de position -
Peasants fight against national states to defend their interests as small bosses
Proletarians in all countries must enter the struggle against the bosses and the bourgeois states!
After fifteen days of protest actions, which were marked by road blockades, several demonstrations, the threat of a blockade of Paris, an attempt to occupy the wholesale market in Rungis, etc., the movement of the French farmers was brought to an end at the call of the main trade unions: FNSEA – Fédération des Exploitants Agricoles – representing the most influential agrarian lobby (its president Arnaud Rousseau, a large landowner, heads the large French agro-industrial group “Avril” with about fifteen enterprises) and the union Coordination rurale (CR), close to the far right. The government has largely acceded to the demands of these unions, in particular the preservation of the tax relief on diesel for agricultural purposes, the halting of the plan to reduce the use of pesticides that cause human poisoning, the removal of ecological and bureaucratic restrictions, the rapid payment of financial compensation after recent disasters and European subsidies, the regulation of prices paid by the large retail chains to producers to guarantee them fixed market prices (the “Egalim” law), etc. A third union, the Confédération Paysanne (“Conf’” for short), opposed to the FNSEA’s “agribusiness” and close to “alterglobalisation activists”, has tried in vain to keep the movement going.
Apart from France, these farmers’ protests have already hit and continue to hit a number of European countries: the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Greece, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovakia. In all of these countries, there are sometimes specifics, but everywhere we find topics linked to rising fuel and fertiliser prices due to inflation, obligations to reduce (a little) environmental damage, while increasing competition puts pressure on selling prices, reducing the profitability of farms to the point where it sometimes threatens their very existence.
In particular, since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the European Union has exempted Ukrainian agricultural products from customs duties because agricultural exports are the main source of foreign currency for Kyiv: Ukraine must have enough money to pay for weapons from Western countries and to repay the “generously” granted loans! Yet, Ukraine, where agricultural production for export is run by giant companies with very low production costs – with most farmers surviving on small plots of land – is a giant in agricultural production, and the boom in its agricultural exports to Europe (+176% in volume between 2021 and 2023) has destabilised some sectors (especially poultry, honey and sugar production). However, farmers also complain about competition from countries outside Europe, which explains their opposition to free trade pacts, and even from other European countries!
In fact, in times of economic difficulty, competition increases and the crisis leads to the collapse of weaker enterprises: this is a law of capitalism from which agricultural enterprises cannot escape. European agriculture has become one of the world's biggest and the leading exporter thanks to the subsidies it receives under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or directly from the states concerned. These subsidies have boosted the capitalist development of agriculture by encouraging the concentration of landholdings and the mechanisation of farms. As a result, on average, 29% of agricultural income in the EU today comes from subsidies; however, this figure is as high as 45% in Germany, 80% in France and up to 93% in Finland (outside the EU: 70% in Switzerland and 82% in Norway). In France, this figure can be as high as 100% in some sectors, such as cattle farming! These massive subsidies, which usually keep the least profitable farms afloat (while ensuring fat profits for the biggest ones), are no longer enough in the event of an economic or climatic crisis such as the impact of the drought in Spain. The media report extensively on the difficulties of farmers to making an adequate income, on their meagre pensions, etc. (in France, a quarter of farmers live below the poverty line, in Romania millions of farmers live impoverished on land too small to receive CAP subsidies), but never mention the situation of agricultural workers, who are often subjected to brutal exploitative conditions, especially seasonal migrant workers.
Like the proletarians, peasants are also affected by the economic crisis and are victims of the turbulences of capitalism; however, as “farm operators”, they do not oppose capitalism; they can only defend their boss interests (reduction of “social levies”, etc.), demand state subsidies, border closures and price increases for their products – all of which are anti-proletarian demands. At best, some of them defend the prospect of a “different”, “non-productivist”, organic and healthy agriculture – a prospect as foolish as the idea of a society "with a human face" under capitalism, i.e. until it is destroyed!
More than a hundred years ago Lenin wrote: “The peasant has to work harder than the wage-worker. (…) Capitalism condemns the peasant to extreme degradation and ruin. There is no other salvation for him than through joining the class struggle of the wage-workers. But before the peasant can arrive at this conclusion he will have to experience many years of being disillusioned by deceptive bourgeois slogans” (1).
And the peasant will only be able to understand this if the proletarians really enter the struggle in defence of their class interests against capitalism and against all bourgeois states, without being led astray by the henchmen of the inter-class and nationalist unions, for the establishment of a society without classes and markets, without borders and states: that is, communism!
(1) Cf. Lenin V. I., Child labour in peasant farming, in Lenin Collected Works, vol. 19, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977, p. 212.
February, 9th 2024
Il comunista - le prolétaire - el proletario - proletarian - programme communiste - el programa comunista - Communist Program