The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Starvation Driven by Capitalism

Mar 28, 2022

The war in Ukraine threatens to make a world food crisis even worse. Ukraine and Russia together produce nearly 30% of the world’s wheat, plus a large share of its vegetable oil. Even more critically, they are key sources of fertilizer used by farmers all over the world.

A shortage of fertilizer, a drought or flood in a major food producing region, and the disruption of shipments of food from Russia and Ukraine themselves could cause a real shortage of food next year.

But while there is the real danger of a food shortage next year, as of today, there is no actual shortage of food in the world. Nonetheless, just between the beginning of February and March 25, the price of wheat jumped 60%. And this comes on top of the 80% increase in wheat and corn prices between April 2020 and December 2021.

Wealthy speculators are making fortunes betting on the prices of wheat, corn, and other food, just like they do with oil. Speculation drives prices up enormously whenever there is a rumor of war or drought, even when it hasn’t happened yet. And three giant U.S. companies, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Bunge, plus the European company Louis-Dreyfus, dominate the world trade in grain. Just like the oil companies get even fatter when the price of gas goes up, these companies stand to profit enormously from food price spikes.

The profits of these speculators and giant companies come at the expense of the world population. In the U.S., workers will eat cheaper, less healthy food and there will be continuing hunger and food insecurity. In poorer nations where a majority of income is spent on food, price increases will mean constant hunger. In Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and northern Nigeria, where people were already facing serious disruptions to the food supply because of war or U.S.-imposed sanctions, there will be more starvation.

Millions of people are facing hunger, all over the world, not because of Russian aggression, but because of the functioning of the capitalist system, in which the profits of speculators and giant agribusiness companies come before feeding the population.