OPINION: Don’t Repeat The Great Leap Forward

The pivot toward net-zero mandates while dismissing the input of farmers could cause the mistakes of CCP misrule to be repeated

With the implementation of net-zero agriculture policies, the entire world could be poised to repeat the mistakes of the Great Leap Forward, but this time on a global scale. The Great Chinese Famine was the ultimate result of Chairman Mao Zedong’s 1958-1962 Great Leap Forward, and estimates suggest that up to 45 million people were killed. Ilya Somin has described the Great Leap Forward as the “biggest episode of mass murder in history.” Today, sweeping large-scale agricultural policies in the name of addressing climate concerns — such as those enacted by the EU and Canada — have the potential to trigger a humanitarian crisis. If the Biden administration were to follow suit with Western Europe and Canada, a food crisis could be closer than conventional wisdom anticipates.

The recent announcement by Canadian premier Justin Trudeau mandating a 30 percent reduction in fertilizer emissions usage was criticized by the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, who stated: “Farmers don’t need the government to tell them how to properly use fertilizer. We engage crop consultants, soil tests and use the latest technology available to us. … Our government should be strongly supporting the agronomic techniques that we have put into practice.” Trudeau is pursuing a net-zero emission goal by 2050 in line with the international Paris Agreement. 

Canada’s not alone. The Dutch government released a climate plan to halve nitrogen oxide and ammonia pollution by 2030 in June of this year. The plan could, by its own estimate, lead to the closure of 30 percent of the Netherlands’ livestock farms. The proposal was spurred by a court decision finding that the Netherlands hadn’t done enough to comply with EU climate regulations based on the European Green Deal. Nevertheless, Dutch authorities went ahead with it anyway, dedicating 24.6 billion euros to the plan, which ignited a protest movement led by farmers and fishermen protesting in solidarity. 

The net-zero ideology of the contemporary Western world as shown through the Paris Agreement and EU regulations has the goal of improving the environment and preventing catastrophe, while its drawbacks are generally downplayed by the corporate press. Amid the food shortages seen as the consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the world has already seen the detrimental impacts of the reduction of food availability.

The Great Leap Forward: A Giant Leap Backward

Somin has explained that Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong — in power between 1949 and 1976 — surpassed Hitler and Stalin in terms of mass murder.

Mao’s time as dictator is associated with two major atrocities: the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966 with the targeting Chinese history and culture, and the earlier Great Leap Forward collectivizing agriculture. While the Cultural Revolution was responsible for deaths estimated between 1 million and 2 million as the result of state repression, the Great Leap Forward death toll has had far higher estimates.  How could changes in farming lead to more deaths than the violent purges?

The Great Leap Forward refers to a variety of policies designed to “modernize” China and outproduce Great Britain. It was the second of several “Five Year Plans” modeled after Stalin’s modernization campaigns. The set of policies banned private ownership of farmland, leading to “people’s communes” ostensibly run by the workers but actually totalitarian structures from which escape was next to impossible. The agricultural reforms themselves relied upon the Soviet-derived pseudoscientific theory of Lysenkoism which applied the concepts of Marxian struggle towards the planting of seeds. A humanitarian disaster ensued.

A 1958 TIME Magazine article foreshadowed the detrimental impact of Mao’s policies on the population: 

“Mao’s response — to treat all intellectuals as suspect and force them into ‘remedial’ manual labor by the hundreds of thousands — may produce obedience, but hardly provides the climate for intellectual creativity. The great, vast public, foreign observers report, seems more resigned to its lot, and even grateful for the orderliness that keeps warlords from swooping down on farmers to steal their harvests. But in a nation that has only a paper-thin economic surplus to invest in industrial growth, a loss of mass enthusiasm and a consequent drop in production could be no less deadly than active popular resistance.”

21st Century Farming Frustrations: Could Government Mandates Be A New Great Leap Forward?

Justin Trudeau’s documented admiration of Communist China may be an inspiration toward his policies regarding everything from COVID to the climate. His announcement regarding fertilizer emissions reduction goals no doubt drew the ire of wheat growers. Calculations reported by the Western Canadian Wheat Growers state that billions of dollars will be lost by farmers if the 2030 goal is implemented.

The daughter of Western Canadian Wheat Growers President Fiona Jochum remarked: “Proposed policies such as this impact every farmer’s bottom line, and make me question whether there is a future for me as a farmer in Canada. Many of my peers will be questioning their farming future as well.”

Brendan O’Neill of Spiked-Online explains how the policies of Trudeau, the Dutch government, and others committed to fertilizer reduction would exacerbate food shortages. He concludes: “It is high time we reclaimed the moral highground from the eco-elites waging war on modern farming.”

The United States’ private and public sectors have largely embraced Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) as a way of, among others things, meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. While following ESG to the letter could conceivably lead to similar outcomes as Europe, resistance has occurred to this approach. The EPA’s attempts to impose ESG rules nationally were thwarted by a recent Supreme Court decision. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has called for legislation to combat ESG influence. West Virginia’s State Treasurer Riley Moore announced on Thursday, July 28, 2022 that financial institutions boycotting energy production are ineligible for state banking contracts. If more states follow Governor DeSantis and State Treasurer Moore’s lead, it could mitigate the risk of the Dutch agricultural crisis.

George Santayana wrote in 1905: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Great Leap Forward was a completely avoidable tragedy that illustrated the vast shortcomings of politically-influenced agriculture. With the seemingly unstoppable pivot toward net-zero mandates while dismissing the input of farmers and agriculture producers, the mistakes of CCP misrule may ultimately be repeated.

*For corrections please email [email protected]*