural production to the extent that agricultural production has been subsumed into the financial mechanisms used to control the industrial economy and thus placed under the power of the corporate elite which includes the financial and banking industry. This post will aid in that effort by demonstrating how completely the global domination of agriculture is becoming under neoliberal hegemony, some twenty years after the commodities market was deregulated in the United States.

The turning point historically came with the Physiocrats with their primacy of land within a materialist rather than putely political economic paradigm. The transformation of European colonial powers from monarchies to modern nation-states was a period in which scientific or rational techniques and innovations were designed to enable the perpetuation of an ever more sophisticated society capable of differentiating the types of economic production flourishing in an environment of greater and greater abundance. As empires competed for dominance, liberalism, socialism and reformed monarchies inculcated capitalist modes of production as the corporate form superceded the colonial trading companies such as the East India Companies of the Dutch and the British. For example, in the early nineteenth century a couple of chemists, Lea and Perrin, created Worcestershire Sauce out of ingredients made available through transcontinental trade (anchovies, oranges, tamarind, etc.). The Physiocrats recognized something which I believe Marx also acknowledged, which is that the underpinning to any economy is its agriculture.

This point requires a degree of elaboration which I cannot give it here, as my intention as stated is to focus primarilly on where we got today and how we got here and not to delve into the theoretical morass of understanding the market as a whole. Marx comprehended the emergence of "free labor" as a result of the abolition of peasantry. Without the Physiocrats having laid the theoretical groundwork of how land could be valued based on various factors, such as (when speaking of agricultural land) productivity, Marx could not have gone on to describe how Capital organized the wealth produced by the working class by representing "surplus value" as, essentially, credit. Setting aside here the historical analysis of the relationship between the working class of the industrial age and the bourgeoisie, I think it is safe to assert that generally the interest of both has been in preventing inflation in the price of foodstuffs (German "nahrungsmittel"). Ironically perhaps, ownership of private property in the form of small landholdings has not been the primary object of the emergent consumer class. While agriculture has been a profitable investment for the capitalist class, this profitability has been dependent upon the overall productivity of the economy promising the availability of rewards for the enfranchised. On the other hand, the small landholder has consistenly been portrayed as and often actually has been subjected to the greatest degrees of uncertainty as even material productivity is, on that scale, insufficient to compete with the large-scale supplier.

Up until recently, however, the agricultural sectors of the United States and France for example comprised a relatively independent and distinct political constituency. While this constituency may still be fairly distinct within the U.S., the insitutionalized political power given to the agrarian class via the electoral college has been outweighed by the power of the investor class via Wall Street. The process of consolidating agriculture in the U.S. into "big agribiz" has taken place over the last forty years or so, although the process really began in the 1930's (Source: Allen, Since Yesterday). The subjection, or subsumption, of the agricultural sector in France I would hazard a guess happened sometime during the later years of the Mitterand administration or afterwards. It was a goal of the Reagan administration to pressure the French into adopting the neoliberal paradigm. Today, the U.S. continues to push Europe in the direction of neoliberalism as the Trans-Atlantic Trade Pact breaks down some of the last vestiges of resistance of Europeans to certain forms of genetically modified organisms and other aspects of biotechnology applied to agriculture such as beef raised with the use of growth hormones. Arguably, subsidies in the U.S. of agricultural enterprises constitute a corrallary to the "bail in" policies of quantitative easing and thus politically do not raise the ire of other nations subscribing to the WTO who are primarilly concerned with their relative advantage in gaining access to U.S. and European consumer markets. Since corporations based in U.S. banks dominate the world government, other nations see continued U.S. agricultural subsidies as at least an indication that if the U.S. can do it then they can to; the dominant corporate interests see any widespread exposure of the hypocricy of the global judicial system to be a threat to their propaganda agenda.

Neither the Soviet Union nor Cuba would have ever reached such a stage of completely subsuming agricultural production to the interests of a political class. While agricultural productivity formed the portfolio of certain members of the Communist Party which maintained centralized control of agricultural production within a macroeconomic context, agriculture did not form the vested interest of each member of the ruling class (since Stalin) in the same way that capital now represents to each member of the ruling class in the U.S. a general interest in the productivity of all sectors of the economy. While the Communist Party could propogandize about agricultural production and its role in the proletarian revolution, contemporary fascism conditions the idea of consumption through the co-ordinated efforts of marketing and media manipulation ("placement", representation of lifestyles in cultural production, etc.). In Cuba, the attempt to develop Soviet-style agricultural production on the former latifundia was ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and gave way to various adaptations such as the distribution of usufruct rights. This is an important case study I will refer back to later in this post, as an example of what some refer to as "dialectics" and which demonstrates, in my opinion, the need for Cuba and Venezuela to forge closer ties with Brazil.

First, lets return to our opening theme and the origin of the term "latifundia".

Quote Wikipedia:
In the late Roman Republic, the dominant senatorial class was not allowed to engage in banking or commerce but relied on their latifundia, large plantations, for income. They circumvented this rule through freedmen proxies who sold surplus agricultural goods.

The historical connection between liberalism and colonialism is impossible to ignore even for the most unregenerate liberal who is anything more than a philistine. Citizens of the U.S. are not as aware of the importance of land-redistribution as others in the Americas because the process of colonization (and genocide) did not occur until the late nineteenth century allowing the homesteaders of yore to avail themselves of the "frontier" while revolutionaries in Mexico during the second Mexican Revolution and in Bolivia today struggled and struggle to break up the latifundia established by colonizers. What reduced the relevance of land redistribution to a revolutionary paradigm is the combined explosion of population making it impossible to even conceive of a utopian agrarian society and the advent of free trade which hastened the process of centralizing the population into urban centers as the ownership of agricultural lands and technology became completely centralized in the hands of the smallest proportion of the population ever in the history of humanity. In combination, this means that the global food supply of seven billion people and counting is under the legal and political control of less than a fraction of one percent of that global population.

Furthermore, even in those parts of the globe where neither colonialism (or more properly, imperialism in these cases) ever established such latifundia nor did communism centralize agricultural production under Stalinist regimes- that is, speaking of southeast Asia- neoliberalism has finally come to dominate agriculture through the subjection of these nations' economies to the dominance of Western industrial modes of life.

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell
Deepa Panchang also co-authored this article.
Part 23 of the Harvesting Justice series
Friday, 02 August 2013 11:23

The outcome of last Sunday's elections in Cambodia, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen hoped to extend his 28-year rule, is in dispute. Even if he continues in office, Hun Sen's tight grip on civil society is threatened, in part, by public anger against land grabs. In the past decade, his government has handed 73% of Cambodia's arable land, most of it belonging to small farmers, over to businesses.

This article puts the global issue into perspective thus, after having articulated that the "land reform movements, organizations of indigenous peoples, small farmers, and other citizens" are forming the resistance to neoliberalism's "land grabs":

National and transnational corporations, sometimes with collusion from the government of the country in question, are snapping up agricultural land to grow industrial-scale commodity crops. Investment firms (private equity, hedge, and pension funds) are in a buying frenzy, too, speculating that they will be able to turn a profit for their investors. An estimated 120 to 200 million acres of land have been sold in international investment deals in recent years, approximately two-thirds of them in Africa. Land is also being taken for biofuel plantations, mining, oil drilling, and other energy projects.

Clearly, the emergence of China within the U.S. sphere of economic influence as a key player in the region is in this context is the key factor explaining why only now, long after the end of the Vietnam-U.S. war and the fall of the Soviet Union are nations such as Cambodia and Vietnam falling prey to the industrialization of nature.

Do collective property rights make sense? Insights from central Vietnam; Vol 6, No 1 (2012) International Journal of the Commons
Melissa Marschke; University of Ottawa, Canada
Derek Armitage; University of Waterloo, Canada
Le Van An Hue; University of Agriculture and Forestry, Vietnam
Truong Van Tuyen Hue; University of Agriculture and Forestry, Vietnam
Hein Mallee; International Development Research Center, Singapore

Property rights in Vietnam make for an interesting case. Vietnam has moved from forms of collectivization and state ownership that began in the late 1950s to an ambitious ‘renovation’ program leading to individual land titling in the late 1980s (Do and Iyer 2008). The Doi Moi period (or ‘renovation’) aimed to transform a centralized, state-planned economic system into a more decentralized, market-oriented system whereby the private sector would become the main engine of growth1. One aspect of these reform policies was to devolve authority over production decisions to farmers and enterprises, and to establish property rights (for agricultural land and in some cases for individual households to manage forest areas) to encourage investment and provide a form of collateral for rural dwellers (Sunderlin et al. 2008). The majority of Vietnam’s 90 million people have access to small amounts of land (1–2 ha), particularly in rural, agriculture-focused areas (where 72% of the population lives) (HDR 2009). Policy reforms in the 2000s (e.g. changes to the 2003 Land Law and Fisheries Law) recognized the role for collective rights, once again, to manage forest areas and fishing grounds. However, in the context of increasing privatization of land and marketization of rural production, the contextual fit, legitimacy and enforceability of collective rights has been uncertain.
Property relations exist in multiple forms, and include laws, regulations, cultural norms, social values, social relationships or property practices. These arrangements are legitimized in the sense that the state or some other form of politico-legal authority (e.g. customary) sanctions them (Sikor and Lund 2009). Property rights define or delimit the range of privileges granted to individuals or collective entities regarding specific assets or resources (Meinzen-Dick and Mwangi 2008; Mascia and Claus 2009). Rights to property (land, a set forest, individual trees, or a fishery area) may be held by an individual, shared by a group, or held collectively by multiple groups, and may be granted to user groups, villages, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. While private property is something that all households aspire to gain access to, particularly in resource-dependent areas, there is also a role for collective rights, and a significant body of scholarship (Ostrom 1990) that offers evidence of its historical and current importance.
Community forestry in Vietnam emerged as a policy response to access challenges, and is meant to enable villagers to incorporate aspects of traditional rights and management systems, particularly in ethnic minority villages (Sunderlin and Ba 2005). This is an example of a collective management right that is allocated to the village level, enabling villages or groups of villages to enter into partnership with the State for the management of forest resources. This policy innovation is a departure from highly centralized forest policies that have characterized forestry management in Vietnam – a series of community forestry sites have now been established throughout Vietnam (Sunderlin and Ba 2005). A significant effort has gone into community forestry in the past number of years, with a number of international organizations supporting the designation and establishment of these sites (c.f. Ngo et al. 2011 for a review of international organizations working in uplands of Hue5). By the end of 2007, over 10,000 villages were managing over 2,700,000 ha of forest and bare-land area, of which nearly 2,000,000 ha were community forests (Ngai 2009). The quality of such forest land allocation has been questioned (c.f., Sikor and Nuygen 2007; Ngo et al. 2011).
In Vietnam, as elsewhere, individual and collective rights can be formal or informal (unwritten or codified). As a result, de facto rights that govern the day to day use of natural resources are often different from de jure rights that exist in formal legal documents (Mascia and Claus 2009). Actors may derive benefits from resources without holding property rights to them, such as deriving benefits from an agricultural field by way of occupation or market exchange even though they do not have any formal property rights (Ribot and Peluso 2003). In practice, the contextual diversity and variation in bundles of rights make property rights policy a challenge, leading to oversimplifications of appropriate strategies, or unintended consequences associated with implementation of natural resource management projects (Tanner 2007). It is important to understand everyday land and resource use practices in combination with formal policies; it is also worth recognizing the incentive structures for both individual and collective rights particularly from the perspective of local users who may need a mix of rights to secure and sustain their livelihoods.

Since that was a lot to think about in and of itself, the point is that whatever the particularities of the stituation, globalization has a robust, dynamic methodology derived from its agenda and resource set. The Munden Project has described mapping efforts to help formalize information about claims to land, in the context of issues pertaining to investor security. This information could be used by various parties for various purposes, depending on the emerging political situation. That is, the information could be used in conformity with, in an attempt to cope with, or an attempt to defy neoliberal agendas. As that link to my other post shows and the further comments there touch upon, this issue has come to the fore accross the world.

Though I will return to this post to edit it and add comments, I will conclude for now with the observations about Cuba I mentioned earlier. This article describes Cuba's reforms since the fall of the Soviet Union including the development of methods that do not use petroleum-based fertilizers. The breaking up of latifundia after the revolution was followed by centralization, but more recently individuals have been given rights to produce on the land and urban gardens have been developed. Now, Dr. Fernando Funes-Monzote is mentioned as one who believes that small-scale farming methods that rely on biodiversity and organic farming "can thrive in a rapidly changing economy, producing high quality products without the need for transgenic crops or mechanization." Looking at Jamaica, whose rice industry was destroyed by neoliberalism, one can understand why Cubans are debating how to produce all of their own food:

Cuba Caught At Agricultural Crossroads
by Adam Calo – November 5, 2013

Funes exudes an electric energy, pulling weeds as he walks around the farm, calling out the scientific name of pollinating insects and pointing out new seedlings of his 35 crop species that have been dispersed by the wind. The farm is a melting pot of agroecological techniques. Near a worm compost bin, a small herd of goats are clearing the undergrowth of a coconut orchard, fertilizing the paddock at the same time. Twenty beehives produce eight different types of honey that change in flavor and color depending on the availability of carefully managed wild flowers. Next to an open-air library featuring agronomy texts, two dense beds of mint are nearly ready to be sold to restaurants that market ‘organic’ mojitos in the Capital. A few turkeys underneath a portable wire netting are being given a trial run to see if they will provide targeted pest relief and soil improvement.
“Through the mid-1990s some 78,000 farms were given in usufruct to individuals and legal entities. More than 100,000 farms have now been distributed, covering more than 1 million hectares in total,” states a 2012 paper that Funes co-wrote with UC-Berkeley agroecology professor Miguel A. Altieri. The paper notes that, “perhaps the most important changes that led to the recovery of food sovereignty in Cuba occurred in the peasant sector which in 2006, controlling only 25 percent of the agricultural land, produced over 65 percent of the country’s food.” There was a huge growth in urban agriculture too — the country now as about 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land. These farms produce more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables a year.

Yet, while the new privatization of the agricultural sector opens the door for small-scale farmers like Funes to operate in an emerging market of local, value-added products, it also provides space for a more industrial vision of agriculture — one that believes that the peasant led movement of the ’90s is no longer needed in an improving economy.

At a midsummer debate held by the Cuban Academy of Science in downtown Havana, this dream of “maximizing” agricultural outputs in Cuba via industrial means was glaringly apparent. Over 40 scientists from many major disciplines of the life sciences gathered at the Fernando Ortíz Library, drinking shots of sweetened espresso and fanning themselves to stave off the heat. The first three presenters all represented the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), a government supported research powerhouse that has been one of the few highly productive sectors of the Cuban economy over the last few decades.

