Libertarian Socialism: A Practical Outline : Chapter 5: Agriculture

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(1895 - 1978) ~ CNT Radical, Anarcho-Syndicalist, and Spanish Civil War Historian : He was a French anarchist during the Spanish Civil War and was the son of a French Communard. Leval, himself was a French anarcho-syndicalist militant and a participant in the foundation congress of the Red International of Labor Unions from June-August 1921. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "...the means of production remained unused in the barns of the rich, whilst the poor peasants worked the land with roman plows drawn by worn out donkeys and mules!" (From : "Collectives in Spain," by Gaston Leval, 1945.)
• "The methodical police terror, the [Bolshevik] Party's tightening grip upon the whole of social life, the systematic annihilation of all non-Bolshevik currents, the no less systematic extermination of all revolutionaries who thought along lines different from those of the new masters, and indeed the eradication of every hint of dissent within the Party all proved that we were on the road to a new despotism that was not merely political but also intellectual, mental and moral, reminiscent of the darkest days of the Middle Ages." (From : "Anarchists Behind Bars," by Gaston Leval, Summer,....)
• "...the Spanish Libertarian workers co-ordinate and rationalize production in a much more satisfactory way than Capitalism had done. And I lay special stress on the disappearance of small unhealthy and costly workshops and factories, besides the correct use of machinery for the work most suited to it." (From : "Collectives in Spain," by Gaston Leval, 1945.)


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Chapter 5: Agriculture


Peasants and workers

We shall now address the issue of the peasantry. Because it is indispensable for the urban workers, especially the industrial workers, to understand its importance, if they do not want to once again undergo a hunger blockade, such as the workers of Paris experienced in 1848, or the active hostility that the “rurals” displayed in 1871 towards the insurgents of the Commune. The old mindset that accused the socialists of being “re-distributors” is not entirely dead among the inhabitants of the countryside, and it is upon this hostility, at times still latent, that reactionary governments, conservative parties and the privileged classes will rely in order to once again impose, in a mortal struggle, the hunger blockade or the force of arms on the industrial centers, in a situation of social transformation.

We must point out, however, that the situation today is not exactly identical to the situation that prevailed in 1848 or 1871. First of all, the proportion of inhabitants of the rural areas, which was at that time—especially in 1848—much larger than that of the cities, has been reversed. Today the peasants represent twenty-five percent of the population of France. In addition, a significant number of them have a completely different mentality. Social and socialist ideas have penetrated the rural world.

The trade union organizations, the cooperatives, the mutual aid associations, the sporting clubs and other groups, have generated relations of solidarity and mutual support, and created among the peasants a spirit and a practice of solidarity which have transformed the man of the countryside, giving him a more extensive knowledge of the world. In addition to the availability of an extensive selection of different kinds of newspapers and magazines, frequent contact with the cities, thanks to the multiplication of means of transport—railroads, buses, cars, motorcycles—has narrowed the gap between country and city and has allowed for the establishment of bonds between the inhabitants of the cities and the countryside. Numerous peasant organizations, both corporative and inter-corporative, have their headquarters in various cities in France. These contacts and continuous relations, and access to more comprehensive information, have changed many things.

Finally, in everyday work and in practical life, solidarity—de facto inter-dependence—has also been established. The city cannot live without the countryside, but the countryside is even less capable of living without the city. Every tractor, every agricultural machine—mowers, reapers, etc.—would cease to function without the gasoline, the petroleum and the petroleum derivatives that are supplied by the refineries located in the industrial centers. These machines are provided by the factories and workshops, as are the fabrics, the clothing, the furniture, household appliances, individual means of transport—along with the fuel the latter need to function—and, finally, almost everything that constitutes the elements of modern life, without which the farmer, his wife and their children would be condemned to return to the status of serfs of the glebe, the poor beasts of toil that they were in the past.

The workers of the city and those of the countryside must acquire an increasingly more comprehensive understanding of the fact that they have a shared destiny in society. The former cannot exist without the grains, the meat, the vegetables, the fruits, and all the products of the land that are provided by the latter.

But the workers of the countryside can produce nothing, or almost nothing, not only without the machines and fuel, but also without the chemical fertilizers, the herbicides and pesticides, and the vaccines for the animals. Even more importantly, in many rural areas they do not even produce a significant portion of their own food needs, since, specialized agriculture has made great inroads in the countryside.

The Midi supplies wine to Beauce and receives wheat, potatoes and sugar.

The Southwest supplies milk and butter to part of the East and the Paris basin; it receives machinery, some of its fruit, and certain vegetables. The Atlantic and Mediterranean coastal areas supply the interior with fish and receive meat and butter. All of these movements of goods would be impossible without the railroads and motorized transport, which are of an essentially industrial character and which also depend on the cities.

This is what the peasants must understand. They are in the same position as the industrial workers, and although their situations are formally different, they are victims of a form of exploitation that both groups have an interest in eliminating. Nor are we referring exclusively to their exploitation by the state, since the taxes the peasants pay in France are much lower than those that we, the wage workers of factories and workshops, pay, without any possibility of avoiding paying them.

There are other kinds of theft that we shall not overlook.

When, at the beginning of 1957, the Christian Democratic leader Pierre Pfimlin was Minister of Agriculture, he declared that the producers had been paid a total of two hundred billion francs for all the agricultural products they supplied during the previous year, but these same agricultural products were sold to the consumers for a total of seven hundred billion francs. An honest organization, impossible in our current society, would make it possible to pay the producers another one hundred fifty billion francs, and charge the consumer one hundred fifty billion francs less. In such a case both the city and the countryside gain. But this orgy of pillage called capitalist society has allowed middlemen of all kinds to pocket five hundred billion francs—or four hundred fifty billion if you deduct the costs of transport and storage incurred by various other stages of the distribution process.

Information has come to light concerning countless cases of products (artichokes, cauliflower, tomatoes, beans), for which the producers are paid a few francs per kilo, but which are sold in a neighboring city for one hundred or one hundred fifty francs per kilo, or the cases where the farmer must let fruit rot on the trees because the middleman will not even pay him enough for the fruit to pay the workers to pick it. And everyone knows that the meat problem has not been resolved either, not only because the middlemen took, and still take, the lion’s share, but, worse yet, because the lack of rational organization raised the cost of production, or caused and still causes significant losses, whether due to the fact that the herds are too far from their pastures, or that the place where the animals are raised is too far from the slaughterhouse, but especially because the structure of the exploitation of agriculture does not allow the means of production to develop in a rational and scientific way.

In one case, it is the lack of financial resources. In another case, the tiny size of the enterprises renders the necessary organization impossible. Elsewhere, even the means of transport are lacking for the timely delivery of the products, or if the means of transport exist, they are too expensive.

Even when these difficulties do not exist, however, insoluble problems arise. We have seen the wheat harvest for several years in succession reach one hundred or one hundred twenty million quintals, while, during the same period, the production of wine and milk, butter, fruit, and greenhouse vegetables, has resulted in surpluses.

This was catastrophic for the peasants because this society is of such a nature that an increase in the amount of goods, instead of being a cause for jubilation and satisfaction, is a cause of misfortune and poverty due to the decline in prices.

What is the response of the rural producers? They call upon the state to assume responsibility for these surpluses, by means of subsidies, in order to ensure their sale on foreign markets. In the other countries, however, the same things are happening, and French products must confront Italian, Dutch, Danish, American, Australian, New Zealand, English, Algerian and Spanish products in international competition. Our sense of justice tells us that these solutions are bad ones, and that others must be sought. The injustice of this situation is also demonstrated by the fact that the other producers, the exploited workers of the cities, pay, thanks to the high taxes deducted from our wages, the subsidies granted by the state to support the sale of the surplus agricultural products on foreign markets. After all, it is from our pockets that the state takes the money with which it concedes subsidies and price supports to the wine producers of the Midi, when they cannot sell their wine; to the grain producers of Beauce, Brie and the North, when they cannot sell their wheat; to the butter and meat producers of Charente or Normandy, when they cannot sell their butter or meat; and to the cattlemen of the Center or Savoy, when they cannot sell their cattle.

Furthermore, due to the capitalist mechanism, in addition to the corporate dividends, the profits of the employers and middlemen and the excessive expenses of the state, the peasants also pay too much for the industrial products they buy.

The producers of the city and the producers of the countryside must therefore seek a rational, just and sincere solution, which can be nothing other than the organization of industrial and agricultural production for the benefit of all.

Not all the producers of the countryside, however, have the same interest in this reorganization of collective life.

According to the general census of Agriculture carried out in 1956–1957, published by the INSEE, concerning the structure of agricultural ownership in France, the latter is distributed as follows:

Area Cultivated (hectares) Total Area (hectares) Percentage of Total

Less than 1 85,700 0.3

1–2 333,000 1.0

2–5 1,377,000 4.3

5–10 3,458,000 10.8

10–20 7,536,000 23.4

20–50 11,167,000 34.7

50–100 4,968,000 15.5

100–200 2,196,000 6.8

More than 200 1,037,000 3.2

Total 32,157,700

Out of more than thirty-two million hectares, half, at least, of the total belongs to small property owners. And quite often, the land owned by small to middle level property owners (who own thirty to fifty hectares) is of inferior quality. It is obvious that profound reforms are necessary in order to improve the social condition of the farmers.

There are approximately two million farms in France, yet, between the smallest and the largest properties, the social problem assumes a different form. Besides a minority of large landowners who exploit a large contingent of wage workers, however, the other, medium size, small and very small landowners, the small farmers, and the sharecroppers—who constitute one quarter of the agricultural population and are often despised in certain regions of France—can understand the necessity of and the interest they, together with the entire collectivity of which they form a part, have in the change we advocate. They must understand that their standard of living will improve, and their labors will be lightened, that their fate can be much happier, their moments of rest more frequent, thanks to the collective organization that we are advocating. And we must immediately make it clear that this collective organization, however desirable it may be, must by no means be imposed by force. We shall nonetheless make an attempt to describe what seems to us to be the ideal. Then we shall address the question of how it many be achieved in stages and intermediate forms that would constitute real progress.

The Spanish experience

The ideal was realized in Spain, during the libertarian revolution of 1936–1939. It consisted in the expropriation of all the big landowners and the membership of all the small landowners in what were called the village collectives.

These collectives functioned as large producers cooperatives. They operated under the authority of the directives agreed upon by the general assemblies of the collectivists, which included the small landowners who contributed their land, their tools, and their cattle, and the wage workers, all of whom associated on equal terms.

A commission was elected to implement these directives. This commission included, in every collective, one delegate from each specialty—field crops, fruit, cattle, rice, olive oil production, oranges, vegetables, etc. Each delegate, who worked either a half-day or a full day, depending on the scale of his responsibilities, coordinated, together with the delegates of the work teams of his specialty, the work that had to be done. For example, in the zones characterized by diversified agricultural production, work was carried out in accordance with the succession of types of cultivation, the needs of each kind of production, and the location of the land. Wheat, grapes, olives, oranges, root crops, beets, various kinds of vegetables; the work teams were given their assignments by the general delegate, and they fulfilled their tasks. The hardest work was reserved for the youngest and strongest men. The lighter work was assigned to men over fifty years old. The elderly were assured of their livelihood, just like the other members of the collective, and devoted themselves to useful, but not compulsory, activities, which constituted for them a pastime.

The products belonged to the collective, generally composed of the entire population of the town, or almost the entire population. They were deposited in the communal storehouses.

The Supply Delegate organized exchange with the industrial regions.

He sent surplus agricultural products in exchange for fabrics, machinery, chemical fertilizers, books, household utensils, etc. The value of each product was calculated in pesetas, and the exchange transaction was carried out by means of a kind of clearing [in English in the original—English translator’s note], as is customary in capitalist society, which often renders the use of money superfluous.

Locally, and for individuals, distribution was carried out by the communal storehouses, which in some towns were also called cooperatives. Distribution was characterized by one of two basic procedures. The first consisted in the distribution of products whose amounts were fixed in accordance with the size of the family by the assembly of the collective. There was no longer a monetary system and everyone was freed from the obsession, “if you do not have money, you do not eat”.

