On June the 7th, comrade George Mavrikos, WFTU Secretary General, participated in WFTU – TUI Agroalimentary Conference in Paris, under the topic: “Quality of Agricultural and Food Products, a class trade union responsibility”.
During his speech, cde George Mavrikos, WFTU General Secretary underlined among other things:
– The firm solidarity of the WFTU with the working class in France on its struggles. He supported the red vests inside the workplaces.
– He denounced the authoritarianism of Macron Government and state violence, while characterising Macron as a “puppet of capitalists, a servant of the monopolies”.
– He argued that the quality of agricultural products can only be improved if capitalist exploitation is abolished and land becomes social property of those who work it, in order to stop the plundering of wealth-producing resources.
– He made a call for coordination and common action of workers along with the poor peasantry and highlighted the efforts made by PAME in Greece and by our affiliates in Mexico, India and elsewhere.
– He condemned the role of WTO, IMF, WHO which, through their stand and policies, favour the unaccountability of multinationals and leave them uncontrolled so that they can produce low-quality and unaffordable products.
– He criticised ETUC-ITUC leaderships, characterizing them as instruments of the European Commission and of International imperialist mechanisms.
Here-under follows keynote introduction of the event:
The issue of the quality of agricultural and food products fundamentally raises the question of access to food for 7.5 billion human beings today, and for 9 to 10 billion tomorrow. It cannot be separated from the realities of and changes to the globalisation of food systems. This globalisation, which we describe as capitalist, effects crucial areas such as the economy, workers’ issues, environmental and climate problems, culture, and of course politics, information, science and the law. Thus defined, the issues of product quality take on an entirely different magnitude, so that in order to understand its fundamental aspects, we must think about them, learn about them, understand them and combat them, and deal with them on the basis of our class analyses of trade unionism. The facts speak for themselves:
– Over a billion people worldwide suffer from hunger or malnutrition.
– Three quarters of these people are farmers or former farmers who, driven out by poverty, have been condemned to flee to slums in urban areas or sometimes to refugee camps.
– 2.8 billion people live on less than $2 a day.
– Although 43 % of the world’s working population is agricultural, this figure rises to between 60 and 70 % in the countries of the Global South, including informal work which is closely linked to rural and agricultural environments.
– This amounts to 2.5 to 3 billion people who live almost exclusively from agriculture.
– 4 % of land owners control half farmed land.
– In 83 poor countries, 3 % of landowners own or control four-fifths of the land.
These realities are the result of the capitalist system which has turned food into a weapon working against the independence of peoples, which has broken up subsistence crops and replaced
them with export crops, exploiting the people and natural resources and destroying biodiversity, patenting the living world by preventing farmers from using their seeds, thereby privatising the world’s genetic heritage, monopolising land, commodifying food and violating the fundamental right of peoples to feed themselves by subjugating agriculture to the laws of the capitalist market.
Addressing the issue of the quality of agricultural and food products requires asking fundamental questions about the place and role of agriculture in a country’s economy, the type of agricultural development, the access to land and water, food sovereignty, the organisation of farmers and unions, democracy, etc., in fact it requires rethinking our agricultural and food system in order to disentangle it from the capitalist logic of financial profitability for the benefit of a tiny minority.
Agriculture is still, by far, the sector that employs the most people. It is therefore an essential basis for the development of poor countries, which are home to half of humanity. The question we must ask ourselves is this: should this agricultural development follow the same path as that of the agricultural powers of the Global North, in particular the United States and Western Europe?
To gather all the data, we need to asses which global system it exists within. The dominant and essential fact, that which colours all the processes underway, remains that of the domination of a few transnational companies, of a world power that has never been equalled. While governments, global institutional bodies, and non-governmental organisations intervene, sometimes as though working independently, fundamentally the decisive actions are imposed by the giants of capitalism. When the World Bank produces a report on the future of agriculture, the aim is clearly stated: agriculture and food must be broadly opened up to the laws of the market. All the provisions of the WTO support this. The fact that the FAO abandons any reference to progressive agrarian reforms is intended to favour and support the increase in power of the major capitalist groups. When Bill Gates and his foundation focus all their work on one type of food, currently vegan products, for example, is to promote growth for the financial capital invested in these products.
