Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2100

Protesters in Indonesia made the cost of food one of the issues on their May Day march (Pic: Media Bebos)

Protesters in Indonesia made the cost of food one of the issues on their May Day march (Pic: Media Bebos)

Price of food policies

It is a sick irony to see leaders of the world’s trade and finance bodies expressing concern and calling for “action” over rising food prices and the threat of global hunger.

The head of the World Bank last week called for a new “action plan” to address the crisis.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that hundreds of thousands face starvation, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has called for a “rethink” and Gordon Brown has called on the G8 group of rich nations to take steps to address the crisis.

Yet as you rightly point out (» Busting myths about the food crisis, 26 April) these are the very institutions whose neoliberal policies caused the food crisis.

Rising food prices are an explicit goal of agricultural liberalisation policies pushed by the IMF and WTO – not an unwelcome by-product.

For example, in 2004 the IMF established the Trade Integration Mechanism fund to encourage countries to import food products and to “support” the increasing costs of opening up agricultural and food markets.

It is no surprise that with rising food prices comes speculation from investors who seek to make a quick profit by hoarding assets that are appreciating.

Again the IMF’s own research on commodity prices movements and speculation concluded “that speculative positions follow price movements”.

In other words the IMF and other global institutions have created the market conditions to attract speculation, even though the cost of doing so is to threaten to bring starvation to enormous swathes of the world’s population.

It also threatens to bring revolution, something the IMF’s research didn’t mention!

Carlo Morelli, Auchtermuchty, Fife

Your article about the food crisis was spot on in virtually all respects (Socialist Worker, 26 April). But the omission of any discussion of oil was surprising.

Of course hunger arises fundamentally from inequity in the global economic order. But you appear trapped in the oil-age optimism of the 20th century.

You wrongly assume the massive increase in food production in the last centuries are sustainable – they aren’t.

The price of food is up first and foremost because the price of oil is up, and the demand for oil will progressively outstrip supply.

Technological advances in food production – in mechanisation, fertiliser, pest control, hydration and transport – require enormous amounts of energy.

Production of that energy will decline as fossil fuels steadily disappear.

If half the world continues to propel themselves about in automobiles and planes, idle their engines at the McDonald’s

drive-thru – and use more energy in a week than all their pre-1800 ancestors did in their combined lifetimes – there will not be enough food.

Richard Latker, Hong Kong

Defending Persepolis

I loved Persepolis. Dominic Kavakeb’s review was rather harsh (»  Breathtaking animation, but not enough reality, 26 April).

Persepolis never tries to be a detailed history.

It is an animated autobiographical story about a kid growing up. The story is told from her point of view – it shows us her school, friends, family and teenage romances, as well as her experience of the Iranian revolution and its aftermath.

The film is adapted from two graphic novels based on the writer’s life.

Novels aren’t just about reflecting historical and political realities.

Leon Trotsky rightly defended art as something that has its own rules – it cannot be judged as “good” or “bad” simply according to its representation of class struggle.

And personal stories matter. You don’t have to like them, but they can’t just be debunked because they focus too much on love or family ties.

The Persepolis books are important – and have cult status – to many young people with an Iranian background.

It is rare to get your hands on a great story with a confident Iranian character at its heart. The central character Marjane stands up to racism and isn’t afraid of challenging grown-ups when she thinks they are wrong.

Iranian people are shown to be defiant, resourceful, and resilient, and as normal people with a sense of humour.

This is important in the current political climate, where we’re encouraged to think anyone from a “rogue state” is a terrorist or a weirdo!

The film does roughly sketch how Western governments have repressed democracy in Iran. It shows how Britain and the US supported an oppressive monarchy through the Shah, and how the West armed both sides in the Iran-Iraq war.

The film is critical of both Western intervention and the current regime in Iran.

The writer shows the everyday oppression that people experience in Iran. This does not mean that she is inviting the US and Britain to bomb the place.

Zaheda Rahman, North London

Nothing to celebrate on St George’s Day

Singer Billy Bragg has argued that we should celebrate St George’s Day.

Last year Sandwell, in the West Midlands, boasted to have the largest St George’s Day celebration in England. The parade and festival, sponsored by the local council, saw up to 15,000 marching through West Bromwich.

