Utne Blogs > Politics

Farmers’ Market Fascism

by Staff

Tags: liberals, farmers' markets, big box stores, supermarkets, grocery shopping, classism, Nazi argument, Spiked, Neil Davenport,

TomatoesIt’s the last-ditch tactic of argumenteers the world over: When all else fails, equate your enemies with Nazis. Spiked’s Neil Davenport does just that to take on those low-down opponents of mega-chain grocery stores, alleging that these naysayers hold values closer to the Third Reich’s policy-makers than to Third World farmers. “Of course, shouting ‘fascists’ is a shrill, cheap shot in contemporary debate,” Davenport admits in a show of masterly preterition.

He then builds his case against proto-Nazi “supermarket-bashers.” They are nature-loving, urbanization-hating, middle-class elitists, a la the German Mittelstand of the 1920s and 1930s, whose support helped the German government create laws against chain-store expansions. Supermarket-bashers in the UK do not create “community cohesion,” he argues; they stress the budgets of the poor. Promoting local shops, backed by the government’s Competition Commission, will lead to bigger grocery bills and, therefore, a greater burden for the working class. (Davenport avoids discussing the nutritional value of supermarkets’ affordable fare.)

While campaigning against supermarkets shows support for local businesses, it is also a display of style, he writes, “creating a new dividing line between the haves and have-nots—that is, those who have taste, and those who do not have taste.”

Comparing co-op lovers to Nazis is an overstatement, and Davenport’s assertion is outlandish that chain store critics’ goal is to drive down working-class living standards. However, he does raise an important point: Proponents of local business and strong communities should consider the systemic issue of working-class incomes vis-à-vis rising food costs if they want their movement to be inclusive and truly sustainable.

Lisa Gulya

Image by _e.t, licensed under Creative Commons.