Sunday, November 23, 2008

Use your illusions

" Even Bill Clinton has acknowledged that ‘we all blew it, including me,’ by treating food crops as commodities instead of a vital right of the world's poor. Clinton was very clear in blaming not individual states or governments, but the long-term Western policy imposed by the US and European Union and enacted by the World Bank, the IMF and other international institutions. African and Asian countries were pressured into dropping government subsidies for farmers, opening up the way for the best land to be used for more lucrative export crops. The result of such ‘structural adjustments’ was the integration of local agriculture into the global economy: crops were exported, farmers were thrown off their land and pushed into sweat-shops, and poorer countries had to rely more and more on imported food. In this way, they are kept in postcolonial dependence, vulnerable to market fluctuations – soaring grain prices (caused in part by the use of crops for biofuels) have meant starvation in countries from Haiti to Ethiopia.

Clinton is right to say that ‘food is not a commodity like others. We should go back to a policy of maximum food self-sufficiency. It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves.’ There are at least two things to add here. First, developed Western countries have taken great care to maintain their own food self-sufficiency through financial support for their farmers (farm subsidies account for almost half of the entire EU budget). Second, the list of things which are not ‘commodities like others’ is much longer: apart from food (and defence, as all patriots are aware), there are water, energy, the environment, culture, education, health – who will make decisions about these, if they cannot be left to the market? It is here that the question of Communism has to be raised again." (Thanks Marcy)

Slavoj Žižek's "Use your illusions" on Obama's election and other pressing world matters like the Congo war, Mitterand's involvement in the Rwandan genocide and the crisis of global capitalism. Essential

No comments: