According to the latest statistics put forward by the united $tates department of agriculture, the average amerikan as of 2015 spends only about 6.4% of their annual income on food. This is a remarkable statistic which, when put in comparison to the averages of other countries, places the united $tates as having the lowest average expenditures on food by percentage. This frees up an immense amount of amerikan’s budget to be paid on housing and consumer products. Further, it dents the arguments made by first-worldists which suggest that difference in living standards is primarily a product of a difference in “value structures” or does not account for the subsequent rise in prices that occurs after a rise in wages. These figures, supplied also by the World Bank, show us that it is not just the wages of amerikans which are generally higher, but also the amount of commodities which they are able to purchase with those higher wages that is also miles above the exploited masses in the Third World.
This is further dealt with by Zak Cope in his book “Divided World Divided Class” in the second section dealing with global value transfer. The mistake is often made by academics and the first-worldist left, that when dealing with the price differentials between the First and Third World, they judge it by the relative prices of goods rather than on the power of the wages they receive and their access to the same commodities. They often see that commodities and living costs decrease with their wages. However they see neither the colossal difference in rates of hunger and homelessness between the global north and south, nor do they see the actual relationship between wages, access, and costs of living in the form of purchasing power, which Cope explains:
[A]ccording to calculations based on data compiled by the Union Bank of Switzerland, OECD wages have an average 3.4 times more purchasing power than non-OECD wages. Thus whilst it takes the average worker in the non-OECD countries 44.3 minutes of work to earn the money to purchase ikg of bread, it takes 11.7 minutes of work for her OECD counterpart to do the same, a factoral difference of 3.7. Thus, the cost of living in the Third World is in fact high when one takes into account (1) prices that are not tied to the price of local labour-power (petrol, electrical appliances, air travel); and (2) wages, which affect the ability to take advantage of “low” prices and, indeed, high ones.
Cope’s point is important, because it underlines a reality which is often missed when analyzing the relationship between living costs and wages in the Third World, and leads us to believing that the conditions of capitalism as it exists in the imperialists countries function more or less on the same plane as they do everywhere else. However, what Cope and the figures recorded by the Department of Agriculture demonstrate is that these wage/cost differentials exist, but do not reflect the simplistic worldview that is circulated by the first-worldist left. Principally, that in describing food expenditure as a percentage of annual income, it cuts through other factors to reveal the cost of reproduction of workers quite well.
Additionally, Washington State University, in their magazine, published dual figures which dealt with the annual food expenditure as a percent of annual household income, as well as a side-by-side analysis of child malnutrition in countries as part of an additional survey. This showed that amerikans, in addition to spending the least in the world on food annually, suffered less than 5% child malnutrition as defined by the World Health Organization, where the figures were taken from. More interestingly, what they found was that the countries paying the most annually for food, were also the greatest sufferers of child malnutrition, with countries like Nigeria and Pakistan, approaching half their annual household income going to food, topped off the malnutrition survey with “More than 40%” child malnutrition rates.
As Communists and Anti-Imperialists, these figures should tell us something much different than it does the eugenic World Bank liberals, who justify programs of depopulation on the basis of “saving hungry children” in the Third World. We should not run from these figures either, which demonstrate a startling dichotomy in the world economy wherein the imperialist countries seem to have offset the extreme conditions of the oppressed nations, namely by exploiting those nations. These illusions of “one world” must be temporarily shelved, because there needs to be a serious analysis of the relationship between the First and Third Worlds in relation to one another, and especially between the “working class” of the rich countries in relation to the global proletariat and oppressed nations. These are not useless jeopardy-question answers, they do have a proactive impact on our politics and our political projects here in the First World.
What we should gather is that if there exists a flow of global value which supports the genocidal (un)civil societies of the First World, then we must obstruct it. Certainly evidence for this has been compiled by the pages and books throughout the content of our work at Anti-Imperialism. We must break apart the empire, and shelf the idea of “one world” as proposed by the neoliberals and the first-worldist left, so that we can begin to realize a new world. To do this we really must destroy all illusions of sameness in the world economy. Its coherence is located entirely basic economic relationships that syphon wealth from Third to First, carried out through dynamic structures which we must undermine and by malignant middle classes which we must struggle against. What information such as this does, is reinforce the notion that the struggle against imperialism must be fought on a global stage, and we must anchor all political activity in the Third World as a potential political actor for revolution.
Realizations such as these should not dissuade us from revolution, on the contrary it should reinforce the necessary tasks of those attempting to build revolution.
- “Food Expenditures,” United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Date of Access 14/06/2017. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx
- Cope, Zak Divided World, Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism (Kersplebedeb, 2012), p. 163
- “Billions Served,” Washington State Magazine, Date of Access 14/06/2017. http://wsm.wsu.edu/researcher/WSMaug11_billions.pdf