jeudi 5 juin 2008

UN food summit and nothin

The world's hungry have more important things to think about than the drone fest drawing to its dismal end in Rome this week. There has been no promises of any aid, "'s not that type of conference, it's more about bilding momentum for change" we are informed by a breathless BBC hack, no writing off of debt and no change in the programme - only "free markets can solve the crisis".

The sight of the politico luvvies like the odious Berlusconi and the ridiculous Sarkozy preening their way up the red carpet into the hall for the banquet was presented on the TV sans-irony of course. They want us to know they really don't give a shit - this is just airtime for them, a chance to get their mushes in the media and play up their personal political share prices. It looked appalling but so did Cannes and it's all showbiz.

The real debate, when Britain wasn't trying to change the subject by its references to Mugabwe (it was amusing to hear Brown say that the Zimbabwean PM's policies had brought starvation to his own people, after all, starvaing African people is the West's job), was over the role of free market economics in solving the problem of a billion facing starvation. The New Statesman puts it nicely saying,
"This latest food emergency has developed in an incredibly short space of time - essentially over the past 18 months. The reason for food "shortages" is speculation in commodity futures following the collapse of the financial derivatives markets. Desperate for quick returns, dealers are taking trillions of dollars out of equities and mortgage bonds and ploughing them into food and raw materials. It's called the "commodities super-cycle" on Wall Street, and it is likely to cause starvation on an epic scale.
The rocketing price of wheat, soybeans, sugar, coffee - you name it - is a direct result of debt defaults that have caused financial panic in the west and encouraged investors to seek "stores of value". These range from gold and oil at one end to corn, cocoa and cattle at the other; speculators are even placing bets on water prices." That IS the free market system.

John Hilary makes the obvious point that free market economics have brought about this crisis and that applying more doses of neo-liberalism will exacerbate the problem. Some crank in the coment section replies that 'if only the markets were really free, if only borders were smashed and US and European protectionism were dismantled, then all would be well.'

It is the cry of a true believer - some of them really think that there really is a space where free exchange can take place between equal participants. Under actually existing capitalism, of course, this is impossible. It would mean that the whole massive historical legacy of North against South, the entire unequal infrasctructure, the collosal theft, the hyper-exploitation of and the entire purpose of the system would have to be somehow ignored. And that is even if the capitalists actually wanted a free market. The free market is the ideology, the crushing of expendable African and 'developing' countries is an essentail part of the programme and is the reality.

After thirty years or so of this blindingly obvious set up this ideological chimera (of which the vacuous UN summit is just one turdy aspect) you'd have thought people woukd have kept such trash thoughts to themselves.

The most important thing to remember is that there is more than enough food to go round - it's just people can no longer afford it. They'll just have to believe in the free market system. . .


“When crop prices are climbing, holding inventory for future sale can yield higher profits than selling to meet current demand, for example. Or if prices diverge in different parts of the world, inventory can be shipped to the more profitable market.”