The other procedure was characterized by the use of a kind of currency that was sometimes improvised, but more often official. A family wage was established, depending on the size of each household. The vicissitudes of the war and the inherent difficulties of such a complicated situation, where the political parties were creating countless obstacles, prevented these two systems from being unified into a single system, but the results that were obtained, frequently after only a few months, were decisive.

First they were decisive for the improvement of production, since the use of the land, the pastures, the irrigation systems, the various means of labor, and of the human labor itself, was much more rational.

Previously, one landowner may have possessed enough pastureland to raise twenty cows or one hundred sheep, but he only raised ten cows or thirty sheep. Another landowner may have had only enough land to raise four cows but he had ten of them, with the meager yields that we may assume would result.

Another landowner sowed wheat on land that was only fit for raising goats or sheep: he harvested eight quintals per hectare. The donkeys, the mules, and the horses that were employed to work the land, were distributed in accordance with the characteristic disorder of the prevailing social system. One peasant only had one donkey to plow a hard and rocky soil. Another had good mules, half of which would have been enough to work an easier soil. Rich landowners were the proud owners of a tractor that they operated two months a year, and then went unutilized the rest of the year, while the poorest peasants only had their two hands to till their soil.

The village collectives put an end to all this disorder. The tractors were used year-round, the strong mules were employed wherever they were needed and the donkeys were used for lighter duties.

More work was done with fewer animals, it was done more effectively, and it was done in a way that meant less toil for the workers. Lands that were to be used for cattle raising were allocated in accordance with the productivity of the soil. It is interesting to note that the rotation of pasturelands, which had been established in France for a number of years, although it was not yet generalized, emerged spontaneously in Spain as a result of the initiative of the collectives. The yields of meat and milk rose accordingly.

Communal stables were organized outside the towns, as well as henhouses and pig ranches, which separated the human beings from the animals and the flies, and from the accompanying filth. Women were liberated from the pitchfork, the wheelbarrow and the manure. The methods of cattle raising, applied in accordance with a general plan, made it possible for the number of pigs in the collective’s pig farms, classified by age, to multiply as never before.

The animal husbandry facilities of the collectives, in a short time, doubled the number of rabbits, chickens, other fowl and eggs, to which everyone had equal access.

Agricultural yields also rose. Anyone who had the opportunity to survey the collectivized farms and compared the density of the wheat growing on them with that of the farms of the small landowners who refused to join the collectives, saw that the latter, despite the labor of their wives and children, obtained a much lower density of wheat. This was unavoidable because the collective organization possessed the more advanced technical means that allowed it to till the soil more effectively, and to give the crops, at the requisite stages of their growth, the indispensable attention, to more effectively utilize and organize the irrigation networks, to procure selected seeds or to plant them in the most effective manner, to intelligently utilize, thanks to the advice of agricultural technicians, the fertilizers or the lands whose soil chemistries often varied from one area to another.

These opportunities for improvement made possible a thirty percent increase in both the amount of land sowed with wheat and the yield per hectare, despite the mobilization of a large proportion of the youth, who had to go to the front to fight against Franco’s army.

All of these factors, together with the disappearance of the owners of the large estates and exploiters of every kind, resulted in a doubling of the average standard of living of the peasants, if not more in some cases.

Let us try to imagine the results that would issue from such a form of organization in France, where the soil is generally more fertile and the climate more benign than in Spain.

Not only would the yields increase, but, above all, the lives of men and women will be infinitely more human, more pleasant, and more happy, in the domains affected by the numerous consequences that will accompany the major, large scale achievements. An abundant crop will not be a catastrophe and it will no longer be necessary to compete with the middlemen. We shall remind the reader of the example of the cattle accommodated in collective stables. Today, the small farmer, or his wife, cannot be absent from the farm for even one day: they are the slaves of the beasts in the pigsties, the stables and the paddocks. But when people take turns taking care of the animals, all the farmers will be able to enjoy their holiday. And when comrades who specialize in this kind of work come at the end of the day to take care of the animals, or the tractors, so that the drivers can take a break while their comrades take care of the horses or fix the machinery, this would be a conquest of a kind that only those who have practical experience of these things can fully appreciate.

