The development of the technology of Genetic Modification (G.M.) stretches back decades but most people have started to become aware of its implications during the 90’s.First in the mid 90’s Monsanto introduced rB.S.T. a G.M. growth hormone designed to increase milk yields in the U.S. After some controversy the E.U. decided to ban its import into Europe, a decision which is likely to be overturned by the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) soon. Then in 1996 shipments of soyabeans genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup started to arrive in this country prompting the first major signs of public disquiet. More recently the sacking of Dr Puzstai from the Rowett Institute for claiming that consuming G.M. potatoes harmed rats provoked quite a food scare frenzy in the capitalist media. Pictures of a green faced Tony Blair with bolts through his neck under the headline “The Prime Monster” probably made all but the hardest of us chuckle but the whole “Frankenstein Foods” paranoia tended to obscure the environmental and social disasters which will follow if the corporations carry out their plans to introduce G.M. on a large scale.
“LET THEM EAT OIL”.
G.M. is only the latest stage in the the industrialisation of food production which has been going on throughout the whole post war period under the control of the petro-chemical-pharmaceutical multinationals that have come to dominate the global economy. More powerful than many nation states (in 1995 of the 100 most powerful ‘economies’ in the world 48 were multinational corporations) they, along with the international financial institutions (IMF, World Bank, W.T.O. etc) constitute the economic side of the New World Order with N.A.T.O. taking on the role of political centralisation.
The process of industrialising food production which they have been imposing on us over the last few decades consists of destroying subsistence and organic farming and replacing it with a system based on:
- Massive inputs of petro-chemicals in the form of fuel for machinery, artificial fertilisers and biocides (herbicides and pesticides).
- Production for a global market rather than for direct consumption (subsistence) or local markets.
- More dependence on animal products and the intensification of animal exploitation (factory farming).
- The concentration of land ownership into fewer hands.
- Dependence on multinational corporations for seed. Major chemical, pharmaceutical and oil multinationals have taken over more than 120 seed companies since the 60,s. The top 5 seed producers now control 75% of the world market. Hybrid, so-called ‘High Yielding Varieties’, have yields 20-40% lower in the second generation if replanted and are hence economically sterile’.
- The replacement of mixed cropping systems suitable to local conditions with monocultures.
The results of this process (sometimes known as the ‘Green Revolution’) have been landlessness, poverty & starvation for many in the so-called ‘Third World’ as well as massive degradation of the natural world through chemical pollution and loss of biodiversity.
The high cost of chemical and mechanical inputs and expensive new seed varieties favours large farmers over small who go bankrupt, lose their land and end up either going to swell the already huge numbers of proletarians inhabiting the shanty towns and slums that surround so many ‘Third World’ cities or become agricultural labourers on the big farms or plantations. Here they may be unlucky enough to become one of the over 40,000 ‘Third World’ farmworkers who are killed each year as a result of over exposure to agro-chemicals which often come with instructions not in the workers mother tongue, which they may well be required to use without proper safety equipment and which could well be banned substances dumped in the ‘Third World’ by the multinationals. (Figures from 1994 UN report, up to 1,000,000 are made ill as a result of over exposure to agro-chemicals).
Despite the fact that the world produces l.5 times as much food as is needed to feed the human population starvation and famine are endemic to modern capitalism. One reason people go hungry is because they do not have access to land to grow food to feed themselves, in the mid 80’s severe famines occurred in the Sahel countries of Burkina, Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Chad yet during the same period record harvests of cotton were exported to the industrial centres of the world economy. During the famine in Ethiopia the same ships which brought in ’aid for the starving’ took out cash crops for the world economy. During the ‘Irish Potato Famine’ of the 1840’s while a million poor agricultural workers starved to death wheat and other agricultural products were harvested and exported throughout the period.
The increasing use of animal products as well as leading to the misery, waste and pollution of factory farming is also responsible for the erosion of biodiversity and peoples livelihoods in the so-called ‘Third World’. For example almost of Central America’s lowland and lower montane rainforest has been cleared or severely degraded mainly in order to raise cattle for export. The crops most grown under ‘Green Revolution’ and G.M. regimes of industrial food production are maize and soya not for human consumption but for animal feed. So small scale organic farming systems based around plants and supporting the producers directly are being destroyed in favour of chemical soaked monocultures to feed the farm animals necessary to feed the animal product heavy global food economy.
