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(en) France, UCL AL #316 - Ecology, Counter-culture: for a new agrarian revolution (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 14 Jun 2021 09:47:49 +0300

The number, place and image of peasants have changed significantly over the past century, particularly in rich countries where modernization has changed agricultural practices. This text returns to this history and to the role that peasants could take today in the defense of a project of society freed from capitalism and technocracy. ---- History shows us that certain professions are doomed to disappear because they become obsolete or are replaced by modern inventions. Often, these changes are linked to a certain expectation in the collective imagination of the dominant classes. Human history has been intrinsically linked to agriculture for 10,000 years. It was in the first agricultural centers (China, Mesopotamia, Central America, etc.) that humans settled down and started growing grain, rather than hunting game. It is therefore unthinkable to make an analysis of modern society without looking at the place of peasants.

The peasantry victim of modernization
In Roman times, the peasant was seen as the "perfect"citizen [1]. He was a physically robust individual, with an honest character, and who was above the luxurious temptations of life. He embodied the image that the ruling classes wanted to appropriate for themselves, that is to say someone austere, belligerent when necessary, able to deprive himself of the comforts of life. This peasant-soldier concept was a political tool rooted in the present, but whose final objective was to determine the future (if Rome wanted to conquer Mare Nostrum with its legions tomorrow, strong peasants were needed today).

This glorified vision is also found in the speeches of emerging states, eager to forge a unique identity. Thomas Jefferson was an agrarian, with a vision of the rural world which was romantic, but which also took up a speech glorifying peasants as beings faithful to their homeland thanks to their physical attachment to the land.

But with modernization, the image of peasants in the imagination of political decision-makers ceases to be romantic. The peasantry is rather seen as a vestige of the past which must be integrated into the project of the new society. In Europe, there is a dual process in the XX th century: the Soviet Union began a massive collectivization policy based on the idea that "the proletarianization of the peasants" with the industrialization of agriculture is inevitable to make room for socialism, while in Western Europe, the model of family farming is gradually giving rise to an "assimilation of land to capital", that is to say to the model of farmer-entrepreneur that we know today.

In Western Europe, the model of family farming is gradually giving rise to an "assimilation of land to capital", that is to say to the model of the farmer-entrepreneur that we know. today.
In both cases, technology played a preponderant role, and this gradual disappearance of the peasant population was seen as an inexorable effect of the development and modernization of the nation.

This was one of the perverse effects of the modernization of which the peasants were victims. Today the modern techniques used not only question their practices which harm the environment; but some even go so far as to say that the future of humanity will be without peasants thanks to technical progress such as synthetic meat. And this cult of technological progress poses a danger. In fact, peasants are struggling to find their place in a modern society that has freed itself from the limits of nature.

When a president is able to say with contempt that he defends "an ecological society but not Amish" (which is an agrarian society by the way), and that Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, not only defends high-tech and hyper-capitalist agriculture, but is also the largest owner of agricultural land in the country, it is obvious that agriculture is in the sights of a political class which, in terms of ecological policies, is resolutely tech-savvy.

Peasant struggles, the spearhead of ecology
Agriculture must, if it is to survive, become the spearhead of a new ecology. It is fundamental, if we want modern peasants to be able to preserve their place in society, to understand that their future necessarily depends on this relationship with technology, which is both the curse and the blessing of the world. agricultural.

Certainly, it has made it possible to produce more, but when it reaches a certain threshold, and at the service of capital, technology causes ecological destruction and the loss of autonomy. But to say that agriculture should do without technology is also nonsense. The beginning of a potential solution is for agriculture to reinsert itself into the rural and local fabric by reappropriating and adapting its technology to serve the community.

Plowing a piece of land to produce vegetables for a popular canteen, or planting hedges to produce firewood and manage it collectively with the community are ways that peasants can finally stop being victims of the vision of a political minority and, on the contrary, create a counter-power that would generate a society emancipated from "wage slavery", the real cause of environmental destruction today.

For this, the peasants should position themselves as "the peasant-soldier" who fights not against Carthage, but against bureaucratic capitalism and ecocide.

Niels (UCL Montreuil)


[1] S. Baker, Ancient Rome: The rise and fall of an empire , 2007, BBC Books

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