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In 2002/3 John Jopling and I wrote

Gaian Democracies:

Redefining Globalisation and People-Power

This site introduces its key ideas and some associated topics


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Roy Madron 2005

Leading the Gaian Revolution: Commonsense for Desperate Times


Gaian Democracies: Redefining Globalisation & People-Power by Roy Madron & John Jopling

Roy Madron: Biography

Radio Interview with Jane Taylor, from Resonance FM

Email address: rm(at)

Unless you live in Latin America or take a professional interest in its politics, you are unlikely to appreciate the importance of its social movements.

There are hundreds of them. The combined memberships of Latin America´s Social Movements (LASMs) probably exceeds a hundred million. Over the past fifty years, and in particular the last decade, they have played a vital part in the emergence of left-leaning governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela, a process that is increasingly evident in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama.

LASMs all have a number of things in common.

First, members know that by joining a social movement they are putting their bodies, their families, their communities – and possibly their lives - on the line. Every year, the number of members, activists and leaders who are evicted from their homes, exiled, blacklisted, beaten, raped, tortured and murdered totals many thousands.

Second, the vast majority of members will be very very poor, darker-skinned, or indigenous people: barely literate, living in rural slums, in squalor and misery, lacking the most basic public services such as schools, clinics, hospitals, transport, clean water and sewerage. Even without a connection with any Social Movement, or Trade Union, they will be living and working under the constant threat of violence or worse from their employers, landlords, the police, the army and para-military thugs in league with the The Global Monetocracy.

they will be totally opposed to “neo-liberal globalisation” and in particular, US imperialism in all of its manifestations: oil companies, major agri-businesses, mining corporations, loggers, genetically modified foods and seeds, the privatisation of public utilities, water, and natural resources, local oligarchs, many corporate-linked NGOs, the corporate media, corrupt politicians, militarisation, cash crops and monocultures.

Fourth, they will lack a coherent and comprehensive alternative theory of state governance that fits their deeply-held principles and aims. They may be capable of forcing the resignation of governments and presidents. They often play a major role in the election of their chosen candidates, but they will rarely play a significant, still less a decisive, role in government itself. Without at least an outline of an alternative theory of state governance LASMs are invariably forced to accept a model of governance that is incompatible with their aims and principles. In Latin America as elsewhere in the world, the dominant model of state governance has been designed to serve the needs of the The Global Monetocracy whichever political party happens to win an election. This is the major dilemma facing LASMs. In effect the system disenfranchises them and their members, even though the elected government is sympathetic to their aims and needs.

Fifth, they are committed to achieving their revolutionary aims through peaceful, non-violent means. They are not part of the armed struggle, they do not seek to overthrow governments by force, through intimidation, guerilla warfare, terrorism. They are rarely linked to violent revolutionaries such as the FARC, the Shining Path or the Tupamaros.

, they see themselves as part of semi-global non-violent movement that covers not only Latin America but almost the whole of the Southern Hemisphere.


Beyond those crucial commonalities, no two SMs are exactly alike. The Landless Peasants Movement,(MST), of Brazil has different aims and significantly different principles to those of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the Zapatistas of the State of Chiapas in Mexico,the Workers Central (COB), the landless groups, and the neighbourhood assemblies of El Alto in Bolivia, because of their different local cutlures, circumstances, and origins.

Since 1979, the Brazilian MST has occupied unused land on which there are now 5,000 settlements in which two millions people are living on over 22 million hectares [55 million acres]. Also, there are more than 150,000 landless workers camped in plastic huts along highways, struggling to obtain land. There are 1,500 settlement schools, where the men and women teachers came mostly out of the movement and have aopted a "pedagogy of the land" which, in broad terms, could be defined as Paulo Freire's popular education adapted to settlement reality.

What follows is a mere snapshot of the way in which the MST´s thinking is constantly developing in response to new challenges and dilemmas. All of the major LASMs are also engaged in sometimes painful process of conceptual and methodological re-examination and development. Parallels with MST´s thinking can also be traced in the publications and actions of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the Zapatistas of the State of Chiapas in Mexico,the Workers Central (COB), the landless groups, and the neighbourhood assemblies of El Alto in Bolivia, and dozens of other significant LASMs.

The emphasis the MST now puts upon the environment, and land, and food, and water, puts the LASMs on the frontline of the struggle that will have to be waged in the 21st Century against the the Global Monetocracy.

As long ago as 2002, in an interview with the New Left Review, one of the MST´s leaders, João Pedro Stedile was saying

We need to marry theoretical education with political practice. It’s pitiful to see where our young people end up, even those affiliated to the PT (Brazilian Workers´Party) or the CUT (Confederation of Trade Unions) — as if the only thing for young people to do today was hold music festivals or campaign for the legalization of cannabis. The Brazilian Left needs to overcome those challenges in order to reconstitute, in the not-too-distant future, a great mass movement with the consistent, revolutionary aim of an alternative project for our society”

The snippets below from a report of the MST´s 2007 Congress shows that they are still struggling to find ways to resolving the dilemmas that Stedile expressed in 2002.

