Pandemic is just a fancy word for plague, and ‘food insecurity’ is just a fancy word for famine. Over 10 million people have died in a global plague and tens of millions more have already begun dying in famines. It’s already here.
Today I was getting off the bus and an old lady was begging. Not for money, though I gave her money. She said she was begging for food. Just a few months ago, when things were marginally better, I tried (and failed) to send some money to a friend-of-a-friend in Afghanistan. Because famine had hit them first, when America stole their money (and sanctioned people like me from helping).
Food insecurity, food inflation, supply chain crisis, whatever you want to call it, it’s as deadly as COVID and as contagious too. It’s already nipping at the heels of the UK as more people go to inadequate food banks and America as child poverty increases under Biden.
What is happening is famine, an extreme scarcity of food, but we don’t use the word because it seems archaic or scary. But we should be afraid, and we should look at history too.
The Colonial Famines
What is happening now echoes terribly with Mike Davis’s book on Late Victorian Holocausts, where he said:
“What seemed from a metropolitan perspective the nineteenth century’s final blaze of imperial glory was, from an Asian or African viewpoint, only the hideous light of a giant funeral pyre.”
His thesis is that these famines did not just happen (though the environmental circumstances did). He says that it was the brutal ‘marketization’ of food the colonialism brought, plus its destruction of village to national support networks, and colonial debt that killed tens of millions. As Davis said, ‘“Millions die” was ultimately a policy choice: to accomplish such decimations required (in Brecht’s sardonic phrase) “a brilliant way of organising famine.”’
What we have today, in the final blaze of American imperial glory, is another funeral pyre, piled again with the bodies of the ‘third world’.
The Capitalist Famine
In 1944 Karl Polyani said that ‘“The actual source of famines in the last fifty years,” he wrote, “was the free marketing of grain combined with local failure of incomes.”’ Which is terribly like what’s happening today. Speculation on food has been raising pricing for years now.
The capitalist imagination is that this is all necessary to increase production, but that isn’t what happened. Capitalists are simply profiteering while production actually drops. These price hikes (and inflation itself) are being blamed on the Ukraine invasion and Russia but A) both started before and B) that’s largely propaganda.
What has triggered famine directly is America’s reaction to the Ukraine invasion. Sanctions are an act of war, and they have turned a local invasion into a global catastrophe. As Nicholas Mulder, author of The Economic Weapon, said:
Based on the state of sanctions and counter-sanctions last week I expected shocks to specific markets, but it now seems very possible and even quite likely that we are headed for the first sanctions-induced global recession in world history. Astonishing.
While recession is an academic exercise for economists for poor countries it means losing access to imperial credit and debt-fuelled collapse. For the people in these countries it means hyper-inflation and starvation, ie famine. Which is where we are. America has induced a recession with its backfiring economic attack on Russia, which African nations are rightly complaining about.
Cutting off Russia from SWIFT payments as punishment has really hurt the global poor, and that’s White Empire’s fault. As Senegal’s President Macky Sall said,
“When the Swift system is disrupted, it means that even if produce exists, payment for it becomes difficult or even impossible,” Sall said. “I would like to insist that this question be examined as soon as possible by our relevant ministers to find suitable solutions.” (FT)
As he said elsewhere,
“The sanctions against Russia have worsened this situation and now we have no access to grain from Russia, mainly wheat. And, most importantly, we have no access to fertilizers. The situation was bad and now it has worsened, creating a threat to food security in Africa,” he warned. (Monthly Review)
The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service confirms as much, if you want to hear white people saying it.
Even the G7 acknowledges this as ‘spillover effects, especially relating to humanitarian and other basic needs.’
To add injury to injury, White Empire is even blocking efforts to grow food. African nations have proposed making their own fertilizer since empire is blocking Russian imports, but the EU opposes that too.
