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Hunger amid plenty

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Cannabis Sacrament Minister
Cannabis Sacrament Minister

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 8:14 pm    Post subject: Hunger amid plenty Reply with quote

Getting enough food to ward off hunger has been the primary occupation
of human beings since our species first evolved. Today, developments
in agricultural science and the storage and transportation of
perishables mean that everyone on this planet--all 6 billion of
us--could be guaranteed an adequate diet, even in years when local
crops may fail.

Yet, even though food production has been outstripping population
increase, and even though obesity has become a major health problem in
developed countries like the United States, world hunger is still

It's not the fault of nature. It's because of capitalism. While
there's plenty of profit in agribusiness, that's no guarantee that
hungry people will be fed.

What is it about capitalism that is so irrational? Why hasn't the
tremendous technological development unleashed by the profit system
solved age-old problems like hunger, poverty, and disease?

It's not just greedy CEOs and managers--though there are plenty of
those. The problem goes to the very root of the profit system.

Under capitalism, there's a disconnect between the objective need for
something--its use value, as Marx called it--and what people who have
money will pay for it--its exchange value.

Water may be absolutely necessary for life, but it sells for a lot
less than vodka, which can make you drunk as a skunk but won't help
much if you're stranded on a desert island. The price reflects how
much labor goes into its production. In Marxist terms, water has a
very important use value, but not much exchange value under usual

The people in the world who have the most need for food usually have
the least money to pay for it. They're often the people who have to
work the hardest just to stay alive. They may have to carry water and
fuel miles on their backs every day. They may spend hours with a hoe
coaxing crops to grow.

There's a mistaken notion in the U.S. that people get ahead by hard
work. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true. The hardest-working
people are often those who can never get ahead. They are thwarted
because they don't control the vital arteries of finance and
production that determine where the wealth goes. The development of
imperialism, beginning in the 19th century, left the ruling classes of
a few countries in control of world trade and investment. Except when
revolutions have disrupted their plans, they've been running the show
ever since.

Capitalist agriculture and related industries can be very productive,
but they can also be destructive. The costs to society at large of
rearranging nature may outweigh the benefits of some new technology,
but big corporations have to always keep their eyes on the bottom
line. If it makes a profit for the stockholders and owners, they do
it, even knowing that there'll be hell to pay down the line. The
overfishing of the oceans is but one example of this. Enormous factory
ships have depleted some food fish almost to extinction. Another
example is the health and environmental consequences of excessive

Applying science to food production doesn't have to be destructive. It
can be ecologically sound and based on taking the whole environment
into account. In ancient communal societies, people made decisions
about how and where to plant based on what they understood about
nature, and often came up with sustainable methods of food production
that didn't harm the environment. But, even though their knowledge was
limited, they had something that has been robbed from us: everything
was produced to satisfy the needs of the community, not to produce
profit for a few.

World hunger amid plenty is just another reason why history is not
over and the struggle for socialism goes on. This planet, so unique in
the universe, is too wonderful to be the plaything of profiteers. It
belongs to the people who live and work on it, and they will take it
back--to satisfy the most basic needs: for food and the peace in which
to enjoy it.

Reprinted from the July 15, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not

when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade
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