In LASMs and the Gaian Democracy model, (LINK) I try to explain why I think that the ensemble of components that John Jopling and I outline for Gaian Democracies, make a useful contribution to the need of the MST and every other LASM to find a basis for its alternative revolutionary project


“For over a hundred years the inspiration for agrarian reform in Latin America was the idea that the land belonged to those who worked it. Today we need to go beyond this. It’s not enough to argue that if you work the land, you have proprietary rights over it. The Vietnamese and Indian farmers have contributed a lot to our debates on this. They have a different view of agriculture, and of nature—one that we’ve tried to synthesize in Via Campesina (The Global Movement of Social Movements) Nowadays, however...
“We want an agrarian practice that transforms farmers into guardians of the land, and a different way of farming, that ensures an ecological equilibrium and also guarantees that land is not seen as private property.

NLR: What is the position of the MST on the use of violence for social ends—including, specifically, agrarian reform?

“ We have a tradition of ideological pluralism within the movement, in the sense that we never claim to be the followers of any one thinker—we try to treat each one as synthesizing a particular historical experience, and to see how we can make use of them. As far as violence is concerned, we’ve learnt a lot from two Asians: Ho Chi Minh and Gandhi. Ho systematically taught the Vietnamese peasants that their strength lay not in what they held in their hands, but in what they carried in their heads. The achievements of the Vietnamese soldier—a farmer, illiterate and poor—came from his being conscious of what he was fighting for, as a soldier and as a man. Everything he could lay hold of, he turned into a weapon. The other main lesson we’ve learned is to raise people’s consciousness, so that they realize it’s our vast numbers that constitute our strength. That was what Gandhi taught us—through the Indians’ Salt March against the British, for instance.

The concept of food sovereignty brings us into head-on collision with international capital, which wants free markets. We maintain that every people, no matter how small, has the right to produce their own food. Agricultural trade should be subordinated to this greater right. Only the surplus should be traded, and that only bilaterally.

We are against the WTO, and against the monopolization of world agricultural trade by the multinational corporations. As José Martí would say: a people that cannot produce its own food are slaves; they don’t have the slightest freedom. If a society doesn’t produce what it eats, it will always be dependent on someone else.

We need to recover the sense of a theoretical training for activism, without resorting to theoreticism. We need to marry theoretical education with political practice. It’s pitiful to see where our young people end up, even those affiliated to the PT or the CUT—as if the only thing for young people to do today was hold music festivals or campaign for the legalization of cannabis. The Brazilian Left needs to overcome those challenges in order to reconstitute, in the not-too-distant future, a great mass movement with the consistent, revolutionary aim of an alternative project for our society.”


FROM: A Report by Raúl Zibechi on the 5th Congress of Brazil's Landless Movement:

Creating the Bases for a New World

The movement proposes five steps: democratize ownership of the land; reorient agricultural production by turning toward the internal market and away from the external market preferred by multinationals; develop new agricultural techniques that do not harm the environment; spread education among farm workers; and develop small agroindustries to create employment.

The MST Congress demands that this production "come under the control of farmers and rural workers," in order to preserve the environment and establish "the energy sovereignty of each region."

Criticism of agribusiness multinationals implies a shift toward environmental defense that places the MST in a different position than before. Its decision in favor of ecology represents a deepening of its criticism of the agrarian model and the type of society prevailing in Brazil and throughout the world?so-called neoliberalism. It also allows the MST to strengthen ties with urban movements. Without a new agro-ecology model, Stédile points out, the only future options for farmers are "favela slums, Family Welfare Social Support, or working for foreign companies .

In an article in Folha de São Paulo, Stédile says that the movement focus is on "a democratic agricultural model that guarantees access to work, land, water, and seeds for all.

As an example of an undemocratic model he points to Lula's first four years in power, during which the State transferred US$300 billion to the financial sector, because Brazil's interest rate is the highest in the world.

The MST is up against the alliance of three types of transnational capital: oil companies, automotive corporations, and agribusinesses. But one of the problems is that many people truly believe that biofuels are positive and that the monoculture of sugarcane, eucalyptus, and soy is necessary. That's why now is the time to launch a great debate to start creating a proposal for a different type of society.”

We are not positioned to win this battle for the preservation of the environment if we cannot involve Brazilian society as a whole," says Gilmar Mauro, an MST leader. "People must understand that each eucalyptus tree (used for the manufacture of cellulose paste) consumes 30 liters of water per day during its first seven years, when it is harvested. The consequences ( of the spread of monocultures) will be devastating to the environment.

Humanity is in danger, and that is what we want to discuss with people. While we are concerned about our land, (or) the establishment of a new settlement, natural resources in the whole world are being destroyed, says Mauro.

Marina dos Santos, a movement coordinator, clearly defined this stage:

We face the challenge of finding new forms of struggle other than land occupation. A new type of action is required that responds to this new wave of capitalism in rural areas. We must protest the fact that this model does not respond to the needs of the majority of people. We need other methods to promote a dialogue with society.

So far, the MST and other major LASMs have not been able to meet the challenge of finding new forms of struggle.The reasons why success has so far eluded them and how the Gaian Democracy model might provide them with at least some of the concepts and methodolgies to break the deadlock, click on this LINK


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Roy Madron 2008