The corporations claims that G.M. and industrial food production in general are necessary to ‘feed the world’ are shown to be straightforward lies The maize/soya/animal product system they are pushing so heavily is not a rational way to produce food – an acre of cereal is estimated to produce 5 times as much protein as one devoted to meat production, an acre of legumes (beans, peas, lentils) 10 times as much and an acre of leafy vegetables 15 times as much.
The damage done by the production and use of biocides and artificial fertilisers is almost unimaginable. Pesticide pollution of the natural world (air, water & soil) is one of the major reasons for the staggering loss of biodiversity (estimated at a loss of 30,000 species a year) we are witnessing as the world is slowly turned into a huge agro-chemical- industrial facility. Pesticide and artificial fertiliser pollution of the environment along with other petro-chemical forms of pollution and increased exposure to radiation are responsible for massive rates of cancer and birth abnormalities. Then there are the ‘accidents’ which show the systems inhumanity even more clearly such as the 1984 explosion at Union Carbide’s insecticide factory in Bhopal, India which left 3,000 dead and 20,000 permanently disabled. Or the less well-publicised events in Iraq in 1971-1972 when large quantities of wheat seed that had been treated with anti-fungus compounds containing mercury were ‘accidentally’ baked into bread. 6,000 neurologically deranged people were admitted to hospital and at least 452 died.
Corporate propagandists would have us believe that these are unfortunate side-effects of a beneficial technology we desperately need to ‘feed the world. Yet, as anyone who takes the trouble to find out the facts must be aware, the world produces more food than is necessary to feed the human population and the reasons people go hungry are landlessness, poverty, and social dislocation caused by capitalist oppression and war.
Because ‘pests’ and ‘weeds’ can rapidly become immune to these poisons (I guess these Chief Executive types are too busy to read an ‘0’ level account of the theory of natural selection!) the stuff doesn’t even do what they say it does; pesticide use in the U.S. increased by 500% between 1950-1986 yet in 1986 estimated crop loss due to pests was 20% exactly the same as in 1950.
But poisoning the earth and its inhabitants brings in big money for the multinationals, large landowners and the whole of the industrial food production system.
Yet traditional forms of organic, small-scale farming using a wide variety of local crops and wild plants (so-called’ weeds’) have been relatively successful at supporting many communities in relative self-sufficiency for centuries. In total contrast to industrial capitalism’s chemical soaked monocultures Mexico’s Huastec indians have highly developed forms of forest management in which they cultivate over 300 different plants in a mixture of gardens,’ fields’ and forest plots. The industrial food production system is destroying the huge variety of crops that have been bred by generations of peasant farmers to suit local conditions and needs. A few decades ago Indian farmers were growing some 50,000 different varieties of rice today the majority grows just a few dozen. In Indonesia 1,500 varieties have been lost in the last 15 years. Although a plot growing rice using modern so-called ‘High Yielding Varieties’ with massive inputs of artificial fertilisers and biocides max produce more rice for the market than a plot being cultivated by traditional organic methods the latter will be of more use to a family using it for subsistence since many other species of plant and animal can be collected from it which also have use as either food or medicine. In West Bengal up to 124 ‘weed’ species can be collected from traditional rice fields which are of use to the farmers.
The sort of knowledge contained in these traditional forms of land use will be of great use to us in creating a sustainable future on this planet, it is the sort of knowledge the corporations are destroying to trap us all in their nightmare world of wage labour, state and market.
FROM ‘GREEN REVOLUTION’ TO GENE REVOLUTION.
The latest stage in this process is the use of G.M. organisms in the production of food (although, of course, food production is only one aspect of the G.M. world the corporations are preparing for us). Despite the claims of the corporations that this technology is ‘Green’ and desperately needed to ‘feed the world’ it will in fact continue and accelerate the degradation of the natural world and the immiseration of the human species characteristic of previous phases in the industrialisation of food production.
The claim that the introduction of G.M. crops will lessen the use of agro-chemicals is a simple lie. Of the 27.8 million hectares of G.M. crops planted world wide in 1998 71% had been modified to be resistant to particular herbicides. This represents a major intensification of chemical agriculture since usually crops can’t be sprayed with broad-spectrum herbicides (such as Roundup) for obvious reasons.
