Comments on the Draft Programme from Gary Grant,
President of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association

Revolutionary Worker #1212, September 14, 2003, posted at

Starvation and hunger is a central question facing the people of the world. And I have no doubt that agriculture lies at the foundation of the economic life of this society! But I question why nationalization of the land must stand at the center of your plan under socialism to carry out the revolution in agriculture? Does the solution lie in what is produced by the farmer or -- as I contend -- how it is distributed?

History has taught me that once ownership takes place, and wherever it has taken place, it has always led to exploitation. When the Europeans came over to America, they brought this same means of exploitation with them. So in that regard I agree with you. But what has been the history of Black farmers? Black people have literally worked for nothing: first on plantations, then as sharecroppers and now as small farmers. We have expanded the means of production with our sweat and blood. And given the continuing land theft up to this day, we are not anxious to trade one "massa" for another, be they called capitalist, socialist or communist. I have no problem with the state immediately seizing agribusiness and distributing the land or turning over control of it to those who have been denied the opportunity to farm, such as the farmworkers, or distributing it to farmers themselves, be they Black, Native American or Hispanic, whose own land itself was expropriated by the development of agribusiness. Of course the Black farmer will agree with the policy of canceling the debt burden that weighs on us. But under socialism, how long will Black farmers, or those dispossessed under capitalism who you say will be given land, be allowed to maintain ownership of that land?

I am concerned that a socialist state would penalize me, and that your international-based plan would stand in the way of my doing good. Let me explain: let's say all farmers start with owning 40 acres. I see 40 acres as a leveler of equality. But everybody's never going to be the same, and I may end up farming 200 extra acres, even if I don't own it, while other farmers are content to be mediocre, and produce less. The Native Americans worked the land collectively, but some owned more horses than the others. Farmers will also be different in how well we confront the uncertainties of God or Mother Nature. Now we all are social animals, but I believe there is a requirement of isolation for human beings. If you nationalize the land--whether sooner or later--how are we going to find the space that we need, for our material and spiritual growth? And we should never be put in the position of having to ask someone or the State, when-- or if--we can have that space!

The Black farmer can be more productive in the fields and then still see it bled off by the food processors who keep increasing their profits on a steady incline. Why not nationalize the market? Why can't we maintain private ownership of our land and then have the distribution socialized for the good of society? I may hate to grow cotton, and there's plenty of reasons for that; or I may not be that good at it, and want to grow soybeans and collards instead. But if the people really need the cotton more, as a private landowner I wouldn't turn my back. But if the market price is less, you must make sure that I get a subsidy for my sacrifice. And that can work. So nationalize the market, not the land.

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