From the September 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard
By now most of us have got used to various organisations declaring designated days, weeks or even years that are devoted to highlighting some problem or other. Events such as No-Smoking Day. TUC Health and Safety Week and UN Year of Peace.
However, this year a problem is not being brought to our attention. In fact quite the opposite. This year the National Farmers Union are trying to convince us all that a problem does not exist. This is "British Food and Farming Year" and down here in Wiltshire they are celebrating in style. Every month there are two or three events, not to mention all the coverage in the local media. All this is going to cost the NFU a lot of money but they regard this as required "to fund a major advertising and public relations campaign to ensure that the message reaches the widest possible audience and creates a massive impact". At a time when more people are questioning the effects of capitalism on the food we eat and on the environment we live in, the NFU are hoping to convince us that ". . . a sea of fiddles, hand-outs, corruption, environmental destruction and food poisoning" simply does not exist.
Of course for the NFU some problems are real. Like how to keep the profits coming in at a time when food prices should be tending to fall due to "over-production" This problem is to be countered by paying farmers to take land out of production, by having quotas for the amount of food produced, and by simply destroying food or storing it in huge quantities. According to NFU President, Simon Gourlay: "It infuriates me that there is still talk about excessive profits. In most sectors the return on working capital would give an industrialist nightmares". Meanwhile millions of people starve to death every year or suffer preventable disease as a result of malnutrition.
The wage slaves working on the farms won’t be celebrating, as Ivan Monckton explains in the April edition of The Landworker:
We have nothing to celebrate. We are still at the bottom of the wages heap, still having to cope with a far lower level of services. still living in many cases in the poorest housing, still suffering from an appalling health and safety record and still treated as mere chattels by those who would have us all believe that the thing closest to their hearts is not their wallets but the preservation of the countryside and its rural communities.
By its very nature capitalism is incapable of solving these problems. The answer is really quite simple. The land should belong to all and food be produced to eat and not for sale with a view to profit. Now that will be something worth celebrating.