Monsanto have applied for and received permits for a threefold increase in chemical residues on G.M. soyabeans in the U.S. and Europe from 6 parts per million (p.p.m.) to 20 p.p.m.
Companies involved in this field are also planning major investment in new facilities to increase the production of biocides. Monsanto have announced plans to invest $ 500 million in new production plants for Roundup in Brazil. This is on top of $380 million on expanding production in the rest of the world. AgrEvo have increased production facilities for their herbicide glufosinate in the U.S. and Germany and expect to see sales increase by $560 million in the next 5-7 years with the introduction of glufosinate resistant G.M. crops. Like Roundup glufosinate is hailed as being ‘ environment friendly’ but is in fact highly toxic to mammals (particularly affecting the nervous system) and, even in very low concentrations, to marine and aquatic invertebrates. This last is particularly worrying since glufosinate is water-soluble and readily leached from soil to groundwater. As for Monsanto’s ‘environment friendly’ biocide Roundup it can kill fish in concentrations as low as 10 p.p.m. stunts and kills earthworms, is toxic to many beneficial mycorrhizal fungi which help plants to take up nutrients and is the third most common cause of pesticide related illness among agricultural workers in California, symptoms include eye and skin irritation, cardiac depression and vomiting.
Crops have also been genetically modified to produce their own pesticide most notably by inserting genes from a naturally occurring bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which produces a toxin which kills some insects and their larvae by destroying their digestive tracts. The substances produced by the G.M. crops are however more toxic and persist in the soil longer killing a wider range of insects and soil organisms. It is also inevitable that some of the target organisms will develop immunity and farmers will return to chemical sprays or whatever the next technical fix the corporations come up with happens to be.
It is also likely that either through cross pollination or through the action of bacteria and/or viruses the Bt gene will end up in other, wild, plants with unpredictable effects on food production and ecosystems. This shows another one of the corporations justifications for G.M. technology, that it is only an extension of traditional breeding methods, to be utterly false. Human beings can alter the characteristics of plants and animals by crossing closely related individuals, we cannot cross a bacteria with a plant, a fish with a strawberry or a human with a pig yet G.M. potentially makes possible any juxtaposition of genes from anywhere in the web of life.
Two biotech companies, Astra Zeneca and Novartis, have actually patented techniques to genetically modify crop plants so that they are physically dependant on the application of certain chemicals. So much for the claims that GM. will lessen the use of agro-chemicals.
G.M. technology is also set to plunge countless thousands of people into poverty by using G.M. plants or tissue cultures to produce certain products which have up until now only been available from agricultural sources in the tropics. For example lauric acid is widely used in soap and cosmetics and has always been derived from coconuts. Now oilseed rape has been genetically modified to produce it and Proctor and Gamble, one of the largest buyers of lauric acid have opted for the G.M. source. This is bound to have a negative effect on the 21 million people employed in the coconut trade in the Philippines and the 10 million people in Kerala, India, who are dependant on coconuts for their livelihood. Millions of small-scale cocoa farmers in West Africa are now under threat from the development of G.M. cocoa butter substitutes. In Madagascar some 70,000 vanilla farmers face ruin because vanilla can now be produced from G.M. tissue cultures. Great isn’t it? 70,000 farming families will be bankrupted and thrown off the land and instead we’ll have half a dozen factories full of some horrible biotech gloop employing a couple of hundred people. And what about the farmers thrown off the land? Well, the corporations could buy up the land and employ 10% of them growing G.M. cotton or tobacco or some such crap and the rest can go and rot in some shanty town. This is what the corporations call ‘feeding the world’.
DOWN ON THE FARM.
Farmers are made more dependent on the multinationals by the fact that seed varieties (along with all forms of life) can now be patented (owned). This means that if they buy Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soyabeans they have to sign a contract committing themselves to use only Monsanto’s chemicals, not to save any seed for replanting (one of the basics of sustainable agriculture) and to be prepared to allow representatives of the company onto their farms for up to 3 years after the purchase to check this. In order to enforce these ‘Technology Use Agreements’ in the U.S. Monsanto have employed the Pinkerton private detective agency (famous for their violent strike breaking activities on behalf of U.S. capital), they have ‘named and shamed’ ‘guilty’ farmers in local radio station adverts and even opened a ‘freephone hotline’ for people to dob in offenders The fact that 475 farmers in the U.S. and Canada have so far been sued for breaking their ‘Technology Use Agreements’ is probably one of the reasons they have developed ‘Terminator’ technology a technique where genes are inserted into a plant which render its seed non-viable. From the corporations point of view a great improvement – from ‘economic sterility’ to biological sterility.
