The following statement by Róger Calero, Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of New York, was released Aug. 8.
The crisis facing working farmers and ranchers and the pressing need for the unions to mobilize solidarity with their struggles was highlighted by the conditions described at a July 24 meeting of dairy farmers in Lairdsville, Pennsylvania. “Instead of making a living, you just make debt,” Lycoming County farmer Ben McCarty explained. Others said what they get from dairy processors for their milk simply doesn’t meet their production costs.
These conditions are not unique. Grain farmers have confronted plummeting prices from giant food monopolies for years. Most working farmers also work jobs off the farm to make enough income to make ends meet. They have to take out loans to pay for their inputs — seed, fertilizer and feed. Many are shackled with a mortgage and monthly loan payments on farm implement purchases. Farm debt has reached record levels at a time when the government is raising interest rates and farm incomes have plunged.
When ranchers fight for access to the land, especially in the west, they come up against the government, the courts and the cops. Ranchers in Oregon and Nevada are fighting the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to restrict their access to grazing land that they’ve used for decades. And they’ve had to fight FBI harassment, frame-ups and imprisonment.
The problems working farmers and ranchers face are rooted in social conditions inherent to capitalism and perpetuated by the capitalists’ parties that rule. They face the monopoly position and cut-throat competition among the handful of giant capitalist food processors that drive down the prices farmers and ranchers get; the banks that hold their loans and foreclose on their farms and ranches; the rising cost for machinery, seeds and other things they need to produce; and regulatory agencies in Washington that operate in the interests of the bosses.
With more working farmers facing ruin, the labor movement must demand the government guarantee they receive their costs of production, including adequate living expenses.
Millions of farmworkers — including many who face the threat of deportation because they are without papers the rulers consider proper — can be a key part of rebuilding the labor movement and forging a fighting alliance with working farmers.
Workers and farmers, who produce all the wealth, are exploited in different ways, but by the same capitalist families and their government. We have a shared interest in forging an alliance that can mobilize millions, overturn their rule and establish our own government.
There is much U.S. workers and farmers can learn from the revolutionary program and course followed by Cuban workers and peasants in overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. With leadership like they had, we can take our destiny into our own hands.