1980s >> 1988 >> no-1008-august-1988

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Friday night. The weekend starts here — at the local supermarket. The pay-packet collected earlier in the day — your ration of poverty — is already much thinner. You’ve paid the rent, paid the gas bill, paid the milkman. What have you got left? Enough to buy the necessities that enable you to go to work next week to earn enough to pay the rent . . . You say that your problem is that you’re not paid enough. Paid weakly, weekly. Paid on Friday, spent on Monday. But the real problem is capitalism, not the amount in your wage-packet or on your salary cheque.

As a member of the majority propertyless class you are forced to sell the only asset you have, your labour-power, in order to live; its price will generally be the minimum necessary for you to maintain yourself in a productive condition and enable you to raise the next generation of workers.

Which brings us back to supermarkets. Food is big business. In Britain the market is worth thirty-two thousand million pounds a year, and over fifty per cent is controlled by the big five supermarkets: Sainsbury, Tesco. Dee, Argyll and Asda. Four members of the Sainsbury family appear in the top 200 UK millionaire shareholders. Sir Leslie Porter of Tesco can only manage to be seventy-first. Sympathy for such a poor member of the capitalist class should stir us all to rush to Tesco’s and buy loads of baked beans.

If you shop at Sainsbury’s, a weekly bill of fifty pounds over 384,615 years would be equivalent to the thousand million pound fortune that Sir John Sainsbury enjoys. You don’t make that kind of bread by selling a few loaves and fishes — such wealth is no miracle but simply his share of the surplus value produced by us and expropriated by his class.

Waiting in the invariable queue at the checkout, I ponder how long it will be before my fellow shoppers realise what an insane society they are living in. A rational one would produce food solely to meet need, rather than for profit. Don’t buy capitalism. Check out free access.

Dave Coggan