Fwd: The Question of Land Reform in Brazil

Mark Barrett marknbarrett at googlemail.com
Fri Jan 28 13:08:37 GMT 2011

PS Lots of key comments and discussions rehearsed there, eg

As Rhodesia it was a country which drove the native people off their lands,
with complete disregard for all of their rights including their property
rights, and founded a plantation economy producing cash crops, notably
tobacco, for the world market.

The dispossession of peasants has two purposes, to provide land for the
powerful and to drive the peasantry into a proletariat available on the
Labour Market. Thus does capitalist agriculture create mass poverty in the
countryside, while driving a suddenly 'surplus' population into the slums.
In the case of Rhodesia this equated to virtual indentured servitude in
either Zambia's mines or South Africa's.

As to the claim, first put forward by those who stole the Commons from the
people of England, that capitalist agriculture is more productive than
peasant subsistence husbandry, this is almost certainly untrue.

And there can be no doubt that history has never seen a less efficient use
of fertile land than that being practised by modern, mechanised, chemical
dependent agri-business. Its 'efficiency' consists entirely of its ability
to do without labour. In fact the number of people supported and the wealth
of their communities (measured in any way you choose) is very low. If Brazil
is producing lots of food for the international market its population
benefits only marginally (and gains not at all) and part of the cost in the
form of exhausted land, environmental disasters and other results of short
term greed are never counted.

Brazil is in a situation which is far frrom being unique: the capitalist
development model invariably leads to massive social inequalities, famines
and other disasters. Nowhere has this been shown more graphically than in
those countries which, in the last century, attempted to build industrial
societies, quickly by dispossessing the peasantry.

It will puzzle some but most notable amongst such countries was the Soviet
Union under Stalin which set out to accumulate capital rapidly by
mechanising and modernising agriculture by building giant farms and
'freeing' up the peasantry for the Soviet Labour force.

Brazil's ambitions, essentially to become a Latin equivalent of the United
States, are not only Quixotic but very dangerous. They involve not simply
dispossessing the poor and creating a vast proletariat for the delectation
of sweat shop operators, pimps and slave traders everywhere but creating a
laissez faire regime undrer which anything goes. According to the mythmakers
of vulgar capitalism this leads to growth, and is a price worth paying.

In truth what the market leads to is what Karl Polanyi described in The
Great Transformation

“Our thesis is that the idea of the self-regulating market implied a stark
utopia. Such an institution could not exist for any length of time without
annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have
physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a

He added later...

“In point of fact, Adam Smith’s suggestions about the economic psychology of
early man were as false as Rousseau’s were on the political psychology of
the savage. Division of labour, a phenomenon as old as society, springs from
differences inherent in the facts of sex, geography, and individual
endowment; and the alleged proclivity of man to barter, truck or exchange is
almost entirely apocryphal. While history and ethnography know of various
kinds of economies, most of them comprising the institution of markets, they
know of no economy prior to our own, even approximately controlled and
regulated by markets.”

A society in which the land and other means of production are in the hands
of a narrow class can never become a democracy. In Brazil we have seen time
and again, that the large landowners are a law unto themselves who rule
their communities violently.

Those who take pride in Brazil's rapid growth are like the Indian middle
class folk who pride themselves in *India Shining*. In both cases the poor
are being left behind- it is their impoverishment and exploitation that
accounts for a large part of the growth. The rest comes from the immoral
wresting from the people of their lands, their mineral resources and, in the
end, their country, mobilised by the ruling class and auctioned off for the
benefit of a tiny elite and their petit bourgeois gofers.

If Brazil does not institute land reform, curb the power of agribusiness and
empower the poor majority it faces disater. And adisaster in the Amazon
Basin will be a matter of planetary import.

On 28 January 2011 09:27, Mark Barrett <marknbarrett at googlemail.com> wrote:

>   This article on Brazilian land reform is followed by a number of
> comments about the wrongs and rights of land reform, Zimbabwe, LVT, Citizen
> Dividend etc.
> http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jan/27/brazil-farming
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