Of course the real aim of terminator technology is the untold sums of money to be made from stopping ‘Third World’ farmers from saving and sharing their seeds and making them dependent on high tech seed from the multinationals. Nothing in the preceding paragraph should be taken to mean that we should see large capitalist farmers in the U.S. and Canada as being somehow victims of the corporations. Like large scale industrial farmers everywhere they are part of the industrial food production system of which G.M. is the latest stage – they exploit wage labour (although labour on farms is drastically reduced by the industrialisation process large scale industrial farming exploits wage labour massively in the chemical industry, machine production, transportation etc) and happily produce for the global market and act as a market for every new agro-chemical or whatever. But patented seed varieties and terminator technologymake them even more like mere functionaries of the multinationals. Great pressure will be applied to any who are unwilling to use the new technology ; already complaints of crop damage due to herbicide drift are starting to increase as farmers growing Roundup Ready G.M. crops spray and the spray drifts onto the crops of farmers growing ordinary plants. One farmer from Canada is being sued by Monsanto for growing seed without a license when what actually happened was that his oilseed rape crop had been contaminated by pollen from G.M. crops on nearby farms.
MEET THE MEAT MARKET.
Under slavery whole human individuals are owned, are property. Under capitalism workers aren’t owned as such but they have to sell their labour/time/creativity because capital,through its functionaries,owns the vast bulk of everything else (land,means of production,transport and communication etc) which would enable people to live outside of wage labour and the market place.
Of course non-human animals have been seen as being, at least potentially, property for a long time but now the corporations can own whole ‘species’ (as opposed to individuals as in farming or ‘research’ etc).
This process of patenting (owning) life can be traced back to the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which stated that a G.M. bacteria (modified to digest oil) could be patented (owned). Not just the one bacterium of course but the whole ‘created, species. In 1985 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that G.M. plants, seeds and plant tissues could be patented (owned). Hence the ‘royalties, demanded by the corporations from the farmers. Monsanto now holds a patent on (effectively owns and rents out) all G.M. cotton and soya. Patents have been granted on biological characteristics of plants so that for example a patent has been issued to Sungene for a variety of sunflower which has a high oleic acid content but the patent covers the characteristic itself as well as the genes which code for it so any plant breeder who achieved the same result by traditional methods could be sued.
In 1987 animals joined the biotech market place when a Harvard biologist patented ‘oncomouse’ a G.M. organism (mouse) predisposed to develop cancer for use in medical ‘research’. By 1997 40 G.M. ‘species’ of animal had been patented including turkey, nematodes, mice and rabbits. Hundreds of other patents are pending on pigs, cows, fish, sheep and monkeys among others.
To quote Vandana Shiva “It seems that the Western powers are still driven by the colonising impulse to discover, conquer, own, and possess everything, every society, every culture. The colonies have now been extended to the interior spaces, the ‘genetic codes’ of life forms from microbes and plants to animals, including humans.”
In 1976 a leukaemia patient named John Moore had his cancerous spleen removed under surgery at the University of California. Without his knowledge or consent some of the cells from his spleen were cultured and found to produce a protein which could be used in the manufacture of anti-cancer drugs. The estimated value of this cell-line to the pharmaceutical industry is $ 3 billion. In 1984 the California Supreme Court ruled that he was not entitled to any of these profits.
A U.S. company called Biocyte holds a patent on (owns) all umbilical cord cells. Systemix Inc has a patent on (owns) all human bone marrow stem cells, these being the progenitors of all cells in the blood. The worldwide market for cell lines and tissue cultures was estimated to be worth $426.7 million to the corporations in 1996. Not only cells but fragments of DNA can be patented (owned) in this way, Incyte, for example, has applied for patents on 1.2 million fragments of human DNA. The logic of this is that ‘genes for’ particular diseases such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, various cancers etc could become the property of pharmaceutical companies who could then make huge profits on tests for such genes and gene based therapies. There is not space here to get into a lengthy criticism of the reductionist idea that individual genes simply map onto well defined physical traits which underlies the whole theory and practice of G.M., but suffice it to say that research into patenting (owning), for example, a supposed’ breast cancer gene’ is of little benefit to humanity if it is true, as some scientists have estimated, that 90% of breast cancers are unrelated to any ‘breast cancer genes’ but are triggered by environmental pollution, diet and lifestyle factors.
