S is for soup

5 lbs. of barleymeal

5 lbs. of Indian corn

3d. worth of red herring

1d. salt

1d. vinegar

2d. pepper and sweet herbs

Feeds 64 people at a cost of ¼ .d per portion.

The above recipe was cooked up in the tepid head of culinary capitalist Sir Benjamin Thomas in 1796. The soup was to serve as a gastric means of lowering workers’ wages by making the necessities of life that their wage needed to cover cheaper. As much as moneybags might like to pay workers nothing at all, people have an annoying habit of dying if they are unable to eat and drink. Dead people, on the other hand, have proven to be incorrigibly lazy and lacking in morals, despite capitalists’ kind attempts to get them back into the labour force. The genius of this 18th Century answer to Jamie Oliver was to bring the cost of feeding the demanding mouths of workers down to a little under 5p per serving. Another Sir, Sir F.M. Eden, was so impressed with the beggar-soup, that he recommended it to workhouse overseers everywhere. Repulsed by the luxuries, such as occasional bread and beer, enjoyed by the English working class, Eden pointed out that the Scottish survived off porridge, water and little else, due to being ‘better educated’ – meaning, of course, ‘better dominated.’*

Although the ingredients might have changed a little (Thomas’ soup seems strangely wholesome and unadulterated by today’s standards), the austerity soup of our current climate serves much the same purpose as previously. Wages must be driven down so the capitalist can cream off greater profits. The working class in Britain has become too addicted to expensive luxuries like healthcare and pensions, too costly for the likes of the capitalist. Admittedly, 19th Century workers were little able to afford a flat screen TV from Argos. But  despite the increase in our ability to buy such luxury commodities, the gap between the rich and the poor remains an ever-expanding chasm. In the interests of helping out over-burdened workhouse overseers like Sir Philip Green, I have updated Thomas’ subsistence soup for todays’ market. Bon appetite.

A Future That Works Soup

1 x credit card 19% APR

1 x overdraft 12% APR

1 x payday loan 972% APR

1 x smartphone on 3 year contract

1 x Flat screen TV on Hire-purchase: interest free for 12 months! then 32% APR

1 x vocational education £36, 000 or above, borrowed from state and paid back directly from wages (arts/humanities only to provide cultural capital for the children of the ruling classes)

1 x Frozen chemically re-constituted microwave dinner from Iceland (another kind of indebtedness).

1 – 2 bouts of binge drinking

Mix all the various types of credit together into a lumpy cluster-fuck. These will disguise dropping wages by making the individual borrow at interest much of what they need for subsistence. Brilliant! Subject to constant stream of flashing images of new things and bring desire to a high heat. Teach it to be a docile, self-disciplining, cost/benefit analysis machine, aligned with capital’s requirements. Soak in alcohol to enable repetition of workweek and reproduction of class society. Delish!

*Chapter XVI Capital Vol 1, Marx


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