Who owns raids

Who does the field belong to?

Collective land ownership as a necessary extension of CSA: for solidarity agriculture

by Andreas Exner

(from social-innovation.org)

The following article examines the structure of Community Support Agriculture projects, or CSAs for short. It illustrates the breadth of such projects, but also their contradictions. This stems essentially from the contradiction between solidarity and the market economy. The market narrows both consumers and producers. Private ownership of land plays a special role here. Finally, approaches to the creation of common goods on land as a basis for solidarity agriculture are outlined.

In the face of food scandals, genetic engineering, and the feeling of increasing powerlessness and anonymity, many consumers are looking for alternatives to the prevailing form of agriculture. On the other hand, the dying of rural farms continues and also urges producers to look for new ways.

For some years now, movements for solidarity agriculture have also become more visible in German-speaking countries. Most prominent in this regard is probably the CSA approach, at least a first step in this direction. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, literally translated as community supported agriculture.

CSA: an unequal relationship?

CSA does not have a uniform definition. The approaches and projects discussed under this title are primarily united by the attempt to produce and distribute food differently than usual. Most CSA projects are based on the division of labor between a farm and the consumer. This division of labor is more or less changed in the course of the development of many projects. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile first of all to consider the relationship between the motives of these two groups, which remain constitutive for most CSA projects. The following list is based, among other things, on the contributions of around 70 participants in the workshop “From the CSA to the free purchase of land?” At the Solidarity Economy Congress in Vienna in February 2013.

The priority Motives of the consumersTo form a CSA are therefore:

  • Preservation of smallholder agriculture and ecological farming methods; Sharing of production risk; Acceptance guarantee for the producers; Taking responsibility for production
  • Healthy food and regional production that can be checked for yourself
  • More related to agriculture, soil and people
  • More solidarity between consumers; Redistribution; more crisis security and social equality; In-house production; Satisfying basic needs away from the market
  • More say in the company; Abolition of the separation between consumers and producers; Decoupling of prices and products
  • Creation of an experiment room for old varieties; Reducing the pressure to achieve efficiency that weighs on agriculture
  • awareness raising

In summary, it is mainly about social and political motives. Individual quality of life, such as the desire for good food, also plays a role. Unless niche products are involved, such as the rare varieties of GELA Ochsenherz in Vienna, these motifs can probably also be fulfilled by organic products in the supermarket and are therefore of secondary importance.

They are stored differently Motives of the producersif you look at those CSA projects that are not more or less collectively designed as in approaches to non-commercial agriculture. For conventional producers who want and have to earn a living, the main motive is to maintain the business through:

  • Securing sales through customer loyalty and marketing through image advantage
  • Risk diversification and pre-financing

Further motives can be the increased appreciation of one's own work and its products, but also the satisfaction through contact with the consumer. But in most cases, it can be assumed, the monetary-economic motives are clearly in the foreground.

This is because a farm in a market economy must first generate a sufficient income for structural reasons. All other concerns, the joy of work for example, can only come into play secondarily. While consumers are only interested in use value, producers in a market economy must first focus on the exchange value of their products.

The motives of the consumers are therefore clearly different from those of the producers. While the consumers want to practice solidarity with the producers and pursue political motives, the producers are dependent on the consumers as a means of economic survival. On their part, other motives may well assert themselves, but only when the hard constraint of monetary income has been obeyed.

The “solidarity” of consumers can, however, also have selfish motives. For example in those cases where the products are particularly valued and are hardly available on the market (for example rare varieties). Even the softening of the separation between consumers and producers that is associated with the CSA does not necessarily have to be emancipatory in character. This separation is also canceled by Ikea, where customers screw their boxes together themselves, or on a self-harvesting field. And the earlier Tupperware parties definitely combined elements of a social “movement” with “personal work” and “emotional commitment”. Of course, Ikea and Tupperware are large corporations.

The question arises, under which conditions the motives of consumers and producers fit together; and whether these conditions can be the basis of solidarity agriculture as a social perspective. It is also important to question these motives yourself. Not everything that wants to go together goes together.

On the other hand, the question arises as to what prerequisites would have to be given so that consumers and producers complement each other for the equal benefit of all, beyond the marginal phenomenon that CSA is today even in its most developed forms. So what structure creates the basis for stable solidarity between these two poles?

Answers to this question cannot be drawn up on the drawing board, but only developed through constant attempt and reflection on errors and successes. It seems important to have a sober approach to one's own practice that avoids romanticization. If the wish is not immediately taken for reality, deficits can be an incentive for your own project.

Questions about your own project

Viewed in this way, good questions are more important than ready-made answers. They can lead or inspire a process of ongoing reflection. Here are some suggestions for questions that aim to shed light on your own project and, if necessary, to try new things:

  • Has the market really been overridden in our project?
  • How far does solidarity go with us in an emergency?
  • Is there a structural equality between producers and consumers, is there a real say for everyone in the company?
  • Are strategies of “customer loyalty” used?
  • If yes, which?
  • Does the initiative come only or mainly from the company?
  • What is the structural difference between the project and a normal producer?

It may be that the desire to do agriculture in a CSA very differently than usual makes these questions incomprehensible. How, for example, can it be that “customer loyalty” is pursued in a CSA project? “We don't want to be customers, and the producer is really interested in our wellbeing,” the answer could be, and that may be the case.

