Indian farmers strike

August 2021 Forums General discussion Indian farmers strike

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 76 total)
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  • #212845
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    Without looking it up, generally, I’ve heard that there are environmental and social benefits to urbanisation, as well as opening up agriculture to mechanisation.

    I’d add that state support for private ownership of land is generally reactionary, so the minimum price demand is a demand to subsidise agriculture and hold prices up.

    #212879
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    You are right, centralisation of resources and services is probably the prime benefit of urbanisation. Anyone who has lived even in the coutryside of the UK knows how utilities and facilities are scarce and sparse.

    But our aim is not urbanisation but as advanced in the Communist Manifesto, the ending of the separation between town and country. How it is done is a matter of discussion.

    India’s governments has always been interventionist, buying up harvests at guaranteed prices and stockpiling the rice.

    When so many people are dependent on farming as in India, controlling prices is much more about social control.

    Those who would integrate India’s agriculture more fully into the global marketplace seem to be missing the irony of the current situation, in which rural India’s increasing exposure to the global market helped make government subsidies necessary in the first place. Where once diverse food crops once covered the Indian landscape, there are now vast monocultures of cotton, wheat, rice, maize and other crops to be sold for cash – and often not enough cash to pay the debt amassed to grow them. The subsidies which were originally aimed at cities as a subsidy to manufacturers (to keep the workforce fed on cheap food and allow wages to stay low), is now a lifeline for landless rural farm-labourers in the faltering farm economy.

    But when placed in perspective it is the developed world’s use of subsidies that creates a sustainability problem such as federal help to farmers in America where the climate isn’t suitable for particular crops. Again a political issue based on the lobbying power of agricultural interests.

    The blog discusses food storage as a form of food wastage which will be unnecessary with socialism here
    https://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2020/11/what-food-problem.html

    When so many in the developing and undeveloped countries are small-holders, family farms and subsistence growers with surpluses sold locally, can we really say that leaving prices to fluctuate widely and wildly with the demands of the market is reactionary?

    The rise of food importation may be rational inside socialism…regions well suited to specific crops devoting to the growing of them in economies of scale that require the mechanisation you mention. But we live under capitalism. Countries have first to acquire the foreign exchange to buy produce at centralised exchanges in Chicago and elsewhere, where foodstuffs become commodities speculated on the futures market for profit and returns.

    Africa has been transformed from a food exporter to a food importer where the main victims are the city dwellers solely fully dependent upon wage-slavery to buy food. It is a flawed model.

    #212901
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    Possibly, pace Mao, when the city surrounds the countryside the difference between the two will be abolished.

    It comes back to Engels’ question:
    “[the peasant] ought to lend a ready ear in socialist propaganda. But he is prevented from doing so for the time being by his deep-rooted sense of property. The more difficult it is for him to defend his endangered patch of land, the more desperately he clings to it, the more he regards the Social-Democrats, who speak of transferring landed property to the whole of society, as just as dangerous a foe as the usurer and lawyer. How is Social-Democracy to overcome this prejudice? What can is offer to the doomed small peasant without becoming untrue to itself?” (here

    And further:
    ” Our task relative to the small peasant consists, in the first place, in effecting a transition of his private enterprise and private possession to cooperative ones, not forcibly but by dint of example and the proffer of social assistance for this purpose. And then, of course, we shall have ample means of showing to the small peasant prospective advantages that must be obvious to him even today.”(here)

    I don’t think Engels ever foresaw the possibility that the capitalist class would pay tribute to the land owners small and large to keep them in business and owning their land.

    (As a side note, here is Engels on the compensation of expropriated capitalists: “Marx told me (and how many times!) that, in his opinion, we would get off cheapest if we could buy out the whole lot of them.”)

    #212903
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    Possibly, pace Mao, when the city surrounds the countryside the difference between the two will be abolished.

    It comes back to Engels’ question:
    “[the peasant] ought to lend a ready ear in socialist propaganda. But he is prevented from doing so for the time being by his deep-rooted sense of property. The more difficult it is for him to defend his endangered patch of land, the more desperately he clings to it, the more he regards the Social-Democrats, who speak of transferring landed property to the whole of society, as just as dangerous a foe as the usurer and lawyer. How is Social-Democracy to overcome this prejudice? What can is offer to the doomed small peasant without becoming untrue to itself?” (here

    And further:
    ” Our task relative to the small peasant consists, in the first place, in effecting a transition of his private enterprise and private possession to cooperative ones, not forcibly but by dint of example and the proffer of social assistance for this purpose. And then, of course, we shall have ample means of showing to the small peasant prospective advantages that must be obvious to him even today.”(here)

    I don’t think Engels ever foresaw the possibility that the capitalist class would pay tribute to the land owners small and large to keep them in business and owning their land.