Intermediate stages

Objections could be raised against our view which, in our opinion, are unfounded, but which we do not want to leave unaddressed.

The vast majority of the peasants feel love for their property, because in the jungle where they have always lived, and where, all too often, man has been a wolf to man, their property has signified (although not absolutely) their bread, the bread of their families, and a certain guarantee of freedom against the State and the powerful. In addition, it has allowed the peasants, within very restricted boundaries, to do “whatever profits them”, to exercise personal initiative, and to act in accordance with their own will.

We cannot ignore these facts. The Spanish libertarians did not ignore them, either. A large of number of collectives gave each peasant family a piece of land, sufficient for the cultivation of some vegetables for household consumption or some flowers, or for raising chickens, rabbits, etc. The Russian government was forced to do the same thing when it established the Kolkhozes. It is naturally possible to foresee such possibilities, which do not conflict with overall collectivization.

The comparison we just made must be further clarified. Are the collectives of Spain, or any possible future cooperative and communal organizations we may imagine, really comparable to the Kolkhozes?

Categorically, no: the Kolkhozes were not the free creations of the Russian peasants, but constructs of the state and the state bureaucracy, imposed by the Communist Party, whose members exercise dictatorship over one and all. The Kolkhozes do not freely make decisions concerning their own affairs, but must implement the “norms” established without their consent, or even against their opposition; the political police terrorizes the inhabitants, no dissent may be expressed, there is a hierarchy of wages—an absolute negation of socialism, communism and economic equality—that is decreed from above, and, quite frequently, there are more bureaucrats than workers in the countryside. Under these conditions the hostility of the Russian peasants towards this false collectivism is quite understandable. And it is just as easily understood that all of this has nothing to do with the free collectives of Spain that we are taking as our model.

We also know that, considering the current conditions, we must not expect a general transformation, one that would be carried out as quickly as the one that was implemented in Spain, where more than half the land was collectivized within one year, and one in which no more than five in every thousand collectives failed.

We must therefore foresee stages, degrees of application that, without actually attaining to the condition of integral libertarian socialism, would imply a profound break with the past, and a real, immediate conquest.

We have seen just how much of France’s agricultural land is dominated by large landed property. In regions like Beauce, Brie, the departments of the Marne, L’Oise, L’Aisne, the Somme, the North and the Pas-de-Calais, it is often very important. In those farms that employ numerous workers, the task would involve merely expropriating the owners, which would be easy enough if the overall situation is favorable, as was the case in June 1936, and forming management committees on each farm that would coordinate their activities through a local commission elected at a general assembly.

The various commissions would federate by departments and by agricultural regions. One may easily conceive of the birth of an inter-departmental grain Federation whose headquarters would be in Paris, which lies in the center of the great wheat growing areas of France.

In this case it would not be difficult to destroy individual property. But the problem is altogether different when we consider medium-sized or small-scale property.

It is obvious that the small cultivators would benefit from the formation of collectives, communes or agrarian cooperatives—the name does not matter—in order to obtain more output from their land, their tools and their work. Will they understand this? This is what we do not know, and therefore this is what they must be convinced of. Unity makes for strength, and division, for weakness. By uniting in communitarian cooperatives each person will bring about a happier life for himself and his family.

For we must not forget that this transformation has nothing to do with destroying the family home or abolishing individual property with regard to those things that are necessary for domestic life: house, furniture, etc. We think it is necessary to insist on this fact, in order to forestall the distortion of our ideas by the supporters of inequality. It is impossible to predict what attitudes the medium-sized landowners will display towards an attempt at collective organization. They will undoubtedly assume many forms. But for those for whom such a perspective is frightening, or for those to whom it may be unpleasant, we shall offer a solution that would be neither the preservation of the current situation, nor the generalized socialization that we would prefer. Furthermore, it is permitted to think that libertarian socialization could be realized, in part, on the basis of individual property, insofar as the latter does not imply the exploitation of man by man or inequality in the means of existence.

