Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Food must not be eaten

I am currently reading "Soviet Civilisation" by Sergey Kara-Murza. It really bends the mind. There are some things said that I heard about, but could not really comprehend before reading a colourful first-hand account. One example is the destruction of food in a capitalist society. Kara-Murza writes:
I recall the August 13, 1993. The farmers' cooperatives in Saragosa handed out peaches for free, accompanies with flyers urging people to boycott French food products. An hour in advance a large crowd of seemingly well-off people accumulated at the city square. A newspaper wrote about it humorously: "they pounced on the food like Saraevo citizens pounced on the trucks with humanitarian aid after a 16-month blockade". Meanwhile, 30 kilometres away was located a state-built "complex for peach destruction".

I opened the newspaper - a huge photo that looked like a "Harvest festival" painting from Stalin's era. A sun-lit scenery, a line of tractor carts with golden peaches, huge scales, piles of fruits. Turns out it's one of several peach destruction points constructed in Aragon. The government buys peaches from the farmers at a market price, the farmers carefully transport them, trying not to crush any - the quality control is at the highest level in Europe (the newspaper explained that the EEC set the price for fruits bought for destruction between 17 and 27 pesetas, "depending on the quality, size and the appearance"). And then the fruits are crushed on the ground by a special machine or buried in huge trenches. The annual "production" plan was set for these destruction points in Aragon at 12 thousand tons of peaches - 4 kilograms for each resident of that region.

Why aren't the "useless" peaches and milk given to people, why aren't they sent to schools, to old people's homes? Impossible. The capitalist market must constantly create the strange feeling of shortage - a combination of availability with inaccessibility. As the old jokes goes, "You can't understand it, you must just memorize it".

How could that be? This is hard to take in for a Soviet person. I googled and it does look like a common "agricultural" policy. Here are just two links about similar practices:
By 1995 every British family was paying £20 a week into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). By 1996 the crazy rules of CAP were subsidising Europe's inefficient farmers to the tune of £30 million. Some were enabled to grow weeds on millions of 'set-aside' land so that farms in poor countries could be ruined by the dumping of the EU's unwanted surplus meat and grain at knockdown prices. Greek fruit-growers could produce 650 tons of peaches a year for bulldozing into the ground. Meanwhile, British farmers received handsome subsidies to grow acres of unwanted flax for burning in the fields. (source)
The UK is the second largest net contributor to the EU budget. Included in the budget expenditure is UKP57m paid to EU farmers to destroy their produce (source)
Earlier Kara-Murza mentions that Spain was fined by EEC in early 1990s for "overproducing" milk. He notes that the milk consumption in Spain was then 146 kilograms per capita per year, while it was as high as 363 kilograms in the Soviet Union. But instead of improving the conditions of people the government paid 60 pesetas for each "not-produced" kilogram of milk (compared with the previous year), while it paid 40 pesetas for produced milk. The goal was to raise the market milk prices in Spain to a more adequate average European level, forcing the people to buy more expensive milk from Holland.

This is insane. How can all this happen and no one seems to be talking about it?! They destroyed Soviet Union, the greatest place to live ever, only to have it be succeeded by this capitalistic gutter? :(

1 comment:

Slava said...

Danila, I think that if you did not find some information about this things - it is not the argument. Is it possible to talk by internet with local citizens ?