/Conflicts over land and financial markets – the Honduras example* – Daniel Stosiek

Conflicts over land and financial markets – the Honduras example* – Daniel Stosiek


The conflicts over land and natural resources in Honduras have increased, particularly since the 2009 coup d’état. Since then, current governments have allowed both national and international companies that present themselves as environmentally sustainable to exploit nature more and more. This includes projects like hydroelectric power plants, solar power plants, monocultures, mining, tourism. This may sound good news for Europeans, but such projects often destroy the water quality of the rivers where the fishs die. The already dry land dries out even more after trees are cut down in order to build solar panels, and biodiversity is lost. People living in indigenous and peasant communities, whose livelihoods are destroyed by such practices and who are often threatened by the police and criminalized by the justice system, are not consulted. During the previous years, numerous defenders of human rights, of nature and of the common good have been murdered.

My intention is to contribute to explaining these cases in a causal way within the framework of wider contexts. For this purpose, first I will focus on the relationship between displaced colonialism in the South and (neo)liberalism in the North, and then „the work of nature“ as a substantial source of surplus value.

Colonialism exported (to the South) and neo-liberalism (from the North)

Alongside the beginning of the colonization of vast parts of the planet more than 500 years ago, a global colonial relationship was initiated, race-based labor force was invented within a global regime of labor force as Aníbal Quichanó[1] tells us, and within the same context of production the notion of a total and dichotomous separation between the different genders of human beings was imposed, as between men and women as some authors point out about the „coloniality of gender“[2], as between human beings and nature[3].

Following the end of the colonisation, the internalized colonial relationship in societies and in the context between humans and nature in the Global South is maintained despite the beginning of political independent in the 19th and 20th centuries. To date, the exploitation of nature and the exclusion of people have increased; Europe has benefited from these processes since the second half of the 19th century with England’s economic liberalism when it became the dominant power in Latin American[4], and the Global north with the leadership of the United States benefiting from this since the 20th century. This development is intensified by the current neoliberalism which coming from the global North contributes to corrupt the countries of the global South. The policy of the North, especially the US policy, is to ensure that the societies of the Global South do not become truly independent, and certainly, not socialist. In addition, neoliberalism is increasingly displacing the colonial social relationship of the world into the sphere of a relationship of things. What is invisible behind the relationship of goods, services and money is that it is still a social (and then political) relationship, but one of exploitation and exclusion of people and a relationship of oppression between human beings and nature, this being the case, a social relationship can also be learned from indigenous peoples. And the act of forming relationships is already political.[5]

The financialisation of nature, natural capital and green grabbing (green appropriation)

Another wave of exploitation of the work of nature does not just randomly coincide with the explosion of the financial markets, but – I suppose – it is an important material basis, maybe the most important one, of its value generation, of its surplus value. Using the motto of a „Green Economy“ means that you are also supposed to pay for nature’s services[6]. However, at the basis of this idea there is a serious misconception, I suppose: it does not really pay for the work of nature, but pays – as the maximum – for its work force (= the potential for being able to provide services), which is dealt with as a commodity. The difference between the value of the commodity „nature’s labor force“ (what the capitalist or the State spends in order to restore its potential) and the value of the living labor which produces the surplus value, in relation to nature’s labor. People alienated by these processes become poorly paid or „superfluous“ workers (because it takes fewer and fewer people to let nature work).

The trading of emission credits is one example. A factory that maintains its carbon dioxide emissions below a state limit is allowed to sell the amount of the difference as an emission credit, in other words, it has the right to pollute the environment by a defined amount[7]. Or, a country or company would invest in measures to reduce emissions and receive emission credits (offsets), in other words, the right to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or methane. „REDD+“[8] are emission credits as a reward when a state or company that owns a forest prevents or reduces deforestation. There are more biodiversity credits (offsets) for forests, rivers, plants and animals, as well as calculations of nature’s capital, which are supposed to serve ecological diversity[9]. For example, a company that exploits an area of nature buys a compensation credit with which it builds a piece of nature, such as a forest, elsewhere. In Brazil (state of 2015)[10], forest destroyers could buy certificates for forest restoration on the „Bolsa Verde de Río de Janeiro (Green Stock Exchange of Rio de Janeiro)“. It is assumed that compensation for biodiversity offsets are a form of „Payments for Ecosystem Services“.[11] However, as I have argued, I think this notion is wrong. Under the motto of „legislation for the protection of nature“[13], States are binding the exploitation of nature’s labor – real or fictitious – to the proportional recovery of nature’s labor force (not to mention today’s Brazil where this is not even done). However, as I have argued, I think this notion is wrong. These are payments for the „restoration“ of nature’s workforce.

Having such an offset means being a private owner of a certain amount of nature’s workforce. The difference between its value and the product value of the work actually provided by nature (such as ecosystem services, power plant products, tourism projects, extraction of natural resources…) is the surplus value (this does not contradict the law of energy conservation, because on the one hand new solar energy is coming in, and on the other hand nature is being destroyed without change). The financialisation of nature through so-called green appropriation is interlinked with the exploitation of human labor. Overall committed capital (employed) is the disposition of the labor force of nature and people, and the total capital gain results from the difference between the labor incomes of the both minus the expenses of these two labor force entities. If this causal relation is correct, it means that the exploitation of nature’s labor increased enormously in the conditions of its formal and real subsumption under capital[13], and plays a very important role in the explosion of the financial markets.

hat is happening in Honduras is paradigmatic in terms of the world’s colonial relationship as it continues up to this point. An actual alternative would be a policy of love for human beings[14] and for nature (as learned with indigenous peoples), which within the meaning of an economy of reciprocity or complementarity does not pay for the labor of nature and people, but gives them everything they need to make a good living.

* First publication in PoliTeknik, 28th edition: http://politeknik.de/p12021/
[1] Aníbal Quijano: Coloniality of power, Eurocentrism and Latin America On the Internet: http://www.decolonialtranslation.com/espanol/quijano-colonialidad-del-poder.pdf
[2] María Lugones: Coloniality and Gender. Towards a decolonial
feminism [Kolonialität und Geschlecht. Auf dem Weg zu einem dekolonialen Feminismus], in: Walter Mignolo (et alii. Hrsg.): Gender and decoloniality, Buenos Aires 2014, S. 13-42.
[3] Daniel Stosiek: Die soziale Ausgrenzung der Natur, in: Thomas Hoffmann, Wolfgang Jantzen, Ursula Stinkes (Hg.): Empower- ment und Exklusion. Zur Kritik der Mechanismen gesellschaf- tlicher Ausgrenzung, Gießen (Psychosozial-Verlag) 2018, S. 199-215.
[4] Gustavo Beyhaut: Süd- und Mittelamerika II, Von der Una- bhängigkeit bis zur Krise der Gegenwart, Frankfurt/ Main (Fischer Verlag) 1963.
[5] David Graeber: Debt. The first 5,000 Years, New York (Melville House Publishing) 2011. this book can be downloaded from the internet: https://libcom.org/files/__ Debt__The_First_5_000_ Years.pdf
[6] Magdalena Heuwieser: Grüner Kolonialismus in Honduras. Land Grabbing im Namen des Klimaschutzes und die Verteidi- gung der Commons, Wien (Promedia Verlag) 2016, 73.
[7] Ibidem, 77ss.
[8] Ibidem, 83ss.
[9] Ibidem, 85f.
[10] Ibidem, 90.
[11] Ibidem, ebd.
[12] Ibidem, 91.
[13] Following Marx’s concepts in a modified way, the formal ´subsumption submits the results of the work (of the tropical forest, in the extraction of natural resources and fossil fuels), and the real subsumption submits the total process of life and work, as in monocultures, in „green“ fuel and in the intensive exploitation of animals. 14 José Saramago: O caderno, Lissabon (Editorial Caminho) 2009.