The fortnight of Fairtrade is very much upon us, and if you happen to be at Imperial, well, you’ve already missed a bunch of events followed by free coffee and tea. Sucks to be you. Never fear though, there’s a Cheese and Wine evening from 7pm on Thursday the 5th, to be held in Huxley 344, and you can buy your ticket online.
I have to say I’ve personally started to get interested in the whole Fairtrade thing, because quite frankly, global capitalism has done a damned good job of screwing things up, and something needs to be done. As anybody who regularly reads my blog (all 5 of you!) will know, I’ve recently been reading Marx & Engel’s Communist Manifesto, and so my mind has been bent on these kind of thoughts for a while and the same patterns show through.
The exploitation of the Have-nots by the Haves continues as ever, on a greater scale than ever before. It’s sick crap legitimised by a squalid ideology: the mythology of the invisible hand of the market, turning individual greed into collective benefit; terrible wishful thinking which props up this corrupt system.
The theory is supply and demand – if the price drops too low to make something economical to produce, people will stop making that product, supply will drop, and the price will increase until a stable equilibrium is reached; notionally a fair price for everyone concerned.
The fault in this is pointed out by Marx in the Manifesto; this equilibrium, in our era of mass production and global movement of goods, in which another producer will always be desperate enough to sell for less, will be the absolute minimum price at which it is possible for the producer to continue to be alive.
Let me stress this; not healthy, not educated, not able to provide healthcare, nor support relatives – simply alive. How these people are expected to be able to lift themselves out of poverty and improve their lot is utterly beyond me.
This is neglecting the other distorting influences and things stacked against the producers in the third world – farming subsidies in the developed world, the conglomerate power of the multinationals, the fact that the very poorest are unable to switch their production easily from one thing to another because they don’t have the capital necessary to do so. Nor can they do what the oppressed have done for centuries, and simply burn their oppressors out. This isn’t 18th Century France we’re talking about here – the oppressor is the entire Western capitalist system. It’s an enemy, an oppressor, of incalculable power.
Fairtrade isn’t a complete solution to this problem, nor could it be. Social change on the sort of scale needed is… well, big. Huge. But even the longest journey begins with a single step, and paying farmers a bit more than the absolute minimum so they can start to afford to send their kids to school is a damned good start.