The capitalist companies that dominate the global agri-food industry are imposing their pace of restructuring, their desire to increase their profits, their goals for modelling consumption and production and distribution channels.
DO THE NORTHERN AGRICULTURAL POWERS OFFER A MODEL PATH?
In the Global North, modern family farming integrated with capitalism
Modern family farming or the family farming business in developed capitalist countries such as the United States, the European Union or even Australia, is an inseparable segment of the capitalist economy into which it is fully integrated. Agricultural concentration, an explosion of employee numbers and agricultural production for market purposes are strong characteristics of this model. Capable of feeding the country and generating exportable surpluses, it has demonstrated its economic performance driven by financial profitability and the quest for maximum profit through the exploitation of the farmers themselves and the employees they hire, and over-working of the land leading to the deterioration of soils and natural resources.
In the capitalist agricultural enterprise, on-farm consumption no longer counts; legitimacy is derived from production for the market. Its efficiency is tied to its capacity to absorb technological innovations and its modern equipment. It is responsible for 90 % of tractors and other equipment owned by farmers, even
when these latter go into debt for this purpose. The efficiency of the agricultural company is also due to the fact that it exploits, through direct ownership or tenant farming, areas of good land corresponding to mechanised means.
This so-called modern agriculture is subject to, or even completely integrated with, upstream (fertilisers, seeds, equipment) and downstream (food processing industries and large-scale distribution) industries. It often acts as a subcontractor, caught between these two components of the production chain, to which are added the financial ties with the loans taken out. This is the classic clash between different types of capital and the extortion of agricultural land rent.
If farmers are capitalists because they own the means of production and sometimes the land, when they are small or medium¬sized farmers, they are also land workers as they participate directly in production. Their added value is collectively extracted by industrial and financial companies throughout the production process.
This type of agriculture is less and less family-based. It can take various forms, notably large properties funded by capital from the agri-business sector, banks or companies that can reach several tens of thousands of hectares with few full-time workers, or latifundia with large numbers of workers. Their profitability is achieved at the cost of ecological and environmental abuses, waste of land and equally appalling social consequences, such as poverty wages and extremely poor working conditions.
In this context, it is necessary to clarify our approaches to what is currently called the “global production or value chain”. This terminology, commonly used and promoted by the champions of the dominant ideology, is intended to make people believe that all parts of the chain create value for themselves. The production processes sound as though they are democratised. What a deception!
In fact, these production chains, beyond their rhetorical use, confirm the desire to capture the value created at the end of the chain, i.e. by the capitalist transnational company that dominates it. The example of the construction of the value chain by the Unilever group is relevant. The terms used and the flows imposed are all geared towards increasing Unilever’s profits and power. As responsible trade unionists, we have no interest in allowing ourselves to be trapped by these wordings, this kind of vocabulary, which are designed to mask the forced exploitation of land workers and our industries. Let us leave this type of argument to trade unionists who have become integrated into capitalist strategies.
In the Global South, poor smallholder farmers integrated into local and global capitalism
Rural smallholders in the the Global South include 3 billion human beings, or almost half of humanity. They are split between those who have benefited from the “green revolution”, with the arrival of fertilisers, pesticides and seeds, but who are not highly motorised, and the others. The productivity gains achieved by the former exceeded those of other sectors of activity, leading to a reduction in agricultural prices.
Overall, however, on-farm consumption, the only means of survival for the rural populations concerned, remains important. Smallholder farms, which are not equipped with materials, often very small in terms of farm surface area, experience fierce competition from agrarian capitalism. They are unable to supply the cities. They are nevertheless integrated into the capitalist system in line with their contributions to the market in terms of inputs (fertilisers and seeds) and supplying of processing and distribution firms.
In this context, we are now witnessing other developments of this type of “green revolution”, which are above all underpinning the dependence on and domination of technology and science, increasingly integrating agriculture into the choices and orientations of capitalism. This process allows even greater domination by Yankee imperialism, which bolsters the power of all North American- based transnational corporations.
Is it possible and desirable to modernise agriculture in the Global South via the “capitalist route”?
If we imagine the development of these types of agriculture following a path similar to that followed by the agricultural powers of the North, what result can we expect?
