by Rob McBean
Let’s take a look at this idea of “super food”. Are there foods which are in some way better to other, non-super or just regular foods? Are there “super humans” walking around, who are vastly superior to us due to their consumption of “super foods”?
The reality is that there are only two different categories that you can put people into based on what foods they eat. Those two categories are: People who are malnourished, and, people who aren’t.
I’m not a medical doctor, but I still feel comfortable saying that no one in this room is suffering from malnutrition. Many people in our capitalist world do suffer from malnutrition, and I think that would be a very good subject for a film night.
The idea of “superfood” is actually more of a marketing ploy than it is a real thing. The idea of “super” food is probably more about making regular food ‘super’ expensive. You can find the best proof of this in the health food stores, or in the bodybuilding food stores like GNC, or even on the shelves of shopper’s drug mart where they sell dietary supplements.
These places will happily sell you jugs or bags of powdered food for $80-$180 a pop (plus tax). They will attempt to pass this food off as some sort of miracle food. It’s going to fix your illnesses, build your muscles, detox your liver, increase your red blood cell count, or whatever. These “super” expensive food products are made literally, from just regular food. Fruits, nuts, vegetables, plant and animal products are dried out, ground up, and mixed together. You are getting absolutely nothing special, or different than what you would get at from just eating regular food.
While “Super Food” may be a bit of a fake idea, that does not invalidate the very real and very critical issues that tonight’s film brings up.
The two serious issues that we saw in this film are that farmers can’t sell what they grow, and that farmers are getting kicked off their land.
Both of these are economic issues. Some of you who understand Marxism might recognize that when farmers can’t sell their stuff, that’s because of a crisis of overproduction. You also might recognize that when farmers get kicked off their land, that’s because of the declining rate of profit in capitalism.
But not everybody’s a Marxist. So for the rest of us, let me explain what those terms mean, and then give some examples so that it really ‘clicks’.
Let’s start with farmers can’t sell what they grow. We have a great example right here in North America that perfectly explains this problem.
The U.S. and Canadian Dairy industries are as different as night and day.
In the U.S., over just 2 short years, 2017 and 2018, six and a half percent of the whole dairy farm industry went out of business.
That’s well over 4,000 small family farms going kaput in just 2 years in the U.S. Why? Well, large agri-business corporations are finding more productive methods of getting milk from cows. This means that they can get more milk, faster, for less work. That should be a good thing, but under capitalism it means that the markets get flooded, the prices go down, and the rate of profit goes down.
The mega corporation factory farms are doing o.k. for now, but it’s the smaller family farms that are paying the price. They simply cannot compete with corporate, mega agri-business.
This is a very severe crisis. This crisis is so severe that SUICIDE is now actually becoming a problem in the dairy farmer community. Some American dairy farmers are ending their own lives because of the crisis of overproduction in their industry.
The other side of this problem is milk waste. Farmers can’t sell their milk, so they just dump it onto the ground. Over a hundred million tonnes (exactly 128 M tonnes) of milk are dumped onto fields every year because they can’t be sold. This, in a country where they will chase you down the street, throw you to the ground, handcuff and put you in prison if you take a carton of milk out of Wal-Mart without paying for it.
That sounds terrible right? The good news is, that the Canadian Dairy industry is a different story. Now we can all pat ourselves on the back because, in Canada, dairy farming is subject to the system of supply management. Under supply management, which also includes the egg and poultry sectors, farmers manage their production so that it coincides with forecasts of demand for their products over a predetermined period. Crises of overproduction don’t happen, all the milk gets sold, and everyone knows what their paycheque is going to be every month.
Wait a second? Did I just say that there’s a plan of production, and that it’s designed to meet needs? I’ll tell you what that sounds like. That sounds like SOCIALISM. The Stalinists used to call it collective farming. We call it supply management. You can call it what you want. It’s very close to how socialism operates and it works. All that horror story stuff from the United States doesn’t happen here because of our superior socialist-like production methods.
The second problem is that farmers are getting kicked off their land. When farmers get kicked off their land, that’s caused by the decline in the rate of profit that capitalists are making.
Why does the rate of profit for capitalists always go down? It’s because, very rarely, like every once in a blue moon, the ruling class will actually innovate production methods. This means they can make more stuff faster, sell it cheaper, and put all their competitors out of business. That works out o.k. for the business that’s using the best production methods, but all the other businesses are ruined. When production methods in capitalism get better, the overall rate of profit for property owners declines.
When someone who was making 20 million dollars a year, only gets to make 2 million this year because their business is failing, they will start to seek other methods of profiteering. These methods can and will include all kinds of nasty stuff like evicting farmers off land so they can sell it on the market for profit.
The same thing that’s happening to farmers in other countries is happening to workers right here in Toronto with the housing crisis. The 2 bedroom apartment you were paying $900 a month for is much more valuable to your landlord with you not in it. You’re just in the way, so get ready to have the landlord tell you some story about how they need the property for their own personal use, or that they’re going to renovate it. Any story just to get you out the door. That building will be sold on the market for profit, and the new landlord is going to move in someone else who’s going to pay double. Because the overall rate of profit for the rich always goes down, this kind of nasty, dirty exploitation is permanent in a capitalist society.
Finally, let’s look at Fair Trade Programs. Are we going to fix capitalism and save the world with Fair Trade? I have no doubt that some farmers in some places are getting real help from Fair Trade Programs.
The problem with Fair Trade is that it’s basically just private charity. If you voluntarily pay more for some food because it’s fair trade, it’s just like donating to the United Way or tipping your server at a restaurant. It’s a nice thing to do, it probably means you’re a good person and you should feel good about yourself, but it’s not a revolutionary act. Paying double for a kiwi fruit is not going to overthrow the bourgeois state and usher in the new order of workers’ democracy.
Private charity doesn’t even qualify as a reform of capitalism because it’s not an entitlement that every farmer has. You, as the donor, and the Fair Trade organization itself get to pick and choose which farmers are going to get the help, and how much help they’re going to get. Social programs, on the other hand, like welfare or child benefits, ARE a reform of capitalism. They are funded through taxation on property owners, and everyone who meets certain criteria can qualify for them. That’s a real reform of capitalism, and private charity doesn’t meet that standard.
Finally, the bigger a private charity is, the greater the potential for abuse. Let’s pretend that I’m running a fair trade charity and I got a bunch of consumers to donate $70,000 for farmers in Bolivia. Sure, I could give the $70K to the farmers, or I could just go buy a boat. Or, maybe I could give half of it to the farmers, and buy a smaller boat. Are you going to call the Bolivian farmers and find out if they got the money? How would you even do that? And even if you could, how would you figure out how much of the $70K the farmers got? What if I only skimmed $15 thousand? Would you be able to isolate that and figure it out? With big private charity, comes big potential for corruption.
To sum up, Super food is not really a thing. It’s really just regular food and it might be super expensive. Farmers can’t sell what they grow because of a crisis of overproduction which just means there’s too much stuff being sold at the same time. Farmers being evicted off land is because of the declining rate of profit and the need for rich people to increase exploitation of workers and farmers to make up what they are losing. And finally, Fair Trade Programs, although they are helping some people, are really just private charity and that doesn’t change capitalism.
So is there any solution to these problems? You bet there is! Workers revolution. Seize the farms, food production and food distribution networks. The construction of a
planned socialist economy based on meeting everyone’s needs and not just making private profit for the tiny, rich, ruling class. ONE SOLUTON, REVOLUTION.