A striking thought experiment helps to look at the question more soberly: Would you buy the CSA products even if the producer were an uncommunicative curmudgeon who neither runs a website nor puts recipes in the delivery box, does not organize any parties and does not make any other arrangements, to do something other than produce vegetables? And vice versa: Would such a producer then find enough sales for her CSA products?

Tupperware is a blatant example, but it shows that emotion and relationships are also used by capitalist businesses. In a market economy, relationships ultimately also mostly serve itself: the market economy and the compulsion to generate income.

These questions can be sharpened a little:

  • Do those who cannot pay also get to eat?
  • Can only high earners “afford” a CSA?
  • Is there private ownership of land and machines?
  • How would the project react to peak oil or the next banking crisis?

At the moment it does not seem clear which direction the CSA movement will ultimately take. In any case, it is essential for a positive development of CSA in the sense of solidarity-based economy to question the structures that determine the actions in the projects. This is the only way to overcome capitalist structures and imprints over a longer period of time and in a larger context of cooperation. That would be necessary for solidarity agriculture.

The CSA movement is - like any such approach - ambivalent in terms of emancipation. The question is not without a certain justification whether the CSA as a whole, as a social tendency, is not also a kind of “deepened neoliberalism”, which in its own way promotes the privatization of agricultural policy and the passing on of food supply risks to consumers and their social inequality in terms of time and money.

Equally relevant is the question of whether CSA projects sometimes do without reasonable economies of scale and a reasonable division of labor between companies. What today's CSA projects are considered to be “reasonable” in this respect presupposes (relatively high) monetary income for consumers who can forego certain advantages of the division of labor because they can literally afford it. As a rule, they also consume a lot of foods that go beyond the focus on vegetables that is usual in CSA businesses in order to meet their calorie and protein needs. These are produced conventionally, at a high level not only through the use of machines, but also through the division of labor, and rarely on farms that practically “do everything” and “cultivate everything”.

The CSA companies, in turn, sometimes use wage labor, which is also poorly paid (although, as in an example I know, within the framework of a collective agreement) and the work of the owners is sometimes reminiscent of the drudgery typical of traditional farms. All of these aspects show that a reduction in the division of labor and thus productivity in a market economy literally has its price. In an economy that goes beyond the market, reducing the division of labor between and within companies extends working hours and intensifies physical exertion. This also applies to the market economy, with the difference that this is then expressed in higher prices.

Sometimes the wish to want to do as much as possible "yourself" and to produce "originally" or "self-sufficiently" is more likely to be based on the need for human proximity and experience of nature; perhaps also the search for an independence from the crisis-ridden capitalist society, which, however, could be built up in larger rather than smaller contexts. It is a kind of optical illusion to associate “small” with “crisis-proof”. In fact, even before capitalism, relatively crisis-proof societies were never organized only locally. In parts of Africa with unstable climatic conditions, for example, exchange relationships across regions were of great importance (which were only destroyed by colonialism).

In a small, self-sufficient project, a single bad harvest, illness of the producer or some other imponderability for a potential crisis situation is sufficient. This applies to a conventional, market-oriented CSA as well as to a non-commercial agriculture initiative. Normally, in this case, consumers will switch to the supermarket and hopefully the producer will be able to fall back on insurance. The pre-financing of production at the level of the individual company, as in the ideal-typical model of the CSA, does not offer any insurance against risks for consumers. This approach falls short of the level of cooperation between manufacturers in insurance companies, for example against hail.

This simple example already shows that crisis security definitely requires cooperation on a scale that is far larger than a single CSA.

This is also obvious when one thinks of today's relatively simple means of production such as tractors, which no one wants to be without anymore, as long as there are no weighty reasons against it. In the broadest sense, aesthetic considerations are hardly important if you were faced with the practical alternative of doing the work that a tractor replaces yourself. Organic farming usually has a higher degree of machine use because the weeds are controlled mechanically or thermally. The criticism of “machine use”, which resonates in some CSA projects, is due to their focus on vegetables, and even a vegetable field can only be worked with great effort by hand. Of course, oxen or horses would also be an alternative, but they increase the workload and significantly reduce productivity.

Undoubtedly, a certain amount of physical activity is not only beneficial, but enjoyable. And it is clear that there is no such thing as an effortless life. The time alone spent in fitness studios or jogging would result in considerable potential for fieldwork, which is probably more attractive in itself than lifting weights or walking stubbornly [1]. But if you were faced with the choice of chasing after an ox at the expense of reading, music or socializing, which could well be the result of a significant reduction in productivity for society as a whole, the question of labor productivity would immediately acquire a noticeable urgency. As long as there is the possibility of choosing between, for example, exclusively manual labor, the use of oxen or tractors, and CSA projects are interested in solidarity agriculture as a social perspective, it should also be considered in this regard.

All these aspects relate to the question of the extent to which CSA projects can be steps towards an alternative for society as a whole to today's agriculture. One of the most important questions in this context, however, is whether CSA can really overcome the form of agriculture that dominates capitalism as long as the land, the most important agricultural means of production, is in private ownership: either the farms themselves or the lessors. Leases are inherently unequal relationships of dependency and power and are difficult to combine with solidarity.