When we see a landowner who possesses sixty hectares of good land, and another landowner who possesses ten hectares of land of the same quality, we think of this as an injustice, and that this injustice must be rectified. But when the land the different owners possess is more or less equivalent, this injustice has disappeared. In this case one can speak of socialism—although a very insufficient kind of socialism—and this is how, with regard to the land problem, Proudhon understood it.

This kind of individualist socialism, however, must be complemented, to a certain extent, by the methods already utilized by the agricultural entrepreneurs of many countries. In Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy and the United States, the small entrepreneurs have formed collective organizations of every kind, which imply a development away from individualist practices. Cooperatives for buying agricultural machinery or for joint use of the machinery, cooperatives for the improvement of collective cattle-raising, fowl raising, pigs, preparing salt-pork, dairy production, viticulture, butter, for the storage of wheat in silos, refrigeration, storing potatoes, marketing the products, and their export: these cooperatives are innumerable, and constitute the dominant factor in the dynamism of modern agriculture, which would be much more dynamic still without the obstacles and the wrench in the works contributed by the society of underhanded collusion in which we live.

For today’s cooperatives are sometimes exceedingly forgetful of the socialist and egalitarian principles of cooperation. We shall not overlook this fact, but now is not the time to discuss this topic. We would like, above all, to emphasize that this form of association could very well be a factor of transition, and that it has already begun to be such a factor of transition—it is necessary to repeat this—between individualism and collectivism.

In France itself, this formidable movement constitutes an undeniable proof of the possibility of organizing economic life on other foundations than those of mutual exploitation, traditional individual isolation and state decrees. Even a cursory examination of this movement allows us to say that it has great possibilities which must henceforth be extended and more intensely exploited, but that it presently has foundations upon which an immense new constructive project is possible.

We possess data from 1957. Since 1908 the total number of agrarian cooperatives has risen from two thousand two hundred to fifteen thousand. And their number is still rising. Here are the most important categories:

Various wine-related cooperatives 1,065 and 510 distilleries

Wheat-shipping cooperatives 950

Milling cooperatives 125

Seed-buying cooperatives 210

Fruit and vegetable cooperatives 700

Textile cooperatives 50

Vegetable oil cooperatives 92

Farm supply cooperatives (fertilizers, feed, agricultural machinery, etc.) 1,500

Cooperatives for joint use of machinery (data from 1959) 8,000

There are many other kinds of cooperatives that are too numerous to permit us to list all the categories. We would like to mention, however, the cooperatives for marl-based fertilizers, limestone-based fertilizers, drainage, artificial insemination, compound feeds for cattle, meat production, forest management, oil production, etc.

The value of all the commercial transactions carried out by these various cooperatives amounts to several hundred billion francs per year.

The cooperative cellars account for twenty-five percent of French wine and the cooperative silos ship approximately eighty-five percent of the wheat and sixty-six percent of the other grains from the domestic market in France.

The dairy cooperatives, butter cooperatives and cheese cooperatives have increased in number, in 1957, to two thousand six hundred, which are subdivided as follows:

Milk for direct consumption 200

Butter cooperatives 275

Cheese cooperatives 340

Ripening cooperatives 18

Marketing and sale cooperatives 300

Harvesting cooperatives 50

The “Fruteries” of Jura and the Alps[9] 1,417

In 1952 the number of members of the milk cooperatives rose to three hundred fifty thousand out of one million seven hundred fifty thousand milk producers. But out of the eighty-two million hectoliters of milk sold by the industry, the cooperatives sold thirty-four million, or 41.4 percent of the total.

The purchasing and farm supply agricultural cooperatives number more than two thousand. The value of the commercial transactions of these cooperatives for the year 1950–1951 was forty-five billion francs. They provide their members with all the products and equipment necessary and distributed (in 1949–1950) four hundred fifty thousand tons of fertilizers among their members.

