WITH another 100 million people no longer able to afford the food they need to live, two international meetings were underway in London and New York yesterday.
In London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown hosted a international meeting for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to address what it described as a ‘silent tsunami’.
Before the meeting, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said: ‘We’re seeing about 100 million people . . . who maybe did not need assistance six months ago, but today simply cannot afford enough food for their family.’
She pointed out that the price of rice in Asia has more than doubled since the beginning of March, going up from $460 a ton to more than $1,000. Commodity traders say that, over the last year, rice has gone up by 74 per cent, maize by 31 per cent, wheat by 130 per cent and soya by 87 per cent.
With the imperialist powers desperate to boost energy supplies, Sheeran commented on the EU’s target of relying on biofuels for 10 per cent of road transport fuel and the fact that 30 per cent of America’s maize crop will be used to make ethanol.
Sheeran said: ‘Certainly, biofuel is one of those things that is impacting (on food supplies) and we need the experts to sit down and look at how much food is needed and to make sure people can get it at an affordable price.’
Brown said: ‘Tackling hunger is a moral challenge to each of us and it is also a threat to the political and economic stability of nations.’
The maestro of cant and hypocrisy, a day earlier, had handed over $50bn to the speculators running Britain’s big banks, while insisting that the 10p tax band had to be axed and that five million low paid workers must tighten their belts and pay more tax.
Bolivian President Evo Morales and Peru’s Alan Garcia, attending a UN forum on the global impact of climate change on indigenous peoples, were more forthright than Sheeran in challenging the ‘green’ imperialists and their multinational corporations involved in biofuels production.
Morales said: ‘If we want to save our planet earth, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system.’ Taking a side-swipe at Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who has signed up to biofuel deals, Morales said that some South American presidents talking about biofuels ‘did not understand what they were talking about’.
Garcia from Peru, where 40 per cent of the people (12 million) live below the poverty line and have been hit by soaring food prices, lined up with Morales saying that the demand for biofuels was putting world food production under threat.
Even Brown’s statement revealed the concerns of the imperialist leaders, when he spoke about rocketing food prices and starvation being ‘a threat to the political and economic stability of nations’.
This is certainly the case. In a number of countries workers in the cities have rioted over escalating food prices that are outstripping their wages and their families are going hungry.
There has been unrest in Bangladesh, Burkino Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal. Last month four people were killed during food riots in Haiti and the government fell. Ten workers died in riots in Egypt targeted at the state bakeries.
Earlier this month, an estimated 50,000 textile workers took to the streets of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, to protest against soaring food prices, particularly rice. They engaged in pitched battles with the police.
Those on the streets of Cairo and Dhaka were the big battalions of the working class, the textile workers, fighting determinedly to defend their families from starvation. It will not be long before those in the leadership of these working-class actions realise that capitalism is the source of their poverty and hunger.
They will draw the conclusion articulated by Morales, that only a socialist revolution to overthrow capitalism can deliver cheap food for workers and poor farmers.
For such a struggle they must organise a revolutionary party, a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, theoretically and practically prepared to lead the workers and labouring masses in a struggle for power.