Friday, January 18, 2008


"Near what remains of the first sugar factory in Brazil, built in 1877 with a sign in Latin over the entrance that translates as “Sweet is the Reward of Work,” Danuza Gomes da Silva swings a glinting knife as she makes her way down the length of a field cutting cane. She bends to slice the sticks of young cane dropped by other workers from the top of a truck. Again and again she straightens. A band of 12 labourers like her plants about 10 acres a day. Sugar cane buds easily from the ploughed furrows, and it grows fast. But the work associated with it is hard. Danuza, round-faced and soft-eyed, makes between $8 and $13 a day depending on her productivity. At 35, she has four young children. Only 20 percent of the 7.5 million acres planted with sugar cane in Brazil is mechanized. The rest depends on manual labour like hers. ....Machines that plant and harvest are slowly spreading across the expanse of Brazilian cane fields. But Danuza’s harsh existence is a reminder that behind the global buzz over Brazil’s cane-based ethanol production — the 21st century’s environment-friendly bio fuel par excellence — lurk enduring social problems. Ethanol, renewable and relatively clean, is lovely. The life of the migrant Brazilian rural worker, finite and hot, is not." (New York Times, 10 January)
Every advance that capitalism makes it does so out of the exploitation of workers like Danuza. RD

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