Poverty and plenty

The Western Socialist
November 1934

The International Institution of Agriculture met at Rome on October 25 to devise ways and means of increasing food consumption, representatives of 36 nations being in attendance.

It appears that nature has been prolific and that there is a glut of food in the world today, surpluses appearing in many different countries. The idle frothings that emanated from the experts present as to the best method to adopt to reduce these surpluses, once more demonstrates how utterly helpless the present system really is to cope with its own productive powers.

One delegate thought that “Europe’s happiest period was when it had the most free trade” and urged resumption of that policy, while others declared they “could not abandon protection and high tariff walls”. Mr. Rexford Guy Tugwell, American representative and “Brain Rruster No 1”, pleaded for an end of cut-throat international trade, and its replacement by a “world planned economy”. His suggestion was greeted by a whirl of bouquets and brickbats from his listeners, each acting in accordance with the needs of their particular country.

Lord De La Warr, the British delegate, made some remarks worthy of note. He stated that:

“ . . . there are 80,000,000 to 100,000,000 workless in the world today living on a bare sustenance basis. If every man, woman and child of Europe was eating the bare minimum required for health, there would be little talk of a glut of food” (Winnipeg Free Press, October 26, 1934).

This is the contradiction demanding solution. Here accumulated stocks of food causing embarrassment to all governments: there men, women and children living below subsistence levels, slowly starving to death because they are unable to obtain the food that is ready to hand.

Why are the workers out of work? Why are there no jobs for them? It is because they have produced too much. The factories and warehouses are overflowing with goods for which there are no buyers. The class that owns the land, factories and mines will only allow the workers to produce when they can make a profit out of their labor.

Class society, then, lies at the basis of the problem of poverty and plenty. Conference after conference of capitalist statesmen and experts have met and will continue to meet and discuss free trade and tariffs, or plans for controlling production, but these adjustments will not alter the condition, for as long as profit remains the mainspring of production, unsold surpluses will periodically pile up and unemployment exist in greater or lesser degree.

The only solution is the one the Socialist offers. Make the means of producing wealth, at present owned by the capitalist class, the common property of the whole of society. Them, and then only, will the contradiction of surplus wealth on the one hand, and starvation on the other, be reconciled.