The rural exodus and the shift from agricultural activity towards other economic sectors in rural and urban areas are constant elements in the history of developed capitalist countries. Let us take the example of France. The proportion of the French working population employed in agricultural was 55 % at the end of the nineteenth century, and still 30 % in the aftermath of the Second World War. Today, it is 3 %. However, agriculture and food create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the upstream and downstream sectors of activity, and the services related to them, representing almost 15 % of the working population in France. In contrast to the limited area described by the strict sense of direct agricultural employment, this figure shows the economic and social importance of these agricultural, food and forestry sectors.
These developments, which have accompanied the domination of market logic in agriculture, have occurred at the same time as, at the global level, the international trade in agricultural and food products has increased by a factor of 7 in 50 years, which clearly represents the growing dependence of our sectors on the laws of international capitalist trade and the widespread processing of agricultural products. They also fit in with the name that capitalism would like to impose on us, the “glocalised” eater. The idea is that humans should eat more globally, but in ways adapted to their local realities. When you consider how many people suffer from malnutrition and hunger, such terms contribute to the deceptions of the dominant ideology. Like the emergence of “middle classes” that push for food standardisation or a “globalised civil society” that would have us believe in the democratisation in the process of globalisation. The realities of class confrontations at all levels force us to unmask your discourse, which hides the deep-seated poverty and exclusion of billions of human beings.
Several important factors have influenced this process of rural and agricultural exodus. The major agricultural policy laws of 1960-62 notably established agricultural development structures that mobilise farmers, reparcelling farms to allow a farmer and his family to make a living from working the land. The private bank built up around farmers, Crédit Agricole, has contributed greatly through cheap credit supporting modernisation and purchases of equipment. Public agronomic research has played an important role in making available seed varietals selected for their high-yield properties. Initial and continuing training has increased the professional skills of farmers who have led the modernisation of agriculture. This has meant a selective, destructive and focused development towards the best performers. The Common Agricultural Policy’s system of subsidies and price guarantees and strong growth in job creation for decades outside agriculture, the so-called ‘Glorious Thirty’ period, particularly in industry through the ‘70s, absorbed a significant share of job losses and the disappearance of small farmers and shaped our national agriculture. These upheavals have not been without challenges. There were over 6 million farmers in 1955. These farmers were forced to leave agriculture. Industry and services have both absorbed and expanded to accommodate this workforce through their development. Today, there are only 450,000 workers in so-called professional, highly specialised farms, focused on the market. This situation characterises a French agriculture which has fully entered its capitalist transformation, despite the fact that some farmers are still resisting.
From the capitalist and imperialist point of view, the systematic application of this scheme and the capitalist orientation granted to agriculture is aimed at ensuring the food security of the planet, with modern financial resources and facilities, large areas of land removed from smallholder farming, equipped with the best soils, using pesticides and agrochemicals to the full, and would be able to produce the bulk of what solvent consumers still buy from smallholder agricultural operations and would accompany a standardisation of food products and therefore a reduction in quality.
This system fits perfectly with the precedence granted to big data. Agri-food firms are thus controlling food consumption trends on the one hand and on the other definitively monopolising the dominance of agricultural production. To this end, we must fully grasp the state of concentration within the global food and agricultural system. On the one hand are 600 million agricultural producers, around 2.5-3 billion human beings living directly from agricultural, and on the other hand there are 7 billion consumers. Between the two, a capitalist concentration of a world power that is extremely dangerous for humanity, the 10 largest companies in their sector dominate 75 % of the production of services, 90 % in agrochemicals, 95 % of grain trading, 30 % of food distribution and processing. This explains the current domination and the role of product quality in this domination. Today’s globalisation is being achieved through increased production and marketing flows and an increasingly significant capitalist concentration.
What is to become of these billions of uncompetitive farmers? What is to become of these billions of human beings, who are already, for the most part, the poorest of the poor, but who manage to feed themselves whether well or poorly (and for many of them it is poorly rather than well)?
Today, on a global scale, scientific and technological advances make it possible to achieve considerable productivity gains in industry and services. They are no longer able to absorb a large workforce to the same extent as they were 40 years ago. No industrial development, even with high growth rates – and we are far from that – would be able to absorb this “surplus” of labour. The waves of immigration of poor people into so-called heavens, which are, in fact, veritable hells, are one of the consequences of these capitalist approaches of looting and destruction.
