1990s >> 1996 >> no-1097-january-1996

Now here isn’t the news . . .

Under the above title, John Madeley writes in the Observer (26 November):

“If 100 jumbo jets crashed tomorrow, killing all on board, the world would be united in mourning, but every day, around 35,000 people die of hunger-related diseases, almost without mention. This year, global production of grain is expected to reach 1.9 billion tons. Evenly distributed, that would give every man, woman and child about a kilo a day. But food is not fairly shared; it goes to those who can afford it or have the means to grow it ‘While the poor go hungry, £1.5 million is spent every minute of every day on armaments,’ says Margaret Lynch, director of War on Want ‘Most countries listed here [Somalia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Rwanda, Malawi], generate more profit for the arms industry than they ever receive in aid.’ Nearly 40 percent of the hungry are Africans, 20 percent are Asians, and seven out of 10 are female.”

The fact is that food, like everything else in our present system of society, is not produced because people need it, or are starving, but to make a profit. Moreover, farmers throughout the world are, and have been for most of this century, paid or subsidised either not to produce food, or even to destroy that which has already been produced, if governments or groups of governments such as the European Union, consider it more profitable in the short or long run to do so.

Unlike John Madeley, socialists do not advocate the even distribution of, say, grain or any other foodstuff. Such a proposal is quite utopian and impracticable. Our objective is a society wherein the land and all the productive forces are commonly owned and democratically administered by and in the interests of humanity as a whole; and where food, and all other things necessary for life, are produced solely for the satisfaction of people’s self-determined needs. Agrarian reform, handouts by charities and the like, such as War on Want, are sadly futile and doomed to failure. Only a clean sweep, a completely revolutionary change of society, will solve the problem of world hunger—and the sooner the better.

Peter E. Newell