From the April 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard
For six months the peasants of the drought-stricken regions of Wello and Tigro in Ethiopia have been suffering from famine . . . In the five months from April to August between 50,000 and 100,000 died. (Guardian 18 October 1973)
Malnutrition in the Bangladesh villages has reached near-starvation levels among the poor and landless. “I have seen village children who look like Biafro babies”, said a senior official. (Guardian 19 October 1973)
In large parts of Africa, Asia, and South America malnutrition is the norm and starvation common, while even in industrially developed countries considerable numbers eat badly and too little. In Britain’s “affluent society” it is reckoned that 50 to 60,000 old age pensioners die each year through lack of food and warmth.
Most experts estimate that two-thirds of the world’s population are undernourished — and that the situation is getting worse.
Is It Inevitable?
Yes say many. It’s a popular view that there are just too many people and too few resources for everyone to eat well. This is demonstrably false.
At the Second World Food Congress (June 1970) United Nations experts stated that if present technology were used to the full the world’s population could certainly be fed. Then years ago the International Agricultural Centre at the Hague announced that the earth could support a population of 28,000 million if food production were organised on lines then known to be practical (Times 24 July 1962) (Present-day population is under 4,000 million).
The many studies undertaken by various food production experts leave us in no doubt that it is possible to produce enough good-quality food for everyone.
Why Then Hunger?
Simply because in this society food is not produced to feed people but to make a profit for the farmers and other investors in the food industry. This results in: —
- People starving amidst a sufficiency of food — because they’ve not got the money to buy it. “The problem in Bangladesh, as elsewhere on the subcontinent, is not that the food is not there but that the poor (and especially the landless) cannot afford to buy it” (Guardian 19 October 1973).
- Food being produced, then either left to rot in warehouses or deliberately destroyed — because it can’t be sold profitably. 300,000 tons of “surplus” butter are considered a "grave problem” in the EEC while in Britain perfectly good fish and apples have recently been destroyed.
- Quotas being set to limit foodstuffs production and farmers being paid to keep perfectly good land unused. "It is a known fact that, to avoid overproduction of grain, an attempt has been made in various parts of the United States to apply the principle of subsidizing farmers to leave a percentage of their arable land fallow. The same method has been used with other agricultural products”. (Hugo Osvald, The Earth Can Feed Us All).
- Land that could be brought into production by irrigation, and new methods (such as underwater farming) that could be employed, not being used due to the general effort to keep production below a certain level to maintain high prices.
What's The Solution?
Since it’s the basic economic structure that causes the problem all petty reforms merely tinkering with the superstructure are bound to fail. The land and the means of food production, along with all the natural and man-made resources of society, must come under the democratic control of the whole world community. The sole aim of food production must be to satisfy the food requirements of the world and to provide satisfying work for those involved. The buying and selling of food, and the other needs of life, should be abolished and a system of free distribution adopted. Eating is a natural function, not a privilege. In a world based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production, food production would be merely a technical problem — and we already have the technology to meet the task. With the fetters of profit-making removed, today’s potential plenty would be made a reality.
How Can This Be Achieved?
No leader can usher in such a society on your behalf. Its establishment depends on YOUR understanding and effort. Nothing less than conscious political action by a majority of the working class can create World Socialism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its Companion Parties overseas are striving to this end.