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Susan Green

Impossible to Reform Profit System

Int’l Food Conference a Fiasco

(14 June 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 24, 14 June 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Coming from all over the world, some four hundred delegates and food experts met for seventeen days in Hot Springs, Va., in a food conference of the United Nations. The pressing question supposed to have been tackled is the feeding of the undernourished, semi-starving and starving peoples of the countries they came from. Perhaps they also poked around with the problem of feeding the peoples of the Axis countries. In any case, they no doubt decided upon the uses to which imperialism could put food in black-jacking rebellious peoples.

In the countries tied to or allied with the United Nations, there are some 1,600,000,000 people – or three-fourths of the population of the globe. Of course, not all of these billions are undernourished, semi-starving or starving.

For instance, none of the assembled delegates and experts could be truthfully placed in any of these categories. Housed in princely comfort amidst rural splendor; dining and wining like potentates of old; swimming, golfing, riding, luxuriating in the balm of a Virginia spring, these delegates did not represents the millions literally dying from lack of food.

These upper class conferees only symbolized the great divide between the haves and the have-nots in this capitalist world.

Why the Conference?

When the President refused representatives of the press access to the food conference, realists rightfully suspected that such political fenagling would be going on, such shameful trading of a crust of bread for imperialist domination, that secrecy was essential. Whatever maneuvering of this kind went on behind the scenes, none of it seeped out. What did come through to the press indicates such a poverty of ideas, such a routine and unserious approach to the billion-mass problem of food, that it is quite possible Mr. Roosevelt simply wanted to keep this fiasco behind locked doors.

The editor of the New York Times is of the opinion that the accomplishments of the food conference, “for the most part, consist of a set of platitudes that no one would dream of, questioning. ‘All men on earth are consumers of food.’ Producers must be assured that ‘their labors will earn them an adequate livelihood.’ ‘The conference recognized that a great increase would be needed in the production of food if progress was to be made toward freedom from want.’”

It is a noteworthy occasion indeed when Labor Action, representing revolutionary working class interests, can quote with complete approval from the New York Times, representing die-hard capitalist interests. This is such an occasion. Any bright high school pupil could write a composition of equal value as the final declaration of this food conference – without being a food expert – and niight even use more original language.

But let us not forget to mention the greatest PUBLISHED achievement of this conference of winers, diners and horseback riders. After agreeing unanimously that “all men on earth are consumers of food” (how about pie in the sky?), they agreed also, to the establishment of a permanent United Nations food and agricultural conference, for which plans will be worked out in Washington, of course.

This permanent conference-to-be is very, reminiscent of the various committees and conferences for this and that grandiose humanitarian cause, all connected with the defunct and unlamented League of Nations – and all having gone the same primrose path as the League itself. And while it may have solved nothing as to the feeding of starving peoples, it probably laid more concrete plans for the use of food in crushing rebellion. And that, after all, was the REAL purpose behind the conference. On this we have already written, and will write again.

In order to give this silly conference at Hot Springs an air of importance, the President invited the whole delegation to the White House and made to them a broadcast speech of appreciation for what they did. The President told them and the world that this food conference was an “application of the principles of the Atlantic Charter.” Woe to the hungry, suppressed masses if their salvation were to lie in such an inept application of such nice-on-paper-and-in-speeches principles!

Roosevelt Speaks

Mr. Roosevelt paid the delegation many sugary compliments and intoned the usual neat cliches about freedom from want, etc. However, he made certain to remind the world that this end is “NOT EASY TO ACHIEVE.” Yet, according to the President, it is a “worthwhile challenge.”

But what about the famished people? What are they to do while capitalist politicians play their frolicsome game of “challenges” at swanky conferences?

The President did not stop to explain why it is “not easy” to feed the people of the world in this day and age of fabulous productivity. Are there not expansive Mother Earth – and plenty of human labor – and miraculous machinery of every kind – and marvelous chemicals – and ever-advancing science – and lightning-fast transportation? Why cannot at least as much food be produced to nurture life as bombs are being produced to destroy life?

Mr. Roosevelt did not say that the production of food – like the production of everything else – is for the profit of the owners of production. It is indeed not only “NOT EASY” but IMPOSSIBLE to change the characteristics of the profit system.

Mr. Roosevelt knows like a book the characteristics of the system of production (or profits which he so staunchly protects. He himself feels and yields to the powerful political pressure of the economically powerful farm bloc. He has knowledge of the vicious dumping of food into the oceans and rivers to keep up prices – and has, himself tried his own variant of plowing-under for the same purpose of keeping up prices. He himself caters to the big farm corporations by pushing government subsidies for them while workers’ wages are held on a line far below the rising cost of living. And as an admirer of the profit system, he understands how the cost of food is raised by putting up all kinds of artificial barriers to free exchange, by organizing monopolistic combines, by restricting production, etc. – to mention only a few ways in which profits are made out of starvation.

The People’s Way

Fortunately, the masses who don’t get enough to eat anywhere in this capitalist world – including the lands of the “benevolent democrats” as well as those of the dictators named Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Hirohito – have their own way to freedom front want.

For so long, but not longer, can the Roosevelts fool the masses with promises of plenty while these wise guys do battle for the system that starves the people. For so long, but not longer, will the people tolerate such insults to their intelligence and empty stomachs as this Hot Springs conference.

The way of the people is to sweep out of power the capitalists and their greater and lesser politicians. To eat and live in peace, to have security for themselves and their children, the working people will have to take over production themselves under workers’ governments.


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