Rationalisation In Agriculture
The March issue of the International Labour Review contains two very interesting and informative articles on Rationalisation in the U.S.A. and Canada, “The Economic Depression in North America ” and “More Mechanisation in Farming.”
In the United States, between the years 1919 and 1929, the output per head in manufacturing industries increased by 45 per cent. In agriculture the output increased by more than 25 per cent., and as a consequence during this time three million workers left the land to seek employment in the towns.
So much is American capitalism in the grip of rationalisation, that American capitalists estimate their costs and profits on the basis of providing a complete re-equipment of machinery every two or three years.
“Out of 200 large representative firms questioned on this point by the President’s Economic Survey, 43.6 per cent, required new equipment to replace its cost in two years, and 64.1 per cent, in three years ” (page 320).
To the uninitiated it might appear that there is very little room for further mechanisation in farming. This is not so.
There has been introduced into American and Canadian farming during the past two years machinery which has created a technical revolution. One machine, in particular, is worth special mention. It is known as the “combine,” and both cuts and threshes the grain in one operation, thus eliminating a whole series of manual occupations between the cutting and threshing of the corn that were formerly necessary. Operated by only two men, it can harvest as much as 40 acres a day. The results are a huge displacement of labour and the halving of the cost of production (page 336).
A large firm which formerly took on 30 men in the Spring and a further 120-150 during the harvest, now employs only 14 men throughout the year (page 305). It abolishes the need for additional harvest labour. “No extra harvest hands have been required during the last two years.” Bang goes the English unemployed worker’s chance of spending a holiday harvesting in Canada.
The “combine” was invented 10 years ago, but has only recently been introduced and applies as a result of competition. It can be applied to other crops besides corn, e.g., cotton.
A substantial part of the 1929 crop is still in the granaries, and the 1930 crop is still unsold.
As a warning to workers who might be considering emigration, a Canadian provincial government minister is quoted as follows: “We have now too many people because there is no work for them.” “And,” says the article, “that in a territory of great wealth with little more than two to the square mile” (page 306).
Wealth, over-abundance, misery and suffering side by side! When will the workers see this glaring anachronism; and the remedy, the dispossession of the owners of the means of living, and the establishment of Socialism?