Farmers’ Market Fascism

| 2/28/2008 11:21:55 AM

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.

Bakari Kafele_2
3/6/2008 3:20:04 PM

Oh, also... The US nuked 2 civilian cities in WWII, and was the location of the most destructive and oppressive form of slavery seen in history. These, and other American trespasses do not automatically make everything America stands for or does inherently evil. Exactly the same, the fact that the Nazi's tried to takeover the world (a lot of places have done that) and attempted to eliminate all of the worlds Jews (not that it should matter, but I happen to be Jewish) does not automatically make everything that the Nazi's did automatically a bad idea. Nazi's, communists, Muslims, Red Coats, heathens, savages; it doesn't make any difference which group you choose. "Other" is evil, "other" does x y and z, therefor x, y, and z is evil - has always been and will always be a empty argument used by stupid and prejudiced people, and it will always be effective when heard by that same sort of person.

Bakari Kafele_1
3/6/2008 2:59:59 PM

Also, no mention of what a local business pays its employees vs what a chain bagger makes. If the profits aren't passed down to the lowest level employees - which they aren't, then the marketing tactic of low prices can not possibly said to be meant to benefit the working class. I shop at my local natural grocer because the checker is also the owner. I don't care to have my money go to a bunch of shareholders who don't need it. And by the way, I am working class (live in an RV, have a 25 year old truck, and am still paying off debt). I'd still rather spend a little more than shop at a chain. There is a supermarket right across the street, yet I see other working class minorities at the local House of Produce every time I go.

Jeffery Biss
3/5/2008 7:15:46 PM

I smell an ardent anti-environmentalist here, a humanist who sees economics as the only valid paradigm that simply requires that each of us has as his/her only obligation to satisfy our desires and through each of doing so will create a wondrful world. People like him cannot begin to comprehend that we can negatively affect the earth because either: a) we are too insignificant to affect it, (b)the earth was created for us to do to it whatever we want to it and survive or (c)we will always come up with a technological answer to any perceived problem. For example, he states "there is a consensus that there are ‘too many people’ in the world and that a massive reduction in human numbers,...The social forces driving the re-emergence of these destructive ideas are very different from those that existed in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s." Population control a destructive idea? He is explicitly stating that population growth is good and cannot be bad or have any negative consequences. Neil Davenport is incapable of understanding the position that people not creating people who already do not exist so that a)those that do exist can have a fairer access to the earth's limited resources, (b)non human animals can exist as is their right because we are moral beings, and (c)we do not continue to degrade the earth's natural systems as fast as we historically have and allow them to rebound. Where we see the need for balance for the benefit of all Neil sees an evil. People like Neil Davenport draw inaccurate comparisons between Nazis and those they do not like because they are incapable of understanding the paradigm(s) under which those they don't like operate. Humans are social animals and have greater obligations than simply finding the cheapest thing and acquiring more stuff. We have built civilization relying on a balance of community and self interest. Neil Davenport likes to ignore the individual's responsibility to work