In other words, capitalism is by nature incapable of resolving the issue of access to healthy, high-quality food for all while respecting food sovereignty and safeguarding natural resources, and the only prospects it offers are those of a planet of shanty towns and billions of “excess” human beings, marginalised and excluded from everything.
Land concentration and land grabbing
The deepening of the crisis of capitalism has reached a point where the system must find new farmland, namely through the modernisation of agricultural production and the more extensive exploitation of natural resources, still outside its full domination, led in particular by the interests of agribusiness. This phase has already begun. According to a study by CIRAD, the French agronomic research and international cooperation organisation for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions, 200 million hectares around the world were the subject of land deals, or in other words land grabbing, between 2000 and 2010, a total area 8 times the size of the United Kingdom. Africa is the main continent concerned and US transnational firms are by far the largest investor. While this land grabbing is intended to produce cash crops such as cereal grains and bio-fuels, it also targets mining, tourism, the manufacturing industry and forestry.
This financial capital plundering of land leads to large-scale agrarian concentration, threatening the national independence and food sovereignty of populations in favour of agribusiness and a capitalist type of agricultural development.
We go back to the global system of ‘enclosures’, referring to Marx and Engels and their analyses of the enclosures movement in England in the sixteenth century, a movement that changed open fields and common pastures cultivated by the community into a system of private property in the hands of rich landowners, depriving the farmers who lived off of them.
Samir Amin, an Egyptian economist, described this new phase of capitalism very well. I quote: “I conclude that capitalism has entered its elderly, declining phase; the logic that directs this system is no longer able to ensure the mere survival of half of humanity. Capitalism is becoming barbaric and directly invites genocide. More than ever, it is necessary to replace it with other development logics, possessed of greater rationality. ”
THE MAINTENANCE AND DEVELOPMENT OF SMALLHOLDER AGRICULTURE, A CONDITION OF DEVELOPMENT
The construction of socialist societies calls for the overcoming of capitalism and the implementation of alternatives paving the way for the construction of socialism under the conditions specific to each country.
2.5 to 3 billion people worldwide live almost exclusively from agriculture. Therefore, the future of these populations and of humanity must be based on a democratic response by the populations to the serious demands of agriculture and the development of smallholder farming.
We must firmly oppose all economic structures that value public-private partnerships, which only means placing public investment under the supervision of private interests. The same applies, moreover, to the so-called cooperation agreements that are being drawn up today under the aegis of American or European imperialism and that make the most of the bilateral “G20” meetings, meetings which are focused on various fields, including agricultural and food production.
Although there are no ready-made solutions, the maintenance and development of farming depends on broad fundamental guidelines, the main dimensions of which we shall describe.
The right to food sovereignty for all peoples
The place occupied by the working population living almost exclusively from smallholder agriculture makes this the essential basis for development in many countries. Supported by public policies, smallholder agriculture must ensure the essential food sovereignty of each country, neutralising food as a weapon of imperialism. It must ensure work and well-being.
The debt of the countries of the Global South, an imperialist strategy to establish its domination at the time of the independence movements and supported by the national bourgeoisies, has been plundering the people for more than 50 years. It negates any possibility of development. In order to ensure its domination, imperialism and its instruments, the IMF and the World Bank, have imposed structural adjustment plans. These plans lead to the re-privatisation of the land, threatening land reforms where they had been able to develop, the drastic reduction in public spending on health, education, infrastructure, etc., the privatisation of services and public companies deemed profitable, in particular the services for the marketing of agricultural products. Food crops have given way to export crops, agriculture has been handed over to the global market… Smallholder agriculture has grown so impoverished that it includes most of the world’s poor, who are often migrants. Debt keeps these countries in the grip of imperialism and results in a loss of food sovereignty. This illegitimate debt must be cancelled. This financial plundering of peoples goes hand in hand with the accelerated financialisation of the global agricultural and food system under the aegis of the World Bank, which primarily benefits financial capital.
Food is vital for populations. It must be the business of the people. The national State by and for the people and the workers must implement national agricultural and food policies guaranteeing fulfilment of the food needs of all, in adequate quantities and qualities, including the defence of national food traditions. These public policies must favour smallholder agriculture that is intensive in terms of jobs, safeguarding natural resources, the environment and biodiversity, enabling the promotion of national agricultural potential and capacities.
The patentability of the living beings is an additional tool of domination of capitalism. There exist many agricultural and food innovations, some of which are dangerous, such as the proliferation of genetically modified organisms or the development of bio-fuels. We must incorporate into our struggles demands opposing such policies and productions dominated by the thirst for capitalist profits and put forward our own proposals that meet the needs of populations, protect the environment and combat global warming.
The free trade agreements and the economic partnership agreements that have replaced the Lomé Convention put the world’s agriculture in competition with productivity differentials such that smallholder agriculture is being steamrollered by large companies and agribusiness. Agriculture and food must be removed from the WTO negotiations and free trade agreements. Every country must have the right to protect small-scale agriculture through economic and social support, including guaranteeing farm producers profitable prices and subsidising basic food products to meet public needs. This support necessarily involves border protection. At national and regional levels, unique regulatory policies adapted to local conditions must protect national
production. These regulations may be through inter-regional agreements that meet the requirements of a development that integrates, rather than excluding or eliminating.
Such measures would contribute to the construction of a new international economic order, opening up new mutually beneficial and solidarity-based cooperations, while respecting the independence of each peoples.
Access to the land and means of production
Access to land is an essential element for maintaining and developing smallholder agriculture. The issue of land is vital for half of humanity. All farmers on the planet face an aggressive capital strategy. Land grabbing opens up a new field to the interests of financial capital and agribusiness. In this sense, international institutions, such as the WTO and the World Bank, are pushing for “land system reforms” or “market-assisted agricultural reforms” that are nothing more than accelerating the privatisation of land needed to expand capital.
Land reforms were implemented in different countries during the twentieth century. They have had various fates. In Latin America they were very partial, not threatening the the domination of landowners and latifundia, while in Africa they have been broken up, including notably due to the assassination of Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso, and then there were the Soviet-era kolkhoz and sovkhoz, not to mention the equivalents in Vietnam or China, where they had positive effects. These reforms have all been rooted in the demands of the farming masses. They have not been linear, but have proceeded by trial and error, returning to small farms, etc. The central axis, however, has been the collective appropriation of the land and its collective exploitation, including with regards to the means of working it, to implement that old demand, “the land for those who work it”. We believe that this is a key issue in the creation of agro-ecological systems that are in line with the realities of each country, in terms of food, health and the environment. As components of democratic and progressive alternatives, they can, to a large extent, respond to the fundamental challenges that exist at the national and global levels.
A progressive agrarian reform that develops revolutionary dimensions can contribute to the abolition of private land ownership. Land, a common public good if ever there was one, must no longer be treated as an ordinary commodity. Here, we are at the heart of class issues around the concepts of common goods. For us, these are not subjective values more or less coloured by the humanism of the bourgeois and by sentimentalism. These are very concrete aspects on which the people will only make progress through bitter, tough class struggles. Latin America’s indigenous peoples refer to the “Mother Earth,” Pachamama, as the interplay between nature and human beings, such that the imbalance of one of these aspects affects everything and everyone. The struggles for land reform and against the oppression of indigenous peoples are often linked. This certainly explains the significance of the Landless Movement (MST).
All farmers must have equal access to land. This construction requires the dual affirmation of the rights of the State of the people, the sole owner, and of the smallholder family, for the sole use of agriculture or livestock farming which is specific to the continuation of the farm and to local and national food consumption. It must be based on mobilising the land workers as a whole, middle-class and poor farmers, the landless and agricultural workers.
Progressive agrarian reform must be accompanied by the provision of means of production and processing. It can also extend to their collective use for greater efficiency, the creation of small food processing workshops, etc.
Water management, a constant of history, has always been the subject of fundamental strategic choices. At the heart of many conflicts, water is an issue of political domination. The recognition by American imperialists of Israeli domination over the Golan Heights is a significant example of these reactionary objectives. Engaging the power of the public authorities is a requirement, particularly given its vital nature and the scale of the capital needed for infrastructure. Access to water must be an integral part of public development policies for smallholder agriculture. A natural resource, it is shared by humanity. It cannot be managed as a commodity subject to financial profitability and the quest for profit. Restoring it must be a political priority.
