‘Late Mobilization’: Transnational Peasant Networks and Grassroots Organizing in Brazil and South Africa


  • Brenda Baletti, Tamara M. Johnson and Wendy Wolford, Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Saunders Hall CB 3220, Chapel Hill, NC 2759, USA. e-mail: wwolford@email.unc.edu.

  • The authors would like to thank five anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments as well as Jun Borras for his review and encouragement. Any errors in the paper are the responsibility of the authors.


In this paper, we analyze the political dynamics of the contemporary ‘transnational peasant network’ through a comparison of two movements: the Brazilian Movimento Dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) and the South African Landless People's Movement (LPM). We argue that transnational visions of ‘peasants’ often obscure relations between or within rural movements. One tangible benefit of the transnational peasant network is the exchange of ideas, experiences and information, but this exchange does not happen in a vacuum, rather it happens in the historically-situated, power-laden context of an uneven world system. Organized in 1984, MST activists from Brazil helped to train, educate and inspire South African activists after the LPM formed in 2001, but key elements of the MST's success were inappropriate or unworkable in the South African context. Ultimately, the transfer of movement knowledge from the MST to the LPM may have worked against the long-term success of the latter.