Felix Morrow

Imperialist-Controlled Agencies
Haggle as Starvation Spreads

(29 March 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. X No. 16, 20 April 1946, p. 6.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2018. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

>ATLANTIC CITY, Mar. 29 – The UNRRA Council, delegations from 48 nations, in its March 15–29 session here, debated ways and means of feeding the 500 millions threatened by starvation.

But they were the debates of an impotent body. For whatever was proposed here, the actual decision lay elsewhere.

But decisive power over the food of the world was not here. It is in the hands of a three-nation body; the Combined Food Board of the United States, the United Kingdom (Britain), and Canada.

When UNRRA figures are sent to the Combined Food Board, they are arbitrarily revised downward – unless the particular country happens to be a colony or semi-colony of the Anglo-Saxon empire or requires special consideration at this moment for diplomatic purposes.

As the retiring Director-General of UNRRA, Governor Herbert H. Lehman, stated here March 22:

“UNRRA submits requirements to the Combined Food Board on behalf of a considerable number of receiving countries ... UNRRA has absolutely no knowledge of the ... standards used by the Combined Food Board when it makes final recommendations for allocations. Thus UNRRA is unable to ensure any country dependent for food on UNRRA that it is getting fair treatment ...

“It is imperative that each allocation of the Combined Food Board should be made public and at the same time the extent to which that allocation meets reasonable standards of consumption. It seems to me inevitable that suspicion and misunderstanding will grow in those countries whose people are threatened with starvation if they are not given information by the Combined Food Board which indicates the extent to which help has been given to other countries. If we believe in a concept of a United Nations and in sharing equally the burden of this present emergency, then it is essential that the actions of each government should be known publicly.”

Encouraged by Lehman, the Chinese delegate, Dr. T.F. Tsiang, “confessed his anger against the Combined Food Board.” Of the rice available from the U.S. for the first quarter of 1946, the Board had allocated to China only 17 thousand tons, or one-third of the amount allocated to Cuba or the Philippines. Thus U.S. imperialism demonstrated that it is better to live in American colonies than in China.

The same lesson was driven home by British imperialism. All China is to get during 1946 only twice as much grain as the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. Said Dr. Tsiang:

“The Combined Food Board has allocated none of Burma’s rice (formerly one of China’s main sources) to China, while rice from Siam (another principal source) was allocated as follows: British Malaya, 58 thousand tons; Hong Kong, 30 thousand tons; British Borneo, 9 thousand tons; Netherlands East Indies, 55 thousand tons; Philippines, 8 thousand tons; UNRRA for China, 18 thousand tons.”

The Combined Food Board’s allocations in turn dictate the expenditures of UNRRA. As a result, British-controlled Greece is to receive $27 per capita, while China is to receive $1.25 per capita. In the light of the reports of Greek suffering, one can begin to imagine the plight of the Chinese and Indian masses in the hundreds of millions!

The Combined Food Board gave short shrift to the Polish resolution recommending that UNRRA allocations be accepted as final by the CFB. It likewise turned down – privately expressing astonishment at his gall – Lehman’s proposal that allocations be made on the basis of the 1935-39 per capita consumption in each country.

Playing favorites has meant not only giving food to some, but also deliberately not making possible food exports from some countries which had surpluses. Two striking examples are Argentina and Ethiopia.

Lehman finally got up courage enough to announce that he was sending a special mission to Argentina to buy grain for UNRRA. And this was only after Peron’s victory had forces the U.S. State Department to abandon its previous policy toward Argentina. As recently as March 3, the N.Y. Times reported that grain was burned as a fuel substitute in Argentina, which had been prevented by the Truman administration from buying fuels here or chartering tankers to bring oil from Mexico.

On March 22 UNRRA delegates were handing around a letter appearing in the New York Times that day, from D.A. Talbot, an American, editor of the Ethiopian Review published,by the government of that country. It reported:

“Ethiopian grain is rotting while Europe starves, and there is a great reservoir of meats and fats which could be gathered in.

“One of the reasons why Ethiopian surpluses are not utilized is purely political ... the desire of certain of Ethiopia’s neighbors to check her economic development and keep her a perpetual pawn of European diplomacy ... The purchase of Ethiopian surpluses would aid considerably in providing the government with revenue ...”

But British imperialism does not want the Ethiopian government to win such relative freedom of action. Hence Ethiopian grain rots.

To ease up the Anglo-U.S. stranglehold, Lehman proposed broadening of the Combined Food Board. In particular he demanded representation for UNRRA and the Soviet Union.

But the Russian delegation was cold to the proposal. As the March 21 Daily Worker reports, “Neither the USSR nor Ukraine delegates replied to the proposal.”

The reason is plain enough. Each member-nation of the CBF provides full figures on its food production.

But even the two “independent” Soviet republics, the Ukraine and Byelorussia, devastated areas receiving UNRRA aid, have refused to provide the, CBF with figures. A restricted CBF report, given only to delegates, adduced this refusal – all other receiving countries provide figures – as the reason for difficulties in arriving at food allocations for those countries.

Here, as in every other sphere of “United Nations” activity, the Kremlin is confronted with an insoluble dilemma: how to cooperate while at the same time refusing its allies the data which they themselves offer to exchange with Russia.

On this dilemma Lehman’s proposal to broaden the Combined Food Board foundered.

(This is the second of two articles on the UNRRA session. The first appeared here last week.)


Last updated on: 18 October 2018