The organisation of land workers
The size of the active agricultural population in the countries of the Global South in particular, but also in the dominant capitalist countries, and the need to implement alternatives to capitalist agriculture, the social, economic and environmental damage of which no longer needs to be explained, places the type of agricultural development, the production methods and the organisation of land workers at the heart of the discussion.
The forced modernisation of agriculture in the Global South according to the model of agriculture in developed capitalist countries and the continuation of this model in the capitalist countries are crimes against humanity, leading us towards social, economic and environmental disaster. The choice of the agricultural and food system and the organisation model to be promoted is therefore essential.
Anthropologists have demonstrated
through many studies that smallholder agriculture is, in our era, the best system of organisation economically and socially. Family smallholder agriculture is able to stimulate intensive land use, harnesses reserves of family labour, ensures high investment productivity, benefits from in-depth knowledge of the natural environment, favours diversification
against the rigidity of specialisation and cares about quality, since it consumes, in part, what it produces.
The organisation of farmers is an essential structural element. It draws its justification and legitimacy from issues relating to full employment and the provision of food, a vital element for populations, at the global level.
The organisation of farmers should make it possible for them to better control their own development, to pool their resources, expertise and skills, and to enhance their production. It can also be a means of mobilising financial resources, in the form of cooperative financing. It is a form of organisation that is closer to the agricultural populations thanks to the fact that they build it.
Cooperatives are a form of efficient collective organisation of agriculture in all countries. Locally established, they make it possible, at a geographical level determined by the farmers themselves, at the level of a village or a community, to pool resources, expertise and markets.
The establishment of cooperatives opens up the development of synergies between upstream and downstream, with for example the transformation of agricultural products into high-quality foods. Cooperatives can favour purchasing from local businesses or artisan workshops, or even small industry, for the equipment supplied to farmers. It also makes it possible to organise sales channels, in particular the transport of products to centres of consumption.
The cooperative format makes it possible to integrate all the activities closely connected to agriculture. A form of collective organisation, it is a source of dynamism and empowerment, and of control of their own development by land workers. It is all the more effective as a source of progress when everyone participates in its construction, by taking part in the decisions, the work and the results.
The question of the reappropriation by peoples and their States of basic and applied science and research is fundamental in agriculture and for food. Today, science in our fields is integrated into and therefore under the domination of capitalism. To take just one example, the Nestlé group’s global research and development budget stands at 2.3 billion dollars, or four times more than the research budgets of major States, without taking into account the plundering that this transnational company carries out of public research budgets. How can we imagine this group to be promoting science and research for the benefit of the people? Capitalism by its very nature is anarchic and selfish. The group favours scientific research and technological developments that encourage the growth of its profits. It is these rationales that we must fight and re-orient towards serving the people, humanity and the future of our planet.
The issue of democracy is an essential axis for designing and implementing policies for the maintenance and development of small-scale agriculture throughout the processes and in each of the fields.
The scale of the agricultural working population requires that it be fully involved. Farmers’ trade union organisations, agricultural workers’ trade union organisations and, more generally, agricultural and rural workers, are an undeniable force for imposing progressive advances in agricultural policy, at national or regional levels. While they cannot be in
a position to assume responsibility for designing and implementing an agricultural policy (with everything that accompanies it in terms of public policies and investments), they can play an essential role in expressing the interests of farmers and workers in this sector to the public authorities. It is through this expression and with their participation in decisions that progress can be achieved.
The place and role of women in all these issues is a major aspect. As we can see in Africa, women are often at the head of the farm while men work (or are looking for work) in the city, or even abroad. They give consistency to the life of the village, and contribute to its stability. More generally, the smallholder “family farm” refers to the family unit, which until now has been characterised almost everywhere by structures that impose the subjugation of women and the exploitation of their labour force. The democratic transformation will not take place under these conditions without organised movements of the women concerned.
