Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/256/24730
Imperialism Restructures Famine
NEWSPAPER PICTURES show emaciated children who have lost their parents and probably do not have long to live themselves.
Life is so harsh that people bury the dead straight into the ground, maybe two or three bodies in the same grave because they are too weak to dig anymore.
This is Malawi, southern Africa, the sixth poorest country in the world. Life expectancy there has fallen from 43 to 39 years in the last five years and is expected to fall to 30 by 2010.
Yet it is a situation repeated across many parts of Africa. The world food programme estimates that 20 million people are at risk from famine across southern Africa.
The roots of this human tragedy lie in the role of capitalism and imperialism.
Africa is a continent extremely rich in natural resources yet these resources have been plundered by imperialism and the multinationals to boost their profits.
Not only have they driven down the prices of raw materials but they have forced states to produce cash crops like coffee for the world market rather than crops to feed their own population.
In Malawi, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ordered the government to sell off its 170,000 tonnes of grain stocks so that the farmers would be encouraged to grow more by opening up the economy. But the only people to profit from this were the unregulated private traders who bought up these stocks, many of whom have links to the ruling party.
The government then had to take out a £24 million foreign bank loan to import 135,000 tonnes of maize. The price of maize has now shot up by 500%.
Loans from organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF are linked to further privatisation of the economies. In Malawi the IMF has refused further funding saying that any money for food must come from further budget cuts.
Uganda is unlikely to get much needed funding for medical aid from the 'Global Fund', (despite their government's slavish application of IMF policies).
Any aid they get has to be matched by their own government and this could take the economy out of the strict financial guidelines the IMF has set. Leaders of many African states have been willing accomplices in these attacks on workers' living standards.
Recently the US treasury secretary Lawrence Summers attacked recommendations that the IMF and World Bank should give grants and not loans and should cancel outstanding loans, saying that the bank "would no longer be able to advance America's core values and (political and economic) interests around the world."
The problem of famine is fundamentally not going to be solved by the work of charities however desperately immediate help is needed.
It will be through the development of mass parties in all of these states and internationally with socialist programmes prepared to take on capitalism and imperialism and implement policies - such as clean water, free good quality medical aid, cheap good quality housing and food.
As Mahopolang Mohlomi a 32-year-old mother of two in Lesotho said: "Food aid won't last forever. We need jobs".
In The Socialist 31 May 2002: