James Harris [left]
‘It’s what workers and farmers do, not elections, that matters’
BY PAUL DAVIES
LONDON—During his tour of the United Kingdom, James Harris, Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate, was invited by dairy and beef farmers Peter and Youleitte Parkes to visit their farm in Surrey and discuss what farmers and workers face today.
The Parkes have been involved in a series of actions outside dairy processors protesting cuts in what dairy farmers receive for their milk.
Over the last decade supermarket chains have steeply increased the percentage they get from the sale of milk at the expense of farmers. This adds to the squeeze processors lay on them.
As a result, the number of dairy farmers fell from 35,741 in 1995 to 14,793 in 2011.
“The molasses we need to supplement our animal feed has risen from 35 pence a liter to 85 pence,” (1 pence=US 2 cents) Youleitte Parkes told Harris. Peter Parkes pointed to one of their parched fields, saying, “We can’t afford to dig it up and reseed it, so I’m having to dig ponds to drain off some of the water.”
“Small farmers are being driven off the land in the U.S.,” Harris said. “Farmers should be guaranteed their costs of production so they can make a living. Workers and farmers produce all the wealth, but have no control over it. Food should not be a commodity, it is a basic human need.
“Farmers and workers at the processing plants produce the milk, but the dairies take all the profit,” he added.
“Workers are being made to pay for the crisis,” Peter Parkes replied. “We need to get rid of the government bureaucracy.”
“There are two ways to approach a problem—ask some experts, set up a commission and pay them some money, or call on working people to volunteer to deal with it,” said Harris. “But for that workers need political power. Without that, then even when you win some victories, all the problems will just keep coming back.”
“So how do we change that?” Youleitte Parkes asked. “The rich are getting richer at our expense and they have ways of getting around taxes.”
“It won’t be changed by elections, but by working people organizing,” Harris replied. “It’ll be what regular workers and farmers like yourselves do that matters. Every gain we make is made through struggle.”