By Bill Van Auken at WSS
15 April 2008
Last week’s meetings in Washington of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Group of Seven were convened in the shadow of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. While Wall Street’s turmoil and the deepening credit crunch dominated discussions, leaders of the global financial institutions were forced to take note of the growing global food emergency, warning of the threat of widespread hunger and already emerging political instability.
The seven major capitalist powers in the G-7—the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada—made virtually no mention of the global food crisis, referring in only one brief reference to the risk of “high oil and commodity prices.” Instead, they focused on the stability of the financial markets, promising measures to shore up investor confidence.
The IMF and World Bank, however, felt compelled to acknowledge the emerging worldwide catastrophe, in part because while these agencies are instruments of the main imperialist powers, they must posture as responsive to the needs of all countries. It would be too revealing for them to focus exclusively on the fate of major finance houses, while ignoring the fact that hundreds of millions across the planet are being threatened with starvation.
More decisive, however, is the realization that this crisis confronting the most impoverished countries and poorest sections of the world’s population is threatening to unleash a revolution of the hungry that could topple governments across large parts of the world.
Even as the IMF and World Bank were meeting, the government of Haiti was forced out in a no-confidence vote passed in response to several days of demonstrations and protests against rising food prices and hunger that swept all the country’s major cities. Clashes between protesters and United Nations occupation troops left at least five people dead and scores wounded and saw crowds attempt to storm the presidential palace.
Food prices in Haiti had risen on average by 40 percent in less than a year, with the cost of staples such as rice doubling.
The same essential story has been repeated in country after country, from Africa to the Middle East, south Asia and Latin America. Continue reading