Fair Trade: From Solidarity to the Standardization of Neocolonial Relations

Author: 
Ian Hussey and Joe Curnow
Publication Date: 
2016
Summary: 
In the early 1980s, as the Reagan administration aggressively funded an imperialist war in Nicaragua, the Sandinistas reached out internationally for demonstrations of solidarity. Coffee and cotton brigades became an important strategy for supporting the Sandinista movement. The brigadistas travelled from the US, Canada, the UK, and elsewhere to Nicaragua to pick the ripe coffee cherries and cotton from peasant farms and collectives.
Abstract: 
In the early 1980s, as the Reagan administration aggressively funded an imperialist war in Nicaragua, the Sandinistas reached out internationally for demonstrations of solidarity. Coffee and cotton brigades became an important strategy for supporting the Sandinista movement. The brigadistas travelled from the US, Canada, the UK, and elsewhere to Nicaragua to pick the ripe coffee cherries and cotton from peasant farms and collectives. These international solidarity brigades provided labour, alongside many larger brigades of Nicaraguan teachers and others from cities that went to the countryside to help harvest. The international solidarity brigades acted as source of publicity for the conflict, as well as a source of foreign exchange, and some international market access for Nicaraguan crops. The presence of the international brigadistas in peasant communities also ensured a modicum of safety for the Nicaraguans engaged in the harvest, since people believed the Contras would not be willing to jeopardize the lives of Americans and others from the Global North for fear of diplomatic backlash. This was part of a broader solidarity strategy of bearing witness and leveraging privilege