2000s >> 2008 >> no-1246-june-2008

Voice From The Back


“This year global production of biofuels will consume almost 100 million tons of grain – grain that could have been used to feed the starving. According to the UN, it takes 232kg of corn to fill a 50-litre car tank with ethanol – enough to feed a child for a year. The UN last week predicted ‘massacres’ unless the biofuel policy is halted. Jean Ziegler, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, said biofuels were ‘a crime against humanity’, and called for a five-year moratorium.” (Independent, 16 April) The UN can issue all sorts of pious resolutions, but if is more profitable to produce bio-fuels than food, then that is what capitalism will do.


Capitalism pervades everything in modern society. If you buy a football shirt it will advertise a beer or a soft drink. Formula 1 car racing would be impossible if advertising logos didn’t cover every space on the cars and the drivers. It is in the entertainment business though that this pervasive influence is growing at an astonishing speed. “The name is Bond, James Bond. And he likes his Martinis shaken, not stirred. That is, as long as they are Smirnoff. Product placement is playing an increasingly important role in Hollywood blockbusters. The last Bond film bore a string of high-end sponsors, such as Omega, Sony, Ford and Sony Ericsson. Television shows have also lured advertisers, often preferring product placement or sponsorship over traditional advertising. .. The expectation is that television advertising will become more about the 30-minute sponsored advertisement than the 30-second shot.” (Times, 21 April)


“Eight out of 10 nurses say they have left work distressed because they have been unable to treat patients with the dignity they deserve, a poll suggests. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) poll of more than 2,000 UK nurses cited washing and privacy as key issues.” (BBC News, 27 April) The NHS is provided for members of the working class. They are the class that produce all the wealth of the world but being poor can ill afford the best of housing, food or even medical care. Dignity for the only worthwhile class in capitalist society is an impossibility.


Supporters of capitalism claim that it is the most efficient way to run society, but that is a claim that rings hollow to millions of hungry people today, as even one of capitalism’s stoutest supporters is forced to admit. “Giant agribusinesses are enjoying soaring earnings and profits out of the world food crisis which is driving millions of people towards starvation, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. And speculation is helping to drive the prices of basic foodstuffs out of the reach of the hungry.” (4 May)


“In the semi-arid forests of the Chaco region of Paraguay, where summer temperatures top 40C (104F), the continent’s last uncontacted Indians outside of the Amazon basin are on the run, their traditional forest home increasingly encroached upon by ranchers. … These formerly nomadic tribes people struggle to maintain a semblance of their traditional way of life in camps on the edge of the agricultural colonies that invaded their territory.” (Times, 6 May) This process called by Karl Marx the so-called primitive accumulation of capital was dealt with him in his Das Kapital (1867) mirrors what had happened in Europe at the beginning of capitalism. “In actual history it is notorious that conquest, murder, briefly force, play the great part …As a matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic.” A view echoed by one of the Indians in the Times: – “The whites are violent. They just want land. We are afraid of them, they are very aggressive.”


“Burma is still exporting rice even as it tries to curb the influx of international donations of food bound for the starving survivors of the cyclone that killed up to 116,000 people. Sacks of rice destined for Bangladesh were being loaded on to a ship at the Thilawa container port at the mouth of the Yangon River at the end of last week, even though Burma’s ‘rice bowl’ region was devastated by the deadly storm a week ago. The Burmese regime, which has a monopoly on the country’s rice exports, said it planned to meet all its contractual commitments” (Observer, 11 May). Inside capitalism business is business, and the fact that millions of Burmese risk death by starvation is of no concern. That is how capitalism operates. During the Irish potato famines foodstuffs were still being exported from Ireland.

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