- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Realism is needed not myths
Isn’t socialism some sort of utopian fantasy proposal?
What we do know is that the reality today is 80 people possess the same quantity of wealth as 3.5 billion and there exists many painful truths about economic injustices and the increasing gap between the rich and poor, the shocking condition of men, women and children and the rise of political corruption. There is now posed a direct threat to the planet itself where capitalism destroys the planet and necessitates the extraction and burning of fossil fuels at a wildly unsustainable rate. Moreover, such policies and practices do not place the blame where it rightly lies but accuses working-class people for personal failure rather than a failure of the system. The machinery of government and its institutions are now commanded and controlled by corporate zombies, the walking brain-dead who have created a world of horror and fear. People are being turned into fools because we believe the lies that are fed to us.
Politics matters only when it changes the way people think, but it must also do more. It must not only inform, but also provoke people to act, to take collective solidarity action. We, in the Socialist Party, should find ways to make education central to politics, to develop new strategies and tactics of collective resistance.
The myth that African agriculture needs help from rich Western countries, is constantly spun out by the media, investors, agribusiness companies and other transnationals. The ‘Africa needs our help’ narrative, the game is played so that a handful of truths are used to smuggle some hugely significant lies past unsuspecting governments, NGOs and civil society.
It is true that one in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished, and that Africa has the lowest levels of agricultural productivity in the world, with extremely low levels of inputs like fertilizers, improved seeds and irrigation. It is also true that high population growth rates, high levels of poverty, poor infrastructure and low levels of investment have compounded the problem and made food difficult to access for millions of people. It is certainly true that millions of people in Africa suffer from hunger and malnutrition. But the false conclusion is that with the financial and technical help provided by rich countries and international development agencies – such as the $10 billion of ‘responsible private investments’ committed through the New Alliance to date – employment and food production will receive a huge boost and Africa will finally be able to feed itself. Crucially missing from this analysis is as why this has happened in a continent that used to be self-sufficient in food in the 1960s.
There are two main reasons for this, and they point to a very different solution to the problem of African poverty.
Firstly, Africa’s agricultural production was designed during the colonial era to benefit rich countries in the North with their enormous appetite for raw materials and luxury (non-staple) foods. In 2011, the top five exports out of Africa (by value) were cocoa beans, coffee, cotton, rubber and tobacco; more useful for satisfying rich consumers than feeding poor communities.
Secondly, African countries have been forced to deregulate their trade by rich countries and financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These institutions continue to lend money to developing countries while encouraging them to privatize public services and deregulate their economies. So, countries end up importing staple foods like wheat, palm oil, maize, sugar and soya-bean oil – crops largely produced by rich countries in the North, which can afford to heavily subsidize their agricultural sector. They have also opened up Africa to agribusiness companies that are rapidly increasing their control of resources such as land, water and labour.
The media, transnational corporations and government agencies tell us that Africa needs GM technology and chemical fertilizers to increase crop yields. What they don’t tell us is that the use of GM seeds actually leads to falling crop yields in the long term, and the increased use of pesticides and herbicides. Ignored is the fact that more and more evidence has been pouring in which shows that sustainable agriculture – or agroecology – can produce yields comparable to, and often larger than, industrial agriculture. But that’s not all. There are also huge positive knock-on effects of agroecology, such as increasing biodiversity, increasing income and employment opportunities, reducing the gender gap, improving health and nutrition, and helping to mitigate climate change.
What we need to do is challenge the myth of corporate-controlled agriculture or calling for reform of the aid system and unfair trade agreements but instead promote the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty to help people regain control of Africa’s food system and that is only possible by replacing the exploitative global economic system - capitalism. The peoples of Africa and the rest of the world need socialism. It can only be achieved globally.