So what’s new? Capitalism, indeed class-society in general, always seizes the living and turns it into profit and power, always declares ownership where previously there was only life… from the enclosure of the commons to the seizing of millions of human beings from Africa to be slaves to the current looting of tropical biodiversity for use in the biotech labs.
But to return to the issue of the production of agricultural goods using G.M. technology, although we know that poverty is not caused either by an actual scarcity of physical necessities or any inability to produce them what about the claim of the corporations that G.M. will increase Yield s and hence be of benefit to us human inhabitants of planet earth, if only by reducing prices? Is even that to be believed? Well, there are plenty of indications that claims of huge increases in yield are somewhat exaggerated. In 1997 30,000 acres of Monsanto’s G.M. Roundup Ready cotton failed in Mississippi. Growers faced $100,000 in losses. In 1996 Monsanto’s ‘New Leaf’ G.M. potatoes (containing the Bt gene) were planted in Georgia in the ex-Soviet Union. Yield loss was up to 67% of the entire crop. Many farmers were forced into debt. Also in 1996 2 million acres of Monsanto’s G.M. cotton was planted in the southern U.S. This contains the Bt gene, which is supposed to make it immune to the bollworm, a major pest of cotton, however nearly 50% of the acreage planted suffered a severe infestation.
Just a few teething troubles before the corporations save us all from hunger and environmental degradation? Or could it be yet more clear evidence that talk of ‘feeding the world’ with G.M. technology is pure lies and only increased sales and profits matter?
THIS LAND IS OUR LAND?
Well, we know the answer really don’t we? Capitalism is not a system which is based around the satisfaction of human needs and desires or care and respect for the rest of the natural world, it is a system based around the production of profit, an abstraction called value and its monetary measure. Based on the constant looting of nature (animal, vegetable, mineral or human) for ‘raw materials’ for transformation into commodities for sale on the market to those who have earned their keep by engaging in wage labour.
An essential facet of industrial capitalism from its very beginnings up to the present day (as discussed in this text in relation to G.M.! ‘Green Revolution’ technology) is the destruction of subsistence in order to force people into the world of wage labour and the market.
Its origin is to be found in an intensification and marketisation of agriculture, which is similar to that of the G.M. regime/’Green Revolution’ of more modern times. In order for industrial capitalism to develop and come to dominate the whole of society subsistence had to be broken. Access to land and the ability to directly satisfy needs and desires from the natural environment had to be denied to the majority not just in order to force people to engage in wage labour but also to create an outlet for manufactured and traded goods.
This process we call proletarianisation and the marketisation of society.
In Great Britain in the century leading up to the ‘Industrial Revolution, (1650-1750) the ‘peasantry’ (small farmers practising subsistence agriculture and handicrafts, producing significant amounts of their own wants) was more or less destroyed to be replaced by a system of a small number of large landowners who rented out farms to tenants who employed wage labour and produced for the market.
Here we see the origin of industrial capitalism.
While this system, by its irrationality, plunges many into poverty it elevates others to great wealth, power and privilege and these elites will do all in their power to -maintain and extend it regardless of the cost to humans, other species or life in general.
It is for this reason that when we come to consider our response to G.M. technology, this latest stage in the industrialisation of food production, we must aim to build an autonomous, collective, revolutionary response rather than being dragged onto the terrain of reformism.
Calling for a 5 year moratorium is pointless, even campaigning for a total ban is pointless since the sovereign national state is no longer (if indeed it ever was) the most powerful player in the game; at the end of the day the multinationals call the shots. They would circumvent any attempt by individual countries to ban their products and technology (and hence harm their profits) by recourse to the W.T.O. and the various international ‘free trade agreements’ Besides which the most powerful political/military force in the world, the U.S./N.A.T.0. axis (in effect an emerging world state), is right behind them. And who could possibly believe that there could be any point in appealing directly to the corporations to back down over the implementation of what they see as the technology which will enable them to monopolise food production on a global scale and rake in unimaginable profits?
DIG FOR VICTORY!
So what should be our practical response to the multinationals plans to impose this new level of industrialised food production on us?
