Swiss Farmers as Pioneers and Guarantors of Direct Democracy

Published on Current Concerns, by thk, No. 15 /August 2010.

There is no sector of economy that affects life and survival as basically as agriculture. Due to our climate and topographic conditions, Swiss agriculture has developed in Switzerland in plains and in valley grounds first. In Switzerland, the cultivation of cereals, in particular wheat and barley were dominating. As early as in the 8th century, the farmers discovered the great advantages of the three-field-system which was replaced by crop rotation towards the end of the 18th century.

In order to ensure the food supply to the population of those times, the farmers developed the mountain ranges and the alpine pastures and started cattle and dairy farming under the most difficult circumstances. 

In the Middle Ages, about 90 % of the population worked in agriculture. Thus, agriculture contributed to self-subsistence. In the beginning, the dignitaries’ food supplies benefited from the proverbial “tithe” that had to be delivered by the farmers although the dignitaries made up hardly 1 % of the population on the territory of ancient Switzerland. That meant that more than the supplies for personal needs had to be produced in order to support the rest of the population. The people did not have much to get by, poverty was severe, but there was enough to survive.

Courageous personalities: … //

… Decisive role in maintaining our freedom

Recognizing that agriculture played a decisive role in maintaining our freedom and independence, above all in the severe crises of the 20th century, in spite of all industrialization and modernization in the 20th and 21st century, we are even more appalled to see how irresponsibly politicians treat our farmers. Federal Councilor Mrs Leuthard ‘s economic and political orientation becomes obvious in her massive reduction of customs duties on imported flour which was due to her neoliberal delusion. This measure will make both the medium sized mills and the grain producers suffer in spite of their essential significance for the providing of the country’s population with good and healthy flour.

This step was taken beyond all reason and all knowledge of the most recent research in agriculture and without consulting the most affected representatives of those branches.

The World Agriculture Report, published two years ago, sees the solution for the future farming and successful fight against world hunger in a regionally rooted, small-scale family farming. According to the research published in the World Agriculture Report, family farms are the only feasible alternative to ecologically and economically senseless industrial production. The return of agriculture to the rural community, away from neoliberal gigantism will not only successfully fight hunger in the world but also help the states establish their own agriculture, with respect to food sovereignty in fact.
Deep rootedness in the country and its people

This would also mean a strengthening of our state and our country. Direct democracy in Switzerland has its historical roots in a self-confident peasantry, who assumed their responsibility for the common weal, guided by individuals who helped cooperative democracy to gain ground. This rootedness in the country and its people is an important prerequisite for the most liberal of democracies to prevail in the future. No matter how some historians regard Napoleon, they will have to give him his credit:

Notwithstanding all delusion, he judged the characteristics of Switzerland correctly, when he said: “It is democracy that distinguishes Switzerland and makes it interesting for the rest of the world, conferring it a characteristic color.”

Do we intend to sacrifice all those advantages of democracy to a blind economism, to a perverse globalization which has been accelerating the process of impoverishment of many countries during the last 20 years; do we intend to sacrifice it to the sweet poison of power?

Never ever!

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