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The case for direct action against Sainsbury’s in Crosby

July 25, 2010

Two months ago, Sainsbury’s unveiled plans for a multi-million pound superstore on Moor Lane in Crosby.

The 50,000 sq foot development includes seven retail units which could be used to house shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and takeaways, as well as financial and professional services, and a multi-storey car park. Full planning permission is also being sought for Sainsbury’s to change the use and alteration of its existing foodstore.

In effect, this would mean that the supermarket would control an enormous proportion of Crosby Village. At least 18 local businesses and 100 jobs could be lost as part of the development and, understandably, locals aren’t happy.

2,000 people have signed a petition against the move, and locals are planning a festival in protest for Saturday 31st July.

However, this opposition doesn’t go far enough. The petition organisers, ABetterCrosby, despite objecting to the existing plans still supports the principle of a new larger Sainsbury’s supermarket.

According to a spokesperson;

Sainsbury’s commercial strength gives them a special opportunity to be a positive agent in society during these difficult economic times. Sainsbury’s has a real opportunity to fulfil their own pledge of ‘making a positive difference’ to our community.

The problem with this is that it promotes the idea of ordinary, local people as helpless. That we need to appeal to corporate tyrannies because of their “commercial strength,” and beg them to pursue a more “positive” form of capitalism. This is not in touch with reality.

For any capitalist entities, the only thing that matters is the maximisation of profit in the short term. If the best way to do that is by engaging with and helping local communities, or treating its workers well, or caring for the environment, then it will do so. But when those things impede the growth of their profit margins, they go out of the window.

A petition and a festival will draw attention to the issue and encourage more people to get involved. But it will not distract companies like Sainsbury’s from the pursuit of profit. A petition is ultimately just a request and can be rejected.

Instead of politely asking that Sainsbury’s stop tearing apart the village for their own purposes, people need to demand it. Direct action, such as the occupation of development land, is a lot harder to ignore. With serious commitment and solidarity, it can and has secured serious victories over powerful vested interests.

Any campaign also needs to garner support from the people who work for Sainsbury’s. After all, they’re part of the community too and so are with the people rather than the developers. The interests of Sainsbury’s workers are intricately bound with the interests of workers in Crosby more generally and with the community this development will damage.

Most importantly, the campaign must be organised from below. Working class people, who have to work for a living and make a home in local areas, can see what the real needs of their community are and how to change things for the better. That’s why people speak out, and why campaign groups gain momentum in the first place.

The people at grassroots level, not opportunistic politicians or bureaucrats, must decide what happens next.

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3 Comments
  1. joe roberts permalink
    August 1, 2010 8:18 am

    Dear sir , As a local resident in Crosby I am against the new development by sainsburys but as in any dispute there has to be some compromise ,as it now stands we can have the best of both worlds by having a larger store thus creating more jobs, while keeping the main street untouched by sainsburys and not under their control[ i.e rental units]. It appears that sainsburys want to stifle any competition from small traders. the organisers of ABETTERCROSBY are offerring a compromise,which is something sainsburys are not doing. crosby village is in need of some development, but this new project is not it.

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