According to the general agricultural census carried out in 1955, out of two million two hundred sixty thousand one hundred and fifty agricultural entrepreneurs, one million one hundred eighteen thousand one hundred and eighty five were members of cooperatives, that is, 49.5 percent of the total. This number has certainly increased since then, and must have surpassed fifty percent. Among the departments where peasant cooperatives are most abundant, we shall cite L’Oise (88.5 percent), L’Aube (75.09 percent), Loiret (76.6 percent), Deux-Severs (83.5 percent), Marne (76.6 percent), L’Yonne (77.8 percent), Bas-Rhin and Meuse (76.6 percent), Haute-Marne (76 percent). But certain other departments are still relatively untouched by this phenomenon, such as Lozère (7.6 percent), Hautes-Pyréneés (17.3 percent), Morbihan (19.3 percent), and Manche (20.3 percent).

No matter how you look at it this is already a magnificent result that shows that one out of every two French peasants is a member of a cooperative. Now let us suppose that cooperative centers are established in all the municipalities of France. And let us even assume that every individual landowner joins the cooperative institutions of his town, and that these cooperatives form specialized networks or further develop those that already exist, so that the centers for obtaining provisions in the cities can direct their requests to these networks to acquire, in exchange for industrial products or for a quantity of recognized symbolic money, the agricultural products needed by the consumers.

This would be a method of collectivized distribution among producers and between producers and consumers that would eliminate middlemen and also make possible the coexistence of the two systems, the collectivist and the individualist, whose common denominator would be the non-exploitation of man by man. We would thus find ourselves amid a very imperfect socialism, if we uphold the true meaning of the word, but one that has completely abolished capitalism and allows for an infinitely more rational management than the latter system.

Such an arrangement would also allow, in each town, and in the rural areas under each town’s jurisdiction, the coexistence of two systems: complete collectivism and the semi-collectivist system. The distribution cooperatives or the specialized stores would assume responsibility for the local allocation of the products that they had obtained, by means of the established system of circulation, which is a network of connections among the various production centers, a network of the type we have already explained in the chapter on industry.

Agricultural activities will have to be coordinated in order to ensure the necessary level of production. For the most part the latter has been regulated by the traditional production of the countryside for centuries. Pertinent statistics are available in the Departmental Agricultural Chambers where the coordination committees should establish their headquarters. There, the commissions formed by the collectives of a working class character and the peasant collectives and cooperatives will be able to harmonize their efforts; these commissions will in turn give rise to interdepartmental commissions that, according to the various types of production, will divide the country into specialized zones. We have already mentioned the wheat zone. We may also cite the wine zone, whose center might be in Toulouse, and the dairy zone, whose center we may situate in Charente or Normandy. One could even foresee the establishment of various zones of greater or lesser size, composed of regional organizations that would be organized on a higher level in an inter-regional or national Federation for each sector of production.

Such a procedure would lead to a set of agricultural federations embracing the various specialties of agriculture: grains, vegetables, root crops, wine, cider, milk, edible oils and fats, meat, etc.

(Chart 3: The General Organization of Agriculture)

1. Production

2. Distribution

3. Accounting

4. Reserves

5. Fertilizers

6. Equipment

7. Technology

8. Soil science(Chart omitted)

Each Federation will have sections corresponding to the various specializations, and all of them will be united in a General Confederation of Agriculture, just as the industries will be united in an industrial Confederation; and these two enormous branches of production, each depending on the other, will in turn unite in a higher body that will direct both. With respect to determining the contribution to be made by each agricultural region, zone and cooperative, the directive mechanism will be, for the most part, similar to the one we sketched for industry.

In agriculture as well, demand will determine the character of the products and the scale of production of the various productive sectors. Undoubtedly, for we must once again call attention to this point, at first the productive sectors will have to continue to produce more or less as they did before the transformation, in order to prevent disorder and shortages. After this initial period, they will proceed to implement modifications and the necessary adaptations.

It is futile to cultivate lands whose yields are too low, in poor districts, when the right kind of reforestation would be more beneficial to society. It is futile to “increase production” beyond the amount that can be sold, unless—which would be very logical—you were to want to help the malnourished peoples of the world, such as those in India or Africa.

