Thursday, 19 April 2012

Supermarket dinosaurs deserve to die

Tesco is in trouble. For the first time in many years sales at the supermarket behemoth are declining, and although I've been carrying out a one-man boycott of Tesco's for several years, unfortunately I can't claim the credit for this. When I say boycott, what I mean is that I never do my main weekly shop in Tesco. Sometimes I have had to buy something in a Tesco Express, partly because of expediency, but also because Tesco has now become so ubiquitous that it is hard to find an alternative store in many neighborhoods and city centres.

Why did I decide to boycott Tesco? There are two main reasons; Firstly, it is just way too big. Any company which takes £1 out of every £7 spent in the UK has to be a bad thing for the UK economy. This is monopoly capitalism at its worst, and much of the money made by Tesco is inevitably going to go out of the UK into the hands of foreign shareholders, but more of that later; The second reason is that I found Tesco poor value for money, and I didn't like the quality of the food much either.
Tesco, monopoly-capital Behemoth

It seems that I'm not the only one. Lots of other people have similar problems with Tesco. In fact, I'm sure that Tesco could learn a lot about why people don't like it by reading this article. Here is just one comment:
"The brand has been tainted by greed and cynical and exploitative practices. That means that no one has any feeling of affection or loyalty that could see it through a sticky patch. I actively avoid Tesco's and, like many others, would be pleased to see them cut down to size. So, I'm really not sure where they go from here as I can't imagine anything that they could do which would make me love them".
..... which I like because it took the words right out of my mouth. The problem with Tesco is that they epitomise all that is wrong with the over-mighty corporations which have arisen as a result of monopoly capitalism. We are told that these corporations are good for the economy because they are 'efficient' but this  so-called 'efficiency' means market domination (30% for Tesco), squeezing that market at both ends by shafting the supplier and customer, exploiting low paid workers to maximise profits, damaging the environment with megastores, and contributing to the devastation of local high streets by reducing diversity and putting small stores out of business.

This is what happens with monopoly capitalism, across the board not just in the food retail sector. When a few corporations dominate a mature market they don't compete on price anymore - though that's what they want you to believe - they focus on slashing costs and using advertising to maximise their profits, and this is at the expense of employees, customers and the environment. Corporations want you to believe the customer is king but to quote Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster:
"Under a mature monopoly-capitalist system, people serve the economy and not vice versa. The much ballyhooed "consumer sovereignty" is transformed, as John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out, into "producer sovereignty".
This is from their excellent book - 'What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know about Capitalism' - which explains how monopoly capitalism works, and a book I would recommend everyone to read.

Of course its not just Tesco which is the problem, its all of the giant monopoly capitalist corporations which are devouring our planet in their insatiable drive for capital accumulation. But in the UK Tesco embodies this destructive monopoly more than any other corporation, and many people are conscious of this, despite all the advertising and hype. Maybe Tesco will be able to turn it around. But that would be a pity because what we need is thriving local businesses selling locally grown good quality food, not corporate giants devouring the environment and our high streets. I won't be shopping there ever again, if I can help it. The best thing for Tesco would be for it to be broken up into local co-operatives that really served the communities they are based in.

Twenty first century corporate capitalism is about creating monopoly, about endless growth and capital accumulation, not efficiency or building a socially useful economy, and it lies at the heart of the sociopathic disease of neoliberalism which is damaging our economy and destroying our planet, and we would all be better off without it.

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