The Spark

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

Profiting from famine

Apr 28, 2008

One hunger riot after another in poor countries has begun to make the world’s leaders react. Still hundreds of millions of men, women and children have gone from permanent undernourishment to famine.

“If food prices continue to increase, hundreds of thousands of people are going to die of hunger,” said the new head of the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is one of the main institutions of the capitalist world. Its experts may KNOW everything – but they DO nothing. They are either profiteers themselves or servants of an economic system in which private profit is king.

Everyone knows that speculation, which destroyed homeowners, has now been transferred to raw materials like oil, of course, but also food staples. The prices of corn, rice and wheat have more than doubled.

In Haiti, the price of rice, corn, green beans and cooking oil and other food staples has doubled, or in certain cases, tripled in just a few months. Today Haiti must import all the necessary foods, such as 80% of its rice from the United States. The local money has fallen in value compared to the dollar. Those who have a hold over imports and trade also contribute to starve the population.

For millions of people throughout the world one of these food staples costs nine-tenths of their meager incomes. Price increases condemn them to death. Government leaders know it and do worse than nothing. They turn over tens of billions of dollars to save the banks, which enables the financial groups to continue to speculate – today in food staples.

The food situation of the poor countries didn’t become tragic all of a sudden. Over decades, these poor countries were pushed to give up growing crops to feed their people. Instead they were forced to produce whatever crops could be sold on the world market.

The latest example of the murderous madness of this system is the production of bio-fuels. With the increase in the price of oil, refining corn or sugar cane to turn it into fuel became profitable. Instead of food to feed starving populations, a growing part of world production goes to fill the pockets of the capitalists who own ethanol refineries!

It is a “crime against humanity,” as one professor put it. But starving millions is nothing new.

In the Haitian countryside, farm production is often ruined by imported products. In some regions, the population is reduced to eating dirt to try to quell their hunger pangs.

United Fruit Company, backed by the U.S. government, took over large parts of Honduras and Guatemala to grow bananas for export. Hershey and Mars get raw cocoa from plantations in tropical countries where farm workers suffer from severe malnutrition because no food is grown. It has to be imported – at a high price.

Farm workers face plantation foremen with rifles to ensure they work quickly to satisfy the owners’ race for profit. The capitalists build their fortunes on the corpses of those they exploit.

Workers in the industrial countries may not be hit as severely by food price increases. But we are attacked by the same wealthy exploiters and speculators. Those who revolt against food price increases in Thailand, in Haiti or in Africa are our sisters, our brothers, a part of ourselves. Their destiny is our destiny.