UN journal touts ‘The Benefits of World Hunger’

April 2024 Forums General discussion UN journal touts ‘The Benefits of World Hunger’

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    Does the mask slip or is it satire?

    “The UN Chronicle, which bills itself as “The magazine of the United Nations, Since 1946” originally published this essay in 2008 by Professor George Kent of the University of Hawaii: “Hunger has great positive value to many people. Indeed, it is fundamental to the working of the world’s economy. Hungry people are the most productive people, especially where there is a need for manual labour. … How many of us would sell our services if it were not for the threat of hunger?”

    “More importantly, how many of us would sell our services so cheaply if it were not for the threat of hunger?” … ”



    Does the writer and his/her colleagues intend to try it out on himself?


    But isn’t that the basis of capitalism? The means of production monopolised by a minority class, meaning that the rest are forced by economic necessity to work for them to get money to buy what they need to live — or go hungry.


    There are historical precedents for this sort of talk…

    In the early 19th century, the Scottish merchant, Patrick Colquhoun, who
    set up the country’s first private “preventative” police force to
    deter incidents of theft among poorly paid dockworkers, declared:

    “Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable
    ingredient in society…It is the source of wealth, since without
    poverty, there could be no labour; there could be no riches, no
    refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be
    possessed of wealth. (Patrick Colquhoun, 1806, A Treatise on
    Indigence, London)

    Another commentator, the Reverend Joseph Townsend, was
    even more brutally forthright on the matter

    [Direct] legal constraint [to labour] . . . is attended with too much
    trouble, violence, and noise, . . . whereas hunger is not only a
    peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but as the most natural
    motive to industry, it calls forth the most powerful exertions. . . . Hunger will tame the fiercest animals, it will teach decency and
    civility, obedience and subjugation to the most brutish, the most
    obstinate, and the most perverse. (Joseph Townsend, 1786, A
    Dissertation on the Poor Laws)


    By coincidence I am in the middle of scanning a series of articles from the Socialist Standard of 1914 on “The Purpose and Method of Colonisation”. The basic argument was that this was not motivated simply by wanting to gain control of resources but also a labour force that the inhabitants potentially were. The author was Rudolf Frank. As he came from Austria (then the Austro-Hungarian Empire), he was a native German-speaker and in one of the articles he records the argument amongst German colonialists about how best to get the native habitants to work on their plantations. Some favoured direct force. Others favoured hunger:

    “The majority of our colonial enthusiasts, of course, would rather see more indirect methods, notably hunger, permanently established amongst the natives, and so get the (sufficient) supply of “motive-power” (at home known as “hands”) into that automatically working way which, as Marx says, is the great beauty of capitalist production. They know that direct and legal forms of compulsion are “attended with too much trouble, violence, noise” and, last but not least, expense; while hunger, for example, is a “peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure,” just as Woermann realises what a great blessing is the existence of a large indus­trial reserve army.”

    The British colonialists faced the same problem but they hit on a third method – a hut tax that had to be paid in money, thus forcing the inhabitants to work for wages in the mines.

    The whole article will soon be available on this site.

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