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“Farmers Holiday” in Iowa

A New and Militant Type of Middle Class Revolt

(September 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 36 (Whole No. 132), 3 September 1932, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The strike of the farmers in Sioux City has spread to other parts of the state, of Iowa and Indiana, and into nearby states. Truck gardeners and dairy farmers have joined the movement and threaten the law and order of the authorities. Minneapolis reports show the strike has reached the Northwest. This new strike action of this section of the petty bourgeois indicates the deep changes the agriculture of the United States is undergoing.

The reduction of wholesale food prices, the bosses’ hold on the farms and the reduction of the purchasing newer of the workers has upset the standards of the rich farm regions which were able to survive the constant agrarian crisis up to the present. In Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa, a higher plane of the struggle has been reached. Mass picketing, fights, and clashes with scabs and authorities are reported daily. In Council Bluffs the striking farmers marched upon the jail and forced the authorities to release 60 striking farmers. All reports indicate the strike is spreading.

Press reports from western papers show that in spite of minor ebbs and flows, the farmers revolt against conditions is growing. The farmers can no longer argue against the striking workers because now the striking farmers have joined them as allies in the struggle against the financiers and their henchman.

August 22, the striking farmers stopped two trains en route to Sioux City with livestock and milk. 400 farmers of the Missouri valley agree to begin a blockade of highways leading to Omaha. On August 26, the press reports re-enforced picket lines on all roads leading to Council Bluffs from the Iowa side. At Sioux City the 88 arrested strikers were released on habeas corpus proceedings, Iowa national guards are in readiness to be sent to any part of the state.

The Nebraska farmers started picketing roads in and around Omaha. In Iowa, the state power of the capitalists has been used against the striking farmers, arresting strikers, routing them with tear gas and general intimidation that striking workers are well trained in.

The farmers of Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Minnesota are following up the strike movement in one form or the other. In other farm regions preliminary steps in this direction are being taken. The middle class state farm organisations are endeavoring to give leadership to the movements and link them up in a general struggle against the monopolists. Reports from Lewiston, Idaho, inform us that 400 farmers in this rich wheat district are bound by agreement to sell none of their wheat for 60 days unless a profit can be made. They control 5 million bushels of wheat.

Significance of Farm Strike

What significance has the farmers strike? What is the relation the farmers strike has to the workers struggles? A survey of this struggle is essential to prevent the vanguard from being shifted into opportunist channels by Stalinism today as was the case in the past when Pepper, as a representative of the Right-Center bloc, lost the Communist movement into opportunism with his two-class party idea.

The crisis is throwing upon the surface new layers of rebels. These new layers crystallize around issues of immediate demands at hand. The Bonus March was a typical example of this. The Bonus Army with the exception of the minority Left wing, was a force made up of patriotic Americans, “Loyal Americans”, who wanted relief from mass hunger and starvation. The Government answer to their cry for bread with bullets shifted the “army” and many of its sympathizers to the Left, and away from their patriotism.

The farmers’ strike follows this new trail, but throws to the surface an entirely different layer of “enemies” of capitalism. The reorganization of agriculture – to coordinate it with industry – by the American imperialists pushed the farmers forward into struggle. Their outlook on property relations warps this movement, restricts it to a struggle attempting to hold in check the concentration and centralization of wealth. They want to turn the wheels of industry backward.

Workers’ Strike and Farmers’ Strike

When the workers strike it is a blow against capitalism, at the basic contradictions of the system, a blow at the relation of the exploiting machine owner and the exploited producing wage slaves. But the farmers’ strike turns on a different axis. The farmers strike does not unearth the same relationship to the basic contradictions of capitalism. The farmers’ strike reveals the relationship of a section of the petty-bourgeoisie, the farmers, fighting another section of the capitalists who have monopolized the avenues between production and distribution. The workers solution is forward to the social revolution. The “solution” of the farmers is an attempt to check the march of industry, to turn the wheels backward. This does not mean that we reject the farmers’ struggles as reactionary. It means that it is doomed at the start to certain limitations and. must be supported in this light, as an auxiliary struggle in the class struggle against the capitalists. Not a struggle on an equal basis with the workers’. struggle, as indicated by the slogan of “Workers and Farmers Government”, but’ as a struggle of allies in the fight of the workers to overthrow capitalism.

The Middle Class in the Crisis

Large sections of the middle class have already been ruined by the crisis and the attempted reorganization of American industry by the financiers. The farmer, as a section of this class, has been in a permanent crisis. The financiers have already won a section of the “new” middle class as flunkies. Not so with the farmers, who will fight to the end. It is not correct to contend that the imperialists have won the middle class as a whole to their side, nor is it correct to say the middle class will not survive this crisis. The problem is many-sided and not so simple. The whole middle class is divided and moving in many directions and no solution of their problems can be expected under capitalism and particularly from the leaders of the middle class. As allies of the proletariat, they are of value to the further development of society.

This new farmers struggle is on an entirely different plane when compared to the struggles of the former centuries.

The struggle against capitalism in America is the struggle of the workers, industrial and agrarian, black and white, etc. The farmers must be used as allies. The Communist workers must guard against the Stalinist attempt to elevate the farmers’ strike above its proper level in the class struggle. The Stalinists attempt to elevate the farmers’ strike to the same level of the workers’ struggle against capitalism must be rejected, if we are to approach the problems of the farmers with a correct Marxian policy.

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