Solidarity with Farmers’ Anger: It’s Capitalism That’s Starving Us All!

French farmers' demonstration in January. Image source: Kakoula10 / Wikimedia Commons

NOTE: Farmers across Europe have this week protested against their unbearable economic conditions, from France where the biggest protests have seen farmers use their tractors to block roads around Paris, to Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Poland, and Romania. Here is the January 29, 2024 editorial of the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France, translated from French.

Despite French Prime Minister Attal’s announcements, farmers are planning to blockade the roads to Paris in protest this week, under the leadership of farmers’ unions who are calling for both “calm” and “determination.” The National Union of Farmers (FNSEA), the Young Farmers and another farmers’ organization, the Rural Coordination, are used to carefully limiting the spectacular actions of their members. This time, they are clearly afraid of being overwhelmed because so many farmers are so angry.

The government is also feverishly working to limit the farmers’ protest. While Attal promises a raft of additional announcements (the carrot), Interior Minister Darmanin is already changing tone (the stick). From “We can’t respond to suffering by sending in the CRS (The French riot police).”  Never mind all of those who have been beaten up by the CRS and who don’t suffer enough in the eyes of the minister! Now he’s promising a “major defensive mechanism” against any blockade of Paris and a mass of armored vehicles in front of Rungis (Europe’s biggest wholesale market, which supplies the entire Paris region)!

On one side of the economy, the small farmers say they can’t make a living from their work, and on the other, the wages for workers don’t allow us to buy enough to eat!

Farmers’ enemies are at the head of the protest movement, targeting nothing but scarecrows!

In between the farmers and the workers are the big capitalists whose profits depend on the low prices at which they buy raw materials, the exploitation of workers in agri-food factories and supermarkets, and the overpriced goods they make us pay for.

Some dairy farmers have targeted Lactalis, the world’s number one dairy products company (Lactel or Président brands…) who earned almost 400 million euros in profits in 2022. Alongside Lactalis, there are all the cooperatives (Paysan Breton, Francine, Florette and Yoplait) owned on paper by farmers, but which in reality impose the law of the market on them. At the head of these so-called cooperatives are the biggest rats in the fields, often FNSEA executives, whose leader, Arnaud Rousseau, heads up the Avril group (Lesieur, Puget edible oils), which generated over 200 million euros in profits in 2022.

It’s hardly surprising that the supposed leaders of the “agricultural world” prefer to yell “down with Spanish fruit, Polish chickens and Ukrainian wheat”! The whole political spectrum, from the left to the far right, is in unison, blaming foreign products for undermining farmers’ livelihoods… but without ever mentioning that French agriculture is one of the world’s leaders, flooding the markets of the poorest countries with milk and cereals, particularly those of the former colonial empire!

In cities and the countryside, capitalism is the problem

Farmers are experiencing the violence of a capitalist society that promises them independence on the farm, but enslaves them to the law of money. They are protesting and it is embarrassing the government. What if this is an opportunity for us all to join in the dance, with our demands and our means of struggle? National strikes are scheduled for January 30 at French Electricity Company (EDF) for wage increases and for February 1 by teachers and education workers against the attacks concocted by Attal during his short stint as Minister of Education. Also, railway workers will strike for more resources on February 6 in national railway (SNCF) technical centers and Paris region transport authority (RATP) maintenance workshops.

In many companies, annual negotiations are being disrupted by strikes. Determined struggles are the only way to impose the pay raises we need, so that we can finally live and no longer just survive, a slogan we read on many protest signs.

Farmers are not only showing that blocking the country is possible, but that it’s the only way to get the government to back down. They have their tractors for that, but for wage earners, all we’d have to do is stop working for the country to come to a complete standstill.

To raise the balance of power to a level that would cause them to waver, we can’t stick to the “each one in his corner” approach of the union leaderships. We’re all going to have to get involved, as part of a movement involving everyone!