Notes from the VII Conference: Political context and struggles in Europe

The first afternoon of the VIIth International Conference of La Via Campesina was dedicated to the international political context which is characterised by the unsolvable capitalist crisis and ever stronger pressures on populations, states and the environment, together with the dangerous commercialisation of natural resources. The following day, the struggles and resistances were evoked. La Via Campesina’s members, throughout the world, consider that the only alternative to the imposed model is food sovereignty, and that agroecology is the only way to achieve this and to feed the people. In these two spaces the regional specificities were analysed.

Political context

In Europe, neoliberalism is a hegemonic dogma which even so-called socialist parties subscribe to. No one speaks of the class struggle anymore, even though 15% of the population is food insecure. In Western Europe, following 70 years of modernisation, we witness the reappearance of the peasant and small-holder models, although it is difficult and expensive to access land or take over a farm. One crisis seems to follow upon another in the sector. Sales prices no longer cover the price of production. In France alone, one peasant commits suicide every three days. The accession to the European Union of former Eastern bloc countries has reopened the question of small-scale peasantry in Europe. However, there are few peasant and small-holding organizations in Eastern Europe so this part of the world is still poorly represented within La Via Campesina. The creeping up of conflict areas creates a climate of fear and withdrawal, with xenophobia clearly present.

Struggles and resistance

European peasant and small-holding activists are aware of the hegemonic and imperialistic position of their continent and of the weight which decisions taken here can have on the rest of the world. For this reason, their struggles cannot limit themselves to the regional level. They have the responsibility to put pressure on the international institutions headquartered in Europe and are also aware of the importance of preventing Fortress Europe. The success of the last Nyéléni forum, which brought together around 600 people in Romania in October 2016, showed the common will to bring about food sovereignty. On the front line, the volunteer reaping of GMO fields continues, as do the direct actions against the headquarters of agribusiness multinationals, and the lobbying work to defend the rights of peasants and other smallholders, and to ensure they retain control of their own seeds. The issue of the access to land is also crucial as the grabbing of natural resources is also felt in Europe and must be made more visible.