| A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms Pieter Aertsen 1551 | MR Online A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, Pieter Aertsen (1551)

Food, capitalism and the necessity of a socialist program

Originally published: Cosmonaut on July 22, 2020 by Katie Paige, Kelly Alana and Renato Flores (more by Cosmonaut) (Posted Jul 25, 2020)

Food, capitalism, and the Metabolic Rift

The first surplus in human history is food. Food needs to be produced by labor, but labor can produce more food than is required for the producer to survive. This generates a surplus which can be used to feed others, who can then take on other jobs. Agricultural surpluses facilitated the settlement of humans into towns and cities, the first steps to developing society as we know it. Indeed, the rhythms of food production and consumption have been deeply ingrained in our culture since time immemorial. Cultivation and communal eating rituals are commonplace: harvest festivals, potlucks, the Passover Seder, or the Christian communion are just a few examples.

Today, billions of people are still intimately involved in the cultivation of crops. But the distribution is hardly uniform. While 70% of the world population are farmers, agricultural workers constitute only 2% of the population in industrialized countries. This means that for 98% of people in the Global North, food is acquired through the capitalist market. Meanwhile, the entry of capitalism into food production has completely changed the way we produce and consume food. The value of food is reduced to the profits which can be obtained, and every step is taken to maximize these profits. As consumers of a commodity, we have been alienated from our historical relationship with food, with severe consequences for the environment and our health. The production process behind our food and its overall effects on the environment is concealed. We only see the abstract labor of food producers in the shape of heads of lettuce or shrink-wrapped cuts of meat.

Food was not always in the circuit of capitalism. Historically, most farming methods have been sustainable, with a deep relationship to nature and its rhythms. Methodical large-scale environmental damage only arose with the advent of capitalism. This is not to say that environmental damage did not exist, but it was only with the advent of resource-intensive, cash-crops such as sugar and cotton that cultivation became unsustainable by design rather than by accident.(1) As the Atlantic capitalist-slave economy was being formed, plantation owners would privatize an “unclaimed” piece of land, overexploit it in the search for shorter and shorter production cycles, and later abandon it, moving on to the next place. The slow westward drift of the Southern system of slave plantations in the U.S. is a testament to this.

With the export of commodities far from where they were produced, nutrients were no longer returning to the ground they came out of. This was theorized as a global “metabolic rift” between the soil and its products, a disconnect in the inputs and outputs in the agricultural system.(2) At first, plantation owners left behind an exhausted soil which took decades to replenish. But eventually, there was no new land for producers to move into. Instead of moving to sustainable agricultural cycles with lower yields, alternatives were sought after which would bring nutrients back into the soil in the shape of fertilizers. The first fertilizer used en masse was guano. It was harvested first in Peru, and later across many islands in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean. The guano trade was the starting shot for the mass-scale transport of nutrients across the world. And, in good capitalist fashion, it led to imperialist expansion and conflict. The United States passed the Guano Islands Act in 1856 which allowed private citizens to lay claims to guano deposits in uninhabited islands, followed by the annexation of nearly 100 islands in the Caribbean. But the largest deposits lay further South, which the governments of Chile, Bolivia, and Peru fought over in the Pacific War of 1879-84.

| Guano | MR OnlineThe victory of Chile in the Pacific War gave Chile hegemony over the Southern Pacific and contributed to its comparative wealth amongst its neighbors. But guano mining was not enough, it was geographically limited and required large supply chains which were endangered in the first World War. The use of guano as a fertilizer was superseded by the development of the industrial Haber-Bosch process, which produces ammonia out of nitrogen, hydrogen, and a great amount of energy. Soils could now be kept productive for decades, as this process allowed for the mass production of artificial fertilizers. But the input-output disconnect was not eliminated, just reframed. This modern version of the metabolic rift is described by John Bellamy Foster: the inputs of the agricultural system (such as commercial fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, and fuels) come at a high energy cost and are made into “downstream products” which are processed over and over again before being sent to retail outlets for sale to the public.(3) The lack of circular flows in the system is reflected as an unbalanced flow of energy and nutrients, generating an unsustainable system.

