Economic Ecology of the Area
As a community Marple ticks many of the boxes of the standard suburb; a significant working class contingent providing the labour necessary for the town’s industry – largely services – utilised by the commuter-class operating as a satellite of Greater Manchester. Also notable is the great number of pensioners and, in the disputed area at least, college students.
The current economic situation in Marple can be understood in direct relation to this community. The current supermarket is the Co-op – slightly more expensive than most supermarkets yet founded on a liberal tradition that similarly informs Marple’s traditional voting record. There is also a Tesco in Stockport providing a cheaper alternative for those with access to private transportation (ie/ the commuting-class) and an Iceland in the Marple Precinct providing a local cheaper alternative to those without (the central-Marple working class). Alongside these are a number of independent butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers and newsagents as well as independent clothes shops, beauty parlours, a cinema, art and jewellery… and the like. Their survival in relation to the supermarkets, as well as local demographics, can be attributed to a lack of monopolisation in relation to their particular services.
The construction of a Tesco within Marple will obviously disrupt the current economic situation in Marple on a local level. The extent of the scheme – rumoured to include alterations to Marple’s road structure that will be bought off with large “public” facilities – suggests that the new Tesco will also expect to attract shoppers from around the surrounding area also.
In response to this, I believe that the demands made by “Marple in Action” are incredibly reasonable and justified - if not far reaching enough for my, admittedly Marxist, liking. Why my hard-line stance? In order to answer we must move beyond the realms of liberal capitalist assumptions regarding supply-and-demand and into the realm of power structures.
Tesco – Capital as Power
The extent of Tesco’s monopolisation is not comprehensible within the prelapsarian wonderland of Smith and Keynes wherein supply conforms to demand and the free market conforms to some warped notion of Darwinism. The extent of Tesco’s sharp-elbowed growth is well documented upon the “Tescopoly” website in direct relation to the endless complaints of communities into which it had moved. Yet these complaints continue to go unheard.
As a private company Tesco has no imperative to consider human beings, being an engine of capital and that only. However, those that must, by their very nature, consider human beings are also towing the line of finance. An informative piece from the Independent on local councils demonstrates the means by which Tesco subverts democratic process. In terms of this particular issue, a request was made for information he Marple comment board to our own council confirmed that all discussions have been “informal” and therefore not accessible to the electorate. Couched in the language of bureaucracy, the response makes it clear that this matter is between big business and those currently holding power – although these individuals, through their “informality” are not responsible to their electorate at this time.
In short, until those in power deign to consult the community that elected them, which is not a legal necessity until the consultation stage, then we have no say. Tesco, however, very evