■ This article is by a family farmer actively trying to bring people together in the Westmeath-Roscommon region. Socialist Voice welcomes contributions to this important and necessary debate.
The true issue in farming today is the lack of awareness of the crisis they are now in. The Dutch farmers, alongside other farmers in Europe, have realised that what is going on is in fact a land grab by the elite, the idea being to make the lives of small and middle-scale farmers’ business untenable by passing rigorous environmental laws that target the lower-income farmers and workers.
This was the challenge that Indian farmers faced, with the elite and the government trying to destroy their livelihood by means of taking over their holdings, in one of the longest resistance campaigns in decades. The farmers, with great help from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), fought back, with massive demonstrations throughout the country, winning a great victory when the Indian government backed down.
With all this positive action going on around the world, the question is, Why isn’t there similar action in Ireland? The answer is simply expressed in one word: apathy.
I have been to many environmental and forestry courses and meetings as well as farm organisation meetings. I have posed this question in all of them. Don’t you realise the Government and the wealthy elite want your lands? Can’t you see what is happening around the world with all the mass protests?
Their answer always was that the issue in Holland and throughout Europe is a nitrates issue, and not a land grab. On top of that they felt the Dutch farmers should not be supported because they broke the environmental laws.
I asked them if they had heard of the Indian farmers’ campaign; and the answer was No. I explained it to them, but there was the same reaction as the attitude to the Dutch problem.
Hence the problem that needs to be addressed. This is apathy and a lack of knowledge of the real situation, and taking misinformation as the gospel truth.
The lack of true understanding is scarcely believable in the present day and age, and the fact that they are willing to take any measures that are not in their own interests, without any questioning of why this is necessary. It seems they do not care, are resigned to their fate.
However, as bad as it may look, it is important to save our rural industries. Rural areas are fast becoming wastelands. Now, this has been said before. The transnational corporations are destroying the bogs, exploiting every inch of turf for profit, then leaving the area completely run out and looking like a nuclear wasteland, before moving on.
The idea of the People’s Dáil, which unites the various protest groups into one, is the way to combat this exploitation and, hopefully, unite farmers’ groups as well. The idea of historical dialectics states that the strong, dominant force will swap places with the weaker element as time goes by.
So, with that in mind, it is important for people to form their own power bases, so that when the turn comes they will be ready to assume the responsibility of rule.
The farmers are plagued with factionalism, with many different agricultural organisations. Unity is the answer; in fact that was what the ICMSA sheep chairperson called for at the minister for agriculture’s hustings sitting beside me. Yes, he is correct: farmers have to unite as one.
I believe the People’s Dáil could be the way forward, to be the means of at least getting them together at the local level. Let them thrash out an agenda and then go ahead and implement it.
It’s the only way forward. What is the alternative? A rural area that’s left a wasteland. The crisis affecting Irish farming and the rural areas is the most acute and dangerous in the long history of this country. It’s either sink separately or swim together for Irish agriculture.