The two dimensions of the CSA and its many forms

For a more detailed discussion of different forms of CSA, two dimensions appear to be important, which appear again and again in the motives of the consumers: relationship and equality. On the one hand, CSA projects can be arranged along an axis of decreasing importance of market conditions. This axis also reflects the increasing importance of solidarity and cooperation. Because solidarity is the opposite of the market. It gets stronger where the market gets weaker and vice versa.

On the other hand, various projects can also be sorted along an axis of increasing social equality: from a situation where the owner of a company alone makes decisions to a project context where all those involved are equally involved in decision-making processes. These axes are shown in the figure below.

At one end of inequality and the market is the rather conventional scheme of the “organic kisterl”. It is based on anonymity and the delivery can be canceled at any time. Many would probably not even count this approach as part of the CSA, but the limit to a model of “Bio-Kisterl”, which includes a certain emotional relationship to the producer, seems to be more gradual. And such projects are probably a relatively widespread, perhaps even the dominant form of CSA.

The ideal-typical CSA admittedly goes a few steps further in the direction of more equality in production. In this respect, it is relevant to spread the risk through pre-financing of the operation, the possibility of the consumers working together, and a joint production plan.

The approach of the CSA first developed in the USA. It was inspired by the Japanese SEIKATSU Club, a very large association of producer-consumer cooperatives in the food sector.In the USA there are now also CSAs whose members jointly dispose of the country in which the CSA operates. Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty describe in their book "The Resilience Imperative" (2012) the arrangement of this special approach in detail.

Land belongs to a Community Land Trust (CLT), a land foundation. The CLT owns agricultural land that is leased to farmers. One example of this is the Indian Line Farm in Massachussets. It is one of the very first CSAs in the USA. The country of this CSA belongs to a CLT. The CLT bought it with the help of donations from members after the death of the farmer with whom the CSA had been built.

The CLT has contractually stipulated that the principles of the CSA must be adhered to on its land. Since the successor of the first farmer, who has since died, only leases the farm, but holds shares in his own investments, he also has an incentive, according to the idea, to maintain and improve the farm through private investments. The CLT has the contractual option of buying back the farmer's investments at the replacement cost, if necessary, and selling them to another farmer at the same price.

The relatively large Terre de Liens network in France, which has existed since 2003, follows a similar approach [2]. Terre de Liens includes a fund that manages both monetary donations and donations from the farm and coordinates the work of volunteers. Terre de Liens currently has around 80 farms across France and supports 50 other agricultural projects. Purchases are funded by amounts of money brought in by members. The farms owned by Terre de Liens are leased to farmers who produce organically.

An important goal of Terre de Liens is, among other things, to prevent farmers from becoming indebted, who often have to spend large sums of money on the purchase of a farm. In addition, the aim is to prevent farms from lying idle by ensuring that the network guarantees the continuous use of the courtyards and their areas. Terre de Liens was created independently of the CSAs (so-called AMAPs) that are widespread in France. In the meantime, however, there are initial experiences in developing CSAs within the framework of Terre de Liens.

At the other end of Equality and Relationship on our diagram are examples of non-commercial agriculture. Such approaches can be implemented on leased land or on land that is the collective property of the CSA group. An example of the first case is a collective in Germany that Jan-Hendrik Cropp has described [3]. The "Bodenfreikauf" initiative in Styria aims at non-commercial agriculture with collective land ownership [4].

The problem of the land market

Depending on the motivation for participating in a CSA, the claim to get rid of individualized private property on the ground might seem a bit exaggerated. Does that have to be? Does solidarity really have that much to do with ownership? In short: yes, she has.

It starts with the fact that not all people who need access to soil also get this access. In the market economy you have to pay for this access. And solvency is distributed very unevenly, as we know.

The fact that the resource soil first has to pass through the eye of the market needle leads to increasing misery and despair, which more and more often end in suicide, not only in countries like India, but also in Europe. This applies to the housing issue; in Spain, for example, suicides due to evictions have risen sharply. And that applies to the agricultural question, where the "death of farmers" has a terrible meaning, especially in India.

These developments cannot be traced back to private land ownership in so far as one more factor has to be added: too low income from land yields for the farms; and income from wage labor that is too low to cover housing costs. However, the need for a monetary income on the one hand and the existence of a land market on the other are historically and structurally closely related. Historically, the land market was a prerequisite for the market economy. Only the expropriation of large parts of the rural producers forced masses of people into the yoke of wage labor, created markets for consumer goods and forced the remaining farms to produce primarily for the market.

From a structural point of view, the following applies: It would be difficult to imagine that the land market would continue to exist in a society without a market economy. Conversely, it is hardly conceivable that the land market would be overcome, but that the market economy with labor market, housing market, etc. would continue to exist. Here are a few more considerations below.

So this is the overall context of a society that leads to many farmers giving up their businesses. People who want to farm do not even get around to buying a farm. After all, we all need a roof over our heads and we do not get it simply because we exist, but only if we also raise the necessary money for it.

But we only get money if a growth-oriented economy also expects profit and harnesses us as “workers” in its machinery - and we allow that.

The average housing costs consist largely of the cost of the land, according to Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty, at least in the Anglo-Saxon region mostly up to half. And these have increased massively in recent years, including in Austria. A study by immobilien.net shows that property prices in Austria have risen by 20% in the last five years alone a href = “# a5 ″ name =“ 5 ″ [5]. So only so that we can be on earth do we have to pay its so-called owners: a lot. What a crazy situation.

