The Confédération Paysanne as 'peasant' Movement: Re-appropriating 'peasantness' for the Advancement of Organisational Interests

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King's College London (University of London), 2011 - Labor unions - 430 pages
As a founding member of the Via Campesina (1993) and active participant in the Global Justice Movement (the altermondialiste movement in France), the Confederation paysanne (CP) - which literally stands for 'peasant confederation' - has been presented in academic and activist circles as a key player in the struggle against neoliberal globalisation, and as a contributor to the emergence of new transnational activist networks and a 'global civil society'. As a trade union representing the interests of 'peasants', the CP has been praised as an innovative form of professional organisation whose originality lies in its ability to defend farmers' interests while at the same time responding to a broader set of challenges for the planet and those who populate it (environmental degradation, cultural homogeneity, social injustice). As a result, the CP - and in particular its emblematic leader Jose Bove - was rapidly propelled to the forefront of a new progressive avant-garde whose discourse on the cultural and economic threats of neoliberalism found a positive echo in farming and non-farming circles alike. -- Yet, as I shall argue throughout the following pages, the CP's success was not only related to its successful response to the new challenges for the 'peasantry' and society but also to its re-appropriation of popular and essentialist representations of 'peasantness' as a timeless and intrinsically egalitarian condition. From the moment that we recognise this, our understanding of the union's evolving popularity changes. Many observers and activists, for example, explained the CP's disappointing result in the 2007 professional elections by arguing that the CP was ahead of its time.

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