Speech in Rome at the demonstration in front of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) offices October 3, 2012
Today’s demonstration is very important because workers from Italy, Greece and other countries join their voices, their common anguishes, their strength, the strength of our class against the power of monopolies and their political representatives in every country. We shout with all our strength in order to be heard everywhere that “no gear turns without us – worker you can make it without bosses”. The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) organizes mobilizations, all forms of struggle, throughout the world. In Greece, besides our participation here, we organize mobilizations in pharmaceutical, food and water multinationals.
We want to highlight the modern needs of the working class, the popular strata and the preconditions for their satisfaction.
It’s a shame that the 21st century people die from hunger and that millions of people around the world cannot quench their thirst.
It’s a shame that the working people cannot afford medications, it is a shame that people die from diseases, starvation, it is a shame that people are uneducated, homeless and sleep in the streets.
It’s a shame that these social goods are in the hands of a handful of multinationals, they are a commercial product and make profit, only profit.
Everyday we face major dramatic questions addressed by million of working people, employees, poor farmers, unemployed and young people. What do we have to do in order to save ourselves from poverty, hunger and the insecurity of tomorrow?
Till when will we have above us all those who torment us everyday, those who lead us to misery while the wealth the working class produces is huge?
Till when will we work hard, productivity will be increased and many people will be driven to poverty?
Can we bleed for this tragedy that is called capitalist development?
We are in front of the FAO offices, an organization that is nothing more than one more organization at the service of capitalists and everyday because of them millions of people are murdered and die from hunger and malnutrition.
The number of people who suffer from the nightmare of hunger increases dramatically worldwide. They have reached 925 million. That is, 75 million more than what had initially been estimated, mainly because of the increase in the prices of foodstuff and commodities worldwide (and especially in the developing countries).
Recent estimations of the World Bank indicate that the rise in the prices of foodstuff pushed at least over 100 million of people below the poverty line.
In most EU countries, the three largest companies in the food retail sector control more than 50% of the total market, while in many cases they control more than 80%.
The food industry in Greece in a number of areas like dairy products, soft drinks, olive oil, coffee, milk, a large part of beer market, is controlled by multinationals.
The ten largest food retail companies control 77% of the turnover and 84% of the profits. The Carrefour group has a dominant position in the retail market, with over 2 billion euro business profits, controlling 17% of the Greek market. The Belgian group Delhaize which owns 100% of the Vasilopoulos stores is in the second place.
The fact that foodstuff is a commodity sold in the international stockmarkets had as a result vertical increases in prices and respectively the profits of food multinationals, the conscious reduction in agricultural production, the global food stocks and the increase of undernourished people.
Governments of the imperialist states and coalitions, multinationals and industrialists, with a lot of hypocrisy are concerned about the nutritional future of humanity, with the obvious aim to disorientate peoples and to conceal that they are fully responsible for this enormous crime against humanity, which happens for a very long time but especially this period has become a nightmare.
Without any trace of shame, they, altogether, claim that for the so-called food crisis, the blame must be put on the decline of global production and the stocks of grains, due to the climate change (floods, droughts) as well as on the increase in food consumption by the peoples of the developing countries.
But the decline in global production and the stocks of grains-foodstuff is caused by the conscious political choices of multinationals and the capitalist governments which express their interests in order to ensure more profits for them.
Starting point of these political choices was the fact that the global food consumption increased at the annual rates of 1%, while the global food production increased at double rate (2% per year). This imbalance had as a result, the food supply being more than the demand, to reduce the prices and the profits of the food industries and the increase in stocks, to absorb more funds from the budgets of states, for their preservation or their clearance.
The people’s effort to give a solution to the nutritional problem in conditions of crisis is an important factor of their struggle. PAME plays the leading part to this struggle and strengthens its solidarity.
The need of the popular family to be able to buy healthy food at low prices, as well as the need of farmers to sell their agricultural production at satisfactory prices and not let their products rotten in warehouses or in fields, because of the imports and blackmails of the intermediaries and the industrialists, can be satisfied and is realistic to find a definitive and lasting solution for this, under a number of preconditions. While the country has the potential to produce food products 100%, Greek products remain unsold or are sold to the wholesaler in degrading price and we have an abundance of imports.
The people today have all the evidence that the compromise between monopolies and people, between capitalist forces and workers is impossible. The objective preconditions for the people to live much better exist also in Greece. What is necessary is to socialize the monopolies that enter deeper and deeper into all aspects of economic and social life, while the new technology can also ensure the reduction of working hours in favour of leisure time, while in the hands of the monopolies it reduces the available jobs, even in conditions of increased production.
PAME has struggled for a system of prices and subsidies to ensure sustainable income for the small and medium-scale farmers and cheap food for workers.
It has revealed the environmental hypocrisy of the EU and the Greek governments, has opposed to production methods that undermine public health and the environment, and has also opposed to all the regulations for genetically modified products.
PAME considers that the so-called turn of agriculture into the production of quality products is a pretense, to conceal the decline of the growth rate of agricultural production imposed by the CAP. It demands the abolition of the VAT on food.
It is against the new anti-labour working relations and it demands full-time and stable work for all the workers, reduction of the working time and retirement age, substantial increases in wages and pensions, because they are the preconditions also for the nutritional improvement of the popular strata.
