[OPE-L:5820] Re: socialism and the small farmer

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Thu Jun 07 2001 - 09:28:16 EDT

Paul C wrote in [5801]:

> At an election meeting in Lanark yesterday, after speaking on
> the labour theory of value, exploitation of the worker and
> the economic advantages of socialism I was questioned by
> a small farmer, who claimed that they were the most exploited
> class in the country, and that they got on average about
> 1.85 pounds an hour for their labour. He wanted to know
> what was the socialist response to the problems faced by
> the small farmer today.
> I must admit it was not a question that I had anticipated 
> having to answer, and if he is right in his figures, then
> farmer's labour is only being valued at about 1/9 th of the
> social norm in the UK, (the MELT  is between 15 and 16 
> pounds per hour).
> What would participants response to this be?
> What do you think is the cause of this unequal exchange
> and what is the remedy for their condition.

To begin with,  a tactical suggestion:  answer with a question.
More specifically: you can reply by asking the small farmers
what _they_ believe is the cause for the inequality and what
_they_ think should be done.  This would then lead to a
dialogue rather than just a candidate answering questions. 
Additionally, it would help make some important political
points including that you support their right of self-
determination and you are not like the other politicians.
(I think the ability of radicals to *listen*, rather than just 'tell'
workers and farmers what should be done is very important
as a matter of organizing effectively). Thus, perhaps your response
could be: "That's a very important question. Let's have
another meeting where you can tell me more about what you
think the problems are and what should be done. And let's
invite all of the other small farmers in the district so that we
can hear from them as well".

However, the small farmers will want and expect some answers
from you.  A Marxist response might be to begin by explaining
this as a long term process (trend).  This would include an
explanation of the centralization and concentration of capital
and how this leads to a decrease in the size of the 'middle
class' and further proletarianization. You should also explain
not only the past under capitalism (e.g. the enclosure
movement) but also how a very large percentage of working-class
families are descended from families who were small family
farmers but who were eventually forced to leave the land
because of  landowners, agricultural capitalists, real estate
developers, banks, etc.  This makes a very important political
point:  workers' families and farmers' families have an intimate
historical connection to each other and the workers of today 
for the most part had ancestors who were in a similar position
to the small farmers of today.  Their future under capitalism
-- proletarianization or joining the IRA -- should be bluntly
explained. Moreover, you should also note the unemployment
situation and that if they lose their farms their outlook for
getting a waged job (especially for the older farmers) may
not be very good.   The blame should be placed squarely on 
agro-business, the large landowners (in the case of crofting),
and the banks and real estate companies.  In connection with
the latter,  it should be understood that they _want_ the small
farmers to go out of business so that they can build golf
courses, condominiums, etc.

In terms of concrete proposals about what to do, I generally
agree with Charlie [5813] and Paul B [5814]: there aren't
any proposals that can be advanced shy of socialism which
can really satisfy the needs of the farmers. And, as Paul B
pointed out, one has to be aware and ready for the
possible consequences of reforms in terms of capital and
large landowners fighting back. Nonetheless, let me at
least suggest some relatively uncontroversial (at least for
socialists) demands:

* Eliminate the crofting system (a remnant of feudalism) and
redistribute the land to the former crofters so that it is now
'their' land and they don't have to pay rent.

* Seize the lands that belong to the monarchy and redistribute
the land to the poor farmers and estate workers who live on
those estates. 

* Break-up (through new anti-trust legislation) the monopolies
in the supplier and buyer industries.  Encourage the farmers
to form their own cooperatives so that they are not gouged
(sp?) by these businesses. 

* Here's one that will make the banks happy!:  Cancel all
debts by small farmers to banks. 

* Pass legislation to the effect that government employees
can not be used to evict farmers. Then, outlaw private
(i.e. 'for sale') armies (like the Pinkertons in the U.S.).

Of course, as Paul B suggested, (this type of) reform is
not possible under capitalism. So, the answer must be, 
prepare for a fight and align yourself with the working 
class for we are 'all in the same boat together' in the
sense that they same groups that screw one also
screw the other: 'Unite and fight!'

In solidarity, Jerry

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