Little farmers and big lies

The agony of the agricultural world is not an inevitability due to something modernization. It results from political and economic phenomena, from the dogma of industrialization to the intimidation of opponents, including the lobbying of agrochemical companies.

In 1965, three young economists, Gervais, Servolin and Weil, published a short essay, A France without peasants. at the height of the Thirty Glorious Years and three years after the famous agricultural orientation laws which were to modernize agriculture, they described the process of industrialization which would occur, the irresistible rise of wage labor and the inevitable disappearance of the artisanal-family form which was then promoted by trade unionism: a couple, a farm.

Agriculture would only follow, with a century's delay, the revolution which had totally transformed manufacturing activity. Blacksmiths, potters and weavers had long since disappeared from the countryside and, with them, peasant society. Why would the farmers, who were only their diaphanous shadow, have survived them?? Lamartine had written in his time:

Civilization is also a battlefield where many succumb for the conquest and advancement of all. Let's pity them, complain and walk.

The gravediggers

Since 1965, we have lost count of the number of books, documentaries and specialized or general public films, the latter often tearful, on the theme of the disappearance of small farmers. In the 1970s, they had 10 hectares; in the 1980s, 20; in the 1990s, 30; today, they have 200, even 500, and they are still small farmers victims of society generally reduced to mass distribution and consumers.

Often summary analysis, does this plethoric production reflect the bad conscience of society?? Or does it reinforce a narrative whose effect, or even its energizing goal, is to mask the processes and actors at work within the agro-industrial complex itself, the gravediggers of these small farmers?

In the midst of this proliferation, Nicolas Legendre's work constitutes an exception and, let us hope, a turning point in public opinion's perception of the agony of the agricultural world. The author, newspaper correspondent The worldrelying on its investigations over nearly seven years as well as on scientific literature, carries out an autopsy of the Breton agro-industrial complex, which in a century transformed the small territory into a huge agri-food platform, transforming soya and cereals into sausages, bacon, whites of chickens, nuggets, yoghurts and emmental via industrial breeding and processing companies, at the cost of incredible suffering for totally unsupported grassroots breeders and agri-food workers, as well as ecological destruction, the degree of reversibility of which is still unknown.

The decisive contribution of the work is not to concentrate on the external factors of which Brittany is a victim (even if it does not ignore them), but to describe and document the internal factors of Breton society, first and foremost the mentality of farmers or , at least, of their leaders, the general director farmersto use the title given to the most emblematic of them: Alexis Gourvennec, from a peasant family in Lon.

At the roots of reactionary modernism

The Breton model largely finds its origins in the nofascist movement of green shirtswith as tutelary figure Count Herv de Budes de Gubriant who, under the Vichy regime, would be responsible for setting up the Peasant Corporation.

The movement on Breton soil is fairly ultramontane, even frankly reactionary, but deliberately modernist in the adoption of techniques, and corporatist in its mode of organization (supervision, we should say) of the peasants. It is therefore a question of modernizing the countryside, but without upsetting social hierarchies.

This movement shares with the far right of the middle of the XXe century two characteristics: a predilection for violent league action and a Darwinian conception of society, particularly in economic matters. The display will be more discreet after the Second World War, but the ideological basis is maintained and fits quite well into the mold of industrial modernity. Thus, in 1976, Alexis Gourvennec declared:

We must abandon their fate shabby which do not interest us. It is this price, and this price only, that we will win the battle of production. I am not saying that this goes without raising difficult and interesting social cases. But it is up to the state to come to their aid, and not the profession which cannot afford to linger in the ongoing international battle and which is never won.

Social control and bullying

The disappearance of shabby is a process of absorption of small by the fat, that is to say those who already have substantial assets and a network, in particular for access to bank loans. By considering the disappearance of the little wretches as an inevitable necessity, he disinhibits the latent predatory instinct of their neighbors. The bankruptcy of some makes the happiness of others. A former banking executive confides:

They have accustomed the peasants to be cannibals, to eat their neighbors. The system validated this violence. He made proletarians fight among themselves. He who expanded, who bought farms, was a winner.

