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Unmasking Rogue Capitalism:

For Territories and Peoples’ Self-Determination

Rural and urban populations around the world are experiencing a dramatic increase in the dispossession and destruction of their lands, rivers, oceans, pastures, forests and homes. They face the loss of access to and effective control over their territories, the very basis of their livelihoods and the social fabric of their communities. Following an analysis carried out by organisations from around the world that are part of the Land, Water, Forests and Territory Working Group of the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC-Territory WG), we concluded that the cause of this dramatic increase has been “rogue capitalism”. At the same time, we wanted to expose its consequences for communities and to bring to the fore the peoples’ struggles for alternative economic and social models, based on agroecology and self-determination. This is why we created the communication project and campaign: “Unmasking Rogue Capitalism”.

Fisher women looking at the ocean where they grab mussels, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Fisher women looking at the ocean in nature reserve in Eastern Cape, South Africa, where they are limited to collect mussels. © Berta Vicente / RUIDO Photo.

What is rogue capitalism?

By “rogue capitalism” we mean a different way of organising the capitalist extraction of wealth from territories and other natural commons such as land, fisheries, forests, water and so on. Financial actors – such as asset management companies, insurance companies and investment funds – increasingly generate their profits in the “virtual” sphere of the financial system, rather than in the “real” or productive economy such as the industrial, agricultural or service sectors. To make this possible, they have transformed natural resources from common goods into financial assets for investment and speculation. Communities and individuals pay the price for this transformation, as they are exposed to dispossession, violence and the destruction of their territories and natural environments.

However, this type of capitalism has many faces and the actors are hidden in non-transparent networks, which is why we call it clandestine. Communities often directly confront local entrepreneurs, interested elites and extractive companies (agribusiness, mining, construction, etc.). Communities often directly confront local entrepreneurs, self-interested elites and extractive companies (agribusiness, mining, construction, etc.), but behind these actors lurk powerful corporate entities that manage spectacular amounts of money and pursue particular profit-making interests. Asset management companies, pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial actors purposely hide in opaque investment webs such as finance companies and evade public scrutiny through offshore financial centres and tax havens.

Rogue capitalism is made possible by national and international policies that have deregulated finance, created new financial markets and perpetuated corporate impunity. These measures have allowed the commodification of the natural commons and the creation of financial instruments (futures, derivatives, etc.) that allow speculation on them. Instead of leading to a change of course towards a fairer global system, the major financial crises of the last decades have led to a further expansion of financial markets. As a result, today, a small number of extremely wealthy companies and individuals control a large part of the world’s resources and wield enormous power over people’s lives. Land is a case in point: the concentration of ownership and control over land in a few hands has increased steadily in recent decades.

By “rogue capitalism” we mean a different way of organising the capitalist extraction of wealth from territories and other natural commons such as land, fisheries, forests, and water, among others.

People in different parts of the world organising to confront rogue capitalism.

Collective stories to confront rogue capitalism

The stories in this series illustrate how people and communities around the world are exposed to rogue capitalism and its consequences. Rogue capitalism dispossesses them of their lands, forests and fishing grounds, devastates their national environments, uproots their communities and destroys their ways of life. Communities face exploitation, experience increasing conflict and are often forced to migrate with no prospect of a dignified life. Women and youth are particularly affected by this violent dispossession that destroys the social fabric of communities.

However, the campaign also shows the stories of communities defending their territories as sources of autonomy and dignified ways of life. The different stories of struggle tell how communities build food sovereignty for themselves and the wider population, challenging existing power structures and patterns of discrimination and injustice. Through their forms of knowledge, innovations and practices, they pave the way for new social and economic models based on self-determination, equity and the co-evolution of human societies with their natural environments.

The stories are told from the perspective of people and communities affected by rogue capitalism. Through a participatory process, it was the communities who decided what story to tell and how, in collaboration with professional photographers and journalists. Many of the photographs were taken by the affected people themselves in the territories – especially young people and women – and by members of the organisations that accompany them in their daily struggle. Thus, these stories bear witness to the beauty and resilience of the communities and their courageous struggle against injustice, against violence, and against the destruction of rogue capitalism. Against all this, communities around the world are sowing life and hope.

In doing so, they are making a strong case for systemic and structural change. They call on international institutions and national and local governments to move away from policies that promote the plunder of Mother Earth and corporate impunity, in favour of public policies that ensure community control over land, fisheries and forests, that regulate corporate and financial actors and hold them accountable for human rights violations. To this end, the fair and equitable distribution of land must be at the heart of a transition towards models that benefit people and nature, rather than corporations and finance capital.

The stories are told from the perspective of the people and communities affected by rogue capitalism and explain the impacts but also the different forms of struggle.

Ana hugs her friend before being evicted from her home. © Bruna Casas / RUIDOI Photo.