Carlos Borroto, Deputy Director, summarized the position of the CIGB by describing the need to produce more food for a growing urban population whilst boosting the economy. “Five percent of Cubans now produce food for 100 percent of the population and while our meat consumption used to be 15 kilograms per capita it is now risen to 60,” he said. He then pointed to a graph depicting how profits and corn yields increased dramatically in Argentina and Brazil after the adoption of genetically enhanced varieties while the application of petrochemicals decreased. “High yields, low costs, that is what you call sustainability,” he said.

According to a source familiar with government’s agricultural policy who wished not to be named, recent high level delegations visiting Brazil’s agricultural sector (that is based heavily on transgenic crops and industrialization) is evidence that Cuba is considering this “sustainable intensification” as a model of agricultural development.

The debate is one which is instructive to all those interested in the idea of greater local economic and political independence and fair trade as a global model. The particular combination of techniques used by various parties under different types of agreements and contracts can lead to regional independence which will restore a degree of sovereignty to nations increasingly under pressure to conform to a single standard of "competitiveness". If, for example, Brazil can learn as much from Cuba as visa-versa then regional agreements in the area of oil production and distribution, medical sector development, financial sector independence, etc. will be complemented by an independence in the fundamental area of agriculture where each nation and region is able to produce enough to ensure a higher quality of life than that which is budgeted for by transnational corporations interested only in "downsizing" the workforce while maintaining imperial hegemony.

Another example of this dynamic, portrayed in a more even-handed presentation, is Ethiopia:

Land Grabs In Africa – A Double-Edged Sword
November 9, 2013 Posted by: Editorial_Staff

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 14.56 million hectares of Ethiopia’s 100 million hectare land mass is arable land, most of it cultivated by small hold, subsistence farmers.

International investors have taken note and are rushing to this country, once synonymous with starvation, to take advantage of the government’s new push to improve its agricultural production capacity. But many fear the government’s sale of arable land to foreign nationals will create a modern form of agricultural colonialism.
Liberalising food markets and boosting trade while discouraging protectionism for agricultural commodities is essential for the advancement of Ethiopia’s economy. However, it is unclear whether or not Ethiopians will actually benefit from the sale of their lands.

In the words of an unidentified farmer interviewed for a 2013 IDS working paper on agriculture in Ethiopia, in response to a question on the difference between those who live on the land compared to those who reap what the farmer sows: “Show me a person who became rich because they depended on farming. There is no one here. Those who are well-off are those involved in trading.”

His response cuts to the major issue facing Ethiopia’s push to attract foreign investors to its fertile farmlands: the locals providing the land for farming see very little of the profits, while the foreign investors selling the commodities grown on farmland purchased at cut-throat prices are literally reaping the benefits.

Ethiopia – Ancient, Booming But Undemocratic
November 20, 2013 Posted by: Editorial_Staff

That is the trouble with the modern media. Faraway places of which we know little are only shown to us when something bad happens. In the case of Ethiopia, the 1984 famine and subsequent hungers have fixed its image in the global mind. It is as if the image of the collapsing Twin Towers in 2001 typified America. But of course we have other, more positive, images of America but none of Ethiopia. So I tell them: “Ethiopia? It’s great. It’s Booming!”

Addis Ababa is being transformed as if by monstrous engines boring through the heart of the city. A new motorway flows into town sweeping aside all before it and an urban rail system is smashing through buildings, roads, gardens – everything accompanied by cranes and trucks, noise and dust. All along its path the traditional one-storey homes of mud, wooden planks and rusted corrugated iron roofs are bulldozed into heaps and replaced by six or more stories of concrete and brick. Hammering, grinding and showers of glittering acetylene sparks proclaim the arrival of armies of Chinese workers and the rise of mighty steel and glass constructions.

The lesser building sites are full of Ethiopian workers; some newly arrived from the rural areas. Addis used to feel like a timeless city. People hung around talking or walked slowly as if on a long stroll. Now they march the streets with speed and urgency. All seem to have watches and mobile phones. Even the poor seem to have purpose. I watched one man sitting by the roadside carefully stitching the seams of his disintegrating trousers with string. For the better off the vast market quarter, Mercato, is seething with bustle and business.


Quote Wikipedia:

from Wikipedia, Physiocracy
Physiocracy is an agrarianist philosophy. In the late Roman Republic, the dominant senatorial class was not allowed to engage in banking or commerce[4] but relied on their latifundia, large plantations, for income. They circumvented this rule through freedmen proxies who sold surplus agricultural goods.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, de-urbanization led to commerce ceasing and trade declining throughout most of western Europe. Economies became centered on agricultural manors where warrior-landlords, the medieval nobility, collected rent from their serfs in the form of produce. This was the dominant economic system until trade began to revive in the Late Middle Ages, fostering the rise of the merchant class.

Another inspiration came from China's economic system, then the largest in the world. Chinese society broadly distinguished four occupations, with scholar-bureaucrats, who were also agrarian landlords, at the top and merchants at the bottom (because they did not produce but only distributed goods made by others). Leading physiocrats like François Quesnay were avid Confucianists who advocated China's agrarian policies.[5] Some scholars have advocated connections with the school of Agriculturalism, which promoted utopian communalism.[6]


Quote Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America:
The Northeasterners' slave labor is now constructing the great trans-Amazonia highway that will cut Brazil in two, penetrating the jungle up to the Bolivian border. The "march to the west," as the plan is called, also involves an agricultural colonization project to extend "the frontiers of civilization"; each peasant will get ten hectares of land if he survives the tropical fevers. The Northeast contains 6 million landless peasants while 15,000 people own half of all the land. Agrarian reform is not carried out in the already occupied areas, where the latifundistas' property rights remain sacred, but in the jungle. Thus a road for the latifundio's expansion into new territory is being opened up by its victims, the flagelado, or "tormented ones," of the Northeast. Without capital or implements, what is the use of ten hectares one to two thousand miles from consumer centers? One must conclude that the government's real aims are quite different: to provide labor for the U.S. latifundistas who have bought or appropriated half the lands north of the Rio Negro, and also for U.S. Steel, which received Amazonia's rich iron and manganese deposits from General Garrastazu Medici. (In October 1970 the Bishop of Para denounced to the president of Brazil the brutal exploitation of Northeastern workers by contractors for the trans-Amazonia highway. The government calls it "the work of the century.")
pg 90

The theory of land rent at the crossroads
A Haila
Marx's Theory of Agricultural Rent
Ben Fine
The Implications of Marxian Rent Theory For Community-Controlled Redevelopment Strategies
Mickey Lauria


Quote William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich pg 228:

With Hugenberg’s dismissal in June 1933, Darre became Minister of Food and Agriculture. By September he was ready with his plans to make over German agriculture. Two basic laws promulgated in that month reorganized the entire structure of production and marketing, with a view to ensuring higher prices for farmers, and at the same time put the German peasant on a new footing – accomplishing this, paradoxically, by putting him back on a very old footing in which farms were entailed, as in feudal days, and the farmer and successive inheritors compulsorily attached to their particular plot of soil (provided they were Aryan Germans) to the end of time.

The Hereditary Farm Law of September 29, 1933, was a remarkable mixture of pushing back the peasants to medieval days and of protecting them against the abuses of the modern monetary age. All farms up to 308 acres (125 hectares) which were capable of providing a decent living for a family were declared to be hereditary estates subject to the ancient laws of entailment. They could not be sold, divided, mortgaged or foreclosed for debts. Upon the death of the owner they had to be passed on to the oldest or youngest son, in accordance with local customs, or to the nearest male relative, who was obliged to provide a living and an education for his brothers and sisters until they were of age. Only an Aryan German citizen who could prove the purity of his blood back to 1800 could own such a farm. And only such a man, the law stipulated, could bear the ”honored title” Bauer, or Peasant, which he forfeited if he broke the ”peasant honor code” or ceased, because of incapacity or otherwise, to actively farm. Thus the heavily indebted German farmer, at the beginning of the Third Reich, was protected from losing his property by foreclosures or from seeing it shrink in size (there being no necessity to sell a piece of it to repay a debt), but at the same time he was bound to the soil as irrevocably as the serfs of feudal times.

And every aspect of his life and work was strictly regulated by the Reich Food Estate, which Darre established by a law of September 13, 1933, a vast organization with authority over every conceivable branch of agricultural production, marketing and processing, and which he himself headed in his capacity of Reich Peasant Leader. Its chief objectives were two: to obtain stable and profitable prices for the farmer and to make Germany self-sufficient in food.

How well did it succeed? In the beginning, certainly, the farmer, who for so long had felt himself neglected in a State which seemed to be preoccupied with the interests of business and labor, was flattered to be singled out for so much attention and proclaimed a national hero and an honored citizen. He was more pleased at the rise in prices which Darre obtained for him by simply arbitrarily fixing them at a profitable level. In the first two years of Nazi rule wholesale agricultural prices increased by 20 per cent (in vegetables, dairy products and cattle the rise was a little more) but this advantage was partially offset by a similar rise in the things which the farmer had to buy – above all in machinery and fertilizer. As for self-sufficiency in food, which was deemed necessary by the Nazi leaders, who already, as we shall see, were plotting war, the goal was never achieved, nor – given the quality and quantity of German soil in relation to its population – could it ever be. The best the country could do, despite all Nazi efforts in the much-advertised ”Battle of Production,” was to reach 83 per cent of self-sufficiency and it was only by the conquest of foreign lands that the Germans obtained enough food to enable them to hold out during the second war as long as they did.


nimblecivet 6 years 8 weeks ago

Neither the Soviet Union nor Cuba would have ever reached such a stage of completely subsuming agricultural production to the interests of a political class. While agricultural productivity formed the portfolio of certain members of the Communist Party which maintained centralized control of agricultural production within a macroeconomic context, agriculture did not form the vested interest of each member of the ruling class (since Stalin) in the same way that capital now represents to each member of the ruling class in the U.S. a general interest in the productivity of all sectors of the economy. While the Communist Party could propogandize about agricultural production and its role in the proletarian revolution, contemporary fascism conditions the idea of consumption through the co-ordinated efforts of marketing and media manipulation ("placement", representation of lifestyles in cultural production, etc.). ...

This may be somewhat of an apple and oranges comprison admittedly (comparing the USSR and Cuba to the capitalist world). I haven't gone into the distinction between Stalinism and communism here because it is historically moot in my opinion. As I think I have shown in the rest of the essay, the point at which State could have managed agricultural interests democratically (with each member having a direct "stake" insofar as being enfranchised politically in the decision making process rather than merely represented indirectly through a ruling party) has passed due to the lack of a Marxist project currently underway on a large scale. The social-democratic models or so-called "mixed" economies never made agriculture the State's project, however they may have regulated it. Granted that theoretically a centralized decision making apparatus in a purely Marxist-socialist economy could develop agricultural technology and approaches through bureaucratic and administrative methods. However, as the Cuba example shows, the reality of applied science does, in the area of agriculture like so may others, demonstrate that a centralized system can only play a part in the overall communicative structure of action and decision making.

nimblecivet 6 years 1 week ago

After the news broke out in late 2008 of the scandalous Daewoo Logistics project supported by leaders of the Malagasy state, and the change of the country's leadership soon after in early 2009, the granting of Malagasy land to investors was never questioned by the transitional government. Even though Malagasies have a strong cultural tradition of attachment to their ancestors land, law 2007-036 in particular was promulgated in January 2008 allowing the sale of land to foreign-controlled companies as long as they had a local subsidiary. The Constitution voted in 2010 stipulates in its first article that "the modalities and conditions relative to the sale of land and long-term land leasing for the benefit of foreigners are to be determined by law". Communities impacted by land grabs have weak legal tools to turn to. The land reform of 2005 introduced changes by recognising peoples' rights to occupy and use land on the untitled private property. But legislative uncertainty persists regarding vast areas used for grazing.

nimblecivet 5 years 51 weeks ago

Here in CA the popularity of local greening has resulted in a piece of legislation being passed which will encourage the use of dormant and undeveloped properties for urban gardening:

SAN FRANCISCO — Sandwiched between rows of homes in the fog-kissed Mission Terrace neighborhood, Little City Gardens provides salad greens and fresh-cut flowers to local restaurants from what was once a weedy vacant lot.

Like many of California's urban agriculture practitioners, however, Caitlyn Galloway is plagued by a key uncertainty: She is on a month-to-month lease with a landlord who must recoup the lot's steep property taxes and may soon sell or develop.

Now, California cities and counties eager to encourage community gardens and small-scale farms in urban pockets have a novel tool at their disposal that could help solve Galloway's problem. Legislation recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will allow municipalities to lower the assessed value — and property taxes — on plots of three acres or less if owners pledge to dedicate them to growing food for at least five years.

It was a bipartisan success:

It passed the Senate unanimously and garnered just six no votes in the Assembly. Sole opposition came from the California Assessors' Assn., which cited potential for abuse by corporate property owners who might cut deals with local government. The bill was later amended to curtail lot size.

nimblecivet 5 years 35 weeks ago

The attempt to render a linear description of history which is in some sense logical is fairly commonplace since the materialist mode of historical discourse is based on premises imported from the hard sciences of physics. These premises of empirical realism are so fundamental that they precede all notions of causality and theory, of which some variety is necessary for a full exposition of historical discourse. Moreover, they are arrived at by deconstructing historical discourse in the manner of tracing the dependency of linearities to greater schemas of process and development and isolating set arrays of rational interpretation which can only be focused on within broader contexts unbounded by analytical definition.

Living In Ancient Rome, Ed. Don Nardo. Copyright 2004 by Greenhaven Press. pg.s 6-7 (Preface)

The reality is that today's society is not disconnected from the societies that preceded it. In fact, modern culture is a sort of melting pot of various aspects of life in past cultures. Over the course of centuries and millennia, one culture passed on some of its traditions, in the form of customs, habits, ideas, and beliefs, to another, which modified and built on them to fit its own needs. That culture then passed on its own version of the traditions to later cultures, including today's. Pieces of everyday life in past cultures survive in our own lives, therefore. ...

