1950s >> >> no-593-january-1954

Editorial: Too Little and Too Much

The Crazy Food Situation
An argument used more and more frequently nowadays by opponents of Socialism is that while the case against capitalism may have been true long ago it is no longer true today because capitalists and governments have in the meantime acquired a social conscience and have removed the old evils.

A case in point is the way in which, during periodical trade depressions, merchants and politicians could be complaining that there was too much of everything in the market while if they had looked around they would have seen millions of people cold and hungry and in desperate need of the goods that the shopkeepers could not sell. Marx dealt in detail with this characteristic of capitalism and showed that too much in the market meant only too much to be sold at a profit; it did not mean too much or even enough for human need.

   “It is not a fact that too many of the necessities of life are produced in proportion to the existing population. The reverse is true. Not enough is produced to satisfy the wants of the great mass decently and humanely.”— (Capital,” Vol. III., page 302.)

During the last ten years there has been much talk in international conferences, such as those of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, about the impossibility of the situation arising again of people starving while unsold food was being piled up in warehouses. Governments have formally adopted policies of “full employment” and the large political parties in this country have agreed in demanding maximum production by the workers, assuring them that they could not produce too much.

Now let us turn to the food situation. The Food and Agriculture Organisation has campaigned for years to make governments and peoples aware of the state of world food supplies. First they pointed out that until last year world food production had not even kept up with the growth of population and only did catch up in 1953. But catching up meant merely that it was no worse than it had been in 1939. There isn’t enough produced even if it were evenly distributed and made freely accessible which it is not

Professor de Castro at the F.A.O. conference in Rome on 23rd November, 1953, pointed out as other experts have done that “sixty out of every hundred human beings are going hungry.” (Daily Herald, 24th November, 1953.)

If three out of every five people in the world have not enough to eat is it possible that there is food being piled up because it cannot be sold? Listen to the Times and Financial Times on the subject

The Times, in a leader on 14th December, was explaining why the present Government and Minister of Agriculture is in a different situation from that which faced the Labour Government six years ago:

   “They cannot overlook that world supplies of food have in the interval become ample, that mere are large and growing surpluses, and that world prices of most kinds of food have fallen sharply and are still falling.” -(Times, 14/12/53.)

The Financial Times, four days earlier, published an article on “The World Wheat Surplus.” Here is an extract:—

   “For the present it would seem that there is an absolute world surplus of wheat—not one merely created by the dollar barrier.”—(Financial Times, 9/12/53.)

The Financial Times writer went on to say that though the wheat situation is unhappy at present, supply and demand may be in balance again in three or four years time. And how will this balance be brought about? A main factor will be that the production of wheat is expected to fall in some of the chief producing countries. “In North America the recent high yields are not expected to continue and the U.S. is also planning to reduce acreage.”

Doubtless the writers of these estimates of the food situation would, if asked, express sympathy with the needs of the world’s poor; but, as exponents of capitalist doctrine, they could logically have added “but what have the undernourished millions to do with profit and capitalism?”