The change in food production and distribution accelerated throughout the last century. Capital has permeated everything we eat. It wrestled the control and distribution of food away from small producers and commodified a basic need for survival. Today, small farming has given way to cash crops, monocultures, and factory farms. With this dominance, capitalist agriculture has increased its damage to the environment by orders of magnitude, transforming depleted agricultural sites into wastelands through excessive fertilizer and pesticide use. And if the waters become too polluted and the soil is too contaminated to continue production, the inherent mobility of capital means operations can just be moved. No mind is paid to the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed and who can no longer produce food for themselves, forcing them to rely on imports or starve. Modern farming destroys all in the name of profit, a “rape and run”.(4)

Sale points have also been completely transformed: local and seasonal markets have been replaced with massive grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and convenience stores. Putting the global market in charge seems like an advantage. Certain fruits and vegetables appear always in season, as global supply chains mean seasons have been abolished. It’s always time for apples if you can bring them from Chile or New Zealand. But the choice we can make in a supermarket is limited. Profit determines what grocery shelves stock, so processed cash crops like sugar, corn, and soy become capitalism’s favorites–and nearly everything we can purchase contains both in high quantity. Profit also determines how food is stocked with disastrous consequences. As it is more profitable for supermarkets to have an overabundance of produce, large food waste is generated at the point of retail. The numbers are gigantic: over a hundred kilograms of food per person is thrown away per year in industrialized countries.

To compound things, as we have become further alienated from the production of our food, we have also seen a massive rise in preventable food-related illnesses, especially in the Global North. Diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are now the largest killers in the United States. And due to capitalism’s twisted logic, treatment or mitigation of these diseases has become extremely profitable for pharmaceutical companies. From a liberal point of view, the state should step in and regulate the externalities and prevent large ecological damage. But instead, regulatory agencies are living proof of the Marxist theory of the state. They are full of former and future agribusiness executives who turn a blind eye to the gross safety violations or even work with these businesses to help bolster sales and profits. Tax loopholes, lax workplace regulations, and the use of immigrant and prison labor have made agribusiness companies billions in profit, with externalities pushed on taxpayers.

So where does a socialist program for food start? It must seek to alleviate and eliminate all the effects capitalist production has. One must start by naming the issues. In the rest of the essay we detail some of the most pressing, namely, (1) the current use of food as an imperialist spear, (2) the extreme impact our meat diets cause on the environment and how this level of meat consumption is unsustainable, (3) labor in the meat industry, and (4) the systemic racism that affects food distribution.

Imperialistic practices in the food and biotech industries

The adverse effects of international free-market policy on food affordability has a long history. Capitalism in Ireland led to the Irish Potato Famine taking the form that it did. The opening of India and China by force to capitalist markets in the late 1800s is responsible for the reappearance of large famines in those regions.(5) Today, rather than force, it takes more subtle forms. American and European agribusiness has often required the help of the World Trade Organization to extend their domination to the international market. The earlier imperialist flow is reversed: rather than the profits realizable from international exports excluding the locals from the food market as in late 1800s India and China, the enforcement of free-trade policies causes a flooding of the local market with cheap imported food goods. This leads to the disappearance of local production– which means the loss of food self-sufficiency–while the Global North remains self-sufficient. This can only result in mass-scale domination. Once international prices, largely uncontrollable by local and national governments, increase again, food becomes unaffordable. Famines are brought back to areas from which they had largely disappeared. Good examples of this are the neoliberal policies imposed on the Horn of Africa in the 1960-70s, which are directly linked to present-day famines.

After their local agriculture is destroyed, countries in the Global South usually turn to the same “rape and run” capitalist agriculture to produce cash crops that can be sold in the market. Chemical companies like Dow, Monsanto, and DuPont rebrand themselves as biotech companies, and cloak themselves with a mission of “feeding the world”, a cover for rapacious profit-seeking. These companies bioengineer and later patent the seeds of certain cash crops, like corn and soy, to withstand the heavy use of pesticides and herbicides.(6) Farmers are no longer able to save their seeds and replant them the following season but instead are locked into buying seeds and their corresponding pesticides from the company every year. This is highly profitable for these corporations, but traps farmers in a loop of spiraling debt which eventually leads to loss of their lands–or even of their lives, as in the plague of farmer suicides in India.

