The choice for land

Copertina del libro La scelta della terraStudy of a rural settlement of the Movimento Sem Terra in Brazil.

Zamorani Editore, Torino 2003

This book draws the life of more or less thirty persons, which now live and work in a rural settlement organized by the Movimento Sem Terra (Landless Movement). This rural settlement is on the Paraná state, in Brazil. As in a large flash back I follow the migratory route of their parents; then the ways taken by these persons: someone remains on the countryside, someone goes to the city, the vast majority alternates the two places. Finally I treat the participation to the Movimento Sem Terra and the different trajectories by which they create or they enter the Santa Maria rural settlement.

The subject is treated in a micro historic way, with multidisciplinary tools. This book starts from a field research I did during the year 2000 in Brazil. The sources of my study are of two very different kinds: bibliographical and the life stories of the Santa Maria rural settlers.

This book attempts to put the single lives of the protagonists on the large framework of the rural exodus. The choice of remaining or of coming back to the countryside is a strong choice, because many factors are opposing to that. This choice enlightens the common pattern of leaving the countryside, because it underlines the forces that press out from the countryside. At the same time, the reasons that determine the stay underline the differences between the Brazilian countryside and the countryside of many Western industrial states. In Brazil vast lands that were receiving jet immigration coexisted with the spark of an industrial economic development, during the Forties and the Fifties of the XX century. This coexistence affected both the agricultural and the industrial development. The frontier vastness caused rapid and great moving of people and the development of a particular kind of agriculture, based on displacement. In some way the squat of the sem terra represents the last act of a moving typical of the frontier.

The Movimento Sem Terra, born at the end of the Seventies of the XX cent. from a conglomerate of different kind of social actors, played a great role in creating a new likeness of peasant, above all in presenting is as a proletarian and a fighter. The MST imposes itself to the political scene in particular by the squat of large estate under the flag of the agrarian reform. But the MST is far more complex than that, because the political proposal of this movement includes nearly every side of the citizenship. One of the more interesting facets is the way the production is organized within the settlements. For that, this book deals deeply with the creation of a rural settlement, its labour organization and the embeddness of the economic level on the social level, the network that is crossed by. The settlement analysed is very special, for is organized in a collectivist way and for in it are developed many transformation of primary products. These characteristics prevent us to understand the sustainability of the rural settlements as a whole – subject treated in a vast and interesting literature. But allow us to cope with more complex questions, as the ambiguous nature of the settlement, both capitalistic and peasant or the prospect of this little social group, once reached a minimal wellness and at the turn of a generation, or finally the sustainability of a settlement well organized but plunged onto a capitalistic market framework.

This book therefore attempts to join together vast and small realities, huge questions and the ordinary life of the people and tries to investigate into the construction by a strong choice of piece of rural history.

Order the book (in the Italian site InternetBookShop).
Book reviews.
Works cited in the book.

Table of contents

Introduction
1. The peopling and the frontier until the Seventies
2. The land that we leacked
3. Country and town
4. The reasons for coming back to the country
5. The birth of the Movimento Sem Terra in the Paraná and the choice for land
6. The growth of the organization
7. The establishment of the Santa Maria settlement
8. The settlements as a micro-society
9. Organizing the life and production space
10. Organizing the work and the settlement kind
Conclusion
Bibliography
Index of tables, schemes and maps
Abstract