Egyptians protest rising food prices earlier this year in Cairo. The government is being blamed for bread shortages in the country.(KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptians protest rising food prices earlier this year in Cairo. The government is being blamed for bread shortages in the country.

Let Them Eat Cake

April 22, 2008  •  From
Famine and revolution go hand in hand.

In Paris they wanted blood. In the mid-afternoon, July 14, 1789, the mob marched on the Bastille. By the end of the day the revolutionaries had their first major victory. France was on the road toward a bloody revolution. A few years later, Napoleon Bonaparte strode across the continent of Europe.

The mob in Petrograd was also in a violent mood. What started out as a bread riot brought about the death of an entire royal family. The mighty Russian empire crumbled into dust and the Soviet Union rose from its ruins.

Two of the most momentous revolutions in history took place because of food prices.

Food was not the only cause, or even the root cause, of the revolutions—but it was the trigger. Hunger on its own does not cause a people to overthrow their rulers. But it does tend to convince people who are already dissatisfied with their lives that something must be done, and it must be done now.

The two years before the French Revolution saw two bad harvests. In the year before the revolution, bread prices rose by 88 percent. High taxes meant the poor could not afford to eat. In Russia, food shortages due to World War i led to strikes, protests and mobs marching through the streets shouting “We want bread” in 1917.

Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin, who was an adviser to the Russian government after the bread riots, believed “that famine is essential to any revolution, and that it is to be welcomed because it drives the hungry to cooperate with the revolutionaries,” according to the New York Times.

The fact that famine can lead to revolution is well known to militant socialists. The World Socialist Web Site gleefully proclaims that a food crisis “is threatening to unleash a revolution of the hungry that could topple governments across large parts of the world.”

Now the Trumpet is not predicting a global sweep toward communism as famine forces comrades around the world to unite. No—but a global food crisis could cause, and in fact already is causing, political instability around the world.

Today, food prices have risen around 40 percent in less than a year worldwide. Haiti has made headlines with food riots there leading to the ousting of Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis.

Haiti is not alone. Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ivory Coast, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Yemen and Ethiopia, to name a few, have all had food protests and demonstrations.

One of the most significant countries to experience instability is Egypt. Earlier this month, thousands of protestors “torched buildings, looted shops and hurled bricks at police,” according to the Associated Press. Nearly 100 were arrested and a 15-year-old boy was killed. The protesters tore down a billboard of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose popularity may well have sunk to an all-time low.

While the government is hated and being blamed for the bread shortages, the radical Muslim Brotherhood is on the streets handing out food. Could a regime change be on the horizon?

In his booklet The King of the South, first published in 1996, Gerald Flurry forecasts a “far-reaching change in Egyptian politics,” and that Egypt will be allied with the king of the south, or Iran. Bible prophecy indicates Egypt will turn to radical Islam. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood may bring this about.

Could food riots help bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power? They’ve certainly led to revolutions in the past. Even if they don’t, high food prices won’t help Mubarak’s government maintain order.

Egypt may not be alone. Food shortages could tip people in other nations to the point of rebellion. The examples of Russia and France show that when people start to riot over food, it is often extreme governments that get into power.