Capitalist path is the path to greater devastation for the peasantry
The Economic Times, one of the leading economic papers of the bourgeoisie, announced recently, the holding of an “AGRO Summit 2015.” Reports of this summit reflect the bourgeoisie’s plan to further the steps already taken to develop the capitalist path in agriculture. The penetration of capitalism in agriculture that began with the Green Revolution of the 1960s in Haryana, Punjab and Western UP, and which later on spread to other parts of the country in the south, east and west, has been steadily increasing over the last two decades. Capitalist farming based on contracts with big monopoly corporations, use of tractors and other machinery and application of fertilisers and pesticides, is growing rapidly.
The biggest companies, both Indian and foreign, have been eager to take advantage of the huge potential for profits for the food processing sector in India. The bourgeoisie paints a rosy picture of the future of agricultural sector as a “flourishing, productive, competitive, diversified and sustainable” sector of the economy; however, a large section of the producers - the peasantry is being systematically ruined and driven to despair and death.
Indian and foreign capitalists are interested in gaining a larger foothold in the sector, from controlling production through to procurement and trade from the farmgate to the big retail stores they own and to the world market. To this end, they are pushing aggressively for contract farming, the systematic dismantling of whatever remains of state or state controlled procurement, the breaking down of barriers in movement of agricultural produce, the elimination of controls on export of agricultural commodities, etc.
The biggest ideological onslaught that the bourgeoisie carries on alongside these policy measures is to claim that agricultural growth has been growing at much less than 5% over the last decade because of the limitations on capitalist penetration in agriculture. The bourgeoisie claims that the potential for prosperity of the peasantry lies in capitalist agriculture!
This is a cruel joke on the hardworking peasantry of India who have experienced nothing but devastation and disaster in the last two decades with increasing commercialization of agriculture. According to the 2011 Census of India, the number of farmers or cultivators in the country declined by 90 lakhs (9 million) compared to 2001. Almost 300,000 farmers have taken their lives in India since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt. What is being hidden is that whether in these years or in the years when agricultural growth was more than 5% (5.8% in 2007-08 and 8.6% in 2010-11), large sections of the peasantry have been pushed increasingly towards ruination.
The fact is that the bourgeoisie never had a plan for agricultural development with the orientation that such a development would ensure a decent livelihood for the producers and food security for the people. That is why, despite huge outlays for irrigation projects and support for peasantry in Plan after Plan of the 5-year plans, even today nearly 70% of the cultivable land is dependent on rainfall for the crops. Only a minority of peasants have other sources of irrigation water. With the Green Revolution, the bourgeoisie took a resolute step towards a capitalist orientation in agriculture.
On the one hand there is a minority which is prospering under capitalist agriculture, while most of the peasants are operating on unviable holdings. Small and marginal holdings (less than 2.0 hectares) account for nearly 86% of the total number of holdings, but this is only 42% of the total area of operational holdings. Major problems of small and marginal farmers include spurious input supply, inadequate and costly institutional credit, production and marketing risks which make them highly vulnerable to shocks. Commercial farming means high risks of output prices that fluctuate, of input prices that may not be commensurate with increased output. These risks are in addition to the natural phenomena of drought or excess and untimely rainfall and vulnerability to pests. For example, prices small holders receive for their output are lower than those obtained by larger farmers due to their weak bargaining power and holding capacity.
High health expenditures and falling incomes have driven farmers to borrow heavily. Peasants are caught in a vicious cycle of mounting debts. According to the most recent Socio-Economic Survey conducted by the government of India, 75% of rural households do not have even a single member earning more than Rs.5000 per month. The decreasing income per capita of agricultural households combined with escalating costs of living have been the cause of ruination of the peasantry.
The bourgeoisie is talking of “more” capitalism in agriculture, to spur agricultural growth at the expense of the millions of peasants. The interests of Cargill, Bayer and Monsanto are not in harmony with the prosperity and well-being of the producers. To the contrary, capitalist agriculture is extremely parasitic and destructive of the natural resources and those who create the wealth from these resources. The motive force in capitalist production is only the maximization of profits of the biggest capitalist monopolies. There is no future for the peasantry in this system.So, the solutions proffered by the bourgeoisie - intensification of the capitalist system in agriculture means to tighten the noose around the necks of the peasantry and stifle them further to death.
A policy change now and again cannot change this fact. From time to time, successive governments have announced minimum support prices (MSP), as in the recent past in case of pulses. But without any support for input prices or without any guarantee of procurement, this means very little to the majority of the peasantry.
What is demanded is full social control over agricultural production and over distribution of the produce so that the interests of the producers and the nutritional needs of the working population are satisfied. This requires public procurement of the peasant’s produce, across all foodgrains, horticultural crops, oilseeds, cotton, sugar cane, etc., at guaranteed prices. This requires public ownership of wholesale trade and distribution. This requires the guaranteed supply of quality inputs – seeds, fertilisers, water and power - at affordable prices to all producers. The peasantry, from its own experience must come to the conclusion that all of the above cannot and will not be available under capitalism. The working class therefore demands that the scope of capitalism in agriculture must be progressively restricted and not expanded.
What is needed is for the peasantry to ally with the working class and fight for an end to this exploitative system. From production to trade, the system will be oriented to fulfill the interests of the producers, provide for adequate and nutritious food for the workers in the villages, towns and cities. This is the only path to the liberation of the peasantry and a flourishing, productive and sustainable agriculture.