Agrarian Transformations and New Peasant Movements in Colombia
This thesis provides a comparative examination of the emergence and trajectory of two agrarian struggles that broke out in the wake of Colombia’s neoliberal restructuring: the Association of Small and Medium-Scale Farmers of Líbano (Asopema) and the Peasant Association of the Cimitarra Valley (ACVC). The variation in form and character of the struggles is explained in terms of: 1) divergent paths of capitalist development, state formation and forms of neoliberal restructuring; 2) class basis and livelihood strategies of each movement; and 3) class organisations and regional cultures. Both movements emerged in the context of the threefold crisis of neoliberalism: the subsistence crisis in peasant agriculture, the unemployment crisis and the legitimacy crisis of the Colombian state. While the formation of both movements can be traced to the experience of past struggles, there are also a number of substantively new dimensions to the contemporary processes. In their different ways, both movements have drawn on a critique of the corporate food system and political violence, and sought greater self-reliance, food sovereignty, ecological sustainability and political autonomy. However, since Asopema members were more dependent on the market for their reproduction, their struggles were more centred on re-incorporation, and they were more susceptible to co-optation through targeted social programmes. Meanwhile, since the Cimitarra peasants are located in more marginal territories, they have been more reliant on a combination of market and nonmarket relations for their reproduction. Moreover, the ACVC’s construction of an ‘autonomous rural community’ allowed for the movement to be sustained by carving out a space to meet the basic subsistence needs of its members, whilst also maintaining grassroots participation and autonomous political leadership. Finally, I assess the movements’ recent efforts to build oppositional blocs to alter the balance of forces within civil society.