Dados vol. 26 n. 1 Rio de Janeiro 1983

Luta Política e Luta pela Terra no Nordeste

Sigaud, Lygia


It is the objective of this paper to study the expansion of family based subsistence agriculture within the State of Pernambuco's Zona da Mata's sugar mills as a result of the rural workers' struggles since 1979 developed by means of union mobilization and strikes. The partial transformation of wage workers back into peasants, by means of a successful union demand for access to land for food production, is indicative of a reversal at the regional level of a trend which begin in the 1950's towards the expansion of sugar-cane plantations and the transformation of rural tenants into wage earners. Theoretically, the phenomenon casts doubts on prevailing notions concerning the alleged prevalence of demands for wage hikes or labor rights in the rural wage earners' movements or their incapacity to mount effective collective action. Using interviews and data from participant observation, the author first analyzes the meaning of the demand for land in the recent history of social relations in the area. The political process through which access to land was secured as well as the mechanisms used for the occupation and cultivation of foodstuff by means of family labor are considered next. It is argued that the struggle for land is intimately connected with the rural workers' struggle for better living and working conditions in the sugar mills, emphasizing at the same time the political importance of the rural workers unions. Finally, the social effects of access to land in terms of improving the rural workers' life circumstances and some recent changes in prevailing social relations within the sugar-cane plantation system, mainly the increasing autonomy of labor and the decreasing political power of owners, are indicated.

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Luta Política e Luta pela Terra no Nordeste