A not inconsiderable part of the price of all land-based products - and to a certain extent all products or parts of their manufacturing process are land-based - results from the land rent. This pension is a kind of "toll" that has to be paid to ensure that access to land and, as a result, its products is granted. It has increased dramatically in recent years.

The restrictive nature of the land market for any kind of conscious design of land use also weighs heavily. The land market prevents a participatory decision on land use based on social equality that is geared to specific needs. Instead, prices, speculation and blackmail drive their development.

If the land market were to be regulated in a participatory and equitable manner, it would no longer be a market. Because this would mean that solvency should no longer be a criterion, either by not taking it into account at all, or by providing everyone with the same financial resources. But this would shut down a core principle of the market itself.

In addition, it is difficult to imagine how the land market in particular can give way to concrete planning that is geared to food needs, while all other markets are not subject to any concrete planning. The illusion that one can plan the market is at the root of the systematic divergence between spatial planning and spatial development. Basically, spatial planning mainly sanctions the development that would take place without it retrospectively.

In principle, it would be conceivable to enforce a regulation of the land market that is more oriented towards the concrete needs of agriculture, for example, even through existing institutions such as the land transport commission. Historically, that was also the case. However, such regulations always contradict the market economy. They have therefore been gradually softened or eliminated since the neoliberal reaction against the crisis of the market economy and capitalism from the 1980s and what remained of them is now under pressure again.

Previously dominant ideas of a step-by-step “containment” of capitalism through state regulation have all failed because the state is not an apparatus that is independent of capital, but its regulatory function serves to maintain it. In a market economy, therefore, little positive can be expected from more regulation.

Related to this is the omnipresent speculation with arable land and settlement areas, but also with real estate. Where there is a land market, speculation can hardly be prevented. Because speculative thinking with the potential profit in view is an inherent characteristic of the market.

Land rent is also included in the prices and types of agricultural products. The share of land rent in housing and thus wage costs can be relevant for agricultural projects. In those CSA projects in which wage costs are incurred in a certain way, for example because the group of consumers pays “full-time producers” like wage earners instead of a farm.

These quasi-wage costs also have to cover a considerable part of the land rent, to a lesser extent those for the workers' food, which they have to buy, but to a greater extent, those in the form of housing costs that they have to cover.

Conclusion: In the market economy, production and distribution are based only on the solvency of needs. It is not enough for people to have to eat and want good food. Solidarity agriculture is only possible to a very limited extent under market conditions.

Market or solidarity?

Until further notice, every CSA is part of a capitalist society. The closer it is related to this, the stronger the inevitable contradictions in alternative approaches. This applies particularly to the usual forms of CSA, where production and distribution are money-oriented and there is no collective ownership of the means of production. Then the contradiction between solidarity and market economy reality becomes particularly clear.

While the relationship between the consumer and the producer shows more or less elements of solidarity, both groups are inevitably and to a large extent in contact with the capitalist economy, which acts entirely without solidarity, as the illustration below shows.

For consumers and smallholder producers, money is a medium of exchange. If money is designated with a “G” and the commodity, for example a sack of potatoes, with “W”, then W - G - W. The wage earners “sell” their “commodity” labor (W) to capitalist companies and receive for it a wage (G) that enables them to purchase food (W), including from the CSA company. In this consumption cycle, money plays a mediating role. The consumers pay for the food, the farm receives a corresponding income, which enables it to produce again, the delivery of goods and in turn an income.

A money economy only arises in a society in which the means of production belong to a few and the rest is forced to do wage labor for the owners. Money is therefore not a neutral medium for facilitating exchange. Exchange of goods exists only in a money economy and money is just as much capital for the owners as it is the necessary means for the livelihood of the wage earners and the smallholder producers.

The determining dynamic in capitalism is therefore not C - M - W, but M - W - G ‘. G ‘denotes the cash advance for production, which has increased by the profit, i.e. made a profit. This capital cycle determines the consumption cycle that farmers and CSA consumers carry out between themselves. This is because the consumption cycle cannot exist out of itself, but is a moment that is dependent on the capital cycle.

As long as it does not use wage labor, the CSA company operates non-capitalistically - because wage labor is the production relationship characteristic of capitalism. Nevertheless, it remains part of a capitalist economy and even the apparently “traditional” smallholder agriculture can historically only be understood as an element of a capitalist economy. What looks “traditional” today is just as much a part of modernity as “factory-like modernity”.

The question of whether the consumption cycle mediated by money could in principle also exist on its own, i.e. independent of the capital cycle, boils down to the question of whether there can be a non-capitalist market economy, i.e. an economy in which money is exclusively a medium of exchange. This question is worth discussing in more detail. Here are just a few arguments that make a non-capitalist market economy rather implausible as a perspective:

First: Overcoming capitalism, profit production through the exploitation of wage labor, requires very extensive and lasting solidarity relationships that develop in social struggles and through such struggles assert themselves as the determining social structure. Relationships based on solidarity, however, are the opposite of market conditions. If the development path of a society determines the achievable goal to a large extent, then the question arises why a mass movement based on solidarity should continue to maintain the non-solidarity divisions that the market sets, or how the two could be unified without contradiction.

