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CPIR Statement: We Must Nationalise the Land of Ireland

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We cannot leave the structure of farming as it is in Ireland today. According to Teagasc, farmers in the 26 counties now get two thirds of their income from state grants and schemes, paid for by the landless worker. It's clear that the current structure of farming is uneconomical and can only be sustained by putting a massive burden on urban workers.

 

The traditional justification for this state largesse has been that it keeps families on the land. That sounds good, but the facts utterly contradict this justification. Today, there are only 44,000 full time farmers in the 26 counties. Teagasc predicts that this figure will be cut by one third over the next ten years. The agricultural grants régime actually militates against the small and medium sized farm, and makes them completely nonviable. Every year, hundreds of families are being driven off the land. A huge rural proletariat is, once more, being formed, filling badly serviced estates on the outskirts of country towns, and the scattered rural estates that have sprung up all over the country in the last twenty years. The Irish countryside is becoming more desert-like by the year, with massive social and mental health problems being reported among young farmers, who have to suffer an enforced isolation from their fellow human beings.

 

As the traditional justification for farm grants has collapsed, a new justification has emerged - we must continue to pay billions of euro to farmers every year, so as to ensure the quality of produce. This justification will only serve for as long as there is a compliant media, which will not point out the obvious implication - private farming in Ireland is unable to produce quality food. Irish agriculture is already a state industry, but with private individuals still allowed to keep the deeds of ownership.

 

Largely due to massive media propaganda campaigns, farm collectivisation has a bad name in Ireland, but, in reality, this is what the EU has being doing for a long time, i.e. pushing out the small and middle sized farmer in favour of the large ranch. Since most farmers are already being turned into proletarian workers, selling their labour to the likes of Larry Goodman, who collects a Single Payment of half a million euro every year - just for owning so much land. Does it not make much more sense to run these large farms/ranches as state farms, with workers doing a 40 hour shift, like any other worker - and with the proper health and pension rights that few farm workers enjoy today. Since Irish farms are already massively subsidised by the taxpayer, even if the state farms were no more profitable, or even a good bit less profitable, than the current private ranches, it would still mean a massive saving for the population in general, as land for roads, schools, homes, hospitals, etc. would already be in state hands, so no addition fee would have to be paid.

 

This would make an enormous change to the very structure of Irish society, as increases in productivity in the workforce would no longer be converted into higher land prices - as happened over the last ten years, and during all times of prosperity since the 18th century. Instead of increased productivity being swallowed up by land price inflation, it could instead be put into building up a native Irish industry that would lessen our junky like dependence on the multi-nationals. This retardation of Irish industry is part of the heavy cost of leaving the land in the hands of about 4% of the population.

 

State farms would also put an end to families being pushed off the land, and to the countryside being turned into an uninhabited emptiness. Once again, the countryside could be full of children and sport and dances and the wealth of cultural activity that once distinguished rural Ireland.

 

The turning over of billions of euro to private farmers has a devastating effect on urban Ireland also. In every Irish town and city, we see large tracts of land going utterly to waste. These waste areas are overgrown with weeds, and end up being used as illegal dumping grounds and centers of anti-social activity. Parents keep their children away from such places. How different the story could be. We have seen valiant efforts, over the last number of years, by community groups to begin community gardening projects. Usually with little or no official support, and sometimes with official opposition. We could utterly transform our cities, if only a small part of the money given to millionaire ranchers was given to communities to reclaim the land in their areas. Havana, Cuba, has shown that a city the size of Dublin can actually produce a large percentage of the food it needs - within the city itself.

 

Today, Irish agriculture uses 70% of all the water used in Ireland. Most of this water is not reusable, as it has been polluted with chemical fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides. Ireland, a country most blessed with rainfall, now faces water shortages every year. The current farming grants régime actually prevents the development of hydroponic agriculture, which does not need the use of chemicals. All water used is recyclable. This form of agriculture is greatly suited to urban areas, and can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, as transport to the cities is avoided.

 

We must end the death of our rural areas. We must end the death of our cities. The only way to do that is by nationalising our land, and using our resources, not to enrich the few, but to allow our land and people to flourish.

 

Communist Party of the Irish Republic

22nd November 2012

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