From the May-June 2021 issue of News & Letters
Veracruz, Mexico—Last August, a friend and I left Mexico City and decided to settle in the misty mountain of Xico, Veracruz. We rented a small cabin and began learning how to work the land. After several months of hard labor, we now have our own lettuce, spinach, tomato, and corn and the beans are growing promisingly. But this is just the beginning. Here are some of the difficulties upon which we have reflected in the past months.
THE COMMODIFICATION OF LABOR
Our landlords run the biggest agroecological project in the zone. They sell organic food in a store in the capital city of Veracruz. It is astonishing to see that their great respect for nature is matched with their great disrespect for human life.
Here labor is a commodity paid at market price. It couldn’t be otherwise when the aim is to accumulate wealth, and despite this accumulation being “environment-friendly.” Due to the handcrafted character of the products, its final price can just be afforded by the middle and upper classes, but not by the workers themselves.
Many other projects in the region, though in a smaller scale, are grounded on this same contradictory foundation. “Their” workers are small farmers who can’t find the time nor the economic resources to work on their own land. It’s not unusual that they end up selling it to big land owners at a very low price. That is undermining a social force—labor and the laborer—that could help defend humanity and nature from capitalism.
Several questions come to mind: Can we build a deeper concept of “agroecology” that doesn’t contradict human emancipation? What would be the new meaning of production in such a project? Then what would human relationships be like? Can that deeper concept be built beforehand by individuals or groups, and then shared, or does it need, from the beginning, the broadest participation of small farmers, peasants, Indigenous people and other subjects from below? How would this new concept of “agricultural work” relate to a new concept of “labor”? How do we make such a recreation possible?