On Hunger and Capitalism

— Dan Jakopovich

“... This type of wretchedness is an abstraction for us white people. Regardless of how much we see it around us, we cannot truly understand what poverty is because we do not suffer from it. At least not as much as the Indian peasant woman I met once in Bolivia. This peasant woman had four bowls of rice and five children. She gave each of her four oldest children a bowl but not one who was sitting in a corner. I asked her: ‘Why don’t you feed this child?’ She answered: ‘That one is the weakest, the youngest and in any case will be the first to die. I do not have enough food for all five so I have to choose, and I will not feed the one who will die first.’” — Participant at the Dialectics of Liberation Conference, London, 1967

ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, approximately 35,000 of our brothers and sisters died from what is perhaps the worst possible cause of death — starvation. A decade after the 1996 World Food Summit set the goal of cutting the rate of hunger in the world by half, today approximately 854 million people are still starving, which is a great increase in comparison to the 842 million in the year 2000 (Food and Agriculture Organization, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2006).

The Nobel prize-winning Amartya Sen, as one of many, stresses that world hunger is not caused by a shortage of food but by unequal distribution (see, for example, Amartya Sen, Why Half the Planet is Hungry, Observer, June 16, 2002). Here are some basic facts on the realities of hunger under capitalism:

Capitalism continues “to resemble that hideous, pagan idol who would not drink the nectar but from the blood of the slain.“ (Marx)

ATC 133, March–April 2008