Photo: Philafrenzy/CC
Photo: Philafrenzy/CC

Fight for pay, pensions and benefits that rise with the cost of living

Pippa Evans, Tower Hamlets Socialist Party

To make yourself a cheese sandwich today costs 37% more than it did a year ago, an increase that people across the UK are becoming sadly familiar with. With food inflation sitting at around 20%, it’s no wonder nearly half of the country’s population is cutting back on their food spending.

The crisis of capitalism globally has created food supply issues, with the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine reducing the supply of key ingredients. To make things worse, the rising cost of energy has led farmers in the UK to reduce their outputs, and a lack of cheap labour available in Tory post-Brexit Britain has left a large amount of crops unharvested.

Recent years have also shown us how climate change, and the extreme weather that comes with it, is an increasing threat to global food supply. This will only get worse until proper planning and international collaboration is used to properly fight climate change.

World events and extreme weather conditions don’t however tell us the full story of the rapidly rising cost of food. Food supply issues have provided a perfect opportunity for the capitalists to extract more and more profits from working-class people. Record profits are being recorded at each stage of the supply chain from suppliers and traders to manufacturers, and the supermarkets selling us the goods at the other end.

In the UK, the main three supermarket chains reported a near to 100% increase in profits since 2019, at the same time as British people are told by the government and the media that this crisis is just a ‘natural’ result of world events.

With the situation becoming increasingly desperate, the government is starting to have conversations on ways to control the rising cost of food. It’s not clear what exactly this would look like, with the possibility of ‘voluntary’ price caps on basic items. But why would supermarket bosses volunteer to make less money? And who decides what ‘basic items’ means?

The Socialist Party fights for inflation-proof pay rises, and benefits and pensions that rise with the cost of living too. We fight for a minimum wage of £15 an hour now. A starting point is to give people enough money to be able to afford a healthy diet.

We need a food production system which is run with socialist, democratically agreed planning, and whose food sources are publicly owned to allow food production to be run for the good of working-class people rather than for profit. This would allow everyone access to high-quality, affordable, and sustainable food, and provide a real alternative to the widespread hunger we have under capitalism.

£3.2bn profit for the top three supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda in 2021 – doubled from 2019
£23bn profit for just eight of the top ten food processors and manufacturers in 2021
37% more food parcels, nearly three million, distributed by Trussell Trust in the year to April 2023

Read more ‘Food price crisis what is the socialist solution?’