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The MST and the EZLN Struggle for Land: New Forms of Peasant Rebellions

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  • LEANDRO VERGARA-CAMUS

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    1. University of Groningen
      Leandro Vergara-Camus, Centre for Development Studies, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 800, 9700 AV, Groningen, The Netherlands. e-mail: l.a.vergara@rug.nl
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  • I am indebted to Judith Adler Hellman, Lissa North, Cristóbal Kay and Luin Goldring for their insightful guidance, comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this article. I am also grateful to Bernardo Mançano Fernandes, Cliff Welch, Lúcio Flávio de Almeida and Renata Gonçalves, in Brazil, and to Xochitl Leyva-Solano, Daniel Villafuerte, José Luis Escalona and Mercedes Olivera, in Chiapas, for commenting on some of the initial fieldwork findings and hypothesis upon which this article is based. I would also like to thank the three anonymous referees who provided valuable suggestions to improve the final version of this article. The research and fieldwork were funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the Faculty of Graduate Studies of York University in Toronto.

Leandro Vergara-Camus, Centre for Development Studies, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 800, 9700 AV, Groningen, The Netherlands. e-mail: l.a.vergara@rug.nl

Abstract

In this article, the author reviews some of the conclusions of the literature on peasant rebellions in the light of current land struggles of the Landless Rural Workers' Movement (MST) in Brazil and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico. The author argues that conventional explanations of peasant rebellions are inappropriate for the analysis of current land struggles in Latin America in the midst of the process of neoliberal globalization. Neither struggle can be characterized as ‘quasi-feudal’, nor as conservative reactions, but instead should be interpreted as attempts to create a basis for self-subsistence and autonomy. Consequently, the author proposes Marx's concept of alienated labour as an alternative explanatory concept, because it highlights one of the main objectives of the members of the MST and the EZLN, which is the control over their livelihood through a struggle for their re-peasantization.

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