Finally, a process of agricultural-industrial decentralization will be imposed that, by diversifying and complementing the activities of towns and small cities, will provide them with a more modern, more pleasant and qualitatively more satisfying way of life. This will lead to a process of integration that will serve as a counterweight to the sprawling industrial concentrations and would establish a useful equilibrium between the various towns and cities. It would undoubtedly be salutary for some of the inhabitants of the rural areas to move to the city, when the countryside is overpopulated and the city needs labor power for activities that are useful to all. When, however, this exodus from the country serves to multiply the number of bureaucrats, national and local police forces, and diverse forms of parasitism, but is encouraged for the ostensible purpose of giving employment to surplus labor power, or when it leads to the proliferation of middlemen, added to the ones that already exist, then it would be better for these men to stay in the countryside, to assist those who have not abandoned their plows or their tractors. And to help modernize the ways of life of the countryside, even with regard to its industrial aspect.

The most important thing is to implement justice. This, so that men will no longer have to fight one another for the various means of existence; so that there will no longer be either exploited or exploiters, ruled or rulers, poor or rich; so that all shall be equally happy, insofar as this happiness involves the objective conditions of existence, thanks to their labor and their solidarity, their morality and their loyalty.

The best means to achieve such a result is, in our opinion, the commune, of which the Spanish Revolution has provided the model, and which is found in the Kibbutzim of Palestine, or in certain Mexican “ejidos”. [10] We admit, however, that this goal cannot be fully realized, all at once, especially in a country like France. Even more importantly, we understand that the peasants will hesitate to abandon their usual way of life which, although imperfectly, has provided them with the means of existence, and instead fully implement our ideas in practice. Immediate measures should, therefore, be partial in one place, and total in another. Everything depends on the people and the various opportunities provided by each situation. But in this respect as in respect to all other questions, we must always strive to achieve as much as possible, regardless of how long it takes to reach our goal.

The lessons learned from cooperation are of great educational value. They show the peasants that, by practicing mutual aid and solidarity, each person is sure to benefit.

Without the common use of resources, which, isolated, only yield poverty, how many machines would not be purchased, or work, how many lands would not be fertilized, how many techniques would not be applied! The productivity of agricultural countries like Denmark and Holland would fall by fifty percent, with the disastrous repercussions one may expect for the population of the countryside.

A good beginning has been made. It is necessary to extend it for the well being of all. We are not telling all the peasants, without exception, to hold all their lands in common, and that they should renounce individual property down to the smallest garden sized plot of land. It is even humanly preferable not to abolish all their free initiative, their sense of personal responsibility, and a certain possibility of being one’s own master at the place where one works. This is how the communist “ejidos” of Mexico operated.

We may therefore expect, lacking a more general movement, mixed results.

Why, in one or another town, should not one fourth, one third or one half of the land be held in common to produce wheat, grapes, beets, or products of intensive industrialized agriculture?

This would result in a real reduction of effort, and the reduction in the exhaustion of the workers would be a much more valuable outcome. And maybe in this manner the way will be cleared towards increasing equality and the practice of fraternity in human relations.

Above all, however, it is the small-scale cultivators who will be most interested in these collective enterprises. Modern agriculture has been almost completely transformed into industrial agriculture, so that it requires diverse technical means, knowledge and equipment. It also requires very strict accounting. The only resource upon which the small-scale cultivators can fall back upon, in the face of their growing difficulties, is the struggle to raise prices or obtain subsidies from the state—or, more precisely, from us, the taxpayers.

If they were to work in common, however, their overhead costs will be reduced, and they will earn more, in every aspect of their activities. Collective labor is always more profitable if it is organized as it should be. Given equal natural conditions, the capitalism of big business has always defeated small private enterprise because it collected in one workplace a large number of workers who were assigned to carefully chosen jobs. This was, in industry, the first form of collective labor. Unfortunately, the capitalists pocketed the profits. This time it is the workers who will be the beneficiaries.

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November 30, 1958 :
Chapter 5: Agriculture -- Publication.

July 13, 2019 17:58:57 :
Chapter 5: Agriculture -- Added to

January 09, 2020 12:58:51 :
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