Food comes first in the fight against austerity

British socialist Mark Bergfeld draws out the connections between struggles over food production and distribution in an article written for Climate and Capitalism – Published on Socialist Worker (first on Climate and Capitalism), by Mark Bergfeld, May 28, 2013.

IN AUGUST 2012, 200 members of the Andalusian fieldworker union SAT in the Spanish state organized a “food expropriation.” They walked into the local Carrefour and Mercandor supermarkets, loaded their trolleys with rice, beans, potatoes, bread–and left without paying a single cent.   

According to Caritas Internationalis, roughly 350,000 Andalusian families are malnourished. Children are reported to faint in classrooms. It’s no surprise this action struck a chord with millions of people across the Spanish state. Especially given the “food expropriation” fed a total of 26 families across three municipalities and forced Carrefour to donate 12 trucks of food to local NGOs.

Disparate social struggles connect the democratization and de-commodification of food and land to the fight against austerity in the Global North. Land occupations in Andalusia, fast food worker strikes in New York City, the Potato Movement in Thessaloniki and international calls to boycott “blood strawberries” from Nea Manolada in Greece could strike at the heart of the system, rejuvenate workers’ movements and create counter-hegemonic alternatives to neoliberal austerity.

Tierra y Libertad: … //

… I Am a Man … Struggling to Put Food on My Plate:

A strike of fast food workers in New York City is the brightest star of the U.S. labor movement.

On April 4, 400 New York City fast-food workers shut down 70 fast food outlets in a walkout for better pay, conditions and union rights. They carried signs reading “I am a man” or “I am a woman” to evoke the sanitation workers’ strike which King supported before he was murdered.

King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Forty-five years later, on the same day, churches, community groups and trade unions rallied behind the more than 50,000 workers employed by the fast food industry across the city. Workers earn $11,000 a year on average. By no means does this cover basic living expenses. Workers are reported to skip meals and walk several miles to work.

Chris Hayes on MSNBC and Josh Eidelson in the Nation have argued that this strike movement indicates a shift in the U.S. labor movement. Furthermore, this group of workers shows that you can strike in a low-wage service sector economy. The narrow confines of wages and conditions could be left behind very quickly. New urban struggles over the issues of food production and distribution have the power to strike a blow at the multibillion-dollar industry.

Black and Latino communities have suffered at the hands of the fast-food industry for decades. A 2004 study conducted in New Orleans disclosed that Black neighborhoods have six times as many fast-food outlets as white neighborhoods. In New York, the picture is much the same, according to Naa Oyo A. Kwate, a researcher on healthy eating: “We found that [public elementary] schools with high proportions of white students have the lowest exposure [to fast-food restaurants]. Only schools with low proportions of white students and high proportions of Black students have high exposure.”

When José Bové dismantled a McDonald’s in France, the Black Bloc smashed up Starbucks, and Food Not Bombs served vegan food at anti-capitalist protests, it didn’t affect the industry’s racism in the slightest. Instead, Morgan Spurlock provided a declining anti-capitalist movement with the pseudo-scientific documentary film Supersize Me. With a rise in urban struggles such as Occupy the Hood, which takes direct action against home foreclosures, the conditions are far more favorable to fast-food workers than at the beginning of the century.

During the 2011 London riots, it was widely reported that people started flipping burgers at McDonald’s for themselves. In response to the moral panic, some replied with a quote by the late British Marxist Tony Cliff: “The riots and looting have been fantastic, but they have not gone far enough. Because they have not been organized, the kids have attacked shops when they should have been attacking factories. We must teach them to take the bakery, not just the bread.” The New York fast-food workers have taken a small step in that direction. In Greece, the Potato Movement is making big strides forward.

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Star: … //

… (full text).

Links:

We cannot shop our way to food justice, on Climate and Capitalism, by Jaime Hamre, February 22, 2013;

Food sovereignty has a woman’s face, on Climate and Capitalism, from La Via Campesina, May 8, 2012;

Bolivia Puts People and Environment Before Profits, on Toronto Bolivia Solidarity, by Federico Fuentes, May 28, 2013;

ALBA: The unity and integration of Our Americas is our goal, on Toronto Bolivia Solidarity, by Federico Fuentes, Date: printed from Green Left, May 2013, 2013.

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