So what are we supposed to do? Nothing. Just starve for the glory of Empire. They truly don’t care about us except as a source of resources, labor, or pawns in their wars. Just as it was in the ‘Cold’ War between the USSR and the US last century, this Cold War 2 is already incredibly hot for the people in the south. This is the original definition of the term ‘third world’, the people crushed between these two. In this case while Russia is the aggressor against Ukraine, America (and its vassal state in Europe) is the aggressor against the world.
And it’s not just their colossal self-owning on Ukraine. After systematically couping and murdering socialists, communists, and any leftist governments, the heirs to White Empire have captured much of the colonial world in capitalist debt traps. Then under the guise of ‘helping’, their captive institutions like the IMF and World Bank (always headed by a European and an American, respectively) come in and break legs with austerity.
As David Graeber said (and as a bit of digression):
The situation the White Empire and the IMF created on a global level is where “you could have all those banks willing to fork over billions of dollars to a bunch of obvious crooks in the first place” because countries like Sri Lanka literally have to sell our daughters into slavery to pay back rich imperial banks. Sri Lanka is now lowering the age on housemaids we send to the Middle East, where they work in passport slavery.
Millions of people are effectively working on the capitalist plantation as much as we did on the colonial one. We provide cheap natural resources and labor, and then buy finished goods from the company store, usually with debt that keeps increasing, keeping us in debt peonage forevermore. When famine hits they keep pulling the resources out, and any starvation is our fault. That’s precisely what’s happening now.
It’s the same fucking show, except we call it ‘capitalism’ now instead of ‘colonialism’ and ‘food insecurity’ instead of ‘famine’. But ask the starving how it feels. It’s the same fucking gnaw.
We have to understand that hazards are what happen, while disasters are often caused. The COVID-19 plague was a hazard which China stomped out with early, decisive action. The White Empire just blamed China and then hoarded vaccines so much that they don’t work. They profiteered from the plague just as previous colonial empires profiteered from famine. And now they’re doing that too.
The fact is that the American incarnation of White Empire has used famine tactically for decades, if not centuries. In recent memory there were the starvation sanctions on Cuba, Iraq, and Iran, including food and medicine, including during a pandemic. There have been aggressive famine causing wars in Yemen and Afghanistan, and the outright theft of poor people’s assets from Afghanistan and Venezuela. This is all par for the imperial course.
As former US Secretary of State and now hell-dweller Madeline Albright said:
In that now-iconic interview, veteran journalist Lesley Stahl questioned Albright — then the US ambassador to the United Nations — on the catastrophic effect the rigorous US sanctions imposed after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait had on the Iraqi population.
“We have heard that half a million [Iraqi] children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima,” asked Stahl, “And, you know, is the price worth it?”
“I think that is a very hard choice,” Albright answered, “but the price, we think, the price is worth it.” (Al Jazeera)
These are the fucking ghouls who claim to have learned the lessons of colonialism and now bring freedom with their bankers and bombs. In truth they’ve just rebranded the old predations and carried on. Now they are driving us into famines as bad as the Victorian ones.
The words have changed, but who gives a fuck about words when you’re hungry. Outright colonialism is now debt-fueled capitalism. Colonial administrators are now ‘international institutions’ like the IMF. Christendom is rebranded as ‘the international community’ and democracy is their new state religion (which they follow as much as they ever followed Jesus). It’s the same shit different day, and the wrath of god follows in the wake of their hubris.
Famines, plagues, complete ecological collapse. All given different, anodyne names now, like ‘food insecurity’, ‘pandemics’, and ‘climate change’, but with the same disastrous effects. Hundreds of millions of people died under colonialism and now capitalism is taking a hack. I know because my people are already experiencing famine. The hungry masses knock on my door every day, and it fills me with so much sadness and wrath.
It doesn’t have to be this way, these are all choices, and the White Empire that choose to have a plague go on forever are now choosing war and famine. How many horsemen are even left? I don’t mean to sound apocalyptic but my world is apocalyptic and I’m telling you from a people that have already fallen, famine is spreading like a contagion, and no one will escape unscathed.