Asian Peasant Coalition’s Statement on the Day of the Landless 2024

2024 marks the 9th year since the Asian Peasant Coalition determined the 29th of March as global “Day of the Landless” to be annually commemorated in 2015. And despite the promise of improvement and development from the global north, the condition of landlessness persists and negligible changes have transpired to uplift the dignity and quality of life of the world’s rural people. 

Development aid and intervention are loans from institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank, guised as rural and agricultural assistance programs that do nothing more than re-monopolize public lands and resources into state property or giant corporations to make foreign investments easily facilitated. These also push governments to adopt neoliberal policies in the interest of importing capital and exporting cheap agricultural and labor goods from the global south to the north. So long as these remain in effect, economic underdevelopment is maintained in the global south.

While outside political-economic reforms, imperialist-backed land occupation via military aggression and expansion have also become rampant since 2015. The United States has expanded its overseas camps in the Philippines, Japan, Australia, India, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to protect its interests in the Indo-Pacific region with the rise of China’s influence. It has also increased its military presence in West Asia by deploying thousands of troops in its bases in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, with small posts in Iraq and Syria. In a bid to “fight terrorism,” the US military-industrial complex expands to maintain military hegemony in both regions, provide support to governments’ violent counterinsurgency campaigns, and maintain backward economies. In both these respects, land remains as the most highly valued collateral.

Today, the most glaring form of landlessness and blatant land grabbing is headlined by the genocide of the Arab peoples in occupied Palestine by the Zionist settler-colonial state of Israel, with no little support from the US. From October 2023 onward, the Israeli state imposed a very rapid escalation of violence and even blockade of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, killing thousands of civilians in the name of Zionism. These brutal atrocities are material and historical developments of Western imperialist aggression initiated by the old imperial power of Britain and today led and facilitated by the US since post-WWII. Palestinian soil is home to local grains and produce that were once able to sustain generations of Arabs but is now a field of imposed famine and destruction, with the tail end of February 2024 marking a bloody massacre of Palestinians collecting flour from a supposed relief aid in Gaza when Israeli forces opened fire. There is not a clearer picture of imperialist aggression as a threat to life than the open genocide of the people in West Asia. What is being systematically applied in Palestine for the full institution of the Zionist Israeli state is a glaring future to what imperialist aggression can do to threaten the sovereignty of other nations in the global south. The Palestinian peoples’ movement on the ground and the clamor of those in the diaspora are more than justifiable anti-imperialist movements all peace-loving peoples must join and support.

The same logic of land grabbing and massive marginalization and displacement, albeit different in method, is being administered in other global south regions and rural communities. With a political economy that is still largely described as feudal and semi-feudal, South and Southeast Asian agrarian countries are easily adopted into global corporate agriculture and land use conversion schemes in the interest of the global north. These schemes are rarely peaceful as they often target defenseless rural communities with no little help from state forces and the military.

In India, several anti-farmers mechanisms are in place that are both political-economic and cultural; Dalit women, for one, are subject to the poorest living and working conditions determined by a backward feudal agrarian economy and the socio-political Caste system in South Asia. These conditions do not only render them landless but powerless in negotiating for better work, pay, and social protection. While in Chennai and Manipur, farmers and indigenous communities are actively displaced and left to scramble for food and shelter by numerous state projects for infrastructure and modernization such as the expansion of the airport at Parandur where 4000 acres of land will be taken away from farmers; on the other hand there is also the targeting of indigenous tribes for eviction to make way for palm oil plantations. Such projects do not account for the rights and liberties of the original rural communities or even the environmental damages it will cost. And so today, hundreds of Dalit women, farmers, and indigenous peoples in India are waging not just a struggle for land, but with it the struggle for social liberation and the democratic right to life, livelihood, and peace. 

In Pakistan, farmers are the first to be affected by the climate crisis coupled with anti-small farmer government policies favoring foreign investments. A shift in temperature targets not only the animals’ health but also the 8 million rural households engaged in livestock. The Pakistani government, despite its recognition of agriculture as a leading economic sector, neglects its own agriculture and relies on the big corporations and foreign capital intervention. This leads to rapid private monopolization of climate adaptation methods, agricultural seeds, inputs, and capital support. The need for the state to prioritize rural development is urgent in Pakistan where today it is in talks with the IMF for the disbursement of the final USD 1.1 billion for its long-term bailout. At the forefront of pushing for resolutions to its own debt crisis is the rural sector of Pakistan which has long figured out that only empowering farmers and genuine rural development can stimulate imaginable recovery. 

The situation in Pakistan is not far from the situation experienced by farmers in Sri Lanka. Last 2022, a huge protest movement that has gone on for months transpired in Sri Lanka wherein various social sectors came out to the streets to protest gross government corruption, intensifying inflation, environmental neglect, human rights abuses, and a deeply felt debt crisis across Sri Lankan society. These interlinked issues are a product of the neoliberal crisis in government in Sri Lanka that has gone on for decades. Again, the people are calling for a rightfully urgent agrarian reform and rural development program to address the immediate public need for food and economic recovery. 

To the east in Southeast Asia, agriculture and rural lands remain concentrated in the hands of landlords, bureaucrat capitalists, and large corporations via agri-business ventures entered by the state. As with land, its productivity is also captured by capitalist and imperialist interests through its cheap raw materials and undervalued rural labor power. In this region, land grabbing takes the form of reforms and government policies which are then state implemented with no little help from the military. Vast areas of land are concentrated for commercial monocropping instead of national sustenance; where Oil Palm is Indonesia and Malaysia’s largest agricultural export and pineapple and banana is to the Philippines’. In all these cases, rural employment is largely made up of agricultural workers that are deprived of rightful access and decisive influence on the use of agricultural land. Therefore anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movements in the region are actively fighting their government’s adoption of prescribed neoliberal policies by the IMF-World Bank when genuine agrarian reform is practical and within reach of the parliament. These movements expose that the interest of their people is not the interest their states are serving. In Thailand, farmers have long been organizing themselves against re-monopolization of land into the state’s hands and for this they are able to wage successful pro-farmer activities and collective cultivation.

In Myanmar, farmers are at the forefront of the democratic struggle for land and peace by waging resistance against the military since 2021. The 2021 Myanmar military junta has escalated aggression in the countryside, victimizing rural communities; and in the cities, anti-junta peaceful protests are quashed and activists are arrested. The 2021 Myanmar military junta, health and food crises brought on by the pandemic Covid-19, and open fascist tendencies of state armed forces are more than enough conditions for the people to fight back. In Myanmar, where 70 per cent of the population are small-scale farmers, the rural peoples account for the active people’s struggle for land and democracy. 

In both these regions, loyalties of governments unmistakably lie where capital flows, forcing the poor and marginalized further into the fringes of society. It is therefore only logical for the people to seize the streets, halt operations, and fight back!

This year, the APC marks the Day of the Landless and makes it clear that the rural peoples’ fight for land is part of a larger peoples’ struggle against imperialism. Chronic landlessness is not a natural phenomenon for the world’s poorest to experience alone but a historical imperialist project waged against the rural sector for military domination and corporate control over the people’s productive resources. 

We thus call on all to support the rural peoples’ movement against imperialism and empower the rural sector by recognizing the deceitful measures at play for the advance of monopoly capital! We fight to win for rural development, sustainable food systems, and genuine lasting peace! 

Rural people, defend our land! Defend our future! Defeat Imperialism!

Spread the love