Thus, for example, Americans and the inhabitants of a number of other modern nations can pride themselves on living by the rule of law, educating their children in formal schools, expressing themselves in literature and art, and folowing the moral precepts of various religions and philosophies. Yet modern society did not invent the laws, shcools, literature, art, religions, and philosophies that pervade it; rather, it inherited these things from previous cultures. "Time, the great destroyer, is also the great preserver," the late, noted thinker Herbert J Muller once observed. "It has preserved.. the immense accumulation of products, skills, syles, customs, insitutions, and ideas that make the man on the American street indebted to all the peoples of history, including some who never saw a street." In this way, ancient Mesopotamia gave the world its first cities and literature; ancient Egypt, large-scale architecture; ancient Israel, the formative concepts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; ancient Greece, democracy, the theater, Olympic sports, and magnificent ceramics; ancient China, gunpowder and exotic fabrics; ancient Rome and medieval England, their pioneering legal systems; Renaissance Italy, great painting and sculpture; Elizabethan England, the birth of modern drama; and colonial America, the formative environments of the founders of the United States, the most powerful and prosperous nation in world history. Only by looking back on those peoples and how they lived can modern society understand it roots.

Indeed, and there is much to "human nature" as we observe it that stems from this ancient history that is not so laudable.

In another thread, I took a stab at rendering a "broad sweep" of history indexed to the emergence of globalism as the advancement of empire and the recondrite social and cultural patterns and transformations embedded in this process:

Quote nimblecivet:

To claim and hold territory; this imperative has been inherited from pre-historic times. The anthropological and archaeological forays of the colonial-era European 'Academy' were attempts to find real-world answers to the philosophical problems facing those who saw a need to remake society. Intuitively grasping that the range of possibilities for the future might come by discovering the nature of humanity, they sought clues in as widely divergent sources possible; they sought to examine humanity in its primitive present and its civilized past.

One core truth which has been exposed is that the urban-political form of social life was not introduced by Athens but by Babylon. the transformation of humanity from a diaspora of tribes close-knit in their shared experience of surviving in direct communion with nature to the post-modern cosmopolitan model traverses the technocratic-legal-administrative metropolitan phase. That is, after the anti-revolution the "Illuminati" will sort out just who and what is noble amongst themselves.

This history I allude to as a preface to a certain point: the inititial transformation of humanity into its "civilized" form is that which atomized the individual into the orders of class and caste. Needless to say, the metropolitan phase covers several eras of since the rise and fall of Babylon, with Empires and states coming and going as the material reality of people's struggle for power and prosperity spurred the creation of philosophies, religions, technology, etc. The norm that has emerged is the street-level organization of heirarchy typified by gangs, tongs, and so forth. All the world over the replication of the urban form organizes itself according to the integration of social struggles for power at the street level as they mesh into the larger socio-economic class structure with its divergent norms. All this is not to say that gangs per-se are ubiquitous, but that they are a common phenomenon across national and other boundaries because of the anonymity of the individual in the large-scale flux of modern society, such as the increased urbanization correlating to the disenfranchisement of small farmers by free-trade agreements, a flux which leaves individuals in the position of negotiating an often violent and treacherous social mileux of strangers competing for limited resources and often at the disadvantage relative to those who seek to exploit this population by operating via proxy while remaining anonymous and inured to the legal and actual consequences of the conditions they create and profit from.

- See more at:

The above quote I introduce here as a point of comparison to the elements of an article I will describe and link to:
"The Idea Of Owning Land", by Robert Gilman (Living With The Land, Winter '84)

Seeking a prime motivator for the social importance of territiory, Gilman invokes biological notions of psychological need which are expressed variously through culture. One might well ask right off the bat how this variation in culture is explained. I am currently expecting to find an answer in the work of Philippe Descola. Prehistory for Gilman is largely a matter of distinct social groups inhabiting their niches. He argues that where agricultural modes of life were developed a reverence for the land persisted, something observable even today in some parts of the world. Gilman sees the origin of the concept of private property as arising from a gradual loss of the sense of sacred, which itself arose from the instability of competing empires. It becomes clear here that historical progress in the form of the retention of innovative social forms is historically bound up with the destructive element of human nature. As an example of how material struggle coincides with cultural changes Gilman offers this:

Quote Gilman:

This shift from seeing the land as a sacred mother to merely a commodity required deep changes throughout these cultures such as moving the gods and sacred beings into the sky where they could conveniently be as mobile as the ever changing boundaries of these empires.

This history predates the civilizations of Greece and Rome and the three basic forms of property law and philosophy which we have inherited had already been developed by the time of their advent: community common land, state or sovereign land, and private land. We will be reviewing these categories later. Community common land has suffered the most, while political debate today generally revolves around the advisability of emphasizing private versus state ownership of land (and by extension of course also industry, etc.). Arguably, the extent of privatization has already reached the point where democratization of the economy will require political expropriation of actual land; for that is the fundamental basis for securing material well-being. Gilman goes on to explain the importance of reclaiming a sense of the sacred, something which I believe many have now come to see as not inconsistent with state ownership. At any rate, Gilman goes on to describe what he terms a "division of rights" approach which forms the basis for law which applies to both private and state ownership. Land trusts are a key component to his approach.

I would like to quote from Gilman at the point where he lays the foundation for his concept of "division of rights" via a deconstruction of the notion of "ownership" and then compare it to a couple of other passages from my blog and from Hannah Arendt in order to draw some conclusions about how to formulate a revolutionary socialist agenda.

Quote Gilman:

Ownership Is A Bundle Of Rights The first step is to recognize that, rather than being one thing, what we commonly call “ownership” is in fact a whole group of legal rights that can be held by some person with respect to some “property.” In the industrial West, these usually include the right to:

use (or not use);
exclude others from using;
irreversibly change;
sell, give away or bequeath;
rent or lease;
retain all rights not specifically granted to others;
retain these rights without time limit or review.

These rights are usually not absolute, for with them go certain responsibilities, such as paying taxes, being liable for suits brought against the property, and abiding by the laws of the land. If these laws include zoning laws, building codes, and environmental protection laws, you may find that your rights to use and irreversibly change are not as unlimited as you thought. Nevertheless, within a wide range you are the monarch over your property.

No One Owns Land Each of these rights can be modified independent of the others, either by law or by the granting of an easement to some other party, producing a bewildering variety of legal conditions. How much can you modify the above conditions and still call it “ownership”? To understand the answer to this, we are going to have to make a very important distinction. In spite of the way we normally talk, no one ever “owns land”..In our legal system you can only own rights to land, you can’t directly own (that is, have complete claim to) the land itself. You can’t even own all the rights since the state always retains the right of eminent domain. For example, what happens when you sell an easement to the power company so that they can run power lines across you land? They then own the rights granted in that easement, you own most of the other rights, the state owns the right of eminent domain – but no single party owns “the land.” You can carry this as far as you like, dividing the rights up among many “owners,” all of whom will have a claim on some aspect of the land.

The wonderful thing about this distinction is that it shifts the whole debate about land ownership away from the rigid state-vs.-individual, all-or-nothing battle to the much more flexible question of who (including community groups, families, etc. as well as the state and the individual) should have which rights. This shift could be as important as the major improvement in governance that came with the shift from monolithic power (as in a monarchy) to “division of powers” (as exemplified in the U.S. Constitution with its semi-independent legislative, executive and judicial branches).

I myself would not necessarily go as far as Gilman in institutionalizing the representation of rights in appointed bodies, but I have noted some of the core logic in Hannah Arendt's On Revolution :

Quote Hannah Arendt:

pg. 278: With respect to the elementary councils that sprang up wherever people lived or worked together, one is tempted to say that they had selected themselves; those who organized themselves were those who cared and those who took the initiative; they were the political elite of the people brought into the open by the revolution. From these 'elementary republics', the councilmen then chose their deputies for the next higher council, and these deputies, again, were selected by their peers, they were not subject to any pressure from above or from below. Their title rested on nothing but the confidence of their equals, and this equality was not natural but political, it was nothing they had been born with; it was the equality of those who had commited themselves to, and now were engaged in, a joint enterprise. Once elected and sent in the next higher council, the deputy found himself again among his peers, for the deputies on any given level in this system were those who had received a special trust. No doubt this form of government, if fully developed, would have assumed again the shape of a pyramid, which, of course, is the shape of an essentially authoritarian government. But while, in all authoritarian government we know of, authority is filtered down from above, in this case authority would have been generated neither at the top nor at the bottom, but on each of the pyramid's layers; and this obviously could constitute the solution to one of the most serious problems of all modern politics, which is not how to reconcile freedom and equality but how to reconcile equality and authority." {emphasis mine}

In order to bring about a new social order, one must acknowledge the conflicts and contradictions present within the current one:

Quote nimblecivet:

... Essentially, capitalism is a national, socialist system of dual ownership. This fact is disguised by the very legal form of property ownership which makes this system possible. For each physical object or service itemized by price, there are three forms of ownership applicable to understanding the legal parameters of control of said object or service. The first is the legal right to the item or service. In the case of an object, such as a television, a person is the legal owner. This is the political basis of establishing value. The second is the contractual claim, or potential claim, of other persons. The contractual claim is called "indemnity". If "Joe" (not a miser) looses his job, his television may become an asset which can be claimed by his creditors, if any. The third type of ownership is tentative in nature, consisting of a basic potential of being an object of value obtainable by another party through exchange or payment.
Its important to understand these relations to an object as forms of ownership. The first form is the fundamental one. The other two are of a different sort, but essential to the functioning of capitalism. The root of this understanding is the notion of *contract*. ...- See more at:

So with Gilman and Arendt we have something of a foundational basis for representation of labor and consumer interests and between Gilman and myself the basis for a moral claim to legitimacy for a redistribution of wealth and reform of property rights.

nimblecivet 5 years 35 weeks ago

You can look over the "Context" site if you want and make your own judgements about it, I am going to have to digress momentarilly to offer my thoughts regarding the tension between materialist political theory and what I would call "spiritualist" theory as a broad category within which I would place the "Context" essays. I find the latter to often be part of a well-disguised form of cynicism which promotes an elitist social ideology. For example, Francois Duquesne states of the Findhorn community:

Quote Duquesne:

What we’ve had to work with at Findhorn is to engage the whole community in believing in itself. How do you mobilize people’s savings? How do we get people to invest their capital or their savings or their work or their talent or their skill into something their heart really believes in? And this is where the sharing of substance, the response to need which is more than just a personal need, comes to a point of focus that allows that process to take place.
I don’t think it’s useful to polarize ourselves into one system or the other. In our community we found we have to have both. We have the non-profit – the Foundation – and that’s a particular mode of functioning; but we also have seen that that has its limits. People need the discipline of the marketplace, as it were, to test their muscle, to stand on their own feet. And if there is a community there, or a welfare state – an umbrella, that protects people from the realities of life – then there is no growth, there is no spiritual growth.

(see below)

There's no need to go off on some tangent of super-hyperbolic histrionics, but you are free to read into the above what you think might be a relevant comparison to these kind of Bagwhan Sri Rajneesh type deals and their Osho type spinoffs of the "self-help" movement. The author I am going to quote from as a continuation of the themes I am developing on this thread posits a sort of dichotomy of "esoteric clouds" versus "the too real land of development aid." This calls to mind an incident I had while I was attending a New-Age inspired convention and vounteering for a political group that promotes a Marxist-inspired theory of African independence. The person who got my goat (though I didn't argue with her) stated that "they should get off aid." To which I should have replied that it is the "developed" nations that should end their dependence on tyrannizing "third world" nations via neocolonialism. The impression I have is that the spiritualist paradigm is a self-serving and self-reinforcing one which allows the participant to excuse themselves from the involuntary responsibilities implied by a rational, scientific analysis. Don't get me wrong, spirituality when properly understood and applied is a vital component of life. But when "spiritual growth" is defined from a perspective which fails to recognize fully the material realities which condition its possibility the end result can be a retreat by like-minded "spiritual" people into a cloistered and self-reinforcing stance. When we read for example ideas such as Russell Schweickart's self-consciously privileged journey into space and his looking down at the globe inducing an experience of exactly the kind of irrational identification Gilman describes as the territorial instinct, only inverted into a "friendly" form we have to ask how this ideology actually functions in the context of global history and development.

Quote Russell Schweickart:

And there’s Houston, there’s home, you know, and you look out, and you identify with it…. And you go out across the Atlantic Ocean and back across Africa, and you do it again and again and again… And it all becomes friendly to you.

And you identify with Houston and then you identify with Los Angeles and Phoenix and New Orleans. And the next thing you recognize in yourself is that you’re identifying with North Africa. You look forward to it, you anticipate it, and there it is. And that whole process of what it is you identify with begins to shift. When you go around the Earth in an hour and half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with the whole thing. And that makes a change.     "No Frames, No Boundaries", R. Schweickart

The irony is that the desire for total mutual recognition on the global scale is christened as a "spiritual" truth even by those who claim to frame their spirituality in rational terms, and thus this "spiritual" truth becomes the ground for some actually contentious claims:

Quote Adele Getty:

I believe we have reached a time in history where we must begin to inhabit our place. For too long we have not had a sense of place inside our psyches. We have been a nation of displaced people, recent arrivals of at most a mere 400 years. We find ourselves caught in a double bind concerning our cultural identity. We are of European or African or Asian heritage, but we are no longer Europeans or Africans or Asians. We have been born in America but we do not conceptualize ourselves as native Americans. Is our cultural heritage with the Greek gods and goddesses, the Celts, the Druids? Do we take up the ways of the American Indians? Or do we go farther afield and take up the ways of Hindus, etc.


My hope is that the 80′s will see us seize this opportunity for transformation, that we can find the native within and pass this knowing on to our children so that they might have instilled within them a sense of place or roots or origin. Our place on Turtle Island is acknowledged by the fact that we are here. This land is a vibrant and vital land. Through harmony, balance and right relationship there is much that can be learned and extended outward to the global community, but first it must begin inside each one of us.     "Finding the Native Within", Adele Getty

Its painful to be so critical of such a beautifully phrase work as this essay which is worth reading in its entirety. What I have to say here simply cannot be said without it coming across as harshly critical and dismissive or condemnatory. This is not the case at all. Getty is actually someone who works in the community and has experience with peoples from the native american communities. She is right to point out the positive impact on all people of cultural exchange. And her basic point about connection with the land and valuing it as sacred is of fundamental importance.

But I must insist that notion of human rights is essential to the rigorous development of a political science which is based upon the mutual recognition of citizens as workers entitled to fair share of the profits which our society produces. This is not a formula to "punish the successful" but to ensure that spiritual growth for all persons is valued in itself highly enough that each individual is entitled to the necessities of life to the extent necessary to make it possible.

I will now continue on with the main theme of this thread by delving into the essay "Rediscovering The North American Vision" by William N. Ellis on the Context site. Nellis reiterates the idea that most pre-contact cultures (prior to European global imperialism) had a sacred connection to the land. Their ways of socially managing the groups relationship to the land involved an ongoing relationship with ancestor's spirits and gods who were present along with the living, and this generational relationship within the social group provided continuity in how members related to each other economically.

