Told ye so! There, I said it – but for those of us long sceptical of corporate power and the money machine, it’s hard to resist the temptation. As stock markets tumble, banks plead for public bailout and predictions of a gloomy future cloud the neoliberal sky, we’re no longer prophets in the wilderness. And as usual, the real losers will not be those ‘who can’t afford to fail’ but those for whom failure has been preordained from birth.
This issue deals with the series of crises that have hit so hard this year. The first part concentrates on the hunger crisis provoked by escalating food prices. This is followed by a special section dealing with the debt and credit situation that has plunged the world into the most serious economic downturn since the ‘Dirty Thirties’. In both parts we take an initial stab at what alternatives based on a fairer future might look like, and how to seize this vital moment.
Over the years, the NI has spilt a lot of ink drawing out the common strands of experience (and often exploitation) that link people in the Global North to those in the Global South. But reality is now providing much more graphic lessons. During the 1980s almost every country in the South experienced a wrenching debt crisis as they tried to pay off usurious loans from big international banks recycling petrodollars. With the current ‘First World’ debt crisis, the shoe is on the other foot. Homes are being repossessed and job losses are starting to mount across the North. And who is responsible? Those same pesky financial wheelerdealers.
So far the North has not experienced the widespread hunger and malnutrition that haunts a billion people – and counting – in the South. But we are facing some pretty hard times. What better point to start making the links of our common humanity, so that we can begin to control capital rather than the other way round.
For, in the end, ‘told ye so’ will not build a fairer world.
Richard Swift for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Richard Swift on the hard edge of hunger in a year of perpetual crisis. Action – a new diet for the world food system.
2008 – what a year! First the price of petroleum doubled, then a global food crisis, now a complete financial meltdown. People can be forgiven for wondering ‘what next?’ The runaway cost of basic foodstuffs hit hard earlier in the year. The Western media played it as an unfortunate, but far away, tragedy. Most people in the industrial world barely noticed as the prices on the supermarket shelves edged up. But for those in the Global South living on $2 or less a day – about one in three of us...
The increase in global food prices may have temporarily stalled but food is expected to remain at record price levels for the foreseeable future. Industrial agriculture’s chickens have come home to roost. But the price is being paid not by agribusiness and food retailers but by small farmers whose income remains low, and by the millions being pushed into malnutrition.
With capitalism crashing about our ears, now is the time to make a fairer future. We have asked writers, thinkers and activists from around the world to look at the opportunities presented by the current crises and to propose strategies for radical change.