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Make a new year’s resolution to change the world

While millions suffer in poverty and ill-health, the super-rich are getting even richer. It’s only through organising and collective action that we can seek to redress the balance, says ROGER McKENZIE

IT IS that time of year when thoughts turn to resolutions for the next year. People resolve to get fitter or to change their diets or just to become a better person in some way. 

For the vast majority of people across the world it is more a question of survival. Health rather than fitness. Being able to put food of any sort on the table rather than a dietary fashion change.

Afghanistan is a case in point. The misadventures of the US coalition has left 23 million Afghans — that is more than half the population — without enough food.

Since the Taliban took control in Kabul prices are soaring and the country is on the brink of economic collapse. There is acute malnutrition among children under the age of five as well as for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

The earthquake that struck Haiti in August of this year made an already bad situation worse for the population. There was already political instability, gang violence and a struggle by the populous to afford escalating food prices before the earthquake added to things to leave half the population, in excess of four million people, without enough to eat.

In South Sudan, which achieved independence in 2011, almost seven million people, that is around 60 per cent of the population, struggle every day to find enough food to eat.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has 27 million people who struggle every day for food and has something approaching four million children acutely malnourished.

This is not something for some far-off lands that can be resolved with a donation to a charity when our consciouses get jolted or because its Christmas time.

In the United States, the richest country in the history of the world, according to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, are not sure where there next meal is coming from. 

Hunger among African-Americans, Latino people and Native Americans is highest because of continuing racial injustice, but this is a massive problem for the white community too. 

According to the British government’s own figures from their Family Resources Survey, between 2019 and 2020, five million people in the UK live in food poverty. 

The Food Foundation has produced research to show that the situation is worsening with somewhere in the region of 9 per cent of the UK population suffering from food insecurity.

That working people in Britain rely regularly on foodbanks, and that, according to the Trussell Trust, there has been a 128 per cent increase in the Food Bank Network in five years really is a damning indictment on the Tories, who have been in power since 2010. 

The response of the Tories to a food emergency largely of their making is to cut universal credit, preside over an economy where people find it harder to make ends meet, even when they are working, and curtail your rights to even protest against what they are doing.

Things were not great for most of the world before the pandemic struck. For many people, though, things are markedly worse. 

In the meantime the world’s richest individuals and companies have seen their wealth surge. In the US, for example, US billionaire wealth skyrocketed during the pandemic by around 70 per cent and even the number of billionaires grew from 614 to 745.

Big pharma, the powerful pharmaceutical companies, have seen massive increases in their profits over the last year. The companies that developed vaccines and treatments to combat the coronavirus saw the biggest increases. 

Regeneron saw an income growth of 163 per cent during 2020 and Pfizer 92 per cent. All this as big pharma refuse to share their patented technology which would help to get more vaccines into more arms while only something like 5 per cent of the continent of Africa has been vaccinated.

It’s the same old story. The rich get richer while the rest of us struggle to survive and blame for any difficulty is shifted to the door of people like migrants and refugees who are fleeing the devastation caused in their lands by the rich nations, greedy, exploitative transnational corporations and, of course, the climate emergency.

As we move into the year 2022 we must remember that the height of ambition for many of the people with whom we share this fragile planet is to successfully breathe the next breath and to find food sustenance from somewhere.

I am not against charity. Charity often helps to solve immediate needs and can provide much needed help in emergencies. However, the real answer is systemic change. 

That so many people go hungry every day or cannot access to free healthcare is not accidental. Neither is the growth in wealth of already uber-rich individuals and companies. 

Our economy is built on exploitation. To make a fundamental difference we have to end that exploitation through systemic change.

My resolution, because I have the privilege to make one while so many do not, is to continue to expose exploitation and inequality and to organise for lasting systemic change.

I am asking you to help me by joining Liberation through our website at www.liberationorg.co.uk and ask your union, at all levels, to also affiliate. 

Acts of individual charity are great but it has only ever been our ability to organise and to take collective action that has brought about real change. That should be our new year resolution.

Roger McKenzie is general secretary of Liberation and a journalist and organiser.

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