Quote Nellis:

The Native American economic-political system designed itself from this metaphysical understanding. One could not own property for property had its own being. Even tools, clothes and utensils had a being and purpose to be fulfilled. One’s future and the welfare of his family were not assured by an accumulation of material wealth but by one’s service to Being. Elaborate ceremonies were developed to provide for the broad distribution of food, shelter and the other necessities of life, particularly to the aged and weak. The dignity of the individual was gained not by what he owned but by what he was able to give away – his contribution to society. The great hunter, or craftsman had no concept of selling the product of his work. His duty to being was to create for the benefit of the community. The natural political system was one of cooperation, consensus and confederation, rather than one of competition, confrontation, and struggle for power.

Variations on this theme were well known in Africa and Asia as well as the Americas. They were the rule rather than the exception before the advent of European expansion. They are perhaps too idyllic to be copied without change in the over-populated, under-resourced, and stressful world we know today. But by envisioning ourselves in the framework of alternative governmental systems we may be able to break the bonds which tie us to the dying paradigms of the passing age.

As you can see, Nellis' preoccupation is with transitioning to a new paradigm of social relations by transforming the sense of the political. He too looks for sets of categories which can serve as a rubric for horizontal and vertical social organization.

Quote Nellis:

These beginnings must be extended to provide a system of optional ways in which each planetary citizen can express his preferences for the world of the future. A World Council of Ethnic Groups could provide one channel for each individual to reach up from his local village to the highest echelons of World government. A World Council of craftsmen could be another. A World Council of Communities; a World Council of Laborers; a World Council of Homeowners; a World Council of Religions; a World Council of Nations; a World Council of Businesses and other world councils would provide other equal voices for expressing the needs of the grass roots. A Council of World Councils could assure coordination, guarantee balanced representation, and provide over-all direction in world affairs.


The embryos for such a new system of governance are slowly taking shape. Sister Cities International is a transnational twinning of cities which provide technical assistance to one another to solve urban problems; Action Aid from London has helped small communities and small industries provide mutual assistance. The Experiment In International Living helps students learn about one another’s culture by living in one another’s homes; TRANET promotes bilateral links between groups developing appropriate technologies; the International Communities Exchange provides information for groups wishing to exchange experiences in new lifestyles; and many other transnational networks are helping to promote a non-governmental world system of cooperative self-reliance.

The anti-government philosophy is fairly evident, a position which of course stems from the ego-based approach to formulating existential models of social interaction and structuring ideology. Nellis goes on to castigate the "non-governmental networks" for supplicating themselves to United Nations bureacracy. The theme of engaging with the world in the form of the "too real land of development aid" seems to me to resonate with the statement made by Ronald Reagan, in respect to the Brandt Report which focused on the continued problem of global inequality, as described by Rafia Zakaria in Jacobin magazine:

Quote Zakaria:

At a meeting in Cancún, President Reagan hit hard against any overtures to equalize the international economic arena. He warned developing countries not to “mistake compassion for development,” and described the agenda of equalization as a myth, operating on the premise that “massive transfers of wealth will somehow produce new well-being.”

"From Bandung to BRICs", by Rafia Zakaria Issue 11-12

I don't want to extrapolate too much from a couple of incidental similarities and the bias of my own subjective impressions and perspective on things, so I will only add that I have cited and will cite articles that demonstrate that when the U.N. serves its intended purpose it gives tools to the disenfranchised to protect and gain their political and economic rights. I have also delved into the issue of the U.N.'s co-optation by corporate interests.

I this thread I have now given examples from Nellis, Gilman, and Arendt which are variations on the idea of innovating social organization to advance a political or social agenda. I have also explored this type of emergent grassroots campaigning and reform in as part of my entry "new theory". These sorts of speculations on how individuals, groups, people with similar interests, and so forth (e.g. methods) can organize amongst and between themselves has to be looked at more closely in respect to the question of what framework or understanding in which this is going to occur. One might hope that something will come out of the upcoming Left Forum on this question, an event which has featured activists of various stripes from around the globe:


Left Forum 2014 May 30 – June 1, 2014 John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY, 10019

As the system fails so many so badly, activists for democracy, sustainability, equality, and the abolition of oppression and exploitation increasingly grasp their shared demand for basic social justice. Fifty years of anti-communism, anti-radicalism, hesitant social criticism, and activists’ mutual suspicions are fading into irrelevance.

Pressing questions loom for justice-seeking social forces: What is to be done today when a reform brings us one step forward, while leaving other important struggles worse off in the process? What type of movements will it take to overcome such challenges? What type of institutions, systems and societal conditions are possible when transformed conditions of justice no longer take the forms of, “the aggrieved speaking to the grievance alleviators”? How do these issues raise the question of the relation of reform to revolution? More than ever, people know that a new and different world is urgently needed. How do we get there from here: reforms, revolution, or strategic combinations of both?

Please come analyze, debate, build, ally, and strategize at Left Forum, 2014.


The core of all resolution to all epistemic perspectives is praxis.

But let's return to building the conceptual framework by shifting the focus to economics and then relating it back to the issue of food by referencing the potlatch. The article from which I quoted Francois Duquesne above is "The Larger Context for Economics", 1983. It is derived from a talk given to the Planetary Village conference. In it Duquesne reveals that he also has spoken at business conventions, for example the "Winner's Circle." This is important because at historical turning points where an effort is being made to reformulate strategy and perspective it is important not to fall into or overemphasize preconceptions such as those derived from the notion of "class warfare" or to forget that categories such as "native american" also legitimately include a wide range of perspectives. It is especially important because it poses a distinct challenge to maintaining the necessary ideological judgement and baising it on well-informed, thorough and fair analysis. I will give ample time to Duquesne in that spirit:

Quote Duquesne:

You see, I don’t believe personally that there is an economic problem in the world. I know there is, I feel there is, a political problem. I feel we have the resources at hand to feed and clothe and house everyone, but as long as we spend a million dollars a minute worldwide on armaments – just to mention one waste – as long as we lack the political will to harness these resources and to marshal them in the right direction, then what we are doing is patching at the seamwork.

And from my experience at our community, when we had financial problems, we discovered that really we didn’t have financial problems, we had political problems – problems of mistrust and miscommunication. And then, behind that, we didn’t have political problems, we had a spiritual problem – one of motivation, one of vision, one of purpose, one of caring for the community. How to feel connected to the community? How to feel a part of it? So that the will to agree, the will to share, the will to work, the will to give, is unleashed. And then when the motivation is there, and the will to come together is there, then the energy is released and things begin to work.


And the way divine energy makes itself accessible to us is in order to fill a need – the need of oneness, the need of communion. And the way, initially, economics starts is in response to a need – the most basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and then comfort. And then once those needs are met, we have to ask the question, what is the entire economic process for? And viewed in the larger perspective, I would suggest it is to free our spirit from the demands of the physical world, so that we can unfold higher and more creative potentials.


If you think of work, we are so used in our culture to thinking of work for a living – I earn my money and then I spend it. We have all sorts of splits: producer/consumer, manager/worker, employer/employee. But the Buddhist approach to work, for instance, just to illustrate out of another culture, is very different than our own. The Buddhist practitioner engages in work primarily to overcome ego attachment, because one has to associate with others, one has to enter a process which economists have called division of labor. And the other reason for entering work, in the Buddhist economics, is the idea of right livelihood, of meeting a need in the world through one’s own giving.

If you think of the land – the assets – and begin to bring into question the notions of ownership, the notions of use or abuse, then when we think about meeting our needs – physical needs – then somehow we have a more complete picture of what is required of us. The way we will craft our goods, we’ll be mindful of the materials themselves, we’ll be mindful of the spirit – as we say at Findhorn, the deva – that lives in the machine. Or again, to quote the story that was narrated to us this morning the cathedral in the stone.

But for that to happen, somehow we need to relinquish the need and the pressure of accumulation, of security which is gained by holding. And if a measure of economic process is actually the radiation of nourishment, then the way we will design our corporations and our communities will be reflective of this.


And the prime organizing principle of economics is association. In western culture we’ve interpreted that as division of labor, and we’ve allowed a complete separation between the owners and non-owners, the workers and the management. But what’s happening – through the Mondragon experiment, for instance, or through the Japanese Quality Circles or mini- corporations, or very much in the communities themselves – is that these differences, these polarities, are being broken down so that people learn to consume and produce – to prosume, as Toffler calls it – and they learn to exercise responsibility in a management capacity, but also to do the work with their hands, if that’s required.

I bring up the potlatch because it is an example of a practice which indigenous cultures engaged in which was contrary to the ideology of the European colonizers. The transformation of attitude which the Context writers demonstrate is a long time coming and arguably too late in more ways than one. But it is a recognition that oppression of indigenous people was not merely a hostility between different peoples but of a product of the cultural biases of the colonizers at the time. There was some lip service given to "civilizing" the indigenous people, more often than not used as an excuse to destroy the culture and will of the colonized. The potlatch was targetted because it was such an important institution to the communal identity of the Northwestern tribes of North America. The arguments against it took the form of condemning the natives' culture in comparison to the Christian-capitalist set of values.

Quote Wikipedia (in the "Potlatch" and "Potlatch Ban" entries):

Potlatches went through a history of rigorous ban by both the Canadian and United States federal governments, continuing underground despite the risk of criminal punishment, and have been studied by many anthropologists. Since the practice was de-criminalized in the post-war years, the potlatch has re-emerged in some communities.

The word comes from the Chinook Jargon, meaning "to give away" or "a gift"; originally from the Nuu-chah-nulth word paɬaˑč, to make a ceremonial gift in a potlatch.[1]


It is important to note the differences and uniqueness among the different cultural groups and nations along the coast. Each nation, tribe, and sometimes clan has its own way of practicing the potlatch with diverse presentation and meaning. The potlatch, as an overarching term, is quite general, since some cultures have many words in their language for various specific types of gatherings. It is important to keep this variation in mind as most of our detailed knowledge of the potlatch was acquired from the Kwakwaka'wakw around Fort Rupert on Vancouver Island in the period 1849 to 1925, a period of great social transition in which many features became exaggerated in reaction to British colonialism.[13]


The arrival of Europeans resulted in the introduction of numerous diseases against which indigenous peoples had no immunity, resulting in a massive population decline. Competition for the fixed number of potlatch titles grew as commoners began to seek titles from which they had previously been excluded by making their own remote or dubious claims validated by a potlatch. Aristocrats increased the size of their gifts in order to retain their titles and maintain social hierarchy.[15] This resulted in massive inflation in gifting made possible by the introduction of mass-produced trade goods in the late 18th and earlier 19th centuries.

Potlatch ban

Main article: The Potlatch Ban (Canada)

Potlatching was made illegal in Canada in 1884 in an amendment to the Indian Act[16] and the United States in the late 19th century, largely at the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered it "a worse than useless custom" that was seen as wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to civilized values.[17]

The potlatch was seen as a key target in assimilation policies and agendas. Missionary William Duncan wrote in 1875 that the potlatch was "by far the most formidable of all obstacles in the way of Indians becoming Christians, or even civilized".[18] Thus in 1884, the Indian Act was revised to include clauses banning the Potlatch and making it illegal to practice.


After witnessing the behaviours of the indigenous people, the government was appalled at the ritual of Potlatch. They saw the ritualistic act of giving away nearly all of one’s hard-earned possessions as a sign that the indigenous people were ‘unstable’. Under the encouragement of the Indian Reserve Allotment Commission; the Indian Reserve Commission; and the Church, this behaviour was deemed possibly as a destabilizing force in the nation because it was so dramatically opposed to the values of the ideal “Christian capitalist society.”[8]

Two major players in the Canadian Potlatch ban were George Blenkinsop and Gilbert M. Sproat. Blenkinsop was a government agent commissioned to survey the lifestyle of the indigenous people in Barkley Sound. His findings on native culture were not encouraging to the Government, as he reported that there was “…little hope of elevating… [the natives] from their present state of degradation” without eliminating ceremonies such as the Potlatch.[5] Gilbert M. Sproat, on the other hand, was a “joint Federal-Provincial appointee to the Indian Reserve Commission”.[5] In this regard, he had worked closely with different native groups and tribes throughout British Columbia. In 1879, Sproat sent a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.[5] In the letter, Sproat declared that the Potlatch ceremony was “the parent of numerous vices which eat out the heart of the [native] people”, and reaffirmed the words of Blenkinsop by assuring the Prime Minister that “It is not possible that the Indians can acquire property, or can become industrious with any good result, while under the influence of… [the Potlatch]”.[5]

Sproat’s opinion was a commonly held one for the white employers of British Columbia. Euro-Canadians saw the Potlatch as a pointless ceremony that did little but advance barbarity and retract the ability of the native peoples to advance themselves in society.[9] Essentially, the Potlatch was an important ritual to the natives prevented assimilation into the melting pot the Euro-Canadian government sought to enforce.[9]

nimblecivet 5 years 34 weeks ago

This comment is an example of how I will occassionaly return to these blog posts to add information but not necessarily to develop any particular line of argument. Where I post the information will be determined by where I think it is most relevant, but I will leave it to the reader to see how the information accentuates the information already discussed above.
"Rift among First Nations leaders over threat for ‘economic shutdown’ coast-to-coast", Peter O’Neil May 16, 2014

He said his group, the most militant of the main B.C. aboriginal organizations, has in the past passed resolutions endorsing such measures. But these included caveats stating that direct action can only be sanctioned after all efforts to engage with the federal and B.C. governments, and industry, have been exhausted.

“No, absolutely not,” he said when asked if he would endorse the call for actions against the Canadian economy. “That’s a decision made by individual First Nations.”

The internal crisis within the AFN is expected to come to a head here on May 27, when chiefs from across Canada will meet to discuss the education bill and the AFN leadership vacuum.
"Missing aboriginal women numbers not surprising: Women’s group",
Andrea Macpherson May 16, 2014 3:39 pm

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A missing women’s group is not surprised to learn an RCMP report indicates the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada is much higher than first thought.
"Harper Solicits Research to Blame First Nations for Murdered, Missing and Traded Indigenous Women", Friday, August 23, 2013

The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women was made very public by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) several years ago through their dedicated research, community engagement and advocacy efforts. Even the United
Nations took notice and starting commenting on Canada's obligation to address this serious issue. Yet, in typical Harper-Conservative style, once the issue became a hot topic in the media, they cut critical funding to NWAC's Sisters in Spirit program which was the heart of their research and advocacy into murdered and missing Indigenous women.

To further complicate the matter, any attempts for a national inquiry into the issue has been thwarted by the federal government, despite support for such an inquiry by the provinces and territories. One need only look at the fiasco of the Pickton Inquiry in British Columbia to understand how little governments in Canada value the lives of Indigenous women, their families and communities. The inquiry was headed by Wally Oppal, the same man who previously denied the claims of Indigenous women who were forcibly sterilized against their knowledge and consent. The inquiry seemed more interested in insulating the RCMP from investigation and prosecution than it was about hearing the stories of Indigenous women.

Now, the Canadian public has to deal with a new chapter to this story - the sale of Indigenous women into the sex trades. The CBC recently reported that current research shows that Indigenous women, girls and babies in Canada were taken onto US ships to be sold into the sex trade. While this is not new information for Indigenous peoples, it is something that Canada has refused to recognize in the past. The research also shows that Indigenous women are brought onto these boats never to be seen from again.
"Canada's Highway of Tears and the Women We Forgot"

Over the past 30 years, more than 1,200 indigenous women have disappeared in Canada. The aboriginal community estimates that some 43 of them have been plucked off what is known as the Highway of Tears, a 500-mile stretch of road that runs through the wilds of British Columbia. It may not sound like a whole lot, but consider 43 families not knowing what happened to their daughters or why. The majority have not even had their losses acknowledged by the police, who only count 18 missing.


In America, racialized women make up some 40 percent of all missing people, but receive only 20 percent of the coverage. In Canada, when indigenous women vanish in the night, their disappearances are met with one-sixth as much media attention as those of white women.


Most strikingly, there is a cultural assumption that indigenous women deserve their sordid fates. In her study "'Newsworthy' Victims? Exploring differences in Canadian local press coverage of missing/murdered Aboriginal and White Women," Kristen Gilchrist explains that even when factors like drugs and sex work are eliminated, missing white women are treated with significantly more empathy than indigenous women. A social and cultural contract has already made them invisible, their miserable plight understood to be inherent to their existence.


A recent study looking into the construct of racial empathy found it to affect people's perception of others' suffering. Researchers at the University of Milano-Bicocca found that white people reacted more acutely to the pain of other white people than to that of black people. Describing it in Slate, Jason Silverstein wrote, "It turns out assumptions about what it means to be black—in terms of social status and hardship—may be behind the bias. In additional experiments, the researchers studied participants' assumptions about adversity and privilege. The more privilege assumed of the target, the more pain the participants perceived. Conversely, the more hardship assumed, the less pain perceived. The researchers concluded that 'the present work finds that people assume that, relative to whites, blacks feel less pain because they have faced more hardship.'"

nimblecivet 5 years 34 weeks ago
Quote nimblecivet:

Another example of this dynamic, portrayed in a more even-handed presentation, is Ethiopia:

Land Grabs In Africa – A Double-Edged Sword
November 9, 2013 Posted by: Editorial_Staff

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 14.56 million hectares of Ethiopia’s 100 million hectare land mass is arable land, most of it cultivated by small hold, subsistence farmers.

International investors have taken note and are rushing to this country, once synonymous with starvation, to take advantage of the government’s new push to improve its agricultural production capacity. But many fear the government’s sale of arable land to foreign nationals will create a modern form of agricultural colonialism.
Liberalising food markets and boosting trade while discouraging protectionism for agricultural commodities is essential for the advancement of Ethiopia’s economy. However, it is unclear whether or not Ethiopians will actually benefit from the sale of their lands.

In the words of an unidentified farmer interviewed for a 2013 IDS working paper on agriculture in Ethiopia, in response to a question on the difference between those who live on the land compared to those who reap what the farmer sows: “Show me a person who became rich because they depended on farming. There is no one here. Those who are well-off are those involved in trading.”

His response cuts to the major issue facing Ethiopia’s push to attract foreign investors to its fertile farmlands: the locals providing the land for farming see very little of the profits, while the foreign investors selling the commodities grown on farmland purchased at cut-throat prices are literally reaping the benefits.

Ethiopia – Ancient, Booming But Undemocratic
November 20, 2013 Posted by: Editorial_Staff

That is the trouble with the modern media. Faraway places of which we know little are only shown to us when something bad happens. In the case of Ethiopia, the 1984 famine and subsequent hungers have fixed its image in the global mind. It is as if the image of the collapsing Twin Towers in 2001 typified America. But of course we have other, more positive, images of America but none of Ethiopia. So I tell them: “Ethiopia? It’s great. It’s Booming!”

Addis Ababa is being transformed as if by monstrous engines boring through the heart of the city. A new motorway flows into town sweeping aside all before it and an urban rail system is smashing through buildings, roads, gardens – everything accompanied by cranes and trucks, noise and dust. All along its path the traditional one-storey homes of mud, wooden planks and rusted corrugated iron roofs are bulldozed into heaps and replaced by six or more stories of concrete and brick. Hammering, grinding and showers of glittering acetylene sparks proclaim the arrival of armies of Chinese workers and the rise of mighty steel and glass constructions.

The lesser building sites are full of Ethiopian workers; some newly arrived from the rural areas. Addis used to feel like a timeless city. People hung around talking or walked slowly as if on a long stroll. Now they march the streets with speed and urgency. All seem to have watches and mobile phones. Even the poor seem to have purpose. I watched one man sitting by the roadside carefully stitching the seams of his disintegrating trousers with string. For the better off the vast market quarter, Mercato, is seething with bustle and business.
"In choosing security over democracy in Ethiopia, U.S. will get neither", by Hassen Hussein May 2, 2014 4:30AM ET

Ethnic Oromo students are protesting against a new urban development plan unveiled in April by the Addis Ababa city administration. Protesters say the city’s master plan, devised by ruling party functionaries without public input, would allow the sprawling metropolis to swallow up surrounding Oromo towns and rural villages.

Protesters fear the new plan would facilitate the eviction of thousands of farmers from their ancestral lands without proper compensation — an unjust process that has been happening since the city’s founding a century ago. Their land would be sold at dirt-cheap prices to foreign and domestic investors, exacerbating the country’s growing income inequality and diluting the Oromo national identity. In addition, the plan would condemn the Oromo, Ethiopia’s single largest ethnic group, to being an agrarian population in a fast-urbanizing country and balkanize their homeland into an eastern and western half — in a manner reminiscent of occupied Palestinian territories — leaving the state of Oromia with only nominal control.

nimblecivet 5 years 29 weeks ago
"Dying to save the Amazonian rainforest", Jonathan Watts and Karina Vieira 14 June 2014

That is an increasingly dangerous ambition in Brazil where, according to a recent report by Global Witness, more environmental and land-rights campaigners have been killed than the rest of the world put together. The study found that, on average, one activist has been killed in the country every week since 2002. If that trend continues, four will die during the course of this World Cup, though very few cases are likely to make headlines.


De Lima is tougher than most. Struggle and tragedy have defined her life. She grew up in Xapuri in Acre, the headquarters of Brazil's most celebrated campaigner Chico Mendes, who was murdered in 1988 after he tried to halt loggers and establish extractive reserves for small farmers. These were areas where the right to harvest natural resources were granted to subsistence farmers, fishermen, rubber-tappers or nut harvesters, normally as buffers against the big farms and ranches that are responsible for the worst deforestation. De Lima's father was a co-founder of the Union of Rubber Tappers alongside Marina Silva, who later became the country's most effective environment minister. Her husband was killed, de Lima says, on the orders of loggers and half a dozen fellow community leaders have been shot, stabbed or beaten to death in arguments over land and conservation.


His story – like that of so many other activists that we met – is simultaneously uplifting, depressing and worrying. The residents of the extractive reserves receive some support from some sectors of the government – the Human Rights Secretary and the Environment Ministry – but the powerful agribusiness lobby is increasingly influential. The rights of extractive populations seem a low priority for the president, Dilma Rousseff, conservation even less so. Damningly, after almost a decade of slowing deforestation, land clearance spiked back up by 28% last year.

That should make anyone concerned about ethics think twice before buying soy, beef, nuts, furniture, timber or other products from Brazil unless they are certified as being from a supplier that works with extractive communities or sustainable farms. It should also encourage more support for the campaign for a UN Human Rights Council resolution to address the heightened threat posed to environmental and land defenders around the globe.

In Brazil, the Extraction reserves are of public domain but the use of the land is allowed for traditional extractive populations. The units are used by these populations for their subsistence, based on extraction together with family agriculture. The aims of these reserves, as determined by the SNUC is protect the means of life and culture of these populations and to guarantee the sustainable use of natural resource.
"Nicaragua’s Mayagna People and Their Rainforest Could Vanish", By José Adán Silva Jun 19 2014 (IPS)

In early June, Genaro returned to the capital to participate in several academic activities aimed at raising awareness on the environment among university students in Managua and to protest to whoever would listen that their ancestral territory is being destroyed by farmers determined to expand the agricultural frontier by invading the protected area, which covers 21,000 sq km.
In 1997, when it was declared a Word Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the reserve covered more than two million hectares of tropical rainforest, including the buffer zone.

By 2010, when the indigenous people living in the reserve numbered around 25,000, the jungle area had been reduced to 832,237 hectares, according to figures cited by Genaro. The presence of non-indigenous settlers within the borders of the reserve had climbed from an estimated 5,000 in 1990 to over 40,000 in 2013.
Mercado said dozens of lawyers have been investigated and suspended for allowing sales transactions involving indigenous property. In addition, he said, the authorities have been combating trafficking in local fauna and flora.

“But the struggle is huge…traffickers identify the ‘blind spots’ and that’s where they make their incursions into indigenous territory, fence it in, claim it is theirs, and that’s how the trafficking of land starts,” the official said, sounding discouraged.
"Peru now has a ‘licence to kill’ environmental protesters", by David Hill 6/29/14

Some of the recent media coverage about the fact that more than 50 people in Peru – the vast majority of them indigenous – are on trial following protests and fatal conflict in the Amazon over five years ago missed a crucial point. Yes, the hearings are finally going ahead and the charges are widely held to be trumped-up, but what about the government functionaries who apparently gave the riot police the order to attack the protestors, the police themselves, and – following Wikileaks’ revelations of cables in which the US ambassador in Lima criticized the Peruvian government’s “reluctance to use force” and wrote there could be “implications for the recently implemented Peru-US FTA” if the protests continued – the role of the US government?


The controversial law was highlighted by the FLD in a report published this month titled “Environmental Rights Defenders at Risk in Peru.” What that report makes clear is that if you’re Peruvian and you publicly express concern about the environmental and social impacts of mining operations you can expect the following: death threats, rape threats, physical and electronic surveillance, smears and stigmatization by national mainstream media, police acting as “private security” for mining companies, confiscation or theft of equipment, “excessive use of force by police” during protests, arrest, or detention, and prosecution on charges of “rebellion, terrorism, violence, usurpation, trespassing, disobedience or resistance to an official order, obstructing public officers, abduction, outrage to national symbols, criminal damage, causing injury, coercion, disturbance or other public order offences.”

While the FLD’s report acknowledges that the “vast majority” of court proceedings have ended in acquittals or with the charges dropped, it argues that the “extraordinary use” of lawsuits constitutes an “abusive use of the judicial system” and impedes “the work of the [accused], affecting their reputation and furthering the view – often upheld by national media – that they are violent extremists. This is especially the case when accusations of terrorism, rebellion or violence are levied.” It states that almost 400 people currently face court proceedings, and cites one man as an example, Milton Sanchez Cubas, who has faced roughly 50 but never been convicted.

The FLD’s report ends with a serious of recommendations to Peru’s government, including that the “licence to kill” law is repealed.

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago

As you can tell, I am trying to collate as many different examples as possible of how land is an issue around the world, especially on the macro-scale with "land-grabbing" and big agribusiness and the use of economic crisis as a leverage for transnational corporations to acquire assets. The following installment brings to mind the case of Ecuador where Chevron was bought by Texaco. Only in the case of Liberia and Sierra Leone there are two countries involved. The similarity is that people living in places targetted for acquisition have to contend with corporations that can form or reform and it seems likely that the interests behind this activity are the same or closely aligned in many respects. That is, while the "Chaco War" in Argentina is an example (some say) of corporate interests clashing, it seems likely that corporations now are all in the hands of a few people who are able to transfer them from one place to another in order to avoid taxes, pay lower wages, or escape legal liability.

Note how the laws, even when national ones, which locals use to protect their rights, are often based on international treaties or covenants. That is why even though there is much criticism of the United Nations as far as it having been more under the influence of corporations lately I would be leery of abandoning that project.
"When our land is free, we’re all free", by Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor and Jacinta Fay May 6th, 2014

Communities are resisting this corporate takeover of their land and they are winning. All over Africa people are sending a clear message to their governments; stop selling Africa to corporations. The Jogbahn Clan in Liberia is one such community and here is their story.
The Jogbahn Clan is celebrating a victory as the President of Liberia has now recognised their right to say no Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) a British palm oil company grabbing their land. This is no small feat in a country where over 50% of the land has been given to a corporation without the consent of the communities who customarily own the land.
Walking through the forest Deyeatee Kardor, the Clan’s Chairlady picks leaves and describes the different medicines that they can be used for. She recounts how she and her family hid in the forest throughout the war and managed to survive on the plants and fruits growing in the bush. Though the land bears the scars of the recent past it also represents the Clan’s ancestral home and they would not willingly allow this deep connection to the land to be fractured.
The communities’ resistance began in 2012 when EPO began to expand their plantation onto community land. The Government of Liberia and EPO had signed a concession agreement allowing the company’s plantation to engulf the communities’ land amounting to over 20,000 hectares. Communities all over Liberia are facing the same threat as their lands are given to companies without their consent. As a result conflict between communities and companies has been widespread.
Despite these aggressive tactics the community continued resisting. They lodged a complaint to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and presented a petition to the government stating their objections. “All they have done is try to divide us” commented Deyeatee, “They offer important people a little money to try to convince them”. However the community refused to be weakened by division and eventually secured the crucial meeting with the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf where she recognised their right to say ‘no’ to the company.
Despite the President's commitment EPO has still not recognised that the Clan has said no to their operations. They are operating as if things are business as usual and conducting studies of the Clan’s land in preparation for clearing. Land clearance and other preparatory activities would be unlawful, as they do not respect communities’ right to give or withhold their Free Prior and Informed Consent, which is a requirement provided for under both national law and international law.
"Sierra Leone: SLIEPA to facilitate $1.6b investment for Golden Veroleum Palm Oil Production in Sierra Leone" 04072014

“We would like to establish strong partnership and relationship with the communities we operate” he said, adding “we are negotiating from 50 to 60 years lease agreement with the government and locals in the South and Eastern Region especially Kenema and Pujehun.”
David Rothschild said “our initial investment will focus on building the required Infrastructure on the land for the construction of an oil mill at the company site,” and that the company will also provide support towards community development projects and ensure locals benefit from their operations.
"Largest Liberian palm oil project is failing locals: study", By Richard Valdmanis DAKAR Fri Mar 22, 2013

Liberia's largest palm oil company, Golden Veroleum, needs to review its social and environmental policies after its workers damaged graves, cleared existing crops and polluted creeks, according to an independent study it commissioned.