    (As a side note, here is Engels on the compensation of expropriated capitalists: “Marx told me (and how many times!) that, in his opinion, we would get off cheapest if we could buy out the whole lot of them.”)

    #212904
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    A useful read on India’s Public Distribution System

    The Farm Laws will be back-breaking for the agricultural labourers too

    #213093
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-republicday-farmers/indian-police-fire-tear-gas-as-protesting-farmers-enter-delhis-red-fort-idUSKBN29U2M6

    I posted some quotes from Engels I thought were relevant, but the post seems to have gone missing:

    It comes back to Engels’ question:
    “[the peasant] ought to lend a ready ear in socialist propaganda. But he is prevented from doing so for the time being by his deep-rooted sense of property. The more difficult it is for him to defend his endangered patch of land, the more desperately he clings to it, the more he regards the Social-Democrats, who speak of transferring landed property to the whole of society, as just as dangerous a foe as the usurer and lawyer. How is Social-Democracy to overcome this prejudice? What can is offer to the doomed small peasant without becoming untrue to itself?” (here

    And further:
    ” Our task relative to the small peasant consists, in the first place, in effecting a transition of his private enterprise and private possession to cooperative ones, not forcibly but by dint of example and the proffer of social assistance for this purpose. And then, of course, we shall have ample means of showing to the small peasant prospective advantages that must be obvious to him even today.”(here)

    I don’t think Engels ever foresaw the possibility that the capitalist class would pay tribute to the land owners small and large to keep them in business and owning their land.

    (As a side note, here is Engels on the compensation of expropriated capitalists: “Marx told me (and how many times!) that, in his opinion, we would get off cheapest if we could buy out the whole lot of them.”)

    #213097
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    Is the 19thC definition of peasant the same as for today where the Indian small farmers are resisting their full integration into the world economy of food commodities?

    As much as 67 percent of India’s farmland is held by the marginal farmers with holdings below one hectare, against less than 1 percent in large holdings of 10 hectares and above, the latest Agriculture Census shows. The average size of the holding has been estimated as 1.15 hectare.

    Some would say this is India’s Enclosures and the increased financialisation of farming where corporations have the advantage is a disguised land-grab.

    Or is it their version of the repeal of the Corn Laws? If so, will it lead to lower prices for food? The argument has not been made that it will. In fact the danger is increased costs of living.

    #213099
    Matthew Culbert
    Keymaster

    I posted some quotes from Engels I thought were relevant, but the post seems to have gone missing:

    Ended in spam folder.

    #213101
    ALB
    Keymaster

    The article by Engels which YMS cites is largely a criticism of the agrarian programme adopted by the Frenh Workers Party in 1894. He took particular objection to one passage which stated that it was

    “expedient to extend this protection also to the producers who, as tenants or sharecroppers (Metayers), cultivate the land owned by others and who, if they exploit day laborers, are to a certain extent compelled to do so because of the exploitation to which they themselves are subjected.”

    To whih Engels retorted:

    “Here, we are entering upon ground that is passing strange. Socialism is particularly opposed to the exploitation of wage labor. And here it is declared to be the imperative duty of socialism to protect the French tenants when they “exploit day laborers”, as the text literally states! And that because they are compelled to do so to a certain by “the exploitation to which they themselves are subjected”!”

    So, for him, support for farmers who exploit wage-labour was non-socialist even if they were themselves exploited.

    Do we know if the striking Indian farmers are employers (= exploiters) of wage-labour? According to this from 2019, there are 144.3 million (In think thst’s right if a crore = 10 million) agricultural labourers in India:

    “However, while announcing direct income support of ₹6,000 annually to farmers in the interim Budget, the Centre left agriculture labourers high and dry though rural casual labourers constitute the single largest segment of the country’s workforce. Most agricultural workers are asset-less or asset-poor. There are 14.43 crore agricultural labourers, who constitute 55 per cent of the people involved in agriculture in India.”

    Are they inolved in the protests and demontrations or is it just the farmers? What are the unions representing agricultural wage workers saying about the bandh?

    Anybody know?

    #213108
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Just realised that that article from Countercurrents Alan posted a couple of days ago partially answers this question. The author is the general secretary of a union representing agricultural workers. He laments the fact that so few agricultural workers are involved in the campaign:

    “However, only the more conscious sections of agricultural labourers have yet participated in this on-going struggle. The vast section of agricultural labourers is not yet aware about the harmful effects of these laws upon their lives. Even the unorganized section of this class, who are the majority, perceive this agitation as an issue of the land-owners only and remain distant from this struggle. The weak organizational situation of agricultural labourers and the pain of casteism are among the several factors behind this.” (my emphasis)

    According to wikipeia, the Khet Mazdoor Union is run by the “Communist” Party. As this party is even more opportunist and reformist than the French Workers Party Engels criticised in 1894 it is not surprising that it would want to involve agricultural workers in a struggle by their employers. His argument seems to be that the workers should support their employers as the government is planning to deprive them of a previously guaranteed market.

