Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Communism of Wal-Mart

Up front I have a revulsion toward the idea of walking into a Wal-Mart. So it was that my stomach was dancing a slow waltz with my uvula as I stepped out of my mini-van and approached the doors of said establishment. My repugnance is based largely on how Wal-Mart has come to represent the iconic evils of corporate capitalism. I know that my own aversion to this particular retailer is over-drawn in light of the myriad of corporate retailers who employ similar if not worse practices. Nevertheless my feelings are not appeased in anyway by the clear evaluation (in my ever so unrefined sense of taste) of their goods as largely being subpar in quality. (When’s the last time you heard someone say, “boy that ___________ that I bought at Wal-Mart has sure lasted a long time”)

It was precisely at the moment when all those ideas were flooding my mind in the gleeful criticism that I was revelling in, that a curious thought approached the waiting line of my elucidatory mental rollercoaster thrill ride. As I watched what seemingly mindless dupes giving in to their most base carnal materialism, I was struck by a conviction of another sort. Scanning the blank-eyed senior in the blue vest at the door it occurred to me that perhaps I was entering the beguiling bastion of communism itself. You’d be justified in noticing the incredible irony and even ludicrous nature of this idea.

Wal-Mart consistently finds favour in the annals of Fortune 500 as a respected company. It is lauded as one of the few global corporations that has not suffered in the blustery winds of recession. It likely that my mutual funds are deeply invested in Wal-Mart (as are many investment vehicles). Clearly this company is a wide representative of the glory of the free-market system entrenched in capitalism’s doctrinal evangelism. This company has managed to garner a meagre 60% of market share in many retail domains. This without succumbing to the pressures of unionization of it employees.

So how does the communist label fit? We’d like to believe that because under one expansive roof we can such a wide variety of products we have the opportunity to exercise democracy over our purchasing choices. But when this one corporation can negotiate pricing and production deals with manufactures that are un-paralleled in the rest of retail. When its retail dominance can not only influence the price but the brand and constitution of the products being produced and then is successfully able to market these products to consumers in such a way that any other competitor must account for the price and type of good that Wal-Mart produces – is that not essentially what a successful communist system is able to do? When the this store can enter a community a displace other viable enterprises in months – is this also not the same sort of conformity of service and access that is typical in communist ideals? If a corporation can dictate to its employees the terms of their employment in such a way as to keep them needing the welfare funding of governments (average Wal-Mart yearly wage is 15000) is that also not precisely the kind of state-dependence that Lenin and Stalin wanted? And if this corporation has the ability to reach beyond its head office to dictate the terms of production and manufacturing in developing nations controlling development of manufacturing and production technologies and systems – do we also not see the grand agenda of communist control that history reminds us of in the soviet project…?

Now not only was my stomach upset but my brain was hurting as well. Ding ding ding ding beep beep beep beep bing bing bing…..

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