The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

France:
Vegetable Farmers Wage a Legitimate Fight

Sep 29, 2014

This article appeared in the September 26th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On the night of September 19th, angry vegetables growers stormed the tax office and the farmers’ mutual insurance offices in Morlaix (Finistère, in Brittany) and set them on fire. Prime Minister Manuel Valls was indignant and pledged that those responsible would be prosecuted. He cut off state support to their farming businesses and argued that dialogue is the only solution.

Farmers are complaining that their production costs, their social security contributions and their taxes have been rising continuously, while sales prices have stagnated or decreased.

This situation is worsened by a good harvest year, so abundant that it lowers prices; plus the embargo on selling to Russia. So for farmers there is not enough left to live decently.

These farmers are caught between large chemical and farm equipment corporations on the one hand, and big retail and export/import companies on the other. Their untenable position explains why they are attacking the state, which is responsible for them not being able to secure decent incomes on the national and global market, at the same time they are claiming the state should help them.

Vegetable growers are right to defend themselves because the current government, like those that preceded it, is devoted to big capital and makes light of their desperate situation.

The discontent of farmers periodically flares in a sometimes violent form. A few months ago, it happened in the so-called Breton “Red Hats” revolt against the environmental tax. The focus is sometimes taxes, or the low price of raw milk, or the prices of fruits and vegetables. But the fundamental reason for these outbreaks is that an economy based on competition and profit crushes small producers.

Like all struggles, the current fight of vegetable producers in Finistère gathers various people and interests behind a common goal. As always, the biggest producers take advantage of the anger of smaller producers to promote their own material, and sometimes political interests. But the struggle of the peasant producers – caught between the big wholesale distributors, the banks and market forces – is legitimate. From this point of view this fight is not opposed to the demands of the workers, but on the contrary, is consistent with their demands.