    #213110
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    Small family farmers may well use landless casual seasonal workers at sowing and harvest times. But i doubt they are farm labourers in the sense of wage workers. And they are most likely non-unionised.

    Nor can we ignore the caste system which is reflected in ownership of land with dalits being without. Nor the imbalance in gender, too.

    To What Extent is the Farmer’s Protest Representative of the Demands of Landless Farmers?

    There deep strutural problems with Indian farming – productivity with other comparable countries shows how bad it is. But the problems are very much infrastructure…transport, storage, wastage but perhaps the most crippling is never-ending debt.

    This is a useful over-view of capitalism operating within Indian farming by some group called the Progressive Organization of People

    Make Victorious the Historic Farmers’ Struggle!

    It is a complicated issue with ramifications. I’m not sure how informed our Indian companion party may be as it’s presence is in Kolkata and i’m not sure what rural contacts it has.

    #213112
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    https://www.livemint.com/Politics/k90ox8AsPMdyPDuykv1eWL/Small-and-marginal-farmers-own-just-473-of-crop-area-show.html

    “Small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land account for 86.2% of all farmers in India, but own just 47.3% of the crop area, according to provisional numbers from the 10th agriculture census 2015-16 released on Monday.”

    “Further, these 126 million farmers together owned about 74.4 million hectares of land —or an average holding of just 0.6 hectares each—not enough to produce surpluses which can financially sustain their families, explaining the rising distress in Indian agriculture.” (a hectare is roughly a football pitch, just a little bit bigger).

    Found via.:

    #213113
    ALB
    Keymaster

    This article cited in the first of the links Alan has just given has convinced me that socialists cannot even sympathise with let alone support the Indian farmers’ protests. It’s a protest of small property-owners against being sold out to big capitalist corporations, not a workers’ movement. These land-owning farmers don’t hesitate to use the vilest of methods when their labourers ask for more pay:

    https://m.thewire.in/article/agriculture/farmers-protest-caste-rural-punjab-landowners-labourers

    #213127
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    I think if we are looking for an analogy, the Dustbowl years of USA may well be appropriate when banks took advantage of the difficulties of farmers and re-possessed the land, driving a migration. Nowadays it is the Big Ag corporations that control and determine food production in the USA. Farmers are now sub-contractors. Should we have said to Steinbeck, stuff your suffering Okies. All they seek to be is aspiring property-owners?

    The Indian political system is based on caste plus communalism (a positive sounding word but entirely negative).

    The Delhi blockade is mainly Punjabi Sikh dominated but the anti law movement is nation-wide, multi-cultural and involved the trade unions acting in solidarity. As with most anti-government protests, grievances spread and become incorporated in a general strike.

    When did small family farmers, many subsistence, become class-enemies? Land owners? Yes (but more than likely re-mortgaged to money-lenders). Capitalists? I don’t believe so. Operating under the rules of capital? Don’t we all.

    An article from the same journal ALB cites
    https://thewire.in/rights/farm-laws-legal-rights-constitution

    The Corn Laws were repealed because the factory owners wanted low food prices for their workers so to lower the wages? These laws will raise the cost of food for urban workers, with rural workers paying the price.

    Once again, workers are combatting the consequences and effects of the operation of the economic laws of capitalism. Once again, they place their illusory hopes in the regulatory power of the State.

    We can sympathise with the farmers struggle as we do with the trade union struggle or the struggle to protect the environment. When the potential of such struggles transcend sectional interests then we cannot with-hold our solidarity but instead we should reach out with the socialist analysis and answer to the problem.

    The present law has not prevented poverty and land-grabs but the proposed new laws will exacerbate the problem, in the interests of the capitalist class. It is ultimately a futile fight but if they don’t resist, they may as well roll over and be walked all over.

    Small farming such as in Asia is dependent for success on co-operation, helping eachother out on shared schemes such as irrigation. Dog-eat-dog rivalry over a bone between them would be suicidal for survival. They develop their own local mutual aid decision-making, the Russian mir exists in the form of India’s panchayat.

    They are not kulaks. But perhaps the Naxalites are the Narodniks.

    #213132
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    A report on the Kisan Sansad – (Farmers’ Parliament)

    Kisan Sansad Makes Important Contribution to Better Understanding of Farmers’ Movement

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