Mobilisation and the power of rural movements : a comparison of the South African National Land Committee with the Brazilian Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem-Terra

Koch, Regine Erika (2010-03)

MA Cum Laude

Thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (International Studies) at Stellenbosch University

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The objective of this thesis is to explain the differing levels of rural activism in Brazil and South Africa. As both countries are plagued with similar land and poverty disparities, the varying intensity and national organisation of rural movements is striking. In Brazil a strong and nationally organised rural movement, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem- Terra (MST), established itself as the leading rural movement; whereas South Africa’s National Land Committee (NLC) remained weak and ultimately collapsed. Today, South Africa is characterised by a complete lack of a national representation of rural interests and shows only timid attempts at the local level. In order to address the issue systematically and comprehensively, the thesis first provides a historical outline of both countries, thereby discerning similarities and differences in social, economic and political development. Subsequently, and based upon these findings, a systematic comparison of the NLC and MST is conducted. Utilising contemporary social movement theory, a synthesised theoretical framework of political opportunities, resource mobilisation and framing processes is proposed to methodically compare movement dynamics. Applying this synthesised framework the protest cycles of the NLC and the MST are compared, namely the emerging phase, the stabilisation and decline/resurgence phase. The study points to a complex network of reasons for varying rural activism. In South Africa an overall demobilising constellation of important movement dynamics led to the collapse of the NLC and the weakening of the rural grassroots. Political opportunities changed from overly exclusive to overly inclusive in South Africa whereby the NLC’s resource mobilisation became narrowly institutionalised; containing most oppositional forces at the national and local level. In Brazil, in contrast, political opportunities remained ambivalent throughout MST existence; thereby providing enough loopholes to achieve partial success and yet maintaining the critical distance and constraints which necessitates and legitimates grassroots mobilisation. In Brazil, land distribution has been singled out early as the prime source for deprivation and consequently served as a vantage point for framing processes which stimulated a coherent idea of landlessness and the legitimation of land occupations. The exclusive/inclusive dichotomy of the South African society with its strong racial overtones led to framing processes which interpret land reform as an exclusive state affair; thereby discouraging land occupations and merging land with the broad context of social injustice in South Africa. The thesis concludes that the historically constructed and contemporarily continued racial dichotomy of South Africa’s society has ultimately hampered rural movement dynamics in South Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van die tesis is om die verskille in aktivisme dinamiek van grondhervormingsbewegings in Suid-Afrika en Brasilië te verduidelik. Die verskillende in terme van nasionale organisasie en intensiteit is merkwaardig gegewe dat beide state gekenmerk word deur soortgelyke grond en armoede ongelykhede. In Brasilïe is ’n sterk en nasionaal georganiseerde beweging, die Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais-Sem Terra (MST) gevestig as die leidende grondhervormingsbeweging, terwyl Suid-Afrika se Nasionale Grond Komitee (National Land Committee, NLC) swak gebly het en eindelik as ’n beweging verval het. Suid-Afrika word vandag gekenmerk deur die afwesigheid van ’n nasionale artikulasie van die belange van grondloses met gebrekkige pogings om hul belange op plaaslike vlak te verteenwoordig. Ten einde die kwessie sistematies en omvattend aan te spreek, verskaf die tesis eerstens ’n historiese konteks van die politieke ekonomie van grond in beide state ten einde verskille en soortgelykhede uit te wys. Hierna word die MST en die NLC sistematies vergelyk. Deur gebruik te maak van kontemporêre sosiale bewegingsteorie word ‘n gesintetiseerde teoretiese raamwerk – wat fokus op Politieke Geleenthede, Hulpbron Mobilisering en Orienteringsprosesse – voorgestel om metodologies die dinamiek van die bewegings te ontleed. Deur die gesintetiseerde raamwerk toe te pas, word die protes siklusse van die NLC en die MST vergelyk, naamlik die ontstaan fase, die stabiliseringsfase en die verval/herlewingsfase. Die studie ontrafel ‘n kompleks netwerk van redes vir gedifferensieerde grondaktivisme. In Suid-Afrika het ‘n reeks demoboliserende faktore gelei tot die verval van die NLC en die verswakking van plattelandse organiasies op voetsoolvlak. Politieke geleenthede het verander van eksplisiet eksklusief na eksplisiet inklusiewe prosesse waardeur die NLC se basis vir hulpbron mobilisering baie nou geinstitusionaliseerd geword het en waardeur meeste aktiviste op nasionale en plaaslike vlak gekoopteer is. In Brasilïe in teenstelling het politieke geleenthede tydens die MST se bestaan ambivalent gebly en as gevolg daarvan voldoende ruimte gebied om ‘n kritieke afstand teenoor die staat in te neem. In Brasilïe is grondhervorming reeds lank gelede geidentifiseer as die oorsaak vir ontneming en het gevolglik gedien as die basis vir mobilisering rondom grondbesit en die legitimering van onwettige grond okkupasie. Die eksklusief/inklusief dichotomie van die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing met gepaardgaande ras-kompleksiteit het gelei tot prosesse waardeur grondhervorming as ‘n ekslusiewe staats kwessie gesien is wat daardeur onwettige grond besettings verminder het en die debat rondom grondhervorming vetroebel het as net nog ‘n geval van sosiale ongeregtigheid. Daar word tot die gevolgtrekking gekom dat die historiese konstruksie en voortgesette rasse konteks waarbinne grondhervoming in Suid-Afrika plaasvind, die moontlikheid vir ‘n soortgelyke aktivistiese grondhervormingsbeweging soos in Brasilïe kniehalter.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4823
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