Secondly: A non-capitalist market economy would in any case have to be based on cooperatives without wage labor and with collective decision-making at eye level, i.e. on democratic cooperatives. And it would be characterized by very extensive income equality. As a market economy enterprise, however, the cooperatives would have to compete with one another; after all, they don't agree on their production in advance. Where there is competition, there is bankruptcy - this is even desirable in a competitive system. If this market economy is to be able to be non-capitalist at all, members of bankrupt cooperatives should not experience any significant disadvantage.

They would have to receive social benefits in the amount of the average income or be included in other cooperatives or receive means of production again to found a new cooperative. In the former case it is not clear why people should compete against each other at all. In a non-capitalist society, people would be more likely to cooperate anyway and abolish the market between them. In the second case, the most competitive cooperatives would grow larger over time. Since there is no market within a company, the society would tend to become a single cooperative - without a market. In the latter case, it is unclear why a company would first go bankrupt and declare its work to be pointless, only to re-equip it with the means of production.

Apart from these fundamental questions, it is clear: as long as a farm buys means of production and possibly even pays rent, it remains dependent on the capital cycle and thus on the crises and inequalities of capitalism. This also applies to consumers who have to obtain their funds to support the CSA farm with wage labor or precarious “self-employment” or, in the rare case, benefit from the work of others themselves if they are entrepreneurs).

The dependence on the capital cycle is a variable quantity, but it is not easy to say whether it is greater today than in earlier phases of capitalism. Agriculture in a country like Tanzania, for example, is largely non-capitalistically organized. In addition, only a small part of the total product reaches the market there, let alone the world market.

Inputs such as artificial fertilizers were only used in certain regions in Tanzania in the 1970s, when the state encouraged the use of fertilizers. Since the neoliberal structural adjustment in the 1980s, the use of fertilizers has decreased drastically due to the lack of subsidies. As was the case 30 or 50 years ago, around 80 percent of all farmers work their fields with the hoe, oxen are rarely used and tractors are a rarity. Most seeds are self-propagated and pesticides are the exception because they are too expensive.

There is no doubt that Tanzanian agriculture, whose connection to the capitalist economy seems to be only thin, is nevertheless largely determined by it and has been reduced to its current level of productivity, which is far too low for food. Here, of course - as always in capitalism - state policies play an essential role.

So it is not just the pushing back of the market that makes it possible to loosen dependence on the capital cycle. However, the replacement of bought-in inputs with in-house production, for example, certainly offers the possibility of such a relaxation, preferably through production in cooperative units that have to purchase as few production resources as possible. More on that below.

It can be said that solidarity does not count for anything in the overall context of the market economy.Any attempt to push back the market in favor of cooperation and solidarity therefore encounters many obstacles. Nevertheless, this is exactly what is formulated in the claim of solidarity agriculture.

Dissolution of the land market

Basically, three approaches to dissolving the land market are conceivable, some of which coexist historically and do not in themselves mean such a dissolution: the expropriation of the landowners by the state, the occupation and the mass ransom or donation.

The management of agricultural land in the course of such developments can take two basic paths: either land management by the state or through self-organized producer-consumer initiatives. It is quite possible that the land market will continue even after massive direct land appropriation. This possibility is ignored here, because the focus should be on how the dissolution of the land market through collective ownership contributes to the further development of solidarity agriculture.

The expropriation of land by the state and subsequent state land management are ambiguous. Such a process presupposes that there is even an apparatus of power that we call the state. If state expropriation is to have a certain emancipatory character, it must be supported by strong social movements based on equality. Otherwise it can just as easily lead to more inequality, even to hunger, as it did in the Soviet Union under Stalin. The ruling character of every state also explains why the state expropriation of land makes self-organization more difficult rather than easier.

However, state expropriations cannot be rejected outright. It depends very much on how they are actually carried out and the social conditions under which they take place. The expropriation of the large landowners by the Cuban state after the socialist revolution created the basis for an exceptionally high quality of life. Although the per capita income in Cuba is many times lower than in the USA, for example, life expectancy in Cuba is just as high on average.

The state expropriation of the large landowners is also the basis for the relatively light coping with the "artificial peak oil" which threatened Cuba with starvation after the collapse of the USSR. Cuba was heavily dependent on imports from the Soviet Union. When this failed after 1989 and the country was also economically sanctioned by the USA, agricultural production declined drastically. As a result, North Korea suffered a famine with hundreds of thousands dead. In Cuba, however, the absence of private capitalist structures made it possible for food production to self-organize through grassroots movements. Of course, other factors also contributed to the rapid stabilization of the food situation.

State expropriations can also have smaller dimensions. For example, the Andalusian government has expropriated considerable areas of land from property. These areas are used, among other things, by solidarity farms such as in the municipality of Marinaleda or in the case of the Somonte farm. Paradoxically, however, both farms had to occupy these areas for their part. This shows, not least, the ambiguity of state-directed measures to change ownership. The state always remains an apparatus of power.

The appropriation of land through occupation also requires a strong social movement that acts militantly and negates the legal path. The latter does not apply to special cases such as the Brazilian landless movement MST, which, by occupying land, demands its constitutional right to take possession of fallow arable land with practical emphasis.

Appropriation movements are particularly successful when the government and the landowner class are weakened. The coincidence of these three factors is by no means ruled out, as the example of Zimbabwe shows. The so-called fast-track land reform after 2001 essentially consisted of mass self-organized occupations of land by white farms, which were subsequently legalized by the government. Most of the media commented very critically on this spontaneous land reform in Zimbabwe.

In fact, it is one of the most successful land reforms since World War II. While export production decreased in its wake, production for domestic use increased. The compulsion to do wage labor has decreased significantly. The impoverished townspeople who can no longer find wage work were given en masse access to land. The economic independence of women and farm workers has also improved as a result, albeit to a lesser extent.

Despite some ambiguities in the land reform in Zimbabwe - this is how a black layer of large farmers developed in its course - it shows that even under neoliberal conditions a drastic change in land distribution towards more equality is possible. This can only be done in disregard of the land market and of buying and selling. Of course, such a development does not yet push back the land market as such.

The third conceivable form of liquidation of the land market is ransom and donation. If it wants to be politically relevant, it also requires a strong social movement. In principle, this path can only offer a first starting point for establishing common goods on the ground. If a strong social movement were to have the necessary financial means to buy the land, prices would rise immediately and mass free purchases would be a long way off. In practice, such an idea fails because the financial resources of the circles that can be contacted are not sufficient for substantial steps, even at today's prices. If the capitalist crisis progresses, as in Greece, such a path is not feasible from the start.

So ground clearance is more of a tactic than a strategy. If a piece of land is permanently withdrawn from the market by a group buying it and protecting it from resale by association statute or in some other way, then this can facilitate the start of solidarity agriculture. Assuming appropriate political mobilization, such a path can certainly be more than a niche, as the Community Land Trusts in the USA or England show, which - no coincidence - mostly also receive direct or indirect state support.

Soil clearance in practice: the "Soil clearance" project in Styria

The “Bodenfreikauf” group is looking for an area in Styria that is to be managed non-commercially. The area is to be bought by an association that guarantees all members a lifetime right of use in the land register (right of usufruct). The association is to be embedded in a higher-level structure of similar projects, not least in order to be able to better prevent a possible resale. The Wieserhoisl farm collective on the Koralpe has already developed such a structure called Co.Sy together with others. The Wieserhoisl is also to be ransomed by the people who work there.

The “Bodenfreikauf” group currently consists of seven adults, three of whom bring in contributions between 5,000 and 8,000 euros. The target is around 40,000 euros to buy around 1 hectare of arable land. An important element of the initiative is the subsistence perspective. The proceeds are not sold, but 20% are given away to others. The rest is for your own consumption. Since 1 hectare can supply an average of seven adults with a vegan diet for a whole year, the number of members is limited. For around 15 people, 1 hectare could make a substantial contribution to nutrition on average.

The necessary storage space could be rented in the city, preferably in cooperation with a FoodCoop and other initiatives. The group not only hopes that this project will have a political showcase effect, but also that it will make a small contribution to greater crisis security. Of course, this would require a much larger cohesion of solidarity groups.

In addition, the amount of money brought in is withdrawn from the banking system. However, this only applies to the contributors. The total continues to circulate in the market system. However, soil as a resource, even if only a small piece of land, has been permanently withdrawn from the market.

A realpolitical strategy of solidarity agriculture in Central Europe

State expropriation, mass direct appropriation and the purchase of land can be partial strategies on the way to solidarity agriculture. Answers to the strategic question of how CSA can be further developed into a genuinely solidarity-based agriculture also depend, of course, on the concrete property conditions on site, in addition to the social movements and their ability to assert themselves against the state and the landowners.

The distribution of agricultural property in Austria is broadly similar to that in France. In addition to the dominant smallholder agriculture, there is also considerable land ownership in favorable locations. While the latter is prospering economically, not least thanks to EU subsidies, the crisis in smallholder agriculture continues and could worsen even further.

In contrast to France, however, agricultural activism in Austria has so far been less developed. The militancy of social movements is generally stronger in France than in this country.

The main motive of the producers to form a CSA is to secure their own business. Smallholder farms are usually not competitive in the long term under the given conditions, including those created politically. Seen in this way, there would be the potential for the producers to significantly expand the form of CSA that is ideal for most people today: with pre-financing by the consumers, who occasionally collaborate and help plan, but without taking steps to overcome the cash barrier, all of the farm's goods have to happen.

As the example of France shows, this expansion can come together productively in the future with a movement to purchase land, supported by donations from the farm. However, the participatory management of the areas on the basis of social equality seems to be essential. Otherwise, land foundations can become autocratic bodies. This is an essential point if one considers the idea of ​​feeding such corporations with investment capital, as the Demeter Association is doing together with a number of anthroposophical banks in a recently published study [6].

The Demeter study plays with the term “free land purchase”, but only means a normal purchase. According to their ideas, land should be acquired by a foundation using investment capital and then leased. This has little to do with a democratic form of land use and is not a step towards the dissolution of market structures. Rather, it is about a concentration of land in the hands of investors and foundations, trimmed with greenery.

The aim of the Demeter study is not to dissolve the divisions set by the market between producers and consumers. Rather, it conceives a new, unequal relationship of dependency, which is now fed “with a clear conscience” with the money of small investors in “regional markets”: “After all, it also corresponds to modern, 'associative' management if the farmer is not the owner of the land himself, but customers, supporters, friends or shareholders provide him with the land for cultivation. The farmer is free in a different sense than when he operates on private property. He works for a circle that in return provides him with the land and thus guarantees his existence. The supporting structure must therefore mobilize non-agricultural capital for the purchase of leased land for organic farms."(P. 91).

