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Proletarian issue 58 (February 2014)
Obesity as a symptom of malnourishment
As capitalism inexorably makes the poor poorer it also often makes them fatter.
One in three adults across the planet are now overweight or obese according to a newly published report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), with ‘high-income’ countries’ threshold almost doubling whilst the developing world has seen “both the fastest acceleration in over-consumption and the continuing greatest toll of under-consumption. (‘Future diets, implications for agriculture and food prices’, January 2014)

The statistical evidence presented in the latest report provides further evidence that the development of capitalism, both in Britain and throughout the world, means only the deepening of its inherent contradictions and prolonged suffering for the majority of humanity.

However, to the detriment of the countless millions around the world who suffer the brutal conditions forced upon them by capitalism, the report does its all to serve its pay-masters by concealing the contradictions of a decaying system and absolving the ruling class of all responsibility for its exploitation and oppression.

Obesity and malnutrition are both direct consequences of the poor living standards, mass unemployment, poverty and famine that the masses of society are forced to endure – as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

Poverty = obesity

Although reporting specifically on countries other than Britain, the report in fact highlighted trends common to all capitalist countries.

The latest data on the rise of global obesity reaffirm the conclusions of our article, ‘Obesity and malnutrition on the rise as poverty increases’. It is the moribund capitalist system and its drive for maximum profits that bears responsibility for the extensive physical and mental degradation of workers all over the world. (Proletarian, August 2013)

Since 1980, the reported global overweightness within high-income countries saw an increase of 70 percent. For Britain, the same has applied, with overweightness now standing at over a third and obesity at over a quarter of the population.

Back in 2004, a government report on obesity stated that “obesity has grown by almost 400 percent in the last 25 years. Of course, those 25 years consisted of bringing the National Union of Mineworkers and the British working class to its knees through bitter struggle, costing lives as well as livelihoods.

Since the capitalists emerged triumphant from that pivotal struggle, both Tory and Labour governments have continued to suffocate the working class on their behalf, depriving the millions for the enrichment of the hundreds. It is as a result of these attacks on social provision and living standards that health in Britain (as elsewhere) has taken a turn for the worst.

No future for Britain’s tomorrow

Children born in the poorest parts of Britain are getting a head start on the suffering that is to be their lot under capitalism. Consequently, both over and under-consumption are leading to an increased risk of improper physical or mental development – in some cases permanently handicapping people before their life has truly begun.

The NHS National Child Measurement Programme from 2006-2012 stated: “Child obesity prevalence shows a close association with socio-economic deprivation.”Not close enough! The same report stated that obesity prevalence among children in the poorest 10 percent was double that of the richest 10 percent!

Developing the contradictions

The claims of the ODI that “rising incomes”, “market shifts” and the “forces of globalisation” are responsible for the significant increase in obesity in the developing world are totally disproved by the factual evidence.

Incomes are only rising for big business and bankers whilst conditions for the poor masses remain atrocious. For those who do earn, their wages are often barely enough to survive on. Where the poor are getting fat is in countries where imperialist big business has taken over the market providing food to the poor and is supplying to them with cheap, low-quality food laced with sugar and fat in place of their traditional meagre fare.

The choice that is faced by the masses of the developing world is also reflected among Britain’s poorest today. It is a choice between obesity and undernourishment, or starvation and death. People are forced to go to the most extreme lengths to put food on their tables, all whilst the managing directors and their minions sip fancy cocktails and feast on the most luxurious banquets (alternating with expensive diet plans and exercise regimes if they too are to avoid a quite different kind of obesity).

The ‘market shift’ is nothing more than capitalism’s end of this bargain – the production of even cheaper products by means of forcing labourers to work longer hours for less money.

As for the ‘forces of globalisation’ ... the forces of imperialism would have been a better description. The quest for absolute domination by the imperialists leads only to the deepening of its contradictions, the lowering of social conditions and the further devastating loss of lives and of quality of life among those who survive.

Implementing the necessary change

Under capitalism, we can expect no change in the way humanity’s condition is regressing owing to poverty. The class system is the essence of capitalism – and with every few millionaires come many millions of workers and peasants.

Only by smashing the class system and establishing a revolutionary workers’ state under the banner of Marxism Leninism can we achieve the equality of opportunity that is the foundation for battling and eliminating poverty and all the conditions it gives rise to.

By implementing the building of socialism as the Bolsheviks did – by establishing common ownership of agriculture and industry and providing genuinely free health care for all people – we can overturn the nightmare that is presently offered as our only option.
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