The findings from The Forest Trust (TFT), a non-profit environmental consultancy, follow complaints from activists that the Singapore-controlled firm is violating commitments it made as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a global certification body for the industry.
RSPO requires its members to adopt environmentally and socially responsible policies to improve the industry's record that has included forest destruction and pollution.
Golden Veroleum is owned by the U.S.-based Verdant Fund LP, whose sole investor is Singapore-listed palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources, the world's second-largest palm oil plantation company.
"UK’s Equatorial Palm Oil accused of human rights abuses in Liberia",
20th December 2013

These allegations of assault and land grabbing should cause alarm amongst EPO’s investors. Malaysian palm oil giant Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) recently became the majority shareholder of the company although it was not a shareholder at the time of the alleged violence. Negotiations for KLK to buy out the rest of EPO are ongoing. Communities have requested that the RSPO complaint be extended to KLK as the new majority shareholder. (12)
(5) Customary land rights are protected under a range of international human rights laws applicable to Liberia, including the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights (1981), the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (1966), the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1965), as well as principles of customary international law expressed in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948) and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).
"Kuwaiti Loan to Boost Greenville Port", Sun, 03/09/2014 - 17:37

The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development’s recent US$14 million loan to Liberia will help boost the physical infrastructure of the seaport of Greenville, National Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director Matilda Parker has observed. The loan agreement was consummated between the government of Liberia and the Kuwaiti Fund last year, but it requires a legislative ratification before implementation in line with the Liberian constitution. According to the loan agreement, the repayment period is 22 years with a four-year grace period.
“We will advertise an international bid for tugboat which will take few weeks,” she stated. Greenville port currently handles 14 logging concessions and two oil palm concessions namely Equatorial Oil Palm and Golden Veroleum.

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago
"Half of U.S. Farmland Being Eyed by Private Equity", By Carey L. Biron Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mirroring a trend being experienced across the globe, this strengthening focus on agriculture-related investment by the private sector is already leading to a spike in U.S. farmland prices. Coupled with relatively weak federal policies, these rising prices are barring many young farmers from continuing or starting up small-scale agricultural operations of their own.
In a new report released Tuesday, the Oakland Institute tracks rising interest from some of the financial industry’s largest players. Citing information from Freedom of Information Act requests, the group says this includes bank subsidiaries (the Swiss UBS Agrivest), pension funds (the U.S. TIAA-CREF) and other private equity interests (such as HAIG, a subsidiary of Canada’s largest insurance group).
As yet, the amount of U.S. land owned by private investors is thought to be relatively low. The report points to a 2011 industry estimate that large-scale investors at the time owned around one percent of U.S. farmland, worth between three five billion dollars.

Last year, however, another industry analyst put this figure at around 10 billion dollars, suggesting that the institutional share of farmland ownership is rising quickly.
In the year after food prices suddenly rose in 2008, global speculation in land rose by some 200 percent. With the international financial meltdown coinciding almost simultaneously with this crisis, investors have increasingly viewed agricultural land as a relatively safe place to put their money amidst rising volatility.
"Institutional investors grow influence on U.S. farmland - report",
By Carey Gillam Tue Feb 18, 2014 9:00am EST

"Driven by everything from rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the financial sector is taking an interest in farmland as never before," said the report, which analyzed property records and other county and local property data, and other public records.


The report acknowledged that individual farmers are still the biggest buyers of U.S. farmland, and says the trend of institutional ownership of farmland is still too new to draw general conclusions about its impacts. But the report said it is "crucial" for policymakers to monitor the trend and "help ensure that farmers, and not absentee investors, are the future of our food system."

The report cited three groups as being particularly influential so far in acquisitions of U.S. farmland: The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), one of the largest pension funds in the world; Hancock Agricultural Investment Group (HAIG), part of the Hancock Natural Resource Group, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Manulife Financial Corp ; and UBS Agrivest, also known as UBS Global Real Estate-Farmland and a part of the Swiss-based UBS financial services company.

HAIG manages $2.1 billion of agricultural real estate and oversees roughly 290,000 U.S. farmland acres, according to its officials. UBS Agrivest has 113 farms totaling 183,000 acres in 15 states under management. The farms grow over 25 different crops, according to UBS. And TIAA-CREF said that it has roughly 125,000 acres of U.S. farmland.

James McCandless, head of UBS Global Real Estate, said that its properties are leased to local farm operators, mostly family farmers. Institutional investors are driven by a desire to diversify portfolios and achieve the steady income stream benefits associated with farmland, he said.
"Notes from OUR LAND: A symposium on Farmland Access in the 21st Century – Part I", Posted by dennisjdennis on May 07, 2014

An overarching issue and question framed the presentations and contributing answers to this question was at the heart of the symposium. The issue is that over the next 10 – 20 years it is estimated than more than 50% of the agricultural land in the United States will change hands. We are facing this same issue in BC and Canada. In BC 54% of farm operators are over 55 years old and 5% are under 35 years old. This issue of outgoing farmers without incoming farmers is coupled with rising cost of farmland and inputs without any increase in profit margins. The graphs in the image below illustrate these trends.

Declining young farmer, rising cost of land, lack of profitability

The issue of an impending land transition in the next decade or two raises the question, ‘how is that transition going to happen?’ Joel Salatin painted two scenarios; one being the land is captured by investors and the finance sector and the other is that the land is captured by a growing movement of enthusiastic young farmers. As Eric Holt- Giménez put it, we are at a ‘critical juncture.’ It was emphasized by many of the speakers that this issue we are facing is multi-generational. Farmland transition involves both the exiting farmers and the entering farmers and the development of strategies must involve and meet both the needs of young and beginning farmers and retiring and exiting farmers.
The strategies for approaching farmland access in the 21st century discussed at the symposium included non-ownership models of land tenure and access, models of land sharing, low capital models of farming, land-linking programs, support for drafting access agreements, succession coaching, community financing models to access capital, community land trusts, and land trust organizations that can hold land or hold an affirmative agricultural covenant.

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago
"Papua New Guinea Must Act Now to Cancel SABL Land Leases and Return Land to Local Communities"
Monday, June 30, 2014

Oakland, California – The Oakland Institute, the Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG), and the Bismark Ramu Group welcome the announcement by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill that Papua New Guinea will cancel all illegally issued Special Agricultural Business Leases (SABLs) and abolish the provisions of the Land Act that allow for SABLs to be granted. SABLs have resulted in more than 5.5 million hectares of land in Papua New Guinea being taken over by foreign corporations. The SABL mechanism has allowed logging companies to lease customarily-owned land through the guise of developing agricultural projects, which merely serve as fronts for unlawful logging operations that destroy the environment and devastate local communities. The Prime Minister’s decision refers to the investigation by the Commission of Inquiry (COI), which determined that the majority of the leases were in flagrant infringement of laws and fraught with abuse and corruption.

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago

I'm not going to be tracking each of these in the future, since I am not able to do so due to time contstrainst, but I am hoping that gathering this information- which I have largely come across haphazardly- will reveal some patterns and insights which will give a deeper understanding of the issues presented and also their relationship to other focuses. For example, National Geographic had an article which addressed a question I brought up some time ago ("Is small-scale agriculture the answer?") There are conceptual biases which inform the perspective of people who prefer one over the other, and National Geographic's answer, reasonably enough, was that both play a role. This issue overlaps with whether urban gardens will be publicly funded or capitalized.

If I cannot provide a review or select quotes from an article I will just provide the link to the article.
"Papua New Guinea Is Cursed", By Vikram Gandhi May 9 2014

Until a decade ago, some people in Papua New Guinea traded with pigs and shells, or Kina. According to local writer Lucas Kawage, you could buy the entire guesthouse we were staying in for 5 or 6 pigs. Now the image of that Kina shell graces their actual Kina monetary note, and it costs more than $300 (or 4 pigs) per night. Over the last decade, $19 billion from the PNG government and Exxon has flowed into the economy and locals, all of a sudden, have become cash rich. Pipeline and road workers on the way to Lake Kutubu told me they made 100 times the money working for the LNG project than they had as farmers—and none them were saving any of it. Some spent their money in Port Moresby on alcohol, hotels, and prostitutes. Judging by the level of development in Tari, the province capital—next to none—it is also clear little money has actually been invested back into the local economy. As a result of resource development and multinational subcontractors, the economy of the Papua New Guinea has suffered staggering inflation. Just walking through Tari’s main market, where goods from groceries to solar panels are sold on sheets strewn upon the mud, you can see tell that living in PNG costs more money than living in SoHo.

I travelled around the region, stopping to talk to local people, some working for contractors, some even wearing Exxon uniforms. The general consensus was one of anger, but where that anger was directed varied. I asked a man digging the pipeline about his opinion of his employer—in one moment he answered, “We love Exxon,” and in the next, he threatened murder and mass revolt. His sentiments were echoed each time by nearby co-workers. In the bush, we met a slew of men who had homemade guns made from piping, nails, and springs—they were ready to fight Exxon, but with those improvised weapons they looked more dangerous to themselves than anyone standing in front of them. An older man with a second-hand Bob Marley shirt ran around threatening us with his bow and arrow. Stanley Mamu, a community organizer and rare blogger in Hela Province, insisted, “We are going to war.”

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago

In comment #5 above I referenced an essay ( "The Idea Of Owning Land", by Robert Gilman (Living With The Land, Winter '84) ).

Another person who unfortunately has not to my knowledge graced this site recently has touched on the same subject in more conceptual and historical detail and scope:

Reading that essay, which is written with just as much of an intent to educate as to polemicize, and which especially at the end has numerous references useful to one interested in a serious study of the subject of land rights and of law (with Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England for example an intrigueing subject), one is reminded that what is often taken to be a straightforward concept is actually quite complicated. In fact, almost no-one, not even the most stuanch libertarian, believes that land rights should be absolute in the sense that one is under no legal jurisdiction for any use which results in the harm of another. But the larger questions of the legality of land use go beyond the idea of harm. They recognize the ecological and political reality that legal forms of land rights are developed by society.That society might seek to maximize individual liberty, but will always include the needs of society-at-large.

Some people say that the influence of ancient Middle Eastern cultures on Western culture is overstated. This is probably true since the aforementioned essay points out that western legal traditions hearken back to the Roman legal system. Of course there are different legal traditions within the western category; English common law and the Napoleonic code are two examples. But I found this fascinating for obvious reasons:

Hammurabi's Code of Laws
Translated by L. W. King
"When Anu the Sublime, King of the Anunaki, and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk, the over-ruling son of Ea, God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man, and made him great among the Igigi, they called Babylon by his illustrious name, made it great on earth, and founded an everlasting kingdom in it, whose foundations are laid so solidly as those of heaven and earth; then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind. "
[Property Law]
30. If a chieftain or a man leave his house, garden, and field and hires it out, and some one else takes possession of his house, garden, and field and uses it for three years: if the first owner return and claims his house, garden, and field, it shall not be given to him, but he who has taken possession of it and used it shall continue to use it.
31. If he hire it out for one year and then return, the house, garden, and field shall be given back to him, and he shall take it over again.
32. If a chieftain or a man is captured on the "Way of the King" (in war), and a merchant buy him free, and bring him back to his place; if he have the means in his house to buy his freedom, he shall buy himself free: if he have nothing in his house with which to buy himself free, he shall be bought free by the temple of his community; if there be nothing in the temple with which to buy him free, the court shall buy his freedom. His field, garden, and house shall not be given for the purchase of his freedom.
36. The field, garden, and house of a chieftain, of a man, or of one subject to quit-rent, can not be sold.
37. If any one buy the field, garden, and house of a chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent, his contract tablet of sale shall be broken (declared invalid) and he loses his money. The field, garden, and house return to their owners.
38. A chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent can not assign his tenure of field, house, and garden to his wife or daughter, nor can he assign it for a debt.
39. He may, however, assign a field, garden, or house which he has bought, and holds as property, to his wife or daughter or give it for debt.
45. If a man rent his field for tillage for a fixed rental, and receive the rent of his field, but bad weather come and destroy the harvest, the injury falls upon the tiller of the soil.
46. If he do not receive a fixed rental for his field, but lets it on half or third shares of the harvest, the grain on the field shall be divided proportionately between the tiller and the owner.

This bears comparison to Homer's The Odyssey.


The Rise of the Greeks, Michael Grant (1987, Scribner's MacMillan); pg 7-8

This increased number of inhabitants encouraged a wholesale switch from pasturage to arable farming, and food-production notably intensified. Nevertheless, there was still not enough farmland to go round. There was, it would appear (despite the lack of concrete evidence), serious over-population, prompting, as time went on, demands for the 'redistribution of land'. The situation was worsened by the fact that Greek society did not practise primogeniture, so that on a man's death his property was divided equally between all surviving sons. This meant an unremitting subdivision of soil until allotments became too small and poor to support existence. The misery that this continuous process was to cause to the impoverished farmers, resulting in debt and debt-bondage, will be discussed elsewhere in connection with Athens (Chapter 3, section 2), from which most of our evidence comes. However, the problem must have been widespread in other areas as well.

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago
"Life and Land: The Ogiek in Kenya Fight for their Rights", 23 May 2014 - 2:41pm | By Gordon Bennett

In a decision with far-reaching implications for other beleaguered communities, the court held that its ability to protect the livelihoods of the Ogiek belonged to a parcel of rights which together made up the right to life guaranteed to all citizens by the constitution. The court maintained that the claimants’ continued access to the Mau Forest must itself therefore be "protected." In an equally progressive move, the court went on to find that the eviction of the Ogiek prevented them from living in accordance with their cultural practices – a move which goes against their constitutional right not to be discriminated against.
However, claims “based on pre-colonial occupation” have often been made, and have often succeeded, in countries which share a legal tradition with Kenya and attach no less importance to the registration of land titles. In South Africa, for instance, the Constitutional Court has held that a nomadic lifestyle "is not inconsistent with the exclusive and effective occupation of land by indigenous people." Meanwhile, in Botswana, the courts have followed the 1992 Mabo v Queensland ruling whereby the High Court of Australia held that the indigenous people had native rights to the land which pre-dated colonisation and which remain in force to the present day.

In practice, today, customary law often coexists with formal state law. Such situation corresponds to legal pluralism. Plural legal systems are particularly prevalent in former colonies, where the law of a former colonial authority exists alongside customary legal systems. Economic transactions (sales, rents, wages and credit) are typically governed by Western-type law while non-economic aspects (family, marriage and inheritance) often remain covered by traditional law.

