The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Farmers Defend Their Interests, Workers Must Do the Same!

Feb 12, 2024

What follows is an excerpted translation of the editorial that appeared on the front of all Lutte Ouvrière’s workplace newsletters, during the week of January 31st, 2024.

Blockades of main roads and freeways, sieges of prefectures, raids on supermarkets and perhaps a blockade of the capital. Farmers have been mobilizing on a massive scale for the past week. All this because despite their hard work, some of them are unable to earn a minimum wage. We share their anger!

Farmers have already forced Gabriel Attal, the Prime Minister, to make concessions, but they are far from satisfied. The anger is deep. The majority farmers association has taken the lead and is calling for further action.

In agriculture, as in other economic sectors, there are big and small operations. The big ones are true capitalists, like Arnaud Rousseau, boss of a major food company called Avril group, who is also president of the association. They help set market prices and behave like financiers. They can cope with crises, and even take advantage of them to crush the smaller players.

. . .

Small farmers, on the other hand, are workers on the land, crushed by middlemen: agribusiness, supermarkets, and banks, to whom they are often deep in debt. The biggest companies strangle them. For example, Lactalis buys a liter of milk from producers for 40 cents, a liter that consumers pay 1 or 1.20 euros for in supermarkets. It’s no wonder the Besnier family, shareholders in Lactalis, are among the richest in France, with a fortune of 40 billion euros. On top of this, farmers must contend with the vagaries of the weather, animal diseases and a thousand and one constraints.

Working from morning till night, unable to pay the bills and dependent on the biggest companies, they have one thing in common with all workers. Living without control over wages and working conditions is the lot of almost all salaried workers, blue-collar, white-collar, and technical. Seeing one’s purchasing power plummet, risking unemployment and homelessness, is the fate of millions of workers. Well, what the mobilized farmers won’t accept, we have no reason to accept for ourselves!

These small farmers are, like us, workers at the base of society. They feed the population, they say proudly and rightly. But without the workers who transport, process and package farm produce ... they’d be feeding nobody but themselves. And without the laborers, hospital workers, bricklayers or cleaners, society would come to a screeching halt.

Workers and small farmers are the source of all wealth. But it’s the capitalists, parasites and financiers who profit from this work. We don’t have to accept this!

We live in an unjust economy where billionaire capitalists crush all the working classes. So yes, the working class and small farmers, craftsmen and shopkeepers can join forces in the fight against big business and the banks!

The irony of the situation is that small farmers, victims of the survival of the fittest at the heart of capitalism, are its defenders, as they aspire to consolidate their ownership. Even if, for many of them, this means a lifetime of debt, and the threat of bankruptcy and expropriation. Even if their free enterprise turns them into quasi-salaried employees of the big agribusiness groups.

Like all the exploited, small farmers will not rest until capitalism is overthrown. But this fight is first and foremost the responsibility of the working class. Solidarity, compassion, and admiration for the farmers’ struggle are not enough. Their mobilization must be a source of fighting spirit for all of us workers. To be listened to and respected, we have no choice but to fight for our class interests and the prospect of a completely different, collective, and planned society.