Many countries become reliant on very few, or even single crops, like sugar, cocoa, or coffee, to balance their budgets. This not only causes accelerated environmental degradation but also subordinates the lifelines of countries into the chaos of the market. Price fluctuations can make or break economies. Indeed, the economic instability of Ghana which followed the declining price of cocoa in the world market was one of the factors leading to the coup that removed the pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah from power.(7) Price fluctuations can even be used by malicious state actors to destabilize popular leftist leaders through the tanking of exchange rates. Food is a spear of imperialism because those who feed you control you. Basic necessities can be made unaffordable, and thus any “rebel” leader can be brought to heel easily with the threat of mass starvation. This was done several times to rouse opposition to Chavismo just before elections in Venezuela. In this context, it hardly comes as a surprise that one of Thomas Sankara’s primary emphases was on food self-sufficiency, or that the Zapatista movement centers the struggle around corn.(8)

| Combine harvesters crop soybeans in Campo Novo do Parecis Brazil YASUYOSHI CHIBAAFPGetty Images | MR Online

Combine harvesters crop soybeans in Campo Novo do Parecis, Brazil (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images )

The unsustainability of our meat consumption: environmental impact and EROEI

Not all foods are created equally. Some foods take a much greater toll to produce than others. These include two products heavily consumed in western countries: industrial meat and dairy. The high profitability of these sectors in the last century has led to a quadrupling of meat production in the last 60 years. This is not only because of its production structure, which gives it the opportunity to extract a larger amount of surplus labor, meaning higher profits down the line, but also due to the shortening of production cycles via growth hormones and creative engineering. It also has provided a profitable venue for excess cash-crops such as soy for feed.

But this is not simple. Raising and slaughtering approximately 60 billion livestock per year requires food, water, land, and medication. It is by far the most resource-intensive food that we produce.(9) Meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein worldwide while using 83% of all farmland and generating 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emission, mainly in the shape of methane and of nitrous oxide. This is true for even the very lowest-impact meat and dairy products, which still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing. This is because of trophic change: the position an organism occupies in the food web. To produce animal calories requires producing the plant calories that feed them, and many more calories go into an animal than what we get out to consume.

A way to quantify this is the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI), the ratio of energy in to calories out. To reduce energy consumption and mitigate carbon footprints, moving to foods with higher EROEI is essential. By doing this, we will also reduce the quantity of land allocated to food production worldwide. By switching to a sufficient diet without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75%, an area described as the equivalent to the U.S., China, European Union, and Australia combined. The EROEI of livestock meat is so low that the grain used to feed livestock in the U.S. alone could feed about 800 million people. To satisfy the ever-increasing desire for meat, additional land is constantly consigned to the circuit of capital. As a result, the use of land for meat production is the largest contributor to habitat loss and species extinction: it is responsible for over 70% of rainforest clearing and is propelling the current mass extinction of wildlife and reduction in ecosystem diversity. Meat production is also the leading cause of ocean acidification, which creates dead zones where life cannot exist. For example, the largest dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico was caused almost single-handedly by Tyson Foods.

Environmental damage does not affect everyone equally. Meat companies are usually located in poor, rural communities where they can pollute the environment without much fear of repercussion from the locals, a form of environmental racism. But there also are pushbacks everywhere factory farms are being built, especially in North Carolina. During the last year, two separate nuisance lawsuits were won by residents, forcing pork farmers to pay out tens of millions of dollars in damages to the local community. Within North Carolina, pigs not only outnumber humans, they also produce 8-10x the amount of fecal waste. Due to the lax environmental regulations on untreated waste, hog farmers build football-field-sized trenches called “lagoons” to dispose of all the raw waste material. When lagoons become too full for ordinary pumping, excess waste is liquified and pumped through a series of sprinklers and sprayed directly into the air. According to an op-ed published in the NYT: “The bacteria from these lagoons have been known to pollute groundwater and surface water, permeating nearby communities with noxious fumes. These lagoons also breached after Hurricane Florence, spraying hog manure all over the floodwaters and communities nearby. People living near these lagoons are at increased risk of asthma, diarrhea, eye irritation, depression, and other health problems.” A 2016 report conducted by Julia Kravchenko from the Duke University School of Medicine found links between exposure to waste from hog farms and acute blood pressure increase, impaired neurobehavioral and pulmonary function. Her report also discovered carcinogenic effects induced by chemicals from hog farming waste.

