Volume 21, Number 7
Fannie Lou Hamer
Winter Soldier II
Behind the Scenes
Center for constitutional rights -- Ccr
CÃ©sar cuauhtÃ©moc GarcÃÂa hernÃ¡ndez
Pentagon's Toxic Legacy
Jeffrey st. Clair
Vietnam to Dude...
Body of War
Soldiers of Reason
Zinn's American Empire
Vision - Cooling Planet
Chomsky, Pappé Interview
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Food Crisis, Which Crisis?
This June the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an emergency summit in
Global food prices have risen 83 percent over the last 3 years while recent price rises have accelerated this trend. According to the FAO, there has been a 45 percent increase in their world food price index during just the past nine months. The Economist's food price index puts wheat prices 130 percent above last year's levels. This has hit the developing world particularly hard. Previous bouts of structural adjustment at the request of financial institutions have already placed such economies in a precarious state and often led to higher food prices.
This general situation, combined with recent price rises, has contributed to a wave of food riots in countries as diverse as Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines—revealing the global scale of the problem.
The threat of political instability and the whiff of revolution has galvanized the World Bank, the UN, and the governments of richer nations, hence the attention that this current spike in prices is receiving. However, while there is a fear of instability among the powerful, there is also a sense of opportunity.
Long-hindered measures such as expanded cultivation of genetically modified crops are being pushed as solutions to the crisis. At the same time, the much-maligned practice of biofuel (or agrofuel) cultivation is being defended by its corporate and governmental advocates. The lines have been drawn and a battle was joined in
And a battle it certainly is. There are basically two sides, offering two versions of "crisis." What version of crisis we accept is crucial to formulating policies to combat its effects. The fate of whole ecosystems and populations hinges on what drives higher commodity prices. Do we blame rising demand and tight supplies or the early effects of climate change? Or do we seek answers in the role that financial speculation, neoliberal restructuring, and biofuel cultivation play alongside those other factors?
The first version, which serves the interests of the international finance institutions, is represented by developed nations such as the
The second version comes from peasant organizations such as Via Campesina and a clutch of eloquent NGOs, such as Practical Action, Food First, GRAIN, Movement for the Global South, and the World Development Movement. Its diagnosis of the current crisis is far deeper. Rather than being a short term rise in food and oil prices, this version tends to see the crisis as rooted in the longer-term neoliberal project. Food prices in poor countries have been allowed to rocket by a neoliberal system where government-run distribution networks are dismantled, grain stores abandoned, large corporations dictate prices, and indebted nations and farmers convert crops for export to earn prized foreign currency.
The first version counsels not business as usual, but business as usual enhanced—big agriculture, techno-fixes, market liberalization must all expand. The second counsels systemic reform as advocated by small farmers. Inevitably the two continue to collide as the battle for global agriculture intensifies.
The question then becomes, do we attack and reform the system or do we strengthen it? The stakes could scarcely be higher.
Grain, Grain Everywhere, And Not A Loaf To Eat
Despite the atmosphere of crisis and very real spiraling prices, the truth is food supplies are not particularly tight. There is no Malthusian crisis on the near horizon, at least not owing to climate change or the exhaustion of arable lands to cultivate.
There was a record global grain harvest in 2007. As a Food First paper "From Food Rebellions to Food Sovereignty: An urgent call to fix a broken food system" puts it, this is "at least 1.5 times current demand." In fact, over the last 20 years, food production has "risen steadily at over 2.0 percent a year, while the rate of population growth has dropped to 1.14 percent a year." Moreover, in 2006, 854 million people were food insecure. Hence, the dysfunctional food system was starving people well before the current crisis.
What has changed is that the contours of the global food market have dramatically shifted. While 40 years ago, developing nations as a whole had a food export surplus of $7 billion, by 1980 that had shrunk to $1 billion and, according to Food First, "the southern food deficit has ballooned to U.S. $11 billion/year."
This is the "result of systematic destruction of southern food systems through a series of northern economic development projects." These projects are by now familiar—structural adjustment programs that gutted local storage, distribution, and marketing systems, huge subsidies to European and
Many of these "projects" were piloted by the World Bank and IMF, yet it is the World Bank that is stepping up to the plate to propose crisis measures. On May 29, the Bank announced the launch of a $1.2 billion "fast-track facility for [the] food crisis" including $200 million in grants "targeted at the vulnerable in the world's poorest countries."
Haiti ($10 million), Liberia ($10 million), and Djibouti ($5 million) are the first nations to receive such assistance, although as Bank chief Robert Zoellick says, this is part of "longer-term solution that must involve many countries and institutions," including the FAO.
Apparently, it must also include benefits for corporations and encouragement of GM crops. In an "Outlook Paper" circulated before the Rome summit, the secretary general of the OECD, Angel Gurria, wrote, "The way to address rising food prices is not through protectionism but to open up agricultural markets and to free up the productive capacity of farmers, who have proven repeatedly that they will respond to market incentives."
