Source: A communist farmer speaks about agriculture   Leave a comment

In 1966 Belden Paulson published The Searchers: Conflict and Communism in an Italian Town. In writing the book Paulson interviewed representative citizens from the small Lazio town of Castelfuoco of all social classes and all political groups. The following is from an interview with the young Communist Mario Libertini and is one of several passages in the book that give insights into agricultural relations in the dopo guerra.

It is not true that Italy has made giant steps since the war, as the Christian Democrats, would have us believe. Other countries, much more damaged – Germany, for example – have done a lot more than Italy. I do not know whether this depends on the people or the government; anyway, millions and billions have been spent, but double or triple could have been done. Take the crisis that has hit the farmers; our group should have been helped the most. After all, at the end of the war this was most of the population. Instead, it has been treated the worst. The young farmers are abandoning the land, and the must marry late because they have no money. The government has given us no help to form a cooperative, even though the farmer getsonly 35 or 40 lire for a liter of wine, while the prince in Rome is 160 to 200 lire. The pensione of the small farmer is 10,000 lire a month – real poverty. Can you imagine anyone living on that, even Cristoforo Sereni in his straw hut? So eighty year-old farmers must continue to work the fields. The farmer, after paying expenses, is lucky to earn 250 lire a day. And the government still wants us to do all the work with the hoe. They pass a law to get us machinery, but Bonomi, as ex fascist, controls the Federconsorzi which sells the tractors and machines. It is a big monopoly that charges high prices, gets the little farmer in debt, and finally ruins us. But most schifose [disgusting] of all are the enfiteusi, which are obligations set up in medieval times when the Colonna feudo was formed and today are still with us. Maybe once they made sense; Colonna at least gave his farmers protection in return for their feudal dues. But now it is plain injustice, benefiting only the signori. My father, for example, bought his several hectares when he returned from America; he paid the full price to the agrari at the time of the sale fifty years ago, yet the contract stipulated that he must continue to pay corrisposte, a part of his product to the original owner. Over half the land in Castelfuoco still suffers from the ridiculous arrangement. It all began when the feudal owners first ‘conceded’ land to the small farmers who were forced to kneel at the agrarians’ feet and accept humiliating conditions. The only way to get out of paying the corriposte now is to pay the old owner hundreds of thousands of lire. This is impossible for a farmer, given his tiny return from the land. I remember when I was little: each year at harvest time Tramonta would send out his guardiano who rode his horse through the land ordering everyone to give a percentage of the harvest. If we did not pay he would call the carabinieri, who worked for the agrarians anyway. Now these signori are a bit more moderate. Prince Colonna has forfeited some of his dues, for they are not worth the trouble to collect. Most of the farmers have agreed to pay so much each year, without the humiliation of the guardiano coming on your land. But it is always a heavy burden, because if I have a bad year and make only four quintali of grapes, I must give the same percentage. There are rumours that these absurd obligations are about to end; I think the problem has been taken to parliament. So far it is only a hope. If anything is changing today it is because we have a strong Communist party opposing these injustices. Otherwise the medieval system would always be with us. Everything I owe to the party. Through it I oriented myself – in the party, in the Federterra, in the Unione Contadini, in protest demonstrations. Who come into my field to talk with me – apart from election day – except my party? When bad weather wrecked my crop and I was desperate, the government did nothing – no one cared. But some of us in the party went as a delegation to the ministry in Rome. We were given only 150 lire apiece – just enough to pay our bus fare – but we have fought anyway.

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Posted September 10, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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