The following post was written by U&S’s comrade, Will.
The following piece is predicated on a series of discussions which have already occurred:
1. “Fast Food Workers Fight for $15 an Hour” – Vice
4. “Who’s Strike?” – Kasama
I am still thinking many things through so at times this piece will be fragmentary and move from place to place. I am trying to use the three volumes of Capital to think through what the fast food industry means in capitalism today. I hope that does not distract from my fundamental point. I argue that the role of the fast food industry is key in lowering the value of labor power and that revolutionaries should make fast food organizing a central part of their work.
In Capital, Marx writes, “…the labour-time [sic] necessary for the production of labour-power [sic] is the same as that necessary for the production of those means of subsistence in other words, the value of labour-power [sic] is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of its owner” (274). Furthermore, the reproduction of the worker’s family must also be taken into account. Accordingly, Marx writes, ” The value of labour-power [sic] was determined, not only by the labour-time [sic] necessary to maintain the individual adult worker, but also by that necessary to maintain his family” (518). This passage has three processes happening at the same time: the reduction of the means of subsistence, the reduction of the labor-time necessary for the production of labor power, and the reduction necessary to feed, clothe, shelter and educate the worker’s family. One of the key means of subsistence in determining the value of labor power is the cost of food. This process did not occur overnight. Loren Goldner describes this process as,
By the late 1960s, the postwar boom had brought world capital to another moment in which the current cost of reproducing labor power could no longer serve as the systemic numeraire,س the common denominator, for commodity exchange. Capital again, as in 1914 but more diffusely, entered a new period in which physical destruction on a world scale was a necessary part of the movement of devalorization and potential revalorization. (Goldner).
This meant the restructuring of capital and labor power. More efficient food production and distribution per calorie were central in the lowering of the value of labor power. As the graph shows, there has been a clear and continuous decline in the percentage of food expenditure for U.S. households.