“Debt”, “land grabbing” and “property” – the struggles associated with these terms continue to be fiercely debated and reinitiated in the context of the global financial and economic crisis. Along with the associated energy and resource crises. A practical political question is whether such debate can lead to to new protagonists against the global rulers and main perpetrators of the crises. The related theoretical question is to what extent, or what new insights into the modern capitalist mode of production can be gained in order in order to achieve a social-ecological transformation. This is a special challenge for theorists – including and especially those critically committed to sustainable development and/or the heritage of Marxian political economy.
“Debt”, “land grabbing”, and “property” are variously interpreted and interpretable concepts, and they are not least of all economic categories. For millennia, individual, collective, societal and global problems have been linked to them, including in the most recent crisis; and will certainly continue in the future: Expulsions, wars, murder, immeasurable suffering, incredible concentration of wealth; family, social and global divisions, colonialism and Neo-colonialism in its many forms, suppression of indigenous cultures and traditional ways of life and livelihoods, the destruction of nature – the list is endless. Similarly endless are the struggles, uprisings, revolutions, acts undertaken by the disenfranchised, actions taken by people who have defended themselves against the injustice connected to “debt”, “land grabbing” and “property” and who continue to defend themselves – who express freedom, emancipation, justice, recognition of value diversity, equality and solidarity as values and ideals and who strive for human dignity.
The struggles are related to concepts from religions and intellectual, cultural and political tendencies, among them “communism”, “socialism”, “independence”, “anti-colonialism”, “left”, “globalisation criticism”, “alter-globalism”.The slogans concerned with “debt”, “land grabbing”, and “property” are myriad, rallying people in all ages past and present, for a self-determined life, for the future of their children and for social futures worth living for. “Jubilee 2000”, “the debts of the north to the south”, “ecological debts”, “environmental justice”, “pay reparations”, “audit the debt”, “common goods”, “anti-privatisation”, “re-appropriation”, “nature belongs to all”, “stop land grabbing”, “referenda” against privatisation or for re-municipalisation”, “save your savings (austerity) programmes”, “we won’t pay for your crises”are only some examples.
With the discussion around “Rio+20” and green growth, three aspects (debt, land grabbing, property) of this problem again become manifest: In combating poverty and in struggling for the preservation of the natural conditions of life, it is a question of land for food, biofuels and the acquisition of pollution rights; of the possibilities and limits of technologies for the solution of social, ecological and global problems; of the limits of the economic calculus and its impacts like destructive growth, accelerated even further with the excuse of the need to reduce deficits and for new public-sector loans for allegedly necessary large-scale projects such as dams, prestige building projects and objects for more “security”. At the same time what is involved is the financialisation and reproduction of capital oligarchies – special networks of proprietors and representatives of highly concentrated capital centralised in the affluent countries – of managers, political, military, scientific and artistic elites of the North and their branches in the South – who, via the financial markets, continuously appropriate the income and resources of the rest of the population. These processes are not parallel and separate; they reciprocally strengthen and buttress each other in the context of a mode of reproduction.
We are especially interested in two questions:
1) To what extent, and how, do theorists, who work more or less directly on the issue of “debt”, “land grabbing”, and “property”, support emancipatory movements that have developed on the basis of these problem areas, and reflect the experience gained by these movements? More concretely, we are asking what this means for actors working on left/socialist “Europe policy” (i) in an European perspective (where it is necessary to differentiate between the “European Union” and “Europe”), and at the same time (ii) in a global view, which demands dealing with in Europe and US-based capital oligarchies/ corporations involved in debt creation, dispossession and land grabbing. Consequently we see the EU, its member states and those who live here as together being confronted with the problems of “debt”, “land grabbing”, “property” and “growth” and as protagonists who intensify – partly ignorant, partly nonchalant – the worldwide social, ecological and global problems. Where are the elements connecting these crisis processes situated; and where are the common interests of the counter-protagonists? Under what conditions does a reciprocal reinforcement of the various defensive battles take place?
2) Through a targeted open exchange among theorists/researchers and with the global environmental justice and similar movements is it possible for new scientific knowledge, discussions and/or simply communication and cooperation exchanges to occur? What consequences does this knowledge have for work on social alternatives and for theoretical work itself? What challenges does this present not only to the discipline of economics but also to the related disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and political science? Are they able to accommodate the lines of argumentation of the global civil society into their disciplinary frameworks, and if not, what is missing to enable them to do so?
We would like to enter into an exchange of ideas and experience with people who are interested in these problems. To do so we are planning three events:
- a discussion among experts on the European Union, its policies and agents on November 2-4, 2012;
- an international workshop of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation on questions of political and ecological economy on November 30 – December 2, 2012 and
- a joint event with Environmental Justice Organisations (EJOs) and other civil society representatives during the next World Social Forum in November 2013.
We look forward to your response:
Lutz Brangsch, Judith Dellheim, Joachim Spangenberg, Frieder Otto Wolf