First of all it is vital that a massive campaign of direct action is launched. Test sites need to be trashed again and again and as effectively as possible to cause maximum disruption and financial loss. To the extent that it is possible a campaign of ‘economic sabotage’ (analogous to that of the A.L.F. against animal abuse) should be carried out against all companies involved in developing, producing, transporting, advertising or marketing G.M. products. Shareholder meetings/AGMs need to be disrupted, offices need to be occupied and many other inventive and effective tactics need to be developed.
Obviously the vast majority of people do not feel able to get involved with illegal direct action but the determined minority who are prepared for this level of activity is already organised into groups and networks and there are plenty of contact points for new people to get involved so there is no need to say much here about that side of things.
For all the obvious limitations of consumer boycotts it goes without saying that not buying the stuff is the easiest way to oppose the imposition of G.M. technology. Consumer resistance to G.M. food along with the direct action which has already taken place is proving to be a significant hindrance to the multinationals plans. There is no doubt that by this point they would like to have seen the supermarket shelves piled high with G.M. products selling like hot cakes. They would like there to have been no labelling system at all in the U.K. and Europe as in the U.S. In fact the supermarkets over here have had to agree to label more rigorously than the legal requirement and have largely backed-off from putting it in their own label products. Unilever removed G.M. soya from all its U.K. products after consumer boycotts reduced sales of its product ‘Beanfeast’ by more than 50%.
So simply not buying the stuff and encouraging others not to buy it is very worthwhile. If you want to be really consistent about this you should not buy any (non-organic) animal products since whatever the situation regarding food for sale to humans animal feed will be contaminated with G.M. maize and soya. Buy as much locally produced, organic, wholefood as possible – better still grow as much of your own organic food as possible.
This leads into the second strand of action we should develop to compliment and support the campaign of direct action and consumer boycott which is to lessen our dependence on the global industrial food system. This is something which can start with the simplest, most easy, non-confrontational steps which anyone can take today and yet could end as a significant part of the revolution we need to make to overthrow capitalism and build a sustainable, joyful future for our species on this planet.
Most people have a garden or could take on an allotment fairly near to where they live. Organising garden sharing schemes where people with gardens they can’t use team up with people who want to garden but don’t have gardens is a worthwhile step. We need to investigate ways of producing and distributing organic food in our localities in ways which maintain biodiversity and as far as possible outside the money economy.
To many people this will sound like hippie dippy nonsense, a peashooter against a tank. However I believe that if this approach was developed on a large scale it could (as well as having obvious personal benefits in terms of health etc) subtly undermine the credibility and power of the global economy. It could be an important part of building our social solidarity and building a community of resistance. It would also be a way of showing solidarity with movements in the so-called ’Third World’ based around issues of land use, access to resources etc where for example in India communities of small farmers are organising seed banks to preserve crop diversity as well as launching more militant attacks on the multinationals such as trashing fields of G.M. cotton and destroying a Cargill seed factory.
In the longer term as (hopefully) numbers and confidence increase large long term land squats will become a possibility with areas threatened by capitalist development either for roads, supermarkets, airports etc or for industrialised food production being taken back for subsistence food production and as havens of biodiversity. We should take inspiration from a phenomenon such as Movimento Sem Terra in Brazil where in the face of severe state repression and violence hundreds of thousands of landless peasants/rural proletarians have occupied large tracts of unused land.
Although it is clear that food prices are so low that they are not a major factor in tying people into the capitalist system (rents, mortgages and bills do so far more effectively) it seems to me that a population capable of and actively involved in producing much of its own food outside of the money economy will be in a stronger position in the event of large scale struggles against capitalism involving strikes, lockouts, occupations and campaigns of non-payment etc. Even now it could be pretty useful, for example at the moment one of the attacks our class is facing is the New Labour New Deal aimed at forcing people into crappy low paid jobs or onto Mickey Mouse workfare schemes. Non compliance with certain regulations can result in temporary withdrawal of benefit. What a superb boost to solidarity it would be if people in this situation could at least be assured of having much of their food provided free during that period.
There is also the possibility of people developing similar independence of the money economy in other spheres as well – housing, energy production, waste management, health care etc which would also be highly beneficial but which is beyond the scope of this text.
So to summarise our practical response should consist of 1 a massive campaign of direct action 2 a consumer boycott and propaganda campaign against G.M. food concentrating on issues of sustainability and social justice and 3 attempts at collective withdrawal from the industrialised food production system.
