Zapata v Trump
Meeting on the 105th anniversary of the signing of Emiliano Zapata’s radical Plan of Ayala (““That to the pueblos (villages) there be given what in justice they deserve as to lands, timber, and water, which [claim] has been the origin of the present Counterrevolution” in John Womack’s translation), campesino and indigenous leaders sat down to hammer out what they see as the most immediate response to the threats of a Donald Trump presidency.
I’ve slightly abridged the original post from the 28 November SinEmbargo (more on that below) in my translation:
Over fifteen peasant and indigenous organizations, united in the “ El campo es de todos” movement met today to evaluate achievements over the past year and discuss an action plan for 2017, with the objective of remaking public police in favor of food sovereignty, financing small producers, defending the rural economy from the ravages of multinational corporations, and combatting combating poverty in rural areas.
Regarding the challenges raised by the new president-elect of the United States, they stressed the impact of tarrif barriers on Mexican exports on both large farm operators and day laborers.
Javier Ortega, director of the Unión Campesina Nacional (National Peasants’ Union) said we needed to be more concerned about food security than “Trump’s wall”.
“Only 40 percent of what is consumed in Mexico is produced in Mexico; We must fight for the right to food, “he said.
Ernesto Guevara, leader of UNORCA, documented that “one in four Mexicans can not eat all three meals a day and spends ten time more on imported food than on native produce, like rice, soy, or corn. As a result of Mexico’s dependence on mainly imported and transgenic products, he said, “we have serious problem with diabetes.”
David Contreras, representing the Red Nacional de Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil (National Non-governmental Organizations Council) said that for farmers “it is time to modernize”. He said that while the business sector has been transformed and enjoys great profits, “we have received only crumbs and government handouts.”
He suggested that small farmers not think of themselves as poor, but as “entrepreneurs because we produce the food of this country”.
José Juárez, of the Consejo Nacional Ciudadano (National Citizens’ Council), reminded the group of the importance of working together, “so that this country has something to eat.”
Sergio Gil of the Unión Campesina Popular (Popular Peasants Union) added that the thousands of peasants demand “decent living conditions”, not just a stipend.
Peasant and indigenous leaders agreed to fight for national food self-sufficiency while criticising the government for favoring multinationals.
Engel López, a leader of the Central Independiente de Obreros y Campesinos (Independent Workers ‘and Farmers’ Collective) stressed that the results of the “El campo somos todos” movement have not been satisfactory to date, and the movement needs to be more energetic.
“We demand that the government give the money to the peasants, not the transnational corporations,” he said.
In the voice of the Central Peasant Cardenista (Cardenist Peasant Collective), Max Correa agreed, arguing that “the government promotes disunity in the peasant movement to continue profiting to the detriment of the peasants.”
On the question of indigenous communities losing land to large corporate operations, Felipe Rodríguez stressed the need to push for an Indigenous Law that respects land rights and would prevail against a lack of prior consultation and democratic openness with land use permits.
What I left out of my translation was a paragraph mentioning homage to the late Fidel Castro. Not only because it wasn’t as important as what the farm leaders are saying about food security, but because of something that might seem obvious to Mexican campesinos isn’t always clear to us in the English-speaking world, and certainly not to the bulk of Mexfiles readers in the United States. That is, that while the Cuban Revolution may have also been a Communist one, what Mexican peasant leaders then and now saw, was Castro’s agrarian reforms, modeled in large part (or at least paying homage to) on the radical proposals of the Plan of Ayala. While if I had to put a label from our vocabulary of western political thought on Zapata, I would call the Plan of Ayala “anarcho-libertarian” rather than Marxist. Zapata seemed to envision private ownership, or rather small corporate ownership, where Castro favored state ownership, but the goal was the same… to provide security for farmers.
Castro’s Cuba was never able to obtain food security, but continued to depend on crop exports (sugar and tobacco) for food imports. During the “special period” (after the Soviets simply abandoned Cuba) there were genuine shortages and, while Cuba was able to expand its agriculture to meet some basic needs, it never has been in a position to achieve full security. Mexico, however, shouldn’t need to import food. We have a broad-based agricultural system (and, about any food crop you can think of… with the possible exception of cranberries… grows in Mexico) and, at the same time, we are a major exporter of agricultural commodites either not particularly used here (marijuana and coffee for example), or are dedicating massive amounts of land to single crops (like tomatoes) entirely for export.
At the same time, economic policy favors the multinationals that exploit both single-crop farming, and other land uses (like mining) that limit our own food-growing capacity. And, as the farmers noted in their conference, policies here have neglected rural areas, forcing small producers to depend more on welfare payments than on sale of their own produce.
While I’m not sure that Mexico could be 100% sufficient in food production, nor am I convinced that we can do without agricultural exports (not completely), but there is no reason not to become more self-sufficient, especially if these radical farmers are right, and trade with the United States is disrupted.