While Billy Bragg may be pleased with such national pride being displayed, he should check out the atmosphere of those marching.

Last year BNP leader Nick Griffin marched through the streets of West Bromwich, surrounded by his henchmen. The Orange Order also marched.

There were numerous reports of abuse given out to non-white participants and reports of sections of the crowd shouting racist chants.

Waving the St George’s flag does nothing to improve council housing, ease traffic congestion or stop the closure or privatisation of public services.

At worst the flag waving and celebrations provide parades that racists and fascists can march along with.

It shouldn’t be St George’s Day that Billy Bragg promotes, it should be May Day – the day when the labour movement celebrates past struggles and achievements, a day that unites the whole working class.

Tony Barnsley, Sandwell, West Midlands

Poland set for climate campaign

The United Nations (UN) climate talks will be held in Poznan, Poland, in December.

The Global Climate Campaign has named 6 December as a worldwide day of protest. To kick-start the demonstrations, activists met in Warsaw last weekend.

About a dozen organisations sent representatives, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth as well as socialists from Workers Democracy (the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation in Poland) and campaigners from the Polish Stop the War movement.

There were also local activists who have had prolonged battles with their corrupt city mayor over the development of green-belt land in Poznan.

The Polish government is keen to make the UN talks a show of Polish “hospitality”.

It is also thrilled that it has been chosen to co-host the Euro 2012 football-fest.

It will need a huge programme of road building and construction.

The government has made it clear that environmental concerns will take a back seat.

It sees this as a chance for Poland to showcase its pride as a new member of the Western capitalist world.

Ewa Barker, Manchester

Stop closure of our school

Mitchell High School, an innovative school in the heart of a deprived community in Stoke-on-Trent, is under threat of closure as part of the reorganisation of education in the city.

If the closure goes ahead, we will lose our local school and students will be sent to a new academy in a neighbouring area.

Mitchell High has dramatically improved academically over the last five years.

Now we are set to lose everything we have fought for – inspiring teachers, improved academic achievement, and good links with the community.

Parents, students and staff want to retain a school in the heart of these communities.

We are angry that the council has ignored our views.

Please sign our online petition at »

Paul Shipstone, Milton, Stoke-on-Trent

We can resist Labour’s cuts

Gordon Brown’s government has spent billions on bombing and destruction. Meanwhile people are suffering because of high bills and debts and the insecurity of social welfare in Britain.

The teachers, lecturers, civil service workers and the Birmingham council strikers are showing us that we don’t have to lie down and take this crap.

There is an alternative – one that the majority of people want and need – which is to fight against the proponents of this system.

We can change things for the better.

Sophie Jongman, Gillingham, Kent

Prisons not comfy hotels

Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, has a cheek to say that prisoners have a “cushy” life.

Just last week, figures were released showing that one in four prisoners in England and Wales are now sharing cells designed for one person.

Mental illness and self harm incidents are on the rise – a damning indictment of prisons.

And Gordon Brown, desperate to appease the right wing moralists, has vetoed a “pay rise” for working prisoners – which would have seen them receiving £5.50 a week.

Prisons destroy lives and break up families.

They are ineffective and inhumane – and certainly not “cushy”.

Sylvia Elgrib, Sidcup, Kent

League tables attack poor

The department for children, schools and families last week announced plans to shake up the school league tables – by judging schools not just on exam results but on “social” factors such as drug use, teenage pregnancies, obesity and crime.

This crazy plan is just one more way to attack the poor – as schools in deprived areas will undoubtedly have higher rates of all of these things.

Supposedly these league tables would help parents make a “choice”. But most parents have no such choice – they are stuck with underfunded state schools or unaccountable academies.

Until we have properly funded state education, there will only be real choice for the rich.

Cathy Douglas, South London

Deported by sinister law

I enjoyed your article on Rudi Dutschke (» Rudi Dutschke and the German student movement in 1968, 3 May).

Interesting to note that Dutschke was deported from Britain in 1971 under government powers to exclude people from the country on the grounds that their presence in Britain is “not conducive to the public good”.

This sinister immigration legislation is still used today to remove people the government sees as a threat or undesirable in some way.

Ellen Setter, Middlesbrough

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 6 May 2008, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2100
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.