Saturday, August 20, 2016

Political Notes: Food for thought (1980)

The Political Notes Column from the March 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

Food for thought
The following interesting information appeared in The Guardian of 4 February:
“The world grain trade is heavily concentrated in the hands of a handful of transnational corporations, including Cargil Inc., Continental Grain Corp., Cook Industries Inc., Bunge Corp., Louis Dreyfus Corp., and Garnac, the first three being based in the US. The half dozen or so companies together control more than 90% of US exports and 80% of the world’s grain market. These companies also handle a large share of the agricultural exports of the Third World grain importing countries, set the price for grains and influence directly and indirectly the diets of millions of people the world over. Furthermore, food aid programmes financed by the US government are also handled by these firms. In times of food crisis (sic), when prices rise rapidly, the grain firms profit considerably. Cook Industries, for instance, increased its yearly profits fifteen-fold between 1972 and 1974, from 3.6 million dollars to 46.2 million dollars. Other firms doubled or trebled their net worth, launched new ventures and expanded into new markets.”
United Nations statistics have shown that one third of the world’s population is malnourished. The reason for this is that starving people cannot afford to buy food from those who own it. It is time to dispossess the owners and controllers of the means of grain production, and all other production, and establish a society in which food is produced for the socially sane purpose of feeding people because they need to cat.

Market madness
The British Datsun Car Dealers’ Association (not the Japanese) are foaming at the mouth and paying thousands of pounds for full-page ads in the national press (refused by The Times) to protest about the Motor Manufacturers’ Society attending a conference with the Japanese manufacturers in Mexico. They claim that British Leyland is supporting restriction of Japanese car imports while allowing large increases in the number of imported French, German and Italian cars. All of which shows the utter absurdity of nationalist policies within global capitalism. Many of the most popular makes of cars nowadays are not made in one country at all, but in three or four different countries. One fact that the Datsun dealers appear to be unaware of is that Michael “Buy British” Edwardes was in Tokyo on Christmas Day, signing contracts for the supply of Honda engines for “British” cars.


No politics, please!
On Wednesday 30 January several members and sympathisers of Islington Branch of the SPGB attended a public meeting on “Cuts and Standards”, organised by the Campaign For the Advancement of State Education (CASE) which was advertised as being addressed by the Shadow Education Minister, Neil Kinnock. In the event Kinnock didn’t turn up (was this a trick to get an audience under false pretences?) and so a stand-in Lefty was wheeled in to tell the audience how awful the cuts were and how they could never have happened under a Labour government. After witnessing one of the dullest speeches ever, the audience was invited to put their questions. Two or three people asked about the cost of swimming lessons and the number of vitamins, to be found in school dinners. Then a socialist was invited to ask a question: “Why do we have cuts at all? Why have a system where you need money to provide the needs of society? Ought not the meeting be considering a new social system based on needs instead of profits?” The chairperson, Anne Madden (Headmistress of Islington Green School) told the socialist questioner to sit down and keep quiet as this was not a “political meeting”. Another socialist who attempted to raise similar points was told that they were irrelevant as they were “political”. We are entitled to ask certain questions of the organisers of the meeting. Is CASE a political organisation? Was Neil Kinnock invited to make a political or a non-political speech? Were people who responded to posters advertising a meeting on “Cuts and Standards” supposed to assume that this was not going to be a political meeting? When the chairperson accused us of being “political” did she not mean that our ideas about political priorities were out of line with the Labour reformism which she and her cronies in the Labour Party wish to perpetuate?


Irish style doublespeak
According to the magazine, Time Out, (25.1.80) the Provisional IRA has debated its policy document, Eire Nua (New Ireland), at its recent annual conference. The result of the debate, claims Time Out, was the adoption of what they call a more progressive, left-wing policy. The nature of this supposed change in political direction was the deletion of a paragraph stating their opposition to both “Western individualistic capitalism” and “Eastern state capitalism”. They have now decided to oppose only western capitalism, ignoring the capitalist system in Russia. It is interesting to note how a nasty, nationalist movement, intent on the creation of Rome-rule in Ireland, can be portrayed by the trendiest of trendy journals as progressive because it no longer dissociates itself from the brutal police State of Russia.


Which class are you?
Those who believe that Britain is no longer an unequal society are referred to the 1979 report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Wealth and Income, which states that the top 1 per cent of the population of Britain own more wealth than the bottom 80 per cent. Supporters of capitalism should consider which of the two statistical groups they fall into and then, when they have faced up to their membership of the working class, they should turn to the SPGB Declaration of Principles and see what can be done about it.
Steve Coleman

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

That's all the articles and reviews from the March 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard now online. If you can't find them here, there'll be over at the following link:

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1980s/1980/no-907-march-1980