It remains unclear why the producers are not also the owners, why rent has to be paid and how the ever increasing social inequality has to be reduced, which solidarity agriculture should counter. The conclusion of the Demeter study marks the opposite of an emancipatory change in property relations, which can ultimately only mean their dissolution, which the study does not aim at: "The concentration on the promotion of cultural country farms offers the ethically motivated investor an investment with high additional benefits.”(P. 93) The conception of the Demeter study leads to a replacement of traditional ideas of smallholder“ independence ”, but only in the sense of an anthroposophically foamed, yet capitalist quasi-corporation.

So how can CSA, in contrast to such ideas, open up a path of transformation towards solidarity-based agriculture? And that under the conditions prevailing in Austria in particular and Central Europe in general, which clearly stand out from the conditions in the global south, where the vast majority of people often work in agriculture?

Let us look again at the structure of the relationship in a CSA: In today's ideal-typical form of the CSA, the solidarity of the consumer with the producer de facto plays the main role. The consumers forego cost advantages, contribute their own work, take on part of the risk of the companies and in part also administrative work. This makes things easier for the producers, at least if they actually hand over tasks to the CSA, which not all farms like to do.

This means two things: Firstly, it tends to restrict the circle of CSA participants to privileged population groups. It is true that it remains to be explored what price level a CSA company can achieve if it operates in a technically optimal manner in a good location. Finally, the middleman is completely canceled. On average, food prices have risen in the recent past and farmers' incomes have fallen. A gap has opened up between these two tendencies, which feeds the growing profit of the middleman. Basically, it should be possible, provided the farm operates at the prevailing productivity level, to keep the food prices in a CSA at least at supermarket level and at the same time to enable the farmers to earn a higher income.

In practice, however, underproductive companies in particular have the greatest economic difficulties and thus the greatest incentive to devote themselves to a CSA. The potential possibility then remains mostly theory. It should only be noted here that there can be various reasons for falling below the prevailing productivity level, for example from less productive locations to a low division of labor to the abandonment of synthetic fertilizers.

Second, the structure of a CSA means that the farm loses its market economy-defined “independence” and potentially embeds itself more in social relationships. It is actively supported to a large extent by consumers [7], with a certain waiver of certain advantages that the market would offer. This development may be politically relevant for solidarity agriculture. Because with the dependence of the court on direct social relationships, the opportunity to have a say and to shape things together increases.

The social balance of power between wage earners and the farmers, which is otherwise expressed to a high degree via the market and the many actors involved, comes into direct confrontation here. In fact, CSA does not see itself as confrontational, as it emphasizes and lives cooperation and solidarity.

However, as could be seen, this cooperation is broken by the market and solidarity is severely limited by the involvement of producer and consumer in the capital cycle. So viewed soberly, CSAs remain involved in the power relationship between these two social classes for the time being, even if one wants to get away from it.

This balance of power was not noticeable for a long time, but is still remembered by some from the period after the Second World War, when food was only available at exorbitant prices or in exchange for natural produce or work in the form of servitude. In a situation of worsening crisis, land disposal will become more important again. In countries like Greece, this has long been a question of survival for many. Whoever has land escapes hunger. However, those who lose their jobs and are unlucky enough to live in the city are at risk.

The sole power of disposal of the farms over their means of production potentially decreases to the extent that their production in the CSA now obviously depends on the help and subsidies of the consumers. Under certain conditions, this structurally new situation could lead to consumers demanding more rights of intervention and participation.From an economic point of view, they would be legitimized in a similar way to being wage earners in their companies or shareholders in their stock corporations. Without wanting to equate these fundamentally different roles here: what is expressed in them is the material foundation of democratic co-determination.

Of course, this possibility can also remain unused, as the vast majority of wage earners illustrate.

Under no circumstances should one deceive oneself about the ideology of “independence” that is firmly anchored in many, probably most of the farmers. Under capitalist conditions, the farmer is practically a paradigmatic small business owner and usually sees herself as such. The “own farm” is in fact the material basis of a certain autonomy. As a result, many farmers today feel reduced to the status of unwilling subsidy recipients. The political goal of many smallholders to be able to live off the price of their own products, i.e. to forego subsidies, expresses, among other motives, the desire to be "independent" and "honest", so to speak "from their own hands" To be able to live work. The subsidy is experienced as an artificial intervention; the price, on the other hand, should express “the appreciation” for the product and be somehow “true”.

The CSA can at least potentially soften this illusion in two ways and thus contribute to the further development of solidarity agriculture: it shows practically the dependence not only of the consumer on the producer, but also the dependence of the business on the solidarity of the consumer. In this way it can undermine the illusion of “independent production”, which is a hegemonic concept in capitalism and legitimizes it.

It is also difficult to see why the earth should belong to a small group of people or even to a few foundations that are not supported or formed by all people, but by investors. Small farmers are certainly the lesser factor in the face of church, state and large land ownership, but also one who maintains the hegemony of private property in land, i.e. the general acceptance that this has its correctness and order . Here the strategic location differs significantly from, for example, Africa, where (differentiated) smallholder ownership predominates, at least the vast majority of the population practices agriculture for subsistence.

Of course, there is more to a process of solidarity agriculture, first and foremost an answer to the question of how people get CSA food who do not have the time and money. Many of the poor suffer from a drastic lack of both. The necessary answer cannot simply be reduced to the classic demand for higher wages.

