Food bank crisis in Europe

As our rulers double down on their war against Russia, workers across the EU are suffering rising hunger and fuel poverty.

Lalkar writers

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A food bank queue in Milan over Christmas. Over a fifth of the EU’s population is presently at risk of poverty or social exclusion, and that number is expected to rise further as sanctions and inflation continue to bite.

Lalkar writers

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To anyone who has been following the conflict in Ukraine from the 2014 coup through to the callous and wanton butchery of Donbass citizens of all ages, to Russia’s special military operation aimed at saving the remaining lives of the Donbass peoples, it has been clear that every move of Volodymyr Zelensky and the other fascist leaders that preceded him was decided and dictated by US imperialism and was carried out in their interests.

As so often before, we are drawn once again to Chairman Mao Zedong‘s famous description of the stupidity and eventual failure of imperialist aggression: “Imperialism lifts a rock only to drop it on its own feet!”

This succinct truism perfectly describes the financially suicidal use of anti-Russia sanctions by European countries. Countries across the continent are shunning cheap and plentiful gas and oil supplies when they need them most, smashing their own economies with measures that are having little effect on Russia.

At the same time they are pouring money and weapons into Nato‘s war on Russia through their Ukrainian proxy in the misguided hope that somehow, if they can prolong the misery for long enough, Russia will be wrecked, or someone (anyone!) will overthrow President Vladimir Putin so that the USA can get back to its heyday of grabbing the wealth of the former USSR.

But this is not going to happen. Russia (like China) has more reasons than most to be against war, but its people also remember what happens when you don’t stand up to fascism and imperialist brigandage. 

When the Russian oligarchs in the imperialist-dominated countries were sequestrated and turned into paupers overnight, the imperialists thought they were getting easy wealth, but these oligarchs weren’t the natural supporters of President Putin and Russia, just the opposite, and the stupid imperialists took away any power that these could-have-been traitors to Russia had.

Meanwhile, President Putin has his highest-ever ratings in Russia and the country has become firmly locked into what it clearly sees as a sacred duty. When all the western companies withdrew from Russia, hoping to see it collapse without their hands on its financial throat, they merely made way for (loyal) Russian enterprises to take over and fill in the gaps created.

Imperialism has assisted Russia in becoming stronger in its resolve to resist, and its resolve to strengthen trade and other links with non-imperialist countries around the world.

Meanwhile, in the USA, the oil barons are hoping to replace the Russian fuel that is missing from Europe by shipping tanker load after tanker load of liquid natural gas (LNG) across the Atlantic Ocean – or straight from Syria, where they are still purloining the country’s oil in massive quantities.

US weapons companies are expecting fabulous profits from all of Europe now that so many countries have donated large proportions of their own arsenals to the Nato-Ukronazi war effort.

All of which will help leave European national coffers, Britain’s included, destitute as a result of the much higher prices demanded by US companies, while it is also unlikely that the USA can supply enough fuel or weapons to satisfy demand. So, Europe suffers to protect US hegemony, but the closer Europe comes to disaster, the more it will drag its US master under the waves with it.

The analogy with the lifter of that infamous rock is becoming daily more obvious to more people!

Remember when the western press used to gleefully inundate us with stories of Soviet bread-queues (not starvation, mind you, but just queues)? Now the working people of Europe are awash with food banks.

In Britain, there are very few towns that don’t have at least one food bank, and they exist in multiples in every city.

In Germany, surging food and fuel prices mean millions more people are struggling to make ends meet, forcing many of the country’s food banks to shut their doors to thousands of new applicants. Over a third of Germany’s 962 food banks have stopped taking new applicants beyond the two million they were already helping, meaning some people having little or no answer to starving.

Many German food banks have been forces to take this drastic step for the first time, after demand rose more than 50 percent this year for access to the fruit, vegetables, bread and other essentials they collect from shops and donors. One food bank chair in Friedberg, whose charity provides a basket of supplies every two weeks to 700 families, explained: “We have a total of 120 baskets to give; there is only so much our volunteers can do.”

Meanwhile, over a quarter of the German population has now entered ‘fuel poverty’ – defined as spending more than 10 percent of income on energy – up from 14.5 percent last year.

More than a fifth of the European Union’s people were already unable to heat their homes sufficiently last year, before the latest price surge, according to the latest data from EU statistics agency Eurostat.

Charities from Spain to Latvia have reported 20 to 30 percent higher demand than last year and expect a further increase this winter. Meanwhile in Bulgaria, one of the poorest countries in the EU, there was a three-quarters jump between September and October in people using the national food bank.

Right across Europe, milk prices have soared 43 percent in the past year, while pork costs 55 percent more and Japonica rice has risen by 68 percent. In central and eastern Europe, the cost of staples has increased even more sharply. In Hungary, bread prices have risen by 80 percent over the past year. 

In the Netherlands, food banks have responded to the surge in inflation by increasing the limit on disposable income people can have to qualify as members to €300 per month, but are still expecting a 20 percent rise in demand this winter.

Europe is one of the richest regions in the world, yet over 96 million people in the EU (roughly 22 percent of the bloc’s total population) are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. For some households, even affording nutritious food can be a challenge, which can have serious health and social consequences.

This is the reality of EU imperialism, which in turn is tied to and subservient to US imperialism. Only by standing up against their own leaders, against US imperialism, and against the media lies that paint Ukraine and the puppet Zelensky as the injured party and Russia as an ‘imperialist‘ bully, can workers in Europe hope to find a way out of this devastating downward spiral.