Customary land is land which is owned by Indigenous communities and administered in accordance with their customs, as opposed to statutory tenure usually introduced during the colonial periods. Common ownership is one form of customary land ownership.

In the Malawi Land Act of 1965, "Customary Land" is defined as "all land which is held, occupied or used under customary law, but does not include any public land".
"Change coming on land reform - minister", Gugile Nkwinti 2014-06-24

The minister's latest policy paper on land reform and restitution, finalised in February this year and titled "Strengthening the Relative Rights of People Working the Land", has sparked alarm and uncertainty among farmers.

The document proposes that farm labourers assume ownership of half the land on which they are employed. This would be "proportional to their contribution to the development of the land, based on the number of years they had worked on the land".

The "historical owner" of the farm "automatically retains" the other half.

‘New ownership regime’

According to the proposals - with a deadline for feedback of April next year - government "will pay for the 50% to be shared by the labourers".

This money would not be paid to the farm owner, but "go into an investment and development fund (IDF), to be jointly owned by the parties constituting the new ownership regime".

"The government will deposit its contribution into the IDF, not to the farmer, for that would be double compensation. He/she will benefit, like all others, from dividends allocated by the IDF.

"With that contribution, the government earns the status of ex-officio member of the management of the fund, and should be entitled to a single representative on it."

The fund would be used to "develop the managerial and production capacity of the new entrants to land ownership", to further invest in the farm, and to "pay out people who wish to opt out of the new regime".

Nkwinti's proposal appears to apply to those workers who have worked and lived on a farm for 10 years or longer.

Groenewald criticised government's land reform and restitution efforts to date, many of which had failed.

Nkwinti conceded that, four years ago, 95% of the land restored to black farmers was unproductive.

"But today, 27% of that land is productive. In fact, over the past three years, we've produced at least three millionaires, people who've got cash in the bank.

"We're actually rekindling the class of black commercial farmers that was destroyed by the 1913 Natives Land Act," he said to more applause.

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago
"Food unites Lebanese people under one banner", Author Veronique Abu Ghazalah Posted May 25, 2014
Translator(s)Steffi Chakti

The mastermind of all these initiatives is Kamal Mouzawak, who can be considered a social pioneer. Since 2004, Mouzawak has perceived Lebanon as one undivided entity and trying to revive its heritage, and support the marginalized groups, be they Lebanese or foreigners.
Souk el Tayeb was the first step of a long, prosperous journey. In 2007, the festivals of Food and Feast were launched in cooperation with municipalities. They were based on the idea of visiting the regions of farmers and manufacturers to get to know them closely in their own environment. As such, the Cherry Festival in the village of Hammana and the Kebbe Festival in Ehden were launched. Shortly after, according to Mouzawak, the third step matured. The residents of the capital should get to know the traditional dishes. Therefore, Tawlet restaurant opened in Beirut and quickly became the destination of scores of people who want to eat healthy and taste the food of housewives who were trained to adopt the highest standards of cooking. Another branch of Tawlet restaurant opened in Amik, and another is to be opened in Bkassine.
Mouzawak has a unique motto: “Make food not war.” He believes that food is the common denominator of the Lebanese, regardless of sect or political party. Drawing on this, Mouzawak is launching a new project in Tripoli in cooperation with the Rowwad Center. A restaurant with two doors, one overlooking Bab al-Tabbaneh, and the other Jabal Mohsen, was set up. These two regions are known for their unrest even though the conflict was mitigated after the imposition of a security plan by the army and security forces.
"Morocco's cafes a focal point for political debate", Author Mohammad Benaziz Posted May 25, 2014
Translator(s)Tyler Huffman

The Islamists have not been able to build a media platform to defend themselves. They learned religious preaching in mosques and were mobilized between the afternoon and evening prayers. But things have changed. Mosques in Morocco are now closed between prayer times, while cafes are open at least 15 hours a day. Mosques only open for two of 24 hours each day. And this "Moroccan lesson" will be replicated by Egypt and Tunisia. Islamists have not been able to move their political, preaching and propaganda activity to the cafes. They lost the mosques, yet did not win the cafes. And the cafes are more numerous than mosques and libraries. When cafes and newspapers come together, a permanent "Agora" is established that examines the behavior of politicians all the time. When politicians have not made any real political achievements, they become the subject of ridicule, and ridicule destroys popularity and political legitimacy.

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago
"Supreme Court expands land-title rights in unanimous ruling", Sean Fine - JUSTICE WRITER Jun. 26 2014

The Supreme Court of Canada has given aboriginal groups a major victory, expanding their rights to claim possession of ancestral lands and control those lands permanently.
The case has enormous implications for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. British Columbia has hundreds of unresolved land claims, and the pipeline would cross some of those lands.
At the heart of the case is the concept of aboriginal title – how to prove it and how much control it would give a native group that has it. In 1997, the Supreme Court said title means a right to possession of land that goes beyond the right to hunt and fish on it. But its actual existence on a particular site had not been recognized by a court decision. (It has, however, been acknowledged by historical treaties and modern land claims agreements.)
"Philly’s New Land Bank: Will It Give Blighted Communities a Boost?", by Jake Blumgart Dec 27, 2013

The land bank law, which was championed by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, will create a public agency that could potentially bring many of those vacant parcels under one roof while simplifying the acquisition process for those interested in obtaining property. Philadelphia will be the largest city yet to adopt a land bank.
(NOTE: The law passed back in December.)
To rid her neighborhoods of some of the blight, the land bank would, potentially, do two things: Unite the 10,000 parcels of vacant, publicly held property under the auspices of the land bank, and imbue the new agency with the authority to buy private parcels and scrub them of debt.
The list of groups that testified at an October hearing in favor of the legislation certainly augments that notion: The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) testified about the need for public housing; Weaver’s Way Co-op about its desire for more urban farmland. Similarly adamant testimonials were heard from the Association of Real Estate Developers and the Small Business Association.
Quiñones-Sánchez is particularly excited about a provision of the bill that would allow for long-term strategic neighborhood planning. She says she hopes to see more mixed-use development and affordable housing in her district, and to use the land bank as a means to make it easy for both nonprofits and for-profits to obtain the parcels they need to establish such visions.
A lot of people at the October hearing already had plans for the vacant lots and blighted buildings in their neighborhoods: urban farms, affordable housing, community gardens, and more traditional forms of development (bougie cocktail bars, condos, and the like).

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago
"New California law aims to cultivate urban agriculture", October 02, 2013|By Lee Romney

The concept for the zones is a hybrid of the Wiliamson Act, which offers tax subsidies to owners of rural land maintained for agricultural purposes, and the Mills Act, under which cities may enter into contracts with private owners who receive subsidies in exchange for restoring and preserving historic buildings.

It was conceived by Nicholas Reed and Juan Carlos Cancino, Stanford Law School grads who helped launch the San Francisco Greenhouse Project, an effort to turn a lot dotted with 18 decrepit greenhouses in the Portola district into an urban agriculture showcase.
Scorza's organization has already created 40 gardens in Los Angeles that donate the food they grow to needy families who live where supermarkets are scarce. They are predominantly located at schools or on other public land as well as in private yards. But the organization hopes to create a commercial farm that will create jobs while funding its educational efforts and food giveaways.
Elsewhere, Sacramento city officials supported the bill and have expressed interest in participating in the program, as has San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu, who is moving forward to seek local approval.
"Un Caracol Chiquito in East Oakland: A Self Determined Landless Peoples Movement", Jesus Barraza / PNN Correspondent 17 June 2014

... NAFTA did many things, from relaxing environmental policies to removing Article 27 from the Mexican Constitution that provided land repatriation to indigenous people in Mexico as well as negative impacts on Mexican farmers who were affected subsidies for imported corn. ...
More recently in East Oakland Poor News Network (PNN) moved in the direction of the Zapatistas and their experiment with autonomy and bought a small plot of land with a duplex on it. The name of this space is Homefulness, the house and land both needed some work but it was great start but most importantly the plot of land is big enough to expand on. The property was purchased through an equity campaign, which raised $134,000 that allowed for the land to be paid for outright. The idea of an equity campaign was seen as an alternative to a capital campaign, the difference being that through equity sharing, not tied to financial resources it will create a permanent and lasting solution to houselessness for families in poverty who have been displaced, evicted, gentrified and destabilized out of their indigenous lands and communities.
Homefulness operates as a sweat equity project that strives to provide permanent co-housing, education, arts and social change projects for houseless and formerly houseless families and individuals. Hearing about these projects reminded me of the Caracoles the Zapatistas have built. I had the opportunity to visit Homefulness during the ribbon cutting ceremony on March 6th, the day they officially unveiled the plans they had for the land to the community and threw a party to celebrate the occasion. I was lucky to have Tiny (one of the main organizers of the PNN) show me around and give me the history of the process they went through to acquire the land and how they were in the process of rebuilding the garage into a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) for Joe one of the PNN members. Tiny also told me about the work they were going through to build a series of 4-10 permanent housing units on the property, this was a way of making the most of the relatively small piece of land of building to create a community where poor folks are able to have a place to call home.

One of the things that differs from PNN’s Homefulness and the Zapatista Caracoles is that in hopes of creating something long lasting the group opted to buy a property rather than just take over or a piece of land that could be potentially taken away destroying all the work the group invested. This is something that has happened to other groups, an example of this is the South Central Farm in Los Angeles where community members came together on a piece of land to create a community garden and grow food for the community but was later displaced by the land owners and had to move outside of the city to continue their project. Through the “legal” acquisition of the property this situation is something that Homefulness is trying to avoid. Although there is an understanding of the relationship Homefulness enters with the government as landowners, this is something that under the current system of governance cannot be avoided in such a project.

nimblecivet 5 years 28 weeks ago
"MODERNISING AFRICAN AGRICULTURE: WHO BENEFITS?", "Statement by Civil Society In Africa" a petition with multiple signatories

First and foremost, differentiated strategies are required, so that local and informal markets, proven low-input and ecologically sustainable agricultural techniques including intercropping, on-farm compost production, mixed farming systems (livestock, crops and trees), on-farm biofuel production and use, and intermediate processing and storage technologies are recognised and vigorously supported. The emphasis here is on individual and household food security first, with trade arising from surpluses beyond this. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) provides detailed and scientifically sound proposals in this regard.

Open access technologies are an essential principle, especially seed, where all recent technological advances are based on 10,000 years of collective experimentation and sharing. No-one and no corporations should be allowed to privatise the results of ongoing research. Companies can sell their new varieties, but once sold, they re-enter the common pool that anyone should be able to use and improve on at will.
"G8 New Alliance condemned as new wave of colonialism in Africa", Claire Provost, Liz Ford and Mark Tran 18 February 2014

A landmark G8 initiative to boost agriculture and relieve poverty has been damned as a new form of colonialism after African governments agreed to change seed, land and tax laws to favour private investors over small farmers.
Companies were invited to the table through the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition initiative that pledges to accelerate agricultural production and lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022.

But small farmers, who are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the programme, have been shut out of the negotiations.
Barack Obama launched the New Alliance at the 2012 G8 summit at Camp David, following years of underinvestment in agriculture and the failure of donors to disburse millions of dollars in funding for global food security promised at the 2009 G8 meeting in L'Aquila, Italy.
Companies have refused to make their full investment plans under the New Alliance available for public scrutiny, and freedom of information requests to the UK government were rejected on the basis of commercial confidentiality.
Kato Lambrechts, Christian Aid's senior advocacy and policy officer, said: "Governments have signed on to promise to fast-track or implement policies, regulations or laws that need to be further discussed and debated in-country. The concern is that these are being pushed through in exchange for new private sector commitments to invest in agriculture value chains, which cannot be a substitute for well-developed and comprehensive policies that address the needs of poor farmers to allow them to move out of poverty."

Benito Eliasi, from the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, which has represented civil society on the leadership council, said: "The implementation of legislation is one of the biggest problems facing farmers in Africa. We need to safeguard farmers … Farmers need to be involved. If they are not involved, this will fail."

nimblecivet 5 years 26 weeks ago
"Across Latin America, a Struggle for Communal Land and Indigenous Autonomy"
Sunday, 20 July 2014 00:00 By Renata Bessi and Santiago Navarro F., Truthout | News Analysis

... Of the 570 municipalities in the state of Oaxaca, 418 are governed through the traditional form of political organization of "uses and customs." Only 152 have adopted a conventional system using political parties, a striking reality that is not just relevant in Mexico but in all of Latin America.

As an example, Bolivia is the country with the largest indigenous population in Latin America; according to the UN, 62 percent of Bolivians are part of an indigenous group. Only 11 local governments, however, are recognized as autonomous, with the right to elect their authorities through their own "uses and customs" system.
Each town has its owns rules about the best forms of organization; they are not homogenous. Despite the diversity of systems, two things are broadly characteristic of all of them: the cargo system and the assembly.
... There are different levels of assembly: the domestic, neighborhood, the town council, the civil, the religious and the agrarian assemblies. The general assembly is the product and culmination of these previous assemblies. ...

Authorities are not elected through a traditional electoral system, but through a hierarchical system of cargos, which are unpaid positions that each member of the community must fulfill. ...
There are two presidents. One is municipal, dedicated to the administration of the urban area, overseeing services like education, sewage and potable water. The other is the president or commissioner of communal resources, who administrates agrarian issues, such as communal land, since private property does not exist. There are also other cargos: mayor, treasurer and secretary. In Guelatao, there is a consulting board that is made up of elderly members of the community and people with experience who are well respected in the community.
The elements that sustain the organizational community structure are the knowledge and values that have prevailed throughout their history. "We must understand what we are, not the 'I' or the 'you,' but the 'we,' and we should hold onto these principles in order to stop the interference of the vulgar and shameless principles of individualism. We shouldn't enter into competition except to reproduce that which will be shared," said Jaime Martínez Luna, an indigenous Zapotec anthropologist. "We are against development because it is linear and requires growth; we consider ourselves to be circular, in a spiral, and it's because of this that men and women are not the center of the natural world. We are not owners of nature; we are owned by nature."
"If someone here works in the fields that individual is given a parcel of land. But that person must continually work the piece of land. If after three years nothing has been produced on the land, it is transferred to someone else who is interested in farming it. The commissioner is in charge of this," explained the president of communal resources of Capulalpam.
The mayor of Guelatao recognizes the existence of a political and social organizational autonomy, but is critical of the role of state and federal government resources in communities. "The government is involved in everything, since they began collecting taxes and issuing public forms of credit. Before the farmer had the field entirely; in that moment we were autonomous. We produced and we provided for ourselves. We didn't need any resources from the government. Town administration questions were handled through community cooperation. Now we aren't 100 percent autonomous because we depend on resources from the government," the mayor said.