In a certain sense, this requirement is still correct. However, it presupposes an increased autonomy of the wage earners. To be able to reproduce partially independently of capital is, for example, a prerequisite for being able to fight through recurring and long-term strikes.

With regard to the necessary alternative to the capitalist system as a whole, wage demands are certainly too short, because wages presuppose capital. Rather, the development of solidarity agriculture should be brought together with the development of struggles for appropriation among wage earners and also brought together in practice. A slogan such as “then the consumers will have to demand higher wages” is not enough to counter the social inequality of people dependent on food and to involve everyone equally in solidarity agriculture.

A successively increased participation of CSA consumers in the company and a coupling with initiatives to transfer CSA areas into common property, which would have to be managed on the basis of social equality and beyond representative structures, are not yet all components of a strategy of solidarity agriculture in conditions like in Austria.

The third component is relatively independent of this, but would only develop its greatest effect in conjunction with the two previously mentioned: the establishment of cooperatives in the wholesale area of ​​agricultural holdings. Such a movement requires a large number of CSA companies and corresponding political awareness among both producers and consumers. It would almost certainly also have to overcome a number of legal obstacles that the state opposes to cooperative self-organization beyond the rusty and conservative-hierarchical cooperative structures, such as those embodied by the Austrian Cooperative Association and - even more blatantly - the Raiffeisen Association.

However, such a development would not be impossible. Synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, if they are to be used, are difficult to produce in cooperatives, but can be obtained from purchasing cooperatives [8]. Seeds could be produced by the farms in a meaningful division of labor and passed on to one another without monetary exchange. This would be a central element of a counter-movement to the containment of the common goods by capitalism and is addressed, for example, by Jack Kloppenburg in the concept of "Open Source Seeds" (www.grain.org/)

It would also be conceivable to question the results of the “Open Source Ecology” initiative with regard to their applicability in practice. Should the local production of simple agricultural machines really be possible, the establishment of cooperative machine factories would also be within reach.

The dissolution of the illusion of independence of the producer offers another perspective, provided that the consumers have a more substantial say. The practice of the CSA could also inspire the obvious question of why production is only planned in advance at the level of the individual company. As long as one wants to assume a certain role of market conditions, this also leads to the question why only the individual CSA should manage pre-financing on its own; especially when you consider the risks for consumers mentioned above. Cooperation between CSAs, such as is developing within the framework of the French AMAPs, would also allow a practical answer to this question. In the case of food in particular, it would even be easy to plan the annual production of an entire region in advance, based on the needs of the consumer.

Such questions and the resulting answers presumably presuppose that needs for personal connection with a particular company, which, among other reasons, often motivate to participate in CSA projects, are met in a different form in favor of cooperation that is meaningful for society as a whole Expansion of the “illusion of independence” through partial inclusion of a group of consumers in business activities; or in an investor's paternalistic “participation” in the business, as the Demeter study describes.

Such a movement could borrow from the sometimes far-reaching cooperative system from the interwar period. Then as now, a class alliance between peasant women and wage earners is on the agenda, which would have to lead to the abolition of these classes, that is, the monetary exchange mediated between them as well as the property relationships and unequal relationships of dependency established with it.

Saturnino Borras and Jennifer Franco formulate a comparable direction as a demand for “land sovereignty”. The concept is intended to complement the food sovereignty that has long been propagated by La Via Campesina and others [9]. They put this concept in the context of a movement for the containment of resources “from below”, including land. Society should (re) appropriate resources that are increasingly being hindered by the state and capital today.

Such an alliance between wage earners and peasant women would in any case aim at the tendency to abolish the structural conflict between these classes, and thus to the abolition of these classes themselves. Perhaps under Central European conditions this could be from a further developed CSA approach with its above-outlined potential of the stronger cooperative Entanglement of producers and consumers. Jointly developed and defended claims against the state and capital would be just as important.

The author thanks everyone who gave reading tips, suggestions and critical feedback on this text. He is a member of a CSA, co-initiated the “Bodenfreikauf” project and years ago, together with others, founded a (no longer existing) community garden in Vienna.


[1] The preference for these activities over, for example, field work probably also has to do with their function as status markers.

[2] www.terredeliens.org/

[3] see: www.streifzuege.org/

[4] www.bodenfreikauf.wordpress.com/

[5] www.immobilien.net/

[6] www.demeter.de/

[7] in contrast to the investment of capital in the Demeter study model

[8] This is not the place to discuss this in detail, the question of the productivity of agriculture is in any case not a trivial one in view of the considerable demands placed on soil yields, which will increase even without agrofuels and with a vegan diet. Peak gas is not an argument against nitrogen fertilizers, which can also be produced using biomass, and many soils in Africa, for example, are geologically poor in phosphorus, for example, which limits yields. A very targeted use of certain pesticides similar to that advocated by integrated farming cannot be ruled out from the outset and under all conditions. Finally, biotechnological processes (DNA marker-assisted breeding) increase the productivity of plant breeding, which is crucial for organic farming (see www.etcgroup.org/).

The pesticides permitted in organic farming are not necessarily and in all cases less harmful than those used by conventional agriculture, in any case not all are harmless. Here, too, a concrete decision would have to be made in each case and, above all, disregarding capitalist income constraints, when such substances are used. Basically, it can be said that organic farming does not do without “synthetic” inputs.

[9] www.tni.org/