2000s >> 2001 >> no-1163-june-2001

News: *Questions of the day *Scrounging on the state *Down on the farm *Socialist imprisoned in Kenya


    * Questions of the day
    * Scrounging on the state
    * Down on the farm
    * Socialist imprisoned in Kenya

Questions of the day

As a socialist party we are actively involved in the work of urging the working class to ask themselves questions about their present living arrangements. One of the questions we need to ask ourselves is why we are all working so hard, when it is so blatently unnecessary given the potential of today’s technology. A list of these socialist questions was asked by Tracey Chapman in her song Why? One of the most tragic is: Why do habies starve when there’s enough food to feed the world?

Why do babies starve when there’s enough food to feed the world?
Why do babies starve when there’s enough food to feed the world?

Are babies really starving? Is there really enough food to feed the world? These stories are not something socialists make up. They are facts about the world we live in. The Daily Monitor of Addis Ababa, for example, recently reported that Ethiopia has too little food to feed its people, but too much food for its farmers to stay in business.

Because farmers had plenty of grain, competition bought the price of food down. This made what the paper called consumers (as if they’re a different class to the producers) “happy”, it said. But the paper was subsequently surprised to discover that, as it turned out, this was no great thing after all. “Market forces played their foul game,” they said. Farmers were not earning enough from the sale of their commodity to pay off their loans for fertilisers and seed.

“When rich countries overproduce, their governments buy up the product and dump it in the ocean – or they just donate it to needy countries, which destabilises their struggling economies. When a poor country overproduces, it’s left with piles of rotting food in a hungry land,” the paper said.

The best that even the most radical commentators can do in such a situation is wring their hands in despair, for it seems to them a really insoluble contradiction. For us, however, the solution lies with ourselves and our own struggles to assert our needs, including the need to eat the food that we, as a class, produce. The framework for a successful conclusion to these struggles – for bread, and for roses – is the social ownership of what is socially produced. As long as food is produced for sale on the market, rather than directly for eating, there can be no lasting solution to the problem of hunger in the Third World.


Scrounging on the state

Newspapers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph delight in reporting on “state scroungers”. This usually turns out to be some unemployed worker claiming unemployment money while doing a bit of part-time work on the side. Or horror of horrors, an unmarried mother claiming benefit while her boyfriend stays overnight some weekend. Such unprincipled behaviour is guaranteed to get Fleet Street into a frenzy of indignation. “State-aided fornication” or “benefit scroungets” are denounced by the righteous indignation of hacks who never report that the capitalist class live off rhe unpaid labour of the working class. Any fiddles that the working class might get up to fade into insignificance beside the quite legal state handouts to the owning class, as repored in the Observer, 20 May:

    “The Duke of Westminster – Britain’s richest man, with estimated wealth of £4 billion has received £3nr in taxpayers money to help boost his farms profits. The Duke, who owns a 6,200-acre arable farm neat Chester, has been enjoying around £300,000 a year in state handouts over tht past decade through European subsidies… It was once disclosed that Princess Anne recived about £400,000 in subsidies for farming at Gatcombe Park estate in Gloucester. Her former husband, Captain Mark Phillips, once admitted that these subsidies amounted to 90 percent ot the farm’s profits, but Buckingham Palace would not provide up-to-date figures.”

Mad as all this seems, the complete craziness of capitalism is summed up by the news that the Duke of Westminster was getting hand-outs of “£150,000 a year for growing 1,400 acres of wheat, and almost £150,000 for growing 1,400 acres of oil seed and barley. He is also receiving, more than £30,000 from taxpayers for not growing anything on 390 acres of ‘set aside’ hand.”


Down on the farm

Capitalism, when viewed from the perspective of human needs, is a crazy social system. We can have building workers unemployed whilst people go without decent housing and wonderful technological advances that could produce all the food, clothing and shelter needed for all of humanity in a clean, healthy environment – yet this technology is used to poison the rivers, lakes and oceans of tire world, because of the profit motive of capitalism. The latest piece of madness to enrergc from the insane asylum that is capitalism is reported in the New Scientist online News:

    “A Canadian farmer must pay Monsanto for the genetically modified crops found growing in his fields, even if the seeds blew there from neighbouring fields and he never intended to grow them in the first place, a federal court ruled last week. Basically, the judge is saying that it doesn’t matter how it got into your field, it’s Monsantos property. “But how does a farmer know if he’s got a genetically altered seed that belongs to Monsanto?” asks the farmer Percy Schmeiser of Bruno, Saskatchewan. The decision is an important one for Monsanto, which says it has to stop farmers stealing its property. Farmers in Canada and the US must sign agreements with Monsanto saying they will buy new GM seed each year instead of saving seeds new from the previous year’s harvest.”

What will the profit motive do with GM food?
What will the profit motive do with GM food?

Monsanto has made great play of how their disease resistant seeds would help to produce more food for the starving “Third World”. How wonderful it would all he for the farmers of Africa and Asia. However, they failed to highlight the contracts that US and Canadian farmers must sign about buying new seed each season. The same contracts would have to be signed in Africa and Asia. Every technological advance that human ingenuity devises is distorted by the profit motive.


Socialist imprisoned in Kenya

One of our members in Kenya was imprisoned last year for holding a meeting in a member’s house. Police descended on the house on 18 August demanding a licence for such a meeting as required (in their view) by law – although the law says nothing as such about holding meetings in a private residence (which is why they did not apply for a licence). Our comrade was sentenced to 6 months without the option of a fine. It took his wife a month to find out where he was jailed – it was the Nairobi Short Sentence Prison – and she had to bribe officials to find out. His relatives likewise had to bribe the prison warders now and then to ensure his stay was reasonably satisfactory. On his release on 12 December he sought to negotiate with the editor of a top newspaper to publicise his plight. This was refused but a brief reference to his time in prison was mentioned in the Watchman column of thThe West Winge Sunday Nation (17 December) but no mention was made of the reason why he was imprisoned. Our member has pointed that to try to obtain any documentation from the prison authorities would be “courting trouble”. Prisons in Kenya operate in secrecy and committal warrants are the property of the government.


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