The Kansas Union Farmer, 1923
Building the Farmers’ Union, The Farmer’s Job
While the farmer has been paying dear for his information the fact is finally dawning upon him that his boasted individualism and self-reliance are suicidal and that he must have organization if he is to stop his rapid descent toward the abyss of serfdom. That unifying his forces will assist him, few will deny, but many are wondering what that organization is going to be and from whence it is to come. The average farmer has put about as much time and effort in building an organization for himself as he has in counting the stars or building aeroplanes and yet he wonders why he has not got an organization, and possibly repeats something he heard once about “won’t stick.”
A few men get together and from a Wall Street, oil, steel or meat Trust, Cotton, Grain or Livestock exchange, etc. etc. as they see fit, while farmers by the millions kneel at their feet to pay them tribute and homage. If we want an organization ready-made, handed to us on a platter, all we need to do is send in our order for it is ready to be served by those who now rule us, but those who think they see any relief in that program, provided they are sincere, are to be pitied.
The history of agriculture the world over has been a tragedy for the ample reason that the tiller of the soil has not appreciated the significance and value of that efficient instrument and weapon organization.
That the producer should be serf to the non-producer is ridiculous, yet that has been the rule the world over, until in studying the life histories of nations, we note that the downfall and degradation of agriculture precedes the burning out of each civilization through highly developed centers of exploitation.
While organization among men found its inception, probably in the motive of robbery, and while there has been no great departure from the original program as to purpose, it is high time that lock where placed on the hen house door and enough mass action to call a halt on the legalized pillaging of agriculture so as to make production a little more profitable and exploitation a little more precarious.
America sure has been the grafter’s paradise, but with the bankruptcy mills now running three shifts, with the worst yet to come, it is quite apparent that through the recent confiscatory deflation, the assassin on the Hudson thrust his dagger with deadly aim, and that it is going to take more than a mere palliative to restore peace and prosperity.
The time is ripe for the building of the Farmers’ Union, and it is up to every farmer to lend a hand. If there is a hatchet between two neighbors that looks like a mountain, reverse the telescope of prejudice and proceed with the burial. The farmers of the east and south are whipped to a standstill right now and the halter tied while the guns of the enemy are trained on us of the middle west, and while we are fooling away our time on production, they with all the agencies at their control through exploitation and confiscation are seeking to force the last remnants of independent, self-reliant agriculture into bankruptcy, preparatory to the new regime of universal landlordism and tenancy, in this land of the free and home of the brave.
What is our recourse? We are up against a money system that is impossible, one that will bankrupt the world, which will be immaterial to those that control it. Our only defense is our labor and the product or same so it behooves us to prepare to meet mass action with mass action and demand for agriculture a profitable basis, the first step of which is “cost of production” or no sale which will require state and national marketing agencies without a unified group and interest back of same in at least ridiculous. Some would enlist the services of those who deal in farm commodities but they are simply interested in commissions and profits. So it is up to the farmer class to stand as a unit where he can demand his rights both economically and politically or lose his identity in the great mass of the world peasantry. A not unusual statement from those who contemplate the farmer is “I’m afraid if he got the power he would go too far” which is an unconscious admission that there is no power like his if he only knew it, and should use it, but even so what would he do with his power? Buy too much of the products of labor? Build himself a real home with all its furnishings and live like a white man?
As long as a farmer sells for less than the cost of production, he is digging a big grave, for he knows that wherever he goes he is sure of a lot of company. The Union would change the farmer from a grave digger to a nation-builder and therefore has the satisfaction that it is engaged in a high calling under the motto: “Equity, Justice and The Golden Rule”. The National Farmer’s Union is a force that has to be reckoned with and it is high time that there were a general appreciation of its activities and a more general flocking to its banners. The farmer’s real job is Union building.
–from the archives of Tom Giessel