On Saturday a regional British newspaper ran an article raising concerns about the dangerous conditions at a factory in Bradford. They reported:
“One worker at CSM Bakery Solutions, on Cutler Heights Lane, spoke of their fears… They claimed “hundreds of people” have been gathering to wait to go into work and inside the factory, no precautions are being taken.
“We can physically not work two metres apart, we don’t wear gloves or masks and we are running out of PPE for the people that work with dry ingredients,” they said. The worker added there was “hundreds of people coughing and have symptoms” but are still working. They also raised fears about agency staff coming from other companies.
“I’m scared for mine and my colleagues lives,” said the worker. (March 28)
Tragically this is not an uncommon story, and many thousands of essential food workers across the globe are currently being forced to carry on working as normal, with little or no regard for the necessity of safe social distancing measures. It seems that the millionaire and often billionaire profiteers who own the food manufacturing sector only care about one thing, and that is not their workers rights but just their own profit margins.
In the case of CSM Bakery Solutions, the ultimate owner of this multinational food manufacturer is a private equity firm based in New York known as the Rhone Group – a group which is run by an ultra-conservative American billionaire name Robert Agostinelli.
Although most people will not be familiar with the name of this capitalist predator, football fans from Liverpool probably remember the year that Agostinelli (unsuccessfully) tried to buy their club – a move which led to protests on the kop with banners sporting slogans like “Debt, Lies, Cowboys – Not Welcome Here”.
At the time of Agostinelli’s failed bid to buy Liverpool Football Club even The Times newspaper, a famous right-wing rag owned by Rupert Murdoch, was unimpressed with his plans. Thus the paper described Agostinelli as the founder of a “private equity group whose modus operandi is cashing in on the weakness of others” and whose personal hatred of socialist ideas had led him to opine that “the left is a cancer that needs to be eradicated”.
As you might have guessed from the above quote, like many capitalists Mr Agostinelli is prone to conspiratorial rants, and in 2010 — the year of his Anfield antics – he penned a hate-filled opinion piece for the Washington Times (a tabloid then owned by the far-right cultist Sun Myung Moon) in which he referred to President Obama as a socialist set to “impose the will of tyranny on our land.” Not one to accept even the slightest nod towards democracy Agostinelli fumed that:
“The descendants of Marx, Mao and the entirety of illiberal and tyrannical minds have finally stuck the raw edge of their poisoned sword into the heart of the glorious genie of capitalism and freedom….The agent of change is their homegrown, deeply indoctrinated, soulless serpent from the deep, President Obama.”
But the real reason why Agostinelli was so incensed by his political foe is that he fears democracy – even of the extremely limited sort promoted by capitalists like Obama who, as genuine socialists in America have previously pointed out, “disappointed millions of [his] supporters by failing to enact any fundamental progressive changes” during his time as President.
Mr Agostinelli clearly has no intentions of spreading his wealth to help protect British workers and the broader public from the cononavirus pandemic. Yet all the same, we might extend our limited sympathy to Mr Agostinelli’s daughter, Heloise Agostinelli – star of the reality TV show Made in Chelsea – who is one the latest people to have contracted coronavirus and unlike most people was wealthy enough to get tested.
Of course, the virus of capitalism that has deeply infected Mr Agostinelli’s mind will mean that it is unlikely that he will learn any useful lessons from his daughters expose to the pandemic. That is why although Mr Agostinelli’s paranoid delusions about Obama are completely false, it is true that he should be worried about genuine socialists who continue to strive to bring workers democracy to the heart of his hugely profitable business empire.
Socialists remain at the forefront of Mr Agostinelli’s consciousness precisely because we are committed to democratising all workplaces through trade unions – democratic organising bodies which, with will the pushing of their members, can help coordinate the type of industrial action that can improve the working lives of all workers.
The continual prioritising of profits before workers’ rights, like those shown in the case of CSM Bakery Solutions, demonstrates why capitalism is not fit for human consumption, and why workers must struggle to fight for a socialist alternative to the ongoing chaos of capitalist exploitation.