Class Differentiation of the Peasant Population (Kavčič, Lovec, Đulić)

Slovenian agriculture is characterised by small farms of 6,5 ha in average. Almost half of the utilised agricultural area is cultivated by agricultural holdings smaller than 10 ha. In 2012, agriculture employed 8 % of the population. The concentration of agricultural land is a slow yet steady process: between 2000 and 2010 the average size of holdings increased from 5,5 ha to 6,5 ha. The productivity of Slovenian agriculture remains low, lagging behind most of the other European countries: in Slovenia, a single annual work unit (AWU) cultivates 6,3 ha, which is almost three times less than the EU-27 average and four times less than the EU-15 average. Family farms, which rarely hire labour force, predominate (98 % of all economically active persons in agriculture performs labour on their own family farms). Income from farming in most cases does not enable subsistence for the family: in 2002 only 20 % of agricultural holdings provided (an equivalent of) full employment for its active members. With the exception of hired labour and notwithstanding the tendency towards agricultural land concentration, the dominant social bond in this sector remains self-exploitation of family labour. The managerial structure of agricultural holdings in Slovenia is still fundamentally patriarchal and pre-capitalist; there is only 27 % of female farm holders, even though women account for 43 % of AWU or 46 % of all active persons. The CAPs policy, whose aims are gradually shifting from market regulation to cultural landscape preservation, in a way serves to consolidate these relations.

Slovenian agriculture interlocks with capitalist economy in two ways: through the market of agricultural products and services (not labour force); and as a source of additional income (a source of livelihood) of the labour force employed in other economic sectors. In this respect, the pre-capitalist farming (with self-exploitation within the family) serves to subsidise the capitalists. The class analysis of Slovenian rural or peasant population thus has to provide an account of the various combinations of diverse economic activities, enabling the reproduction of agricultural households. The old Marxist analysis of the class character of peasant population, which regarded the scope of ownership over land and the means of cultivation as the main criterion, is insufficient insofar as it was more about income classes than about social classes in the Marxian sense.

The aim of this panel is to analyse the archaic agricultural sector, particularly the position of its labour force in capitalism. What is its perspective? Do peasants constitute a class? If not, which classes constitute the fragmented character of peasants? What are the prospects of the re-agrarisation in countries such as Croatia and Slovenia? In the global South, the so called re-agrarisation is a form of resistance to expropriation; can in our context a return to the countryside provide an answer to the dissolution of the welfare state (and of the public sector in general) and to deindustrialisation? Is it a coincidence that in the time of crisis we are once again speaking of cooperatives?

Stane Kavčič – The Size Structure of Agricultural Holdings in Slovenia and Their Importance for Slovenian Food Balance

A series of relevant figures of Slovenian agricultural size structure, defined in terms of standard output, will be presented, based on annual applications for CAP direct payments. The importance of small and above-average holdings in different primary products will be analysed. The presentation will conclude with some proposals for more targeted agricultural policy measures to better employ available resources and improve food balance with most important agricultural commodities.

Stane Kavčič is Associate Professor at the Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana. His main research areas include agrarian economy and agrarian politics.

Marko Lovec – Slovenian Agricultural Production Structure, the Problem of Class Consciousness in Agriculture and the Role of the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU

Slovenian agricultural production structures are characterised by relatively small production units, most of which are comprised of family farms. The average income from farming is relatively low and the share of part-time farmers and self-sustaining farming is high. The average farmer is relatively old and lacking education and skills. Underemployment and overexploitation of (own) labour is not the only problem of agricultural production structure, since there is a tendency of sub-optimal investments and underemployment of capital.

The reason for underdeveloped production structures lies in the historical fragmentation of agricultural land ownership, the predominance of family owned business and the insufficient policy incentives for more efficient investments, forms of organisation and restructuring. Farmers and farmers’ organisations have in that manner themselves often played a counterproductive role by insisting on certain traditional and quantity-intensive production models, on a mode of production based on private ownership and on rigid policies that merely subsidise factor income, thus favouring factor owners and larger production units. The political engagement and claims made by farmers can be explained with their complex position of being owners of factors that are essential for the physical reproduction of labour (for example, land), owners of agricultural capital and self-employers parasitising on their own labour. In this manner, farmers share a schizophrenic class consciousness with the self-employed in the services sector and in small-scale business in general.

Slovenian agriculture operates within the Common agricultural policy (CAP) of the EU. The influence of CAP on Slovenian agriculture is not one-dimensional. CAP influenced on the increase of supports in Slovenian agriculture but also exposed Slovenian farmers to competition from farmers coming from the Western Europe who enjoyed (and to some extent still enjoy) higher support levels and/or better integration of supply and demand chains. Slovenian farmers were (and are) able to draw on the structural (rural development) funds. However, since the majority of the supports is (increasingly) per area based, CAP basically provides small farmers with social supports and large farmers (factor owners) with capital rents, thus preserving the rigid state of production structures, stimulating non-productive concentration and raising the threshold for potential young farmers.

Marko Lovec is Research Fellow at the Centre of International relations at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana. Since his doctoral dissertation, the main focus of his research have been alternative political economic explanations of the Common agricultural policy reforms of the EU.

Goran Đulić – Perspectives of the Agrarian Sector in Croatia

In the past hundred years, agriculture has seen a fascinating dynamics, with transformation spanning from biological and production structures to social, scientific and political spheres. The aim of every kind of agriculture is to move from agricultural to sustainable rural development. Today, agricultural production is not possible without state intervention. Without the state and its active involvement, the fluctuation of supply and prices would have ruinous economic, political and social consequences. While agriculture is a highly protected sector, those who form the basis of its production, namely the peasants, are not protected. Despite the fact that 99 % of domestic agricultural production in Croatia is carried out by small peasant households and holdings, each day tens of family owned agricultural households are lost while unemployment is rising and leading to a decline in other areas, deagrarisation, economic inequality, migration of population and demographic amplitude. These trends are typical of transition countries and Croatia was no exception. Upon joining the WTO and abolishing customs duties and quotas and subsequently joining the EU, the domestic agriculture of these countries found itself on the verge of collapse, becoming a net importer of agricultural products.

The peasant question as a class question may be regarded as solved when the number of peasant population falls below 10 %. The widespread industrialisation of the 1960s and 1970s and the absence of any kind of planned and continuous investment in domestic agricultural production up to this day and the transition to market economy marked by repeal of protective mechanisms such as customs duties and quotas has called into question food sovereignty, as more than half of the food consumed is imported. The lack of any systemic resistance has brought domestic agriculture into the situation of a social time bomb. Whether this social time bomb is going to blow up, causing insurgency and a struggle for sustainable agricultural development and food sovereignty, or ulimately lead to the downfall of peasants and to the disappearance of the village as we know it, remains unclear.

Goran Đulić is a student of Economics at the Faculty of Economics, University of Zagreb. He is a member of the Organization for Workers’ Initiative and Democratization (BRID) and an author of several articles on agricultural economics published in Le Monde, Halter and Slobodni filozofski.

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