Even while knowing the disastrous effect of meat on the environment and especially on climate change, capital is still projecting increases in meat consumption in the near future. In its death drive it is even actively subsidizing these products, and regularly buying the unsold surpluses overproduced by the food industry. In 2016, the U.S. had an excess production of 1.2 billion pounds of cheese, with no market demand to dispense with it. This amount is increasing, due to a recent drop in milk consumption and the importation tariffs on U.S. goods imposed by Trump’s administration. Instead of addressing this overproduction by downsizing operations, creative efforts by the state have been made to reprocess and squeeze as much of these products as possible into the food on a supermarket shelf. The USDA, in partnership with the industry-created Dairy Management Inc., a corporation funded by federally-mandated checkoff fees on dairy products, spends $140M million dollars every single year to increase dairy consumption. Dairy Management has injected increasing amounts of cheese into the U.S. diet; for example, in 2018, Pizza Hut was pressured to add extra cheese in their products, after Dairy Management convinced them that consumers wanted more pizza.

Labor in the meat industry

Meat companies do not just harm the environment but are also home to the worst abuses of labor. This has been documented for over 100 years, starting with Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. With extremely tame regulatory agencies, it is not a surprise that labor conditions are abysmal in the food industry, because all capitalist industries will maximize the profit they make from their workers to the greatest extent they can get away with. The industry preys on immigrants and prisoners, as their labor is the easiest to exploit. Meat companies intentionally build their factory farm facilities in rural, low-income areas, generally populated by a desperate, non-white reserve army of labor which will be willing to work for less under worse conditions. Bathroom breaks prevent the processing line from moving quickly, so workers wear diapers to work and are forced to urinate and defecate on themselves. COVID-19 outbreaks in meat factories have been among the worst because meat plants refused to slow down or take safety standards seriously. Accidents are commonplace. Just in the U.S., there are two reported amputations every single week. U.S. meat industry workers are three times more likely to suffer serious injury than the average American worker, that factor increasing to seven times more likely with repetitive strain injuries for pork and beef workers. These numbers are probably underestimated, due to the prevalence of undocumented workers who are afraid of retribution if they report their injuries.

| Chicago Slaughterhouse 1906 | MR Online

Chicago Slaughterhouse, 1906

The injuries extend beyond just physical ones. Slaughterhouse work is extremely traumatic and has been linked to a variety of disorders, including PTSD and the lesser-known PITS (perpetration-induced traumatic stress). It has also been connected to an increase in crime rates, including higher incidents of domestic abuse, as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Virgil Butler, an ex-Tyson poultry plant worker turned environmental activist, was quoted saying

The sheer amount of killing and blood can really get to you after a while. Especially if you can’t just shut down all emotion and turn into a robot zombie of death. You feel like part of a big death machine and pretty much treated that way as well. Sometimes weird thoughts will enter your head. It’s just you and the dying chickens. The surreal feelings grow into such a horror of the barbaric nature of your behaviour. You are murdering helpless birds by the thousands (75,000 to 90,000 a night). You are a killer.(10)

Butler further detailed the isolation he and his colleagues faced, saying,

You feel isolated from society, not a part of it. Alone. You know you are different from most people. They don’t have visions of horrible death in their heads. They have not seen what you have seen. And they don’t want to. They don’t even want to hear about it.

Forming and joining unions has the potential to increase the pay, safety standards, and working conditions within this industry, but that is precisely why these agribusiness giants fight so hard against the right of the workers to freely associate. A report by the Human Rights Watch, titled Unfair Advantage, goes into great detail describing the lengths companies like Tyson, Perdue, and Smithfield go to crush any workplace organizing that may arise, going as far as threatening workers with firing and deportation, spying, harassment, intimidation and outright shutting down facilities where workers attempt to unionize. In the 1970’s Perdue Farms purchased several unionized poultry plants in the Delmarva Peninsula, immediately shut them down and fired all the union workers only to reopen the plants as non-union facilities. One of the more horrifying examples of threats and intimidation comes from a 1995 case in which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found Perdue guilty of threats, intimidation, and confiscating materials related to organizing after workers reported what they described as a “KKK-style cross burning” at the plant with the cross bearing a union t-shirt. This kind of harassment and intimidation is commonplace within the animal agriculture industry.

Many of these intimidation tactics tend to be aimed at immigrant and undocumented workers. In 2001 Nebraska Beef workers filed for an election with the NLRB to seek representation with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). In the weeks prior to the vote, workers described a number of intimidation tactics used by the company to scare them out of voting to unionize such as targeting and calling in undocumented workers individually telling them that a ‘yes’ vote would get them deported and that if they opposed the unionizing efforts they would receive a 25 cent per hour raise. They also lied to the workers, telling them that if they were to unionize the union would not allow them to travel to Mexico for important events. Ultimately these intimidation tactics succeeded and the effort to unionize was defeated. Upon review by the NLRB, management was ruled guilty of multiple violations of workers’ rights in connection with the election.

