The Peoples’ Dialogue (PD), Women in Mining and the AIDC (Alternative Information Centre) held a meeting in Cape Town (13-14th March 2017), to interrogate extractivism as a model of development and stimulate debates on alternatives. Present were African and Latin American activists from grassroots movements and NGOs as well as scholars from these two continents and elsewhere, from the following organisations: African Centre for Biodiversity, AIDC, Benchmarks Foundation, Biowatch, Centre for Natural Resource Management, Costal Links, Democracy Works, Environmental Evaluation Unit (University of Cape Town), Franciscans International – Churches and Land, Foundation for Socio Economic Justice, IBASE, IPD Power, La Via Campesina, Landless People’s Movement, Masifundise, Ntinga Ntaba Ka Ndoda, Peoples’ Dialogue, PLAAS (University of Western Cape), Resistance and Alternatives, Rhodes Asinamali, Rita Edwards Collective, Rural Women’s Assembly, SA Green Revolutionary Council, Southern Cape Land Committee, Solidarity SA, TCOE, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, Transnational Institute (TNI), UNAC (União Nacional de Camponeses), University of Bonn (Geography Department), Womin, World March of Women and Zimsoff.
Formal inputs on extractivism, the capitalist economic crisis and the deepening ecological and social crises gave rise to discussions on why do our governments in the global South adopt extractivism as a model of development, regardless of its negative social, economic and environmental impacts? Who benefits? How are communities responding on the ground? What is development? What lessons can we learn from the past? What alternatives do we envisage and what are the challenges to organise for the transition to a new path? What follows is a brief summary of a broader overview (available from the PD) of issues raised during formal presentations and collective discussions.
EXTRACTIVISM IS A MODE OF CAPITAL ACCUMULATION BY DISPOSSESSION that relies on the exploitation of our natural resources while dispossessing millions of people in the global South. It is a violent, patriarchal form of capital accumulation with hierarchies of gender and race dispossession.
Extractivism has integrated mining (of gas, oil and minerals), fishing, agriculture and forestry across the globe, to satisfy what Edgardo Landerra called an “imperial mode of living” (IML), relying on modes of consumption and ever increasing demands for goods that are unsustainable. Driven by centres of global imperial power, extractivism has expanded to different parts of the world as a result of free trade. It is only benefitting capital, minority ruling classes and elites of the world.
With de-industrialisation and inability to compete with cheap Asian free trade imports, governments in the global South (whether left or right-wing) have bought into the logic of extractivism and have failed to provide alternative paths to “development” and make people believe that there are no alternatives. Co-opted and captured by corporates, leaders and elites respond with high levels of repression and violence against grassroots opposition activists. Peoples’ knowledge is destroyed, dispossessed of their lands and water and traditional livelihoods are criminalised.
We are facing a crisis of a civilisation that is destroying life itself, on the logic of permanent accumulation: there is a contradiction between the reproduction of capital and the reproduction of life. As capital pursues ever increasing profits and capital accumulation it is destroying the possibility of people to work, to sustain themselves and the next generations as well as destroying the environment that can sustain life on our Earth planet.
As the global economic crisis deepens we see the emergence of right wing politicians across the world. Wherever this happens it has a big impact on the global South, even in remote rural areas. We are likely to see a renewed scramble for African minerals by USA and British capital, for instance, likely to result in increased risks for armed conflicts and terrorism, and also greater illegal financial transfers out of the continent.
But as the social and ecological crises deepen we also see resistance and a search for alternatives emerging from the ground. We get inspired by concrete examples of successful resistance against extractivism – they do not defeat capitalism but they inspire and galvanise people and movements to organise. There is a link between organization and changing of consciousness.
During discussions many questions arose and were grappled with on how to make the transition.
The left has to acknowledge past failures, reimagine radical perspectives (e.g. rethink from nationalisation to socialisation and communities’ control), and not assume that there is a blue print of alternatives. We have to deal with some of the tensions between social movements and the role of NGOS and take discussions beyond our small circles. Solutions have to be thought through in collective spaces with social movements, grassroots activists and communities, uniting rural and urban struggles and small-scale and artisanal producers, be more inclusive of the energy and power of the youth and once again find an overwhelming theme that can unite our struggles (e.g. “Our world is not for sale”).
Extractivism has to be fought in different ways: a) by local territorial resistance and b) by reclaiming, concepts that were part of the ‘old left’ – de-globalisation, de-linking, self-sufficiency (at local, regional and national levels) and challenge co-optation of our language.
We have to decolonise our education, institutions, our minds and economies and organise alternative regional economies and link with other existing activist networks to share different experiences on capitalist extractivism across the world. As we grapple with alternatives and how to make the transition to another path for “development”, we must search for alternatives in economic (not in environmental) terms.
The way forward: To go forward the PD proposes an Assembly on Extractivism to create conditions for greater dialogues, to take place in August 2018 in SA, to coincide with the anniversary of the Marikana massacre. A proposal for representation at the PD Assembly was to follow the Via Campesina’s guideline: 1/3 women, 1/3 youth (younger than 31); 1/3 men.
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