TAKE BACK THE WORLD!
We have to be absolutely clear in all this that it is the whole rotten capitalist system, which has to be destroyed. Capitalism has nothing to offer humanity except more war, more poverty and starvation, more oppression and alienation, more pollution and degradation of the natural world. If we are to have any sort of decent life for the majority of people on this planet, if we are to establish an equitable and sustainable relationship between our species and the rest of the natural world then the capitalist system must be overthrown in order to build the world human community communism.
To most people outside of the small anarchist/communist milieu (to whom this text is principally addressed) this will sound utopian, quixotic, old fashioned, mad. Communism? What are they talking about? We don’t all want to wear the same clothes! It’s all post-modern now isn’t it? Didn’t history end a few years back? Is Eastenders on tonight? Of course our enemies want us to believe that there is no alternative to capitalism, that any attempt to create a different organisation of human society must end in labour camps and police terror, that basically the only choice is between ‘free market democracy’ and Stalinism. But despite the misuse of the word ‘communism’ as a self description by the state capitalist regimes of Eastern Europe, China etc I feel it is still the best word we have to describe both our real vision of a future society based on equality, freedom and co-operation and the real movement which exists in the human species towards the negation of class-society and the creation of human community.
Capitalism is the current stage in the evolution of class-society, of society divided into rulers and ruled, owners and owned, elite and mass and into competing elites who struggle against each other for the spoils of exploitation. The origins of class-society are lost in the mists of time stretching back 10,000 years or more to the ’Neolithic Revolution’ and the establishment of agriculture and urban centres. The ‘progress’ from that point of origin to our modern world system of industrial capitalism contains all that we call ‘history’ with its unending horrors of war, slavery, genocide, empire and conquest.
And yet class-society has always faced bitter resistance from within -where there is exploitation there is always struggle against exploitation. Slave revolts, peasant uprisings, riots, machine breaking, strikes, armed insurrections. And within these natural, human responses to fife in class-society there have always been organised, conscious minorities who put forward the call for a different sort of society, one based on equality, freedom and co-operation. This is what is meant here by communism, this envisioned future society of equality, freedom and co-operation and the real movement towards it. The communist project is the overthrow of global industrial capitalism and the creation of a world human community:
- without wage labour, money or the market, based around the principal “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”.
- without the state as an instrument of coercion above society, based on social self organisation and genuine planning to meet human needs and desires.
- without borders or checkpoints to hinder peoples movement.
- with human scale communities organising social reproduction in such a way that each individual has every opportunity to develop their creativity; where “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.
- yet also maintaining a real, conscious, global unity to ensure that people can travel and communicate as they please, that knowledge, ideas, insights and pleasures can be widely shared and that problems of a global nature can be discussed and resolved.
At this point in history the degradation of the natural world caused by the action of class-society (deforestation, soil erosion, pollution, loss of biodiversity etc) has gone so far and has contributed so much to the human misery of class-society that the communist project andthe project of creating a sustainable way of life for our species on this planet are one and the same. We won’t get one without the other. It is for this reason that anti-capitalists should take issues like G.M. very seriously and intervene to try and shift things in a revolutionary direction.
Steve, Hastings 29.6.99
I have not referenced this text but all the factual information on G.M. etc can be found, fully referenced, in:
‘Genetic Engineering, Food and Our Environment’, Luke Anderson. 1999. Green Books.
‘Biopiracy’, Vandana Shiva.1998. Green Books.
‘No Patents on Life!’ and ‘Food? Health? Hope? Genetic Engineering and World Hunger’ – two Cornerhouse briefings, The Corner House, P.O.Box 3137, Station Road, Sturminster Newton, Dorset DT1O lYJ.
Other sources include:
‘Refashioning Nature, David Goodman and Michael Redclift. 1991. Routledge.
‘We All Live In Bhopal’ George Bradford.’ Fifth Estate’ Winter 1985. Reprinted in ‘Questioning Technology,. 1988, Freedom Books.
‘Down to Earth, Environment and Human Needs’ Erik P.Eckholm. 1982. Pluto Press.
A good article on Movimento Sem Terra can be found in ‘Do or Die’ no7. ‘Do or Die’ c/o P.O. Box 2971, Brighton, E.Sussex BN2 2TT.