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News ::
REVOLT AT WORLD TRADE TALKS (english)
19 Sep 2003
REVOLT AT WORLD TRADE TALKS: DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
RESIST TAKEOVER BY AGRIBUSINESS GIANTS

By Deirdre Griswold
-------------------------
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Sept. 25, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper
-------------------------

REVOLT AT WORLD TRADE TALKS: DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
RESIST TAKEOVER BY AGRIBUSINESS GIANTS

By Deirdre Griswold

The profit system of capitalism has done it again. It has expanded the means of production at such a tremendous rate that millions are
suffering extreme want.

Wait a minute. Isn't that a contradiction? Oh yes, it certainly is.
Capitalism is full of contradictions, and they are deadly.

They are most obvious at the moment in agriculture. More food being
produced on a world scale means less food for millions of farmers, who are losing their lands and their livelihood. The situation is so acute that a leader of South Korean farmers just killed himself in protest at the Cancun meeting of the World Trade Organization, which broke up in disarray when the developing nations walked out of the conference.

Lee Kyung Hae stabbed himself in the abdomen on Sept. 10 as thousands
demonstrated against the WTO's "free trade" rules that allow
industrialized imperialist nations to spend about $300 billion a year on agricultural subsidies.

In the United States, where small farmers are now almost a thing of the past, the lion's share of these subsidies goes to huge agribusiness corporations. These giant factory farms are exporting cheap grains and other foods, as well as cotton, to countries around the world, putting their farmers out of business. All at the taxpayers' expense.

In South Korea, farmers like Lee are going bankrupt at a frightening
pace, even though they are very well organized.

Korean farmers have developed great skill at getting the most out of the land. Most farms have long rows of plastic greenhouses to lengthen the growing season, so that fresh melons, greens, squash and cucumbers are available most of the year in city markets. Farmers tend their crops by hand, coaxing plants to grow on every available square foot of earth. Yet when it comes to staples like rice, for example, they cannot compete with huge U.S. corporations that have established mechanized farms on vast tracts in Hawaii and Louisiana.

A similar situation exists in much of Central and South America, Africa and other parts of Asia. Where farmers were once the overwhelming majority of the population, they are being reduced to working as hired hands for big corporate growers or abandoning the land altogether.

Often the land of these ruined farmers is then bought up by foreign
companies, which plant export crops to be sold in the richer nations.
The poorer countries lose both land and indigenous farmers.

Everyone knows there has been a huge influx of people from rural areas of Central America and Mexico into the United States in recent years. In large cities from coast to coast, those who clean up in restaurant kitchens and stack produce in food markets for less than minimum wage were once farmers south of the border. Largely undocumented, they have been forced to leave their homes by the millions and risk everything crossing the border. This process became acute after the North American Free Trade Agreement flooded the area with cheap U.S. corn and other grains.

Years before NAFTA, the U.S. organized and paid for bloody counter-
revolutions in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. The crushing of
popular liberation movements was the precursor to "opening up" their
economies to U.S. products.

The imperialists promised that "free trade" would bring development to countries mired in poverty and underdevelopment, the legacy of
colonialism. Yes, there are now glitzy resorts like Cancun in Mexico--
but this tourist enclave has its own seaport and airport so visitors can come and go without having to pass through the sea of poverty that surrounds it and is growing worse.

With the breakdown of the Cancun meeting, the imperialist bankers who
control world trade are put out. "Long-term it is bad for world growth. Only if developing countries grow can they import more from us," commented John Llewellyn, global chief economist at the investment bank Lehman Brothers in London. (New York Times, Sept. 15) A telling statement. Growth is for one reason only. Not so the hungry can eat. Not so the homeless can be housed. No, growth is so other countries can import more from the imperialists and fill their banks with money.

Havana was like Cancun--an island of privilege catering to affluent U.S. tourists--before the Cuban Revolution. The first priority of that great social transformation was to bring literacy teachers, doctors, decent housing, clean water and sanitation, and an end to the plantation system to the countryside.

The capitalist era began in the world with the breaking up of large
landed estates in Europe as the bourgeoisie seized political power and cut down its rivals, the nobility. Today, large estates are back, but they are organized like factories and employ wage labor instead of serfs. As with manufacturing, the capitalist monopolies that control U.S. agriculture today--giants like ConAgra, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill--gain efficiency through applying the scientific-technological revolution to agriculture, as well as through economies of scale and the division of labor.

However, their overriding motivation is profit, and this poisons all
that they touch. The never-ending quest of capital for greater profit
drives them to adopt new technologies--like dangerous pesticides and
genetically modified foods--before their impact on health and the
environment can be adequately assessed.

It drives them to capture and dominate markets all over the world, in
the same way that industrial and financial capital do.

It drives them to plant acres and acres of flowers in Central America--where ruined farmers are begging for food--because flowers can quickly be shipped from there year-round to upscale markets in North America.

It has driven the destruction of rain forests in Honduras because U.S. fast food chains found it cheaper to chop down the trees and grow cattle there, even though the grazing lands created lasted only a few years before seasonal downpours washed the fragile topsoil away, creating a desert where there was once rich biological diversity.

Small-scale agriculture is going the way of backyard forges and mom and pop stores. Food production does need to be put on a scientific basis, with machines doing as much of the backbreaking work as possible. The life of an agricultural worker is hard and hazardous, and small, indebted farmers never know if their next harvest will pull them through.

What is needed is a socialized solution tailored to the needs of the
people--as food consumers--and of the farm workers.

Every socialist revolution so far has had to carry out land reform that wasn't completed under bourgeois rule. Workers' governments took the land away from semi-feudal landlords--in Russia and China--or from foreign agribusinesses--in Cuba--and gave it to the peasants. But the next step was to make farming more efficient and productive.

In the Soviet Union, the collectivization of agriculture took place in the late 1920s when there was great material backwardness and political turmoil that led to resistance by many peasants. It is therefore even more significant that today, when much of the state-owned industry there has been chopped up and sold off to capitalist buyers, the collective farms have remained intact in many areas of the former Soviet Union. Even though laws were passed offering incentives to farmers to leave the collectives--and some did--small-scale farming proved so difficult and unproductive that the attempt to break up the collectives has stalled.

The question before humanity today is not whether it is possible to
produce enough food to feed the world's population. That can be done
already--despite the dire predictions of Malthus. The problem is how to get rid of capitalism and create a just social order, so that everyone can afford to eat nutritious food and no one is exploited for the profits of a few.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) wwpublish.com. Subscribe wwnews-
on (at) wwpublish.com. Unsubscribe wwnews-off (at) wwpublish.com. Support the
voice of resistance http://www.workers.org/orders/donate.php)
See also:
www.workers.org
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