hunger, mass migration, and joblessness have been a problem throughout
the developing world.
macro-economists, and international development experts have recognized
the problem and speculated what might be done to solve the complex
issue, but one of the root causes has not received much attention
by the peoples of the “developed” nations: rural peoples being driven
off the land and into the cities - more accurately, driven to the
fringes of the cities.
the new places where the immigrants land there are ills that they
never anticipated when they left their rural homes. Living is not
easy. There are few jobs readily available in the cities for those
whose skills emanate from a culture that takes its sustenance directly
from the land.
skills they possess are not needed in the city and are not easily
transferred to a life lived in or around a big city. The new migrants
suffer from the poorest and flimsiest of housing, no safe drinking
water, no sewage treatment for their communities, and little money
for food, medical care, clothing, or education.
these problems have become a crisis for the world’s poor.
of the reasons they are driven from the countryside is government
policy that favors larger and larger agricultural operations, instead
of small farms and small plots of cultivated land, on which rural
economies have been based for the millennia. And one of the major
reasons for such government action is the promise of development
assistance from industrialized-nations’ governments and the transnational
corporations that act under their protection.
poor nations borrow money, say, from the International Monetary
Fund or the World Bank, they have to pay it back and they have been
convinced that an easy way to do that is to convert peasant and
indigenous agriculture to industrial agriculture, as in the U.S.,
Canada, and other western countries.
the world, the displacement of peasant and pastoral peoples has
resulted in the current crisis of malnutrition, hunger, and the
constant threat of famine. War, corruption, and lack of education
contribute their share to the problems.
masses of humanity gathered in the cities and urban areas, in general,
provide a constant supply of people who will do any work at the
lowest wage, and that supply of workers tends to drive down the
incomes of all wage workers, up and down the pay scale. During the
1980s, when strike-breaking and union-busting were at a peak in
the U.S., the same thing
was happening as in the rest of the world. Farm foreclosures were
at an all-time high (the Great Depression was used for comparison)
and the displaced farmers and other rural people were going to the
cities and suburbs, looking for work.
in other times, the “army of the unemployed,” made up of people
desperate for work, tended to drive down wages and depress any impulse
workers might have to form unions to better their living standards.
This has continued into the 21st Century. In the current worldwide
financial crisis, there’s a new twist to wresting even more farm
land from the developing world, but this time it’s for more directly
an international non-governmental organization (NGO), which operates
in nine countries on five continents, has just completed a report
on what is being called a “land grab” by countries with money to
are buying farm land in less-developed nations, where corporations
can grow food for export back home. In return, according to GRAIN,
the richer nations are offering infrastructure projects, development
funds, oil contract, or loans.
food-hungry land grabbers include China,
Malaysia, Korea, Egypt,
Libya, Bahrain, Jordan,
Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia,
and the United Arab Emirates,” the group said in the report
released in this month. “Those giving up their land, in exchange
for the oil deals or investments, include the Philippines, Mozambique,
Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Uganda,
Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Zimbabwe.”
few identified by GRAIN as “land grabbers” include Goldman Sachs,
Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, Louis Dreyfus, “but there are plenty
of others,” the report says. The question now is how many of these
land grabbers have been bailed out - saved - by U.S. taxpayers, yet
still go into the world to take the land of people who desperately
need it for their daily bread? We’ll know more as this story unfolds.
who are going to poor countries with fistfuls of dollars are getting
help from the usual suspects: agencies like The World Bank and its
International Finance Corporation, as well as the European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development.
of this is being done to make it easier to do what has been done
in the developing world for decades - bend the people and their
governments to the will of international corporate power.
was wrong for transnational corporations to effectively change economic
and political systems - even cultures - in other countries, just
to try to make them more like western societies and, more to the
point, to make untold profits in the process.
just as wrong today for countries and their corporations to buy
up precious farm land in poor countries, to feed people in countries
that are well-off economically (at least the elites are), while
the people in the target countries are cut off from their means
to live and to feed themselves.
a stroke of genius that corporations can aim for control over people
- in the U.S. and elsewhere - on a two-pronged basis. They
can depopulate rural areas and make way for industrial agriculture
(large equipment and machinery and low wages) and create an army
of the unemployed in the cities, where the supply of financially
desperate people ensures that workers won’t ever be in a good position
to join unions and defend their families and communities by raising
their living standards.
long as that kind of control is expressed throughout the world and
people are subjects, there will not be prosperity in any country,
no matter how deeply into taxpayers’ purses governments reach to
bail out the ever-increasingly powerful corporations.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer
and former union organizer. His union work started when he
became a local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s.
He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers
as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from
factory food producers and land developers. Click here
to contact Mr. Funiciello.