Randy Jasper, a Wisconsin farmer, fighter for the rights of family farmers and longtime supporter of Cuba’s socialist revolution, died Oct. 23 from COVID-19 related illnesses. He was 70.
Jasper was a milk and grain farmer. His first political fight was when he started organizing dairy farmers to protest the low prices they received for their milk.
In February 2000 Jasper helped organize a protest outside the headquarters of Foremost Farms USA, Wisconsin’s largest milk buyer, to demand higher prices. David Rosenfeld and Joel Britton, Socialist Workers Party members, attended the action to report on it for the Militant. After meeting the party, Jasper found a number of opportunities to collaborate with the SWP over the rest of his life.
Jasper visited Cuba three times and was invited to the 1999 National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) conference. He was won to support Cuba’s socialist revolution and joined in activities to explain and defend it, both among farmers where he lived in Muscoda and at conferences and other gatherings of farmers around the country and abroad. The workers and farmers government in Cuba guarantees farmers the right to work the land, he explained, unlike in the U.S. where farmers are driven into debt and, all too often, off the land through bankruptcies and foreclosures.
He once told a Militant Labor Forum in Iowa, “Farming in Cuba is organized to provide for the population, not to make profits.”
In 2000 Jasper organized time off the farm to travel to the United Kingdom and join farmers and truckers in a London rally demanding government relief from soaring fuel prices, where he was asked to speak. “I told the rally I need to know what is happening in Europe and you need to know what is happening in the U.S., because what we face is a world problem,” he told the Militant.
Over the past decade, Jasper and his wife Zena organized for Socialist Workers Party members from Chicago to visit and write for the Militant about what farmers in Wisconsin were facing as the crisis of capitalism deepened.
Finally, Jasper gave up farming because he could no longer make ends meet and began repairing farm equipment in a shed near his house.
He remained politically active — joining fights by working farmers, speaking about the example of Cuba’s revolution, protesting against the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and supporting working-class battles like the 2019 Machinists strike at Wisconsin-based Regal Beloit in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Beyond his political activities, Jasper was also a champion tractor puller in southwest Wisconsin.