For Martínez Luna, the anthropologist, autonomy is determined by the degree to which communities guarantee their own food sovereignty. "Autonomy shouldn't be something that is injected from the outside; it should come from our own capacities - exercised, not developed."
... Another influencing factor is that deals are made between construction companies and local governments where the company gives a percentage of their budget designated for a public works project to the authorities or community representatives so that they will accept the project. In some cases, when budgets are larger, such as in the case of wind farm companies, hitmen are contracted or paramilitary groups are created to confront the community and thus give a justification for the interference of the state to re-establish "law and order," to such a degree that there are indigenous leaders that have been assassinated for refusing to accept these projects.

"We recognize that we must confront the plundering by transnational companies and the harassment of bad governments through their political parties that offer programs and money that corrupt many leaders and divide our communities," states the declaration of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) of the Isthmus region, which took place in March 2014.

nimblecivet 5 years 22 weeks ago
BFP Exclusive- “The EU and IMF Rape of Ukraine Agriculture”, William Engdahl | August 20, 2014

In short, Ukraine’s rogue regime has already agreed to lift the ban on sale of farm land and to open its rich agriculture to Monsanto, DuPont and the GMO agribusiness cartel. That spells devastating implications for the possibility to keep the EU relatively GMO free.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 5 years 21 weeks ago

Thanks, nimblecivet, for that link to the article. I read William Engdahl's book "A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order" quite a few years ago and it was an eye opener.

nimblecivet 5 years 11 weeks ago
Compared to previous administrations, Napoleon III was far more sympathetic to the native Algerians.[106] He halted European migration inland, restricting them to the coastal zone. He also freed the Algerian rebel leader Abd al Qadir (who had been promised freedom on surrender but was imprisoned by the previous administration) and gave him a stipend of 150,000 francs. He allowed Muslims to serve in the military and civil service on theoretically equal terms and allowed them to migrate to France. In addition, he gave the option of citizenship; however, for Muslims to take this option they had to accept all of the French civil code, including parts governing inheritance and marriage which might conflict with the Muslim tradition, and they had to reject the competence of religious Sharia courts. This was interpreted by some Muslims as requiring them to give up parts of their religion to obtain citizenship and was resented.

More importantly, Napoleon III changed the system of land tenure. While ostensibly well-intentioned, in effect this move destroyed the traditional system of land management and deprived many Algerians of land. While Napoleon did renounce state claims to tribal lands, he also began a process of dismantling tribal land ownership in favour of individual land ownership. This process was corrupted by French officials sympathetic to the French in Algeria who took much of the land they surveyed into public domain. In addition, many tribal leaders, chosen for loyalty to the French rather than influence in their tribe, immediately sold communal land for cash.[107]

His attempted reforms were interrupted in 1864 by an Arab insurrection, which required more than a year and an army of 85,000 soldiers to suppress. Nonetheless, he did not give up his idea of making Algeria a model where French colonists and Arabs could live and work together as equals. He traveled to Algiers for a second time on 3 May 1865, and this time he remained for a month, meeting with tribal leaders and local officials. He offered a wide amnesty to participants of the insurrection, and promised to name Arabs to high positions in his government. He also promised a large public works program of new ports, railroads, and roads. However, once again his plans met a major natural obstacle' in 1866 and 1867, Algeria was struck by an epidemic of cholera, clouds of locusts, draught and famine, and his reforms were hindered by the French colonists, who voted massively against him in the plebiscites of his late reign.[108]

nimblecivet 4 years 42 weeks ago

This article is decent in my opinion, in that it at least gives something of the longer history relevant to the issue it is exploring.

Hasn't changed my mind personally that it is wrong to "own" land, but for example the article points out that leasing has already been tried. Well, everything has already been tried but then again there are a lot of things that haven't.

Note also that the onus to decelerate population growth is now falling on the poor even to the point that the government might become involved despite the disatisfaction of the people with its performance over land issues.
"The Blood Cries Out", By Jillian Keenan

"The vast majority of Burundians rely on subsistence farming, but under the weight of a booming population and in the long-standing absence of coherent policies governing land ownership, many people barely have enough earth to sustain themselves."

"Before European colonizers
 arrived in Burundi, farmers cultivated the country’s arable hilltops, while less desirable, low-lying swamplands went largely unclaimed. An aristocratic class, known as the Ganwa, technically owned the land, but farmers’ access was administered at the local level by a network of “land chiefs,” many of whom were Hutu."

"Under Belgian rule, which lasted from 1916 to 1962, this all began to change. The king, the head of the Ganwa, kept control of the highlands. (According to scholar Dominik Kohlhagen, the king was seen as the land’s spiritual guardian.) But the state assumed ownership of the lowlands and began to encourage their cultivation."

"Under colonialism, official land deeds and titles were few and far between, which meant that Burundians often could not prove that they owned acreage. In the early 1960s, as independence loomed, the
 government began offering land registration to parties that requested it, which, for the most part, were foreign businesses such as hotels. Families also had the option to register their land, but because the centralized system was inaccessible for most farmers and required a huge tax payment, few did. So land plots quickly fell into two categories: those with boundaries recognized by the state, and those with borders determined by custom—that is to say, residents understood trees, rocks, paths, creeks, and huts to mark de facto property lines."

"The Catholic Church was also complicit in nurturing Burundi’s ethnic divisions; Catholic schools, for instance, were largely reserved for “elite” children, meaning Tutsis."

"The government set up two commissions, in 1977 and 1991, to resolve land disputes, but they proved largely ineffective."

"Complicating matters further is the continuous flow of refugees who return home to find their land occupied by new owners. In some cases, a Hutu farmer who fled the 1972 pogroms may come back to find two other people claiming his property: whoever lived on it up until 1993, and whoever claimed it after the civil war."

"In 2011, the government approved a national development strategy called “Vision Burundi 2025” with ambitious demographic goals: to reduce national growth from its current rate, which would cause the population to double every 28 years, to 2 percent over the next decade, and to slash the birthrate in half. To hit these numbers, the government said it would partner with civil society to “stress … information and education on family planning and reproductive health.”
 Ndihokubwayo says the government is also “absolutely” considering a law that would limit the number of children each family can have."

"One day in August, several women waiting outside the clinic where Nimbona works nursed babies; dozens of children played nearby. Nimbona says that of the roughly 30 patients she sees each week, “almost all” cite fears about land resources and potential
 inheritance conflicts as their reasons for seeking family planning. “I know that by what I am doing, I am fighting the escalation of violence in my country,” Nimbona says."

"In Burundi’s male-dominated society, women are often powerless to convince their husbands to use birth control. Then there is the Catholic Church: In addition to claiming an estimated 60 percent of Burundians as followers, the church has affiliations with roughly 30 percent of national health clinics, which are forbidden from distributing or discussing condoms, the pill, and other medical contraceptives."

nimblecivet 4 years 33 weeks ago
World | Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:21am EST Related: WORLD
Haiti's road to reconstruction blocked by land tenure disputes

The 56-mile road project was meant to connect the southern port city of Les Cayes with Jérémie, a city in one of Haiti's most neglected regions. It was to resurface a pot-holed road that passes between narrow mountain ranges and fords a flood-prone river, making transportation to Jérémie arduous and dangerous.

Instead, the unfinished road has become a symbol of how efforts to improve Haiti's infrastructure, especially after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, have run up against the country's land laws.

A practically non-existent land registry, fraudulent land titles, unclear processes for land transfer, and a tangle of bureaucracy have halted the road project and similar major international investments.

Haiti's land laws have delayed completion of a Spanish-funded water treatment facility on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince and prevented the start of construction on a $26 million public hospital in the city of Gonaives.

nimblecivet 4 years 19 weeks ago

As I've said before, the best piece of evidence for a reboot of capitalism is the laying the ground for a global agricultural base which can sustain the population and the market which comes from it. Progress in technology requires elements from around the world, and at any rate it is as much human nature to defy as to create borders. Witness for example the Venezuela/Columbia border dispute, or for that matter the refugee crisis of such proportions that is sweeping Europe.

China is often said in the U.S. mainstream press to have introduced private property and foreign investment. More important than foreign investment into China for the global market is China's investment abroad. As for agriculture, China is investing heavily abroad to increase agricultural yield and import food. However, China also puts its main emphasis on domestic production knowing that this has to be the basis for long-term security. I will provide a couple of excerpts from an article which is itself a synopsis of several papers and studies. The core of what is revealed is that China overall sees the future of domestic agricultural production as an enterprise best left in the hands of medium-scale business enterprises. Too small and the innovations of technology cannot be leveraged. Too big and the dynamism of the population will be stifled. China is after all a unique market unto itself; China has no interest in competing in the for-profit global market. The U.S. is already historically an exporter of agricultural goods, still has economic leverage in the global market, and is on the cutting edge of agricultural technology (along with Europe).

Also, China never really pursued the heavilly centralised form of agriculture developed in the U.S.S.R. In fact, the Chinese approach has undergone several permutations. Essentially, what China is trying to do is develop a balance between different types of factors. One is between city investors and those in the countryside. Legally, village collectives still own land. Individual "peasants" have legal rights to use of the land. These rights are often sold to others.

Within a particular region you have different levels of "peasant". This, by the way, was dramatically true in France at the time of the Revolution. I use the word "peasant" here in quotes because the relationship of the contemporary farmer to the state is obviously not feudal in nature. In France, the peasantry was divided into those who had no land at all, those who had very little, those who had some surplus produce, and up the scale to those a peasant could hire other peasants as laborers and make a comfortable living in the market because most of what they produced was to be sold. This of course promoted the rise of middle-men, industrialized and artisinal food production and so forth. The French Revolution abolished the institution of peasantry and re-established the relation of the social and economic classes to the state under a form of nascent capitalism. Of course, France was still an imperial and colonial power at the time.

So when you see the name Chayanov mentioned in the following excerpts, that is because a range of classes also exists within China. For many years now it has been true both in China and many other parts of the world that as agriculture is "scaled up" the increased efficiency of production results in displaced labor migrating to the cities. Chayanov was someone who believed that the peasants called "kulaks" in the Soviet Union could be reconciled to the communist state. His view lost out and the Soviet Union pursued a form of state collectivization of agriculture. The Soviet Union did briefly experiment with a model called the "New Economic Project" which allowed individual businessmen to operate with a good deal of autonomy. This was strictly related to industrial production however. In China today, this degree of autonomy given to those developing the agricultural sector is designed to allow a sufficiently robust category of businesspeople to actualize the potential latent in the vast geographical range within which the largest population of any country on earth finds its niche.

“Class Differentiation in Rural China” Dynamic of Accumulation, Commodification and State Intervention” by Qian Forrest Zhang
The most important premise of Zhang’s argument is that rural China is capitalist. One reason some still argue that China is socialist or at least non-capitalist is that rural land is nominally owned by the rural collective and is not a form of private property.3 Zhang makes a convincing argument against the likes of Charlie Post that, despite land being nominally being owned by the rural collective, in fact the market for land use is highly developed. Overall, Zhang argues that capital dominates each of the four sectors of commodification he looks at. Because of this domination, rural Chinese society has been undergoing a rapid class differentiation and has reached a stage in which “relatively stable structural positions can be identified in the new social relations of production” (342). The five rural classes are: capitalist employers (including corporate farm managers and entrepreneurial farmers), petty bourgeois commercial farmers, dual-employment households, wage workers, and subsistence farmers. Zhang does not discuss subsistence farmers to any extent, in part, assumedly, because they have been discussed too much already.
“Agrarian Capitalization without Capitalism? Capitalist Dynamics from Above and Below in China” by Yan Hairong and Chen Yiyuan

Yan and Chen look at the new subjects of agrarian transformation promoted by the Chinese state: namely, cooperatives, family farms, and dragon-head enterprises. They do so in order to argue against Philip Huang and others who, they say, take a Chayanovian populist perspective on rural inequality. The state has identified and given policy and financial support to cooperatives, family farms, and dragon-head enterprises in order to scale-up agriculture, supposedly leading to greater productivity and capitalist accumulation in the countryside. This policy, announced in 2013, amounts to a “shift towards de-peasantization” (367). Yan and Chen are critical of pro-peasant advocates for believing that recent rural change amounts to a struggle between outside capital and internal peasant developments. This “populist” stance misunderstands and even hides the real capitalist dynamics and class differentiation going on in the countryside by viewing rural politics through the lens of a unified peasantry. To the contrary, they argue, class differentiation in the countryside has meant that agriculture’s subsumption to capital has come about in a complex process that is both bottom up and top down, with rural entrepreneurs as well as agribusiness and the state playing important roles. This stress on internal differentiation lines Yan and Chen’s contribution up with that of Zhang discussed above.

The main target of criticism, however, is Philip Huang, who for Yan and Chen represents a Chayanovian populist position within rural China studies. Chayanov, in contradistinction to Lenin, argued that differentiation among peasants was mainly due to demographic and generational factors, not capitalist subsumption and secular trends. Giving Huang this Chayanovian hat is a bit misplaced: Huang is not one to dismiss secular and historical trends in agrarian change. Nonetheless, what Yan and Chen do well is to show that the three subjects of rural scaling-up named by the state—cooperatives, family farms, and dragon-head enterprises—entail a complex interplay of forces that have led to capital’s subsumption of agriculture. Like Zhang, they see petty commodity production as a “seedbed” for “agrarian capitalism from below” (370), one that has been supported by the state.
“Land Transfer and the Pursuit of Agricultural Modernization in China” by Ye Jinzhong
Building on agricultural accumulation from the state socialist era, he argues that the policy drive for agricultural modernization since the late 1990s has been inexorably tied to the state’s shifting position on land transfers: in the early 1980s, the practice was strictly forbidden, but by 2013, land transfers had become a key mechanism for scaling-up agricultural production. While the village collective continues to officially own land, peasants own land-contract rights, and can transfer their land-use rights to other farmers or entities, “mostly industrial capital interests from the cities” (324). Ye cites Ministry of Agriculture statistics that indicate 23 million hectares, or 26% of the total land contracted to all peasant households, had been transferred by the end of 2013. The amount of peasant-household contracted land transferred to industrial and commercial enterprises increased by 40% from 2012, after an increase of 34% between 2011 and 2012 (327). This has effectively split land ownership, contract, and use rights, “widely called ‘the split – or the division – of three rights’ (sanquan fenli) on rural land” (324). For Ye, land transfers also represent a new form of commodification and accumulation, led by “external” urban capital, with disastrous consequences for peasants.

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