Agrarian reform is an essential dimension of a new state construction of socialism, which will never be more than the organisation of the dominated class and, in this specific case, the alliance of workers and smallholder farmers. However, agricultural workers, the class that has the greatest difficulty in organising themselves, must not allow their lives and working conditions to be reorganised without them having any say in the process. And to assert their own class interests, they can only rely on themselves. “And the first step in this direction is the autonomous class organisation of the rural proletariat’.
To allow progressive and revolutionary agrarian reform to triumph in the broad sense, giving “the land to those who work it” and collectively organising the means of production, currently requires an alliance of the dominated classes, those of the middle-class and poor smallholders, the landless and the agricultural and rural workers, an integral part of the working class.
The food industries freed from the capitalist straitjacket
Food must be regarded as a public good, as we understand it, because access to healthy and varied food is the basis of public and social health for the population at both the national and global levels. As a strategic and vital sector for the national economy and the populations, food must be freed from the capitalist straitjacket of financial profitability.
The big companies are blocking the changes demanded by mankind. The private nature of these groups results in the fierce exploitation of workers in a race for profits and dividends for the shareholders. This logic is at odds with investment in and development of industrial potential, technical
developments and new discoveries which are destroyed because they are deemed unprofitable. The quality of products and their monitoring, a public health issue, cannot be left in the hands of selfish interests. The leaders of the dominant capital of our agricultural and food professions revel in the idea of “corporate social responsibility”. At the same time, they are casually firing workers, closing production units, abandoning whole swathes of our economies and driving hundreds of millions of families into unemployment and poverty. We must combat these kinds of slogans, which only have advertising value. At the same time, these same companies are establishing production standards of a private nature throughout the world which they impose on all companies, particularly medium and small, cooperative or public ones, which do not have the means to achieve them. They are thus increasing their monopolisation of entire food sectors, flying in the face of the notion of competition. To achieve such objectives, they receive the support of governments who are in their pockets. What future does capital envision for us? Capitalism has shown that it does not open up any prospects for humanity, nor is it able to respond to any of the fundamental challenges facing our agricultural and food sectors.
The future of our agri-food industries is their workers, together with the entire working class. These are the only people who can represent the interests of the nation. The immediate interests of workers, employment, salaries, their health and their living and working conditions, a healthy and balanced diet, accessible to all, are in line with those of the vast majority of the population, and also those of the Nation. They have objective points of overlap with the vast majority of small and medium-sized farmers who are subject to the rule of the agri-food industries and large-scale distribution.
The appropriation by a few of the national wealth and its selling off must be met by the return to primacy of the interests of the workers and the country. The collective appropriation of the means of production to safeguard industrial employment and national food sovereignty is at the heart of our struggles.
Food and water are so important for life that the shackles of private property and imperialist domination must be broken. Large companies of strategic importance must be democratically nationalised by giving decision-making power to the workers. Capitalist property is in stark contrast to the process of increasing socialisation of the economy thanks to scientific and technological advances, multiple complexities and interdependencies, and increasing public commitment.
The workers must appropriate the means of production to ensure a healthy and balanced diet. This will ensure the defence of national agricultural and food potential and our food sovereignty to guarantee the country’s independence. Farmers, consumers and local and national elected representatives must contribute to this.
True nationalisation requires self¬managing intervention by employees in order to impose criteria of economic and social efficiency to satisfy their needs and to create the conditions for new growth with the aim of enabling the population to develop and flourish.
To this end, trade union struggles are essential. They combine with our fight for peace, disarmament, active and militant solidarity and internationalism. We are opposed to the imperialist domination of a few countries that seek to rule the world, first and foremost the United States. The repeated and constant attacks on national independence and multilateralism are proof of this. In the global agricultural and food system, we also urgently need multilateralism to stand up to imperialist diktats. The need for class-based trade
unionism that refuses to be subjugated and to provide worker support for the strategies of bosses and their flunkies is expressed with ever greater force and urgency. As K. Marx proclaimed, the trade union movement, at the national, regional and global levels, must fight for the immediate demands of workers and peoples and contribute to the construction of societies free from humanity’s exploitation of its own. It must extricate itself from class collaboration, which is a social, economic, political and cultural stalemate for the working classes of all countries. Our trade union organisations, in terms of their respective national, professional and international
responsibilities, are firmly committed to this.