From a Kent ACG member…
Something this pandemic has revealed is just what we do and don’t need. Down here where I live in Kent, Fenwicks (a luxury department store in Canterbury), as well as most of the shops, are closed. Poor people can’t usually afford to buy things from places like Fenwicks anyway, but it just shows that we don’t need these luxury places and their goods.
What we do need are essential goods like food (particularly food that is nutritious and might boost our immune systems) and other useful products that we use in our day to day lives, as well as medication, if we rely upon it.
We need infrasture (such as decent healthcare) and goods, but do we really need expensive luxuries? Especially lines and lines of different types of expensive shampoo for example? I know Kropotkin wrote about the need for luxury, and he made some very good points about that, but it’s at times like this that our priorities seem to be revealed. In fact, during this crisis we see that it is not luxuries that are in demand, but in fact the basic necessities in the stores.
We are told that we are all in it together and that there is a kind of ‘war effort’ against this virus, but have we got our priorities in place? A necessity right now, as much is missing from the supermarket shelves, is food and other goods, especially as food banks are short of food. A vital necessary service that food chains could provide would be distributing food to the poor. This could be easily organized by food chains and companies such as Greggs or McDonalds etc, who are ideally placed in our streets to do this, perhaps for free or at a reduced price, they certainly have no shortage of profits. The fact that these food chains are in fact closed tells you much about the priorities of the current system. If Food Not Bombs can organize this sort of thing then food chains, and even local councils and other groups could do this – however it is the big food chains that have the funds and are equipped to do this. It is criminal, in a sense, for these resources to go to waste, yet the bosses of these companies are doing nothing whilst sitting on massive profits at a time when the rich are asking us to volunteer for service against this virus at great risk to ourselves, including people who have already retired. The reality is, in this current time, under this system, there is no will to provide enough food for the public which is why the Mutual Aid groups that have been set up are so important.
Regarding necessity, the government has classed some workers as ‘essential’. However they have excluded a whole list of workers that are indeed essential, such as cleaners and support workers, carers and shop workers on zero hours contracts. Capitalism simply does not have its priorities straight and it is more visible than ever before.