Indian-born farm farmworker Satnam Singh died on June 19. On Monday, June 17, he had lost an arm, severed cleanly by a hay-cutting machine while working in servile conditions for a Latina farm. The bosses and corporals have prevented the people present from using their cell phones to call for help. They loaded him into a van and left him near his home with his severed arm next to him inside a fruit box. He died after 36 hours due to excessive blood loss. Satnam was forced to work in very heavy work shifts, was paid 4 euros per hour and worked without a contract. This situation is emblematic of the majority of Italian, “EU from Eastern countries,” and “non-EU” farm laborers who are moved through agriculture on a daily basis. This number is estimated, among INPS data and subsequent ISTAT estimates, to be around 1,200,000. In fact, the estimates are made on the basis of data provided quarterly by the agricultural enterprises themselves, so they are vastly underestimated. If we take into account an additional 30 to 40 percent of irregular and undeclared farmworkers, we can consider the amount of 1,500,000 farmworkers plausible. They work for wages largely lower than the average wages of an industrial worker, often 50%, 60% lower. They are forced to work in extended work shifts of up to 12 to 14 hours a day. They are subjected to pay systems, at least for part of the wages, in goods (food, phone cards) and services (dilapidated housing, transportation, paperwork, etc.). Female workers are routinely subjected to blackmail and sexual violence. Cooperatives acting as intermediary agencies and corporals manage the labor-power in an industry where monopolies, big business and organized crime operate jointly in the daily control and repression of farmworkers. All this under the eyes of the state apparatuses, which promote and legitimize this system by passing racist laws, which bind the worker to the master with servile relationships of dependence and which legitimize the work of the corporals and the mafias.


This takes place in a system of agrarian relations structurally characterized by the outcomes of the so-called agrarian reforms of the 1950s. Reforms, desired by U.S. imperialism and implemented through large indemnities and the administration to allottee peasants of semi-feudal contracts (emphyteusis) with the Reform Boards, which aimed to produce extreme fragmentation of the small peasant enterprise, and to generate an unresolvable dualism between macro-landlords and micro-landlords. This left substantially unchanged the power of latifundia (with a limit of 300 hectares, but extendable up to 750 and beyond), which to a large extent were combining with speculative land robbery and control of public works contracts. In Southern Italy and the Islands, at the service and in the shadow of the great industrial and financial monopoly capital of Northern Italy and foreign capital, a new generation of semi-feudal landlords and the commercial and financial bourgeoisie closely linked to them was thus being created. A new generation with little interest in the capitalist development of agriculture, aiming at the maximum exploitation of the laborer and investments in building speculation which, in parts of the Center and especially in the South and the Islands, continued like the old landowners to dominate in the Public Entities and the State in the well-known intertwining with the Mafia. A pillar, together with imperialist capital in Northern Italy, sectors linked to foreign capital (U.S. and German in particular) and the large capitalist state bureaucracy, of the monstrous ruling bloc in our country, which today is marching rapidly in the direction of fascism and warmongering expansionism.


It is erroneous to confuse capitalist agrarian enterprise with the parasitic-speculative type of agrarian enterprise that is the direct heir to the semi-feudal latifundia. In the South, it is especially the latter type of enterprise that is prevalent in agrarian relations. And it is particularly this type of enterprise that imposes semi-servile production relations on the laborer. In this way, however, it is the entire farmhand that suffers, even that of the more developed capitalist enterprises that are more integrated with industry, because the semi-servile relations condition downward even those more defined in the capitalist sense. While overall, this type of farm represents one of the causes of the deep agrarian crisis that Italy is going through and that many, in order to save big capital and big rents and to spread racism and fascism, have an interest in attributing to the effects of competition from the agricultural system of other countries.


In Italian agriculture and livestock farming, there are one million farms, mainly located in the South-Central and Islands, employing up to a maximum of one workforce unit per year. Almost all of these farms have a utilized agricultural area [UAA] of less than 5 hectares, and manage only 12.6 percent of the total UAA, while those with more than 20 hectares of UAA account for just 9 percent of the total, to which, however, 64.8 percent of the total UAA is attributable. Almost all micro and very small farms barely survive. Many farmers are themselves also laborers or are exploited peasants operating on rent or free loan. In the latter case they often provide undeclared labor in exchange for the products grown on the owner’s land.


The miserable condition of millions of farmworkers and peasants (a total of nearly 2,500,000) is an expression of a period of aborted agrarian reforms in the 1950s and is one of the foundations of the reoccurrence and continued exacerbation (now incomparably aggravated by the passage of the racist and anti-meridionalist law of differentiated autonomy) of what Antonio Gramsci called the “Southern and Island Question.”


Overall, in Italy, without taking into account the aspirations and interests of farmworkers, poor peasants, very small farmers, etc., no real solution to the agrarian question, no real economic, political, moral and social recovery of the South and the Islands, no popular-democratic revolution is conceivable.