PAME said no to the biofuels from energy cultivation, because they do not contribute to the improvement of the environment, but they increase food prices and condemn the popular strata to malnutrition.
It resisted to the policy of bankruptcy and marginalization of the agricultural cooperatives and their selling to the private capital and it demands democratization and support of the cooperatives by the state, to operate as mechanisms of resistance to the industrialists.
Simultaneously, PAME reveals to all the popular strata that as long as the profit is the basic criterion for the production of the agricultural products and food, the food problem will be exacerbated, public health will be undermined, the environment will deteriorate and all the controls will have limited results, while in some cases they will operate as an alibi so that this situation will continue.
For PAME basic criteria for production of agricultural products is the utilization of all the productive capacity of the country, i.e. the manpower, the soil and climate conditions, the scientific and technical achievements. The satisfaction of the modern nutritional needs of our people with healthy food. The protection of the public health and of the environment.
These criteria are contrary to the direction of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which condemns to stagnation and shrinking of the agricultural production of our country and distorts its composition at the expense of the animal production.
Thus, the conflict with the E.U. and the overthrow of the CAP is a basic precondition for the development of the agricultural economy to the benefit of the people and of the small to medium -scale farmers.
The criteria of PAME are contrary to the logic of competitiveness and profit that is why they can not compromise with the mutated seeds etc., the meat-flour, the mineral oils and many other means and methods of production which increase productivity at the expense of health and environment.
Basic key-players of the agricultural production will be the socialized large agricultural businesses and the productive cooperatives of the small to medium scale farmers. These key-players can increase the productivity of the agricultural economy, they can drastically reduce the cost of production combined with the increase of agricultural investments, which have frozen since our country joined the EEC, they can increase the agricultural production and solve the problem of the nutritional dependence of our people and our country.
The people’s public sector will play a decisive role in the overall and balanced production of agricultural products and food; it will plan the entire food policy, which will be implemented by the productive cooperatives, the socialized food industries, the public agricultural organizations, the research institutions and the state enterprises of production of agricultural supplies and machines.
The processing of agricultural products will be done by the socialized enterprises, while the role of the productive cooperatives in processing will involve sorting and packaging procedures in certain products, as well as the processing of products of local character and of low economic importance.
The socialization of the food industries will abolish the profit, which is the main cause of the high prices and of the food scandals, and together with the people’s participation, which will be the organic element in all phases of production, distribution and control, will ensure cheap and healthy food for the people.
The control of agricultural products and food will be done by a special auditor who will be independent from the process of production and distribution, in order to evaluate promptly the safety of the new means of production and prevent accidental events that can contribute to the inadequacy of the agricultural products and food.
The proposal of PAME is a one-way-street for the survival of the small to medium scale farmers in the framework of the productive cooperatives; it contributes to the food adequacy of our people and to the confrontation of the global nutritional problem, as far as possible.
It conflicts with the interests of industrialists and multinationals, with the E.U. and its political forces.
The realism of the proposal of PAME is based on the common interest of the working class and the poor farmers against the monopolies and imperialist unions. On this basis the alliance of the working class with the small to medium scale farmers and the self-employed can be built.
All the sides of the nutritional problem show that it is a class-political problem, which concerns first of all the working class, the small to medium scale farmers and all the popular strata.
The answer lies in the implementation of a different policy. It lies in the disengagement from the E.U. and monopolies, the socialization of the centralized means of production and of land, the central planning of production, in the people’s control. Greece, indeed, can develop its production and have self-sufficiency. The country had, and therefore can develop agricultural-stockbreeding production which can meet all the nutritional needs and to export rather than import.
The struggle for the implementation of this line requires clear understanding of what kind of movement we need. Can we expect from leaderships like these of the European Trade Union Confederation to organize the struggle, to conflict with the European Union, monopolies and multinationals?
These leaderships are in favour of competitiveness, of profitability, they are in favour of the class cooperation with the enemy of our class the big capital, which is responsible for the food scandals, hunger and poverty of millions of people. They sign memorandums of cooperation with the European industrialists who crush the rights of the working class. That is why they disorientate with the various theories for another management of the crisis of the capitalist system, for its perpetuation. When they talk about the crisis, they talk about the debt crisis, the financial crisis etc. It is about a capitalist crisis, an economic one. The measures taken in almost all the states of Europe are not temporary. They will still be applied even after the crisis, because they seek to reduce as much as possible the labour force price.
We believe in a movement against the capitalist employers, their laws and their state. A movement that is massive and organized within the workplaces. A movement released from the governmental and employers’ trade unionism. A movement that will support and develop the social alliance. A movement that will not only struggle for partial improvements but for the total of the needs of the working families, for the overthrow and abolition of the exploitative relations. An internationalist movement that will struggle for a common purpose in each separate country.
The effort that we make in Europe to strengthen the presence of the class-oriented forces, of the class-oriented concept in the trade union movement is of extreme importance. We do know that this path will be difficult and with obstacles. But with patience and persistence, knowing that the path we follow is a path with perspective, a just path, a path that will release our class from the rottenness of the capitalist system; we proceed to build a new society where the working class will be in charge, where the power will be in its hands.
Long Live the World Working Class
Long Live the International workers’ solidarity