One day our manager pulled us into the office and told us “you need to have a long hard think about why you’re here”. Well we did, and it wasn’t an easy question to answer.
It certainly wasn’t for fun- the work was repetitive and monotonous, robotic and likely to cause minor injury. The pay was piss and the uniforms were far from chic. It certainly wasn’t to contribute to the general well being of the world since our principal functions were cooking and serving slabs of dead cow, raised on deforested land in order to be sold to the impoverished parents of emotionally manipulated two year olds. The obvious answer, that we needed money to pay the rent, didn’t explain why we were working at McDonalds as opposed to doing something vaguely useful that might afford us a shred of dignity. In fact, the only reason we could see why we, or anyone else, worked at McDonalds, was because in doing so we made some rich guys we had never met even richer. Well, ‘bollocks to that’, we thought, ‘we’re not prostituting our lives to an idiotic pursuit of wealth on behalf of those who already have too much’.
Well people wrote to us, they said, “damn it boys, why don’t y’all stop moaning you damn commie faggots, if you don’t like it why don’t y’all quit?” Well we still needed to pay the rent and when we looked at our options, none of them seemed a great improvement; we could work for Burger King, or in a call centre, or in a branch of Wetherspoons… We started to wonder why all the jobs available to us were so piss and pointless. We listened to the capitalists, they explained about job creation and investment, and we learned that under their system jobs were created when rich people invested and rich people only invested when they thought they were going to make profit. In other words jobs are created, not because they serve any discernible function, or provide any tangible increase in human pleasure, but because they make rich guys richer. It wasn’t just McDonalds that was the problem, the whole thing was starting to seem a bit fucked.
People wrote to us, they said, “god damn it, why don’t you make something of your lives instead of moaning? There are winners and losers in this world boys, it’s your own fault y’all did so bad at school.” Well, that was true, but it didn’t change the fact that for every ‘winner’ there needs to be a hell of a lot of losers stitching clothes in their sweatshops and flipping burgers in their McDonalds. “It’s not the most noble use of one’s powers to crawl ashore deaf to the cries of drowning companions” as some geezer once said, and if the whole world was educated until they could explain the theory of relativity while deconstructing Hegel, most of us would still be stitching clothes, flipping burgers, or doing some other menial task in order to make rich guys richer.
Well we listened to the politicians- “we’re going to get tough on immigration”
“We’re going to get tougher on immigration”
“We’re the toughest anti-immigrants money can buy”
“We’re going to jail them”
“We’re going to send them home and steal their kids”
Well, they weren’t really dealing with our priorities. In fact, it seemed to us that we could vote labour to work in McDonalds for £4.20 an hour, vote Tory to work in McDonalds for £4.10 an hour, vote Scottish National Party to work in McDonalds and wear a kilt, or vote Liberal Democrat to work in McDonalds and wear a woolly jumper.
We listened to the capitalists some more (we were desperate); they said that everyone gets richer when rich guys get richer. We didn’t really follow this because McDonalds had been making billions over decades but the people who work in their toy factories were still earning a few pence an hour and after we had bought three litres of extra strong white cider, we had £2.47 to last until pay day between us. They said it was all about economic growth, if people didn’t spend their lives doing stupid things to make rich guys richer, there would be no investment, no growth, there would be unemployment, recession, plagues of locusts… Well, that seemed a fair point, but out with the self-referential terms of their theology, what was the point of all this growth? “Well, for the world to be free of poverty by the year 2050, the global economy has to quadruple”. But there is no shortage of food, nor of labour power and material to build good houses, there is more power than we could want in the sun, the wind and the waves, more creativity than we could imagine in those who flip burgers and stitch clothes, why don’t we just share our bounty of resources equally and for the benefit of humanity? They smiled at us amused by our naivety and explained with generous condescension, “well that’s a very nice idea, but we can’t just share things equally, why there would be no economic growth and for the world to be free of poverty…”
It became apparent that the world was being consumed by a circular logic that served no function other than to perpetuate exploitative class relations and ensure the continued servitude of the majority. Having surrendered humanity to the buccaneering vicissitudes of the logic of profit, we had lost all control of our lives, no matter how much technology we invented we ended up working more, until some people were stressed and overworked, while others became depressed and suicidal because they were broke and unemployed. Individuals owned personal fortunes greater than small countries’ GDPs while the majority of the world’s population lived on less than two dollars a day. It was screwed. We had to do something about it!
Well, we listened to the Socialists (we were getting really desperate); they wanted to take over the state and rule in our name- like that worked before. We figured that the last thing we needed was another set of bosses. We thought it was time for people to start to take control of their own lives, to control production and distribution from the bottom up, to produce for need and want not profit, to stop doing stupid things to make people rich, to start looking after our own interests, to find a new way of living based on co-operation not competition, to live without dead time and enjoy without restraint.
People used to write to us and say, “why don’t y’all educate yourselves instead of moaning?” That was a very good suggestion.
Think global revolution is a nice idea that will never happen? Here are ten reasons why it will!
Interview with some French syndicalists- Funnywump discusses the political situation in the UK and the demographic of the McDonald’s workforce, examines McDonalds management system in detail, discusses anarcho-syndicalism, insurrectionism and theories of capitalist crisis, while arguing for contextually based class struggle that takes contemporary workers’ practical situations as its starting point.
Interview with the Japanese organisation ‘Shop Fight’- Funnywump jawing on again. This time he gives a more practical overview of MWR’s successes and failures and discusses the association approach in comparison to trade unionism.
Bouncer’s speech at the European Social Forum in Florence- Bouncer discusses MWR, web-activism and workplace resistance.
The Heavy Stuff- written some years ago but mainly still relevant, the Heavy Stuff contains articles on trade unionism, ecological-fundamentalism, McDonalds, and responses to criticism of MWR.
Speech to the Canadian Labour Congress- Wayne discusses youth and the labour movement.
Know Your Rights
More from MWR
Aims and principles