top of page


Steven Schaefer

Feb 25, 2024

French Farmers Demand Reform

On January 18th, French farm workers, led by several agricultural unions, mobilized across France to conduct labor demonstrations and set up physical blockades. This bold action, still ongoing and strong a month later, marks a significant triumph for the European working class, despite ongoing efforts by the French state to quell the formidable display of working-class solidarity.

The demonstrators are calling for an end to the excessive taxation of farmers' diesel fuel, lower food prices in France, opposition to the proposed EU-Mercosur free trade agreement, and fair application of environmental regulations on imported non-French agricultural products.

The movement originated in the Occitania region of France, where farmers blocked traffic along the A64 motorway between Toulouse and Tarbes, before spreading rapidly to highways across the country.

Led by 34-year-old new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who has been in office for less than a month, the French government and union officials convened to address concessions for improved working conditions amidst strikes besieging the City of Paris. The bourgeois government's empty promises, platitudes, and attempts at appeasement have been rejected, and tensions remain high as highways surrounding the capital remain blocked by lines of tractors and agricultural equipment, with workers threatening to enter Paris if negotiations going forward are not conducted in good faith.

Radical and militant factions within French farming communities, such as French winemakers of Regional Committee for Viticultural Action (RCVA), have also been active, with the RCVA claiming responsibility for an explosion at a government building in Carcassonne, France.

EU Farmers Facing Similar Problems Try Similar Solutions

Inspired by the militant actions of French farmers, similar protests have erupted across Europe. In Brussels, farmers surrounded the European Union's parliament, burning bales of hay and pelting law enforcement with eggs. As a result, the European Union abandoned plans to discuss regulations that would halve European pesticide use and pledged not to pursue an EU-Mercosur free trade pact unless South American nations adhere to the same regulatory standards imposed on domestic farmers by the European Union.

In Germany, there has been a notable failure in revolutionary organizing, as struggling farmers have found support from the anti-worker party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is gaining traction in former Marxist-Leninist German Democratic Republic (GDR) provinces. This support doesn't stem from AfD being a proletarian party or from a predisposition to AfD politics in the former GDR regions, but rather from a lack of backing for farmers from the German left.

Farmers' unions have highlighted environmental and climate change regulations as significant barriers to their productivity, contributing to their alignment with AfD, often viewed as the sole "anti-establishment" option for voters.

Parties and organizations purporting to represent the working class must undergo a renaissance by distancing themselves from liberal and social democratic institutions rife throughout Western society. Currently, their fixation on addressing environmental issues within capitalist frameworks eviscerates a genuine, grassroots working-class uprising.

America: Less Organized, Still Suffering

The American farmer shares many challenges with their European counterparts, including burdensome regulations and volatile food prices. However, one clear difference lies in the level of organization.

Phillip, a fourth-generation rancher from a small mining community in the Cascade mountain range of the American West, highlighted this disparity during our discussion comparing the situations in Europe and the United States.

Initially unaware of the political actions of farmers in France, Phillip quickly grasped their plight when their concerns were explained to him.

“You know, the state of things, farming and ranching, really has only gotten worse and worse for as long as I can remember. You can’t afford to become a farmer if you're not one, and you can’t afford to do anything but farm if you manage to become one... I drive the same truck my mother did to check on ranging cattle, I don’t have one inch of cement poured in my fields and allow my cattle to range in the forest, yet somehow I am the polluter," he said.

When asked about the contrasting American and European farmers' responses, Phillip understood that both ultimately share common frustrations and objectives. “Well, it sounds as if they’re on the same side I’d reckon, they talk and meet and just got fed up to the point that they decided to do something”.

Phillip had never entertained the notion of small, local farmers banding together to collectively address the pressing issues affecting them. For generations, his family had adopted a strategy of keeping their heads down, navigating political and economic hardships as they arose, and simply hoping to sustain their family farms through the next capitalist crisis.

While skeptical of American agriculture adopting the militancy seen in France, Phillip added: “I think if things continue to get bad enough someone around here will need to do something. I worry that when my son, who is a wildland firefighter, comes to take over the ranch the money just won't be there. If the money isn’t there to run the ranch then the money isn’t there to live in our home, a home that we’ve had since before this area had roads running through them. I’m not sure if it will be farmers in our community, or communities like ours, but I think someone will say they’ve had enough and stand-up. When that happens I hope we will do what we can to support them.”

The challenges facing American labor are embodied by farmers like Phillip. Economically strained to the point where he feels powerless to effect change alone, Phillip's situation reflects a broader truth: individual protest yields limited impact. But without the productive labor of workers, there is no profit to be extracted. The path forward lies in workers and farmers recognizing their collective power, uniting to demand change against untenable conditions, and rediscovering the strength that emerges when they stand together politically.

bottom of page