FAO Secretary General Jacques Diouf wrote in a recent press release in late May, "High food prices represent an excellent opportunity for increased investments in agriculture by both the public and private sectors to stimulate production and productivity" adding that "Governments, supported by their international partners, must now undertake the necessary public investment and provide a favorable environment for private investments."
The agenda for the GAO summit was clear—more of the same, with the World Bank back at the helm. The systematic destruction continues.
Critics of the World Bank have long questioned its motives in dispensing aid to poorer nations and have attacked the conditionalities that it has attached to its loans as a means of opening up undeveloped economies to corporate predation. Yet the IMF and World Bank have stumbled in recent years, partly due to their failed policies, but also due to a credit glut brought on by spiraling oil prices. Smaller nations have not needed the services of these global institutions and their power has begun to wane.
For Eric Holt-Gimenez of Food First, this current food crisis represents an opportunity for the World Bank to regain some of its lost influence. As he told me, "For the World Bank, the food crisis comes at a perfect time." With the credit glut and countries turning away from the Bank, "the challenge became how to get countries of the global south to borrow again."
Rising food prices have fortunate effects for the Bank. As Holt-Gimenez continued, "The world food crisis solves both the problem of over-accumulation of finance capital and the problem of overproduction of grain that neither biofuels nor the beef industry is capable of sopping up."
Meanwhile, Holt-Gimenez expects the Bank to "prepare the field with its loans and conditions for the spread of industrial (GMO) seeds and inputs," allowing corporations and the Bank itself to pose as "saviors" through the spread of high-tech methods. Echoing Klein, he calls this "another fine case of ‘disaster capitalism' at work" as human misery prepares the ground for renewed capital accumulation, against the wishes of those it purports to serve.
The FAO Summit attracted a host of activist organizations to propose an alternative vision of agricultural reform and to resist the model being pushed by the World Bank and the FAO. Eloquent statements were issued from groups such as Via Campesina, Food First, and the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC).
There has been no shortage of high quality writing on the issue, and certainly no shortage of passion. A bottom-up alternative to corporate-led agricultural globalization is readily available. As GRAIN wrote in its statement, "Peasant organisations and their allies have clear, viable ideas about how to organise production and services and how to run markets and even regional and international trade. Ditto for labour unions and the urban poor, who have an important role to play in defining food policy."
Unfortunately, the problem is that the FAO has shut its ears to alternative notions of agricultural development, which turned its
This was shown in heartbreaking detail by the FAOs own preparatory documents for the summit. As with all gatherings of international institutions, the FAO consulted its "stakeholders" although some decidedly more closely than others. When it consulted its "civil society" stakeholders, the result was perhaps the most thorough analysis of how to solve the food crisis yet delivered.
From raising awareness of consumption patterns in the developed world, promoting sustainable farming practices, setting up a framework to tackle climate change without harming rural livelihoods to disseminating information on climate change and methods of cultivation, the civil society stakeholders made some sensible recommendations for the FAO. They recommended that bioenergy (sustainably harvested local sources such as plant products or animal dung) be promoted instead of biofuels. It argued that the FAO should demand that governments adopt measures to prevent the dispossession of rural people for plantations and carbon offset schemes. It proposed that the FAO promote seed sharing, and document and disseminate indigenous knowledge. It advocated the protection of biodiversity by local peoples, while it also called for a Right to Food to guide global agricultural policies, not the right to profit. It was also roundly ignored.
As Patrick Mulvany, head of UK-based NGO Practical Action (and a participant in the civil society consultation) told me, at a plenary meeting with FAO officials, activists from Via Campesina attacked the FAO process. Speakers from the peasant activist group, which had been shut out of February's consultation meetings, called the summit a "sham exercise" while others questioned why recommendations from the consultation were completely absent from the summit agenda.
Not only that, but participants also asked FAO staff where the findings of the FAO-convened International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development had gone. That report, which recommended support for small scale agriculture and attacked biofuels and intellectual property rights, was similarly absent from the summit agenda.
At the summit itself, civil society representatives were dismayed to discover that they alone were to be forced to enter via the venue's rear entrance. When inside, they were permitted only a 90-minute forum with an agenda set by the FAO. Meanwhile, according to Mulvany, a private sector roundtable upstairs was addressed by Kofi Annan, the FAO's head Jaques Diouf, and representatives of agribusiness giants like Monsanto and Syngenta.
Palace Under Siege by Peasants
Campaigning groups have long questioned the legitimacy of the international trading system which privileges subsidized
Alternative power blocs have challenged international financial institutions and pushed for different solutions to the food crisis, as in
This is, as Mulvany remarked, an "interesting conjuncture and an exciting time," with a window for resistance to scale the walls of the global citadel. Holt-Gimenez reminded us that it was also a dangerous time, with governments pleading for "support" from the World Bank and a new wave of corporate enrichment likely to masquerade as charity.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.