Leading Black farmer discusses socialism and the nationalization of the land

rosa harris rosaharris76 at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 10 16:51:23 MDT 2003

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

Revolutionary Worker #1212, September 14, 2003, posted
at http://rwor.org

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.

Programme section on Agriculture:

Detailed answer from RCP to these questions on
nationalization and planning:

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