There are dozens of examples like the ones previously mentioned, and these kinds of illegal tactics used to destroy unionizing efforts have led to an astonishingly low level of unionization within the agriculture industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 union members made up just 2.1 percent of all private-sector agriculture workers. Even minor resistance is severely punished: the largest ICE raid in U.S. history was conducted at a chicken processing plant, shortly after the women of the plant won a sexual harassment lawsuit for $3.75M. It remains to be seen what organizing happens in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with meat workers’ lives on the line.

The problems of food distribution: Food deserts and Dietary racism

As mentioned previously, the choice we have in a supermarket seems limitless but actually is not, and this impacts heavily what we consume. Structural racism comes into play as the adverse effects of certain food both disproportionately affect brown and Black communities and might constitute the majority of the products available in supermarkets close to them. The structural racism of “food deserts” (places where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited or absent) has reached mainstream discourse. But other problems with food distribution are not so well discussed. For example, take dairy, the largest source of saturated fat in the standard U.S. diet. Dairy has been linked to numerous food-related illnesses. People of Western European descent better digest lactose than the vast majority of POC, who tend to have dairy allergies. But poor people cannot simply choose to buy other foods. With healthier alternatives pushed out of the market, animal products, processed grains, and sugars are the only thing available as they are highly subsidized and push externalities onto the taxpayer. Despite their unhealthiness, they are the only available nutrition poor families can buy due to their artificially cheap prices.

It is estimated that one in every eight people in the U.S. is “food insecure”, a euphemism for going hungry. The rate becomes even higher when looking at children in the U.S.: one in every six is “food insecure”. Many families rely on charitable support, welfare, and school lunch programs to feed themselves and their families, and millions of children rely on notoriously unhealthy, highly processed school lunches. It hardly comes as a surprise that the number of children in the U.S. facing obesity and food-related illness has spiked, especially among low-income kids. Children as young as ten years show signs of hardened arteries, a precursor to heart disease. According to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association,

Socioeconomic position as early as age 2-3 years was linked to thickness in carotid artery measurements at age 11-12.

Capitalism sets up the poor and working-class for an artificially shortened lifetime of health problems and medical debt with our current food culture. The Standard American Diet, a diet consistent with very little whole plant-based foods and excessive processed meat, cheese, refined grains, and sugars has been pushed on us by capitalism. Low-income and food- insecure individuals people are far more likely to develop chronic diseases, with scientific journals reporting that “A number of studies have reported cross-sectional associations between food insecurity and self-reported chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and general health status.” This has helped lead to what is known as the “death gap”: wealthier Americans live on average 10-15 years longer than low-income Americans. This becomes even starker when looking at communities of color, with African Americans 1.5 times more likely than whites to be obese, twice as likely to suffer heart disease and strokes, and twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. These numbers are very similar for Latine communities as well. Furthermore, obesity, or “fatness”, is recast as a marker of personalized failure and shunned in popular culture. By turning the responsibility for this systemic failure into a personal one, this further protects the system, while degrading the self-esteem and physical health of millions of people, especially of color.(11) This means that capitalism not only alienates us from food to the detriment of our health, it also generates an industry of dietary products to supplant this alienation. This industry ranges from ‘miraculous’ food to professional psychological advice, which very often do not work because the root cause is never addressed: the fact that our food is unhealthy, addictive, and unequally distributed.

Food-related illness is estimated to cost nearly $25 billion per year and is set to increase to $50 billion per year by 2050. This helps to generate massive profits for pharmaceutical companies, who have no incentive to push for preventive medicine, including the distribution of healthy foods. An even larger conflict of interest between capitalist profits and people’s health is created by the massive use of antibiotics to keep livestock healthy (around 70-80% of the antibiotics used in the United States are used in animal agriculture).(12) The entire population is at risk of developing dangerous antibiotic-resistant infections, which is quickly becoming an issue. At least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics every single year in the U.S., and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Furthermore, the close proximity of animals is a breeding ground for viral infections. The Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus of 2012 can be directly linked to an industrializing camel sector, as can the avian flu outbreaks of 2005. This is not to mention the increasing commercialization of wild species and forced urbanization of formerly rural populations, to which the SARS and the COVID-19 outbreaks are related.


