A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, well not the forum but a supermarket store, owned by German capitalists. Sunday morning at ten and the place was busier than a Japanese commuter subway station during rush-hour.

This was an unfamiliar store. In familiar ones a yellow sticker on an item signifies that the commodity is near to, or almost past, its sell-by date, so a sharp money-saving eye is always on the lookout for such. Glimpsing such coloured things, they were not as they first appeared. Stickers on items in the various meats section turned out to be security tags. These were then found on many other different goods across the various aisles.

Socialists are generally law-abiding and tend to react as anyone would when their probity is called into question. After reciting the whole of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner the checkout was finally arrived at. Here something unexpected occurred. With the meagre commodities placed upon the conveyor belt the wage slave operating the till asked if the shopping bags could be checked to make sure that they were empty.

Non-plussedness caused temporary speechlessness. Light bulb time. They think there might be commodities in bags that had been appropriated without the gelt made toward the profits of the German capitalists. There’s a first time for everything and this was the first time this writer has ever been confronted with such a request.

Finally, the response was articulated. Yes, one did mind. Till person’s training kicked in as they began the spiel about how such intrusion was company policy and how much shoplifting cost the store annually. This programming of the wage slaves in such occupations means that refusals are a regular occurrence and some behavioural psychologists have worked out that an appeal of this nature would overcome any objections the customer might have. Think of the poor capitalist!

At this point words passionately overflowed regarding the iniquities of capitalism. This did not go down well. Totally misunderstanding at whom the diatribe was aimed the till person responded with ‘if you’re abusive I won’t serve you’!

The thought arose, it’s exploitative capitalism that abuses the vast majority in many different ways.

Some deluded individuals, when confronted with a situation which is an abuse of civil liberties, respond with, ‘I don’t mind, I’ve nothing to hide and neither should anyone mind if they haven’t done anything wrong’. This is an erroneous view in a surveillance society. An under-the-counter button was now being jabbed furiously.

Enter stage left the in-house security. The attitude of this member of the working class couldn’t have been more different. Unlike the cashier he behaved in a perfectly pleasant, reasonable manner. This offered an opportunity to explain the objections to having one’s bag searched.

If this tale was being retold on some confessional social media sites it would end with everyone queuing and listening, then finally bursting into cheering and applause. Followed no doubt by a mass rendition of the Internationale. One has to know when to cut one’s losses.

One glance at the faces of those in the queue behind was sufficient to show that it was time to graciously concede. Explaining that one did not want to keep anyone waiting any longer I said look into the bags if you want to. Just as graciously the security guard indicated that that would not be necessary. The bags were not examined. ‘Security’ was someone the narrator would have liked to have a long conversation with about socialism. Commodities run through till, paid for, exit narrator with mental note never to visit that particular supermarket again.

Socialists are generally very non-prejudiced men and women. Apart from in one case. Socialists are very prejudiced when it comes to capitalism. There are, of course, many people who dislike capitalism, but not all of those, even the ones who term themselves socialists, want to see its replacement by a class-free, wage-free, money-free, leader-free, nation-free society.

There’s none so blind as those who will not see. Knowing that a socialist society would provide free access to quality goods and services if only a majority of the working class understood and wanted it, makes transactions designed to further enrich capitalists hard to bear.

The reasons for shoplifting are varied: the economic necessity of doing so because particular commodities necessary for life are unaffordable or in order to profit by selling on the commodities more cheaply than are available in store. A previous shoplifting article in the Life and Times column of the Socialist Standard in October, points out that some may shoplift as an act of ‘disobedience to the authority of the private property system’. However, as that article explains, ‘it is not a particularly positive or constructive way to help do away with that system’.

Reflection upon that event by the narrator was one of sadness that the other customers and staff, in that location, were unaware that angst-ridden capitalism could be, as Life and Times correctly has it, replaced with a system ‘in which the stores of the world can be made freely available to them – and to everyone’.


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