Thus each current farmer is a survivor of the struggle for life, who participated in devouring those smaller than himself and now lives in fear of being devoured by those larger than himself. The process may only end with the formation of an oligopoly, that is to say the disappearance of all farmers.

The struggle for the lives of producers benefits an entire service industry: banks, agrochemical firms, cooperatives, equipment manufacturers, etc. This agro-industrial complex, often stemming from the agricultural cooperative movement and led by farmers, exercises close social control over the mass of producers (and more generally Breton society). Open or veiled threats, even acts of intimidation against opponents, and even representatives of public authority, are part of the usual practices. This leads the people interviewed by Nicolas Legendre to use the terms mafia or domerta to describe the social system which surrounds the actors. Silence in the fields is imposed.

Within the agri-food industry, where a large proportion of workers come from former peasant families, we find the same violence in social relations, directly linked to the suffering linked to working conditions.

Two thousand farmers who destroy everything

Coercion alone is not enough to explain this servitude. And Nicolas Legendre, himself the son of a small farmer who, as a child, marveled at the SPACEthe major Breton exhibition of agricultural equipment, analyzes the intimate and internalized factors of servitude: the valorization of suffering, in the fact of being hard at work, the fascination with agricultural equipment which generates over-equipment and over-indebtedness, the increase in land consolidating purchasing the tractor rather than the other way around.

It is an ideological construction which borders on the religious, the dogma of industrialization, which ensures the consent of cannibals to cannibalism both as prey and as predators. The most astonishing is the erection of Canot, in the Valley of Saints, of a statue dedicated to Saint Alexis.! Silence in the fields is internalized and has long been accepted.

But the state? His compromise is final. He allowed methods of intimidation to flourish, agreeing with Alexis Gourvennec when he theorized: Two thousand farmers who destroy everything is more profitable than ten thousand demonstrators who march peacefully. Worse, it came to the financial aid of risky companies, like Brittany Ferries, agreeing to pool losses and privatize profits.

He also refused to apply environmental standards, disavowing his agents if necessary, and even put the public force at the service of a medium-term destructive project for the territory, its men and its resources. He honored the most fierce and sometimes corrupt barons of the Armorican Empire. In short, it was the secular arm of the agroindustrial religion.

And after?

The system having devoured its base, it has reached its limits. Voices are now being heard, at the heart of the establishment, to recognize the impasse, even if they are quickly called to order. It is these countless voices of veterinarians, banking executives or cooperatives of local civil servants, farmers sometimes high up in the hierarchy, that Nicolas Legendre makes us hear. A still light but persistent murmur is heard in the fields.

Other paths are possible, such as those of the Glinec brothers, combining disinvestment in equipment and reduction in volumes, but increase in margins.; because, contrary to popular belief, it is not economically virtuous to produce and sell, if to do so we have to import a lot and buy a lot. What makes a man and a territory rich is added value.

Brittany, and beyond French and even European agriculture, is the crossroads between two possibilities. On the one hand, an industrial project maintaining a purely extractivist relationship with the human and biological resources of the territory, ultimately a single capital company, as has been seen in other areas, for example the steel industry. With the risk that it will one day be controlled by external capital. Or, on the other hand, territorial reconnection.

Essay by Nicolas Legendre, which follows five articles published in The world, allows us to renew the public debate on the divergent futures of territories and the agro-industrial complex. Without freeing itself from the various responsibilities, the author balances the analysis by putting the spotlight on the mechanisms at play in the agricultural world, the structures he created, banks, cooperatives as well as upstream: machinery and agrochemistry.

The predictable drama of the agricultural world, like that of the climate, cannot be reduced to consumers who wouldn't want to pay the price. It is the product of a sector organization which, from the outset, had as its objective the end of the peasants. The big winners, often unknown to the general public, are located upstream: DuPont, Pioneer, Crédit Agricole, Chemchina, Bayer, Deutz, New Holland, Claas, etc.

For farmers, salvation requires a start: reaching out to the territories and consumers and apostatizing industrial religion and its idols. Worship what you have burned, burn what you have worshiped!