As socialists, we must center food production and consumption in our programs. Food sovereignty is an urgent step for a budding socialist project. The recent COVID-19 crisis has highlighted that many things are superfluous, but we simply cannot live without food. Commercial drivers and transportation workers are deemed essential, as the supply chains must be kept going so that society survives. For now, the grocery stores remain stocked. But consistently in history, the shock of sudden changes led to famines. As food production networks are extended and globalized, COVID-19 has the potential to generate food insecurity.

On a more local scale, many groups are attracted to food distribution at first, and later to the establishment of community gardens. In an age of insecurity, the importance of food in political programs is rising. People do not forget who fed them. A promising horizon is Cuba’s turn: despite the suffering of the special period after the USSR’s collapse, Cuba used the chance to fully redesign their agriculture to become the only country in the world with sustainable cultivation.(13)

Food sovereignty is essential, but it cannot come from just any food.(14) Socialists must center healthy and sustainable food production. As food is progressively decommodified, we will see a sharp decline in the production of highly processed foods, as the incentive to process food to extract surplus value will be greatly reduced under socialism. Socialists must seriously consider that decommodification of meat is a necessary plank of a program, both due to environmental and health issues. We must also recognize how deeply-embedded images of “sexism” and “the hunt” are used when selling us meat.(15) Under more rational planning, meat production will have to see major downsizing to cast fewer externalities onto taxpayers, and perverse incentives will be of the question. Global farmland could be freed or converted into natural spaces, and the use of harmful pesticides or antibiotics must be heavily slashed as the economy is run for the benefit of all.

An internationalist platform must include the immediate abolition of food patents, as well as recognition and empowerment of indigenous communities. Indeed, the pre-Columbian populations were the world’s greatest agricultural engineers. But now the situation is grim: Mexico has become the second-largest importer of corn after the implementation of NAFTA, and has seen the infiltration of patented crop varieties, even when the indigenous communities there are responsible for domesticating and developing corn. The Zapatista resistance through corn seed exchange, is an example of the shapes resistance to monoculture patented agriculture can take.

| Depiction of Chiampas a highly productive form of aquaculture practiced in the pre Columbian Americas | MR Online

Depiction of Chiampas, a highly productive form of aquaculture practiced in the pre-Columbian Americas.

With imperialist profit flows out of the equation, countries in the Global South would not be forced to mass-produce cash crops for exportation. Their agriculture could return to sustainable operations, and their forests could be grown back. A counter-example to ecosystem destruction is again provided by Cuba, which was 90% forest when Columbus arrived, reduced to 10% before the Revolution, and is now up to 30%.

In the present, organized labor can demand higher safety standards, which would come with a reduction of the use of monocultures, pesticides and herbicides. Many success stories in organizing farmworkers exist, most notably the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez. The meat industry is also ripe for organizing and is not beholden to seasonality.

Socialists recognize housing and healthcare as a human right, but it is time we start demanding healthy food as a human right as well. A healthy and well balanced, highly nutritious, and varied diet will not only make our people healthier and save resources and lives further down the line, but will also improve our relationship with the environment and the rest of the world. Food is a working-class issue, and a system that perpetuates hunger while overproducing food at the expense of workers and the environment must be done away with at once, which is why we as socialists have an obligation to stand up and fight for food justice for all.


  1. The link between the development of Capitalism and unsustainable resource extraction is detailed in J. W. Moore’s Capitalocene Part I essay.
  2. For a history of this theorization, see Marx’s Ecology by John Bellamy Foster.
  3. J. B. Foster, B. Clark, R. York. The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth.
  4. Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Market.
  5. Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts
  6. Transnational companies then enforce these patents through the law system, see for example PepsiCo/Lays suing Pakistani farmers for planting patented potatoes. www.businessinsider.com
  7. Basil Davidson, Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah
  8. M. Brandt, Zapatista Corn: A case study in biocultural innovation
  9. Godfray et al., Meat consumption, health, and the environment, Science (2018) present the most comprehensive study on the environmental effect of meat consumption
  10. Quoted from his personal blog, cyberactivist.blogspot.com
  11. A more insulting example is the Surgeon General advising “Americans, especially of color” to avoid alcohol during the coronavirus outbreak. www.washingtonexaminer.com
  12. See both Rob Wallace, Big Farms make Big Flu.  Mike Davis, The Monster at Our Door
  13. Levins (2005), How Cuba is going Ecological. See also the documentary Agroecologia en Cuba (2017) on food sovereignty: www.youtube.com
  14. Robert Biel, Sustainable Food Systems
  15. Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat
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