[Marxism] Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Sun Nov 23 19:11:53 MST 2014


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My message in passing this along to (presumably open-minded) liberal 
wage-and-salary-earning friends, prompted by Lou's remark:

[Thanksgiving thoughts: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food

Good, except for the blind conclusion. Schlosser only tells half the 
story. In saying that these practices can somehow be ameliorated under 
capitalism, Schlosser forgets that what Upton Sinclair described is 
still present though far far worse, never really stopped, and is now 
even more intensive and global. And that it has mainly to do not only 
with meat packers' methods, which provide the least cost without regard 
to workers, animals or public health, but that the meat packers and 
other food giants also make the regulations and control the financing 
provided by Congress, and that the regulatory agencies, USDA, FDA and 
state oversight, are understaffed and inadequate to the task as a 
result. Moreover, the considered decision to move meatpacking from urban 
to rural areas meant the workers were more isolated, less able to 
organize industry-wide or in concentrated communities.

So the inhumane and unsafe practices continue unabated, at the expense 
of the immigrant workers, the hogs and the consuming public. And that's 
the obvious reason that "the form of socialism Upton Sinclair advocated, 
with government ownership of industry, subsequently proved to be a 
disaster" (aside from the fact that even that was never really tried), 
and as he says, "monopolies and monopsonies began to thrive, as 
antitrust laws went unenforced. Unions were broken through clever legal 
subterfuges. Middle-­class wages became poverty wages. Government 
regulations were usurped by the industries supposedly being regulated. 
And elected officials became the servants of corporate interests, not 
the public interest, to an almost comical degree. As fecal material from 
the industrial hog farms of Iowa — a volume of waste greater than that 
produced by the entire human population of Brazil — polluted the state’s 
water supply, its governor responded by eliminating 100 jobs at the Iowa 
Department of Natural Resources, appointing a lawyer with strong 
agribusiness ties to run the agency and naming a hog farmer, as well as 
a builder of hog farms, to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission."

Now how does he suppose all this happened? Interesting fact: according 
to Wikipedia, Schlosser's father was president of NBC. Upton Sinclair's 
remedy, state-run food production, only goes part of the way as well, 
since it would not in his view follow on accompanied by the complete 
elimination of the system of production for profit; but neither his 
solutions nor any other that involved systemic change would get a 
hearing in the NYT Book section or at NBC.

And more on why we're getting an organic Thanksgiving turkey. Maybe just 
maybe the least worst, although still produced under conditions 
including cost-cutting practices, inevitably under the system of 
simultaneous monopsony and competition endemic in food production. Even 
small organic producers eventually face them, because the conditions of 
production are systemic and so are inputs and distribution. The pilgrims 
would never have dreamed.]

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Louis Proyect wrote

(Schlosser's review is good but he denigrates Upton Sinclair's call for 
socialism.)


NEW YORK TIMES SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW
Nov. 23 2014

‘The Chain,’ by Ted Genoways
By ERIC SCHLOSSER


THE CHAIN
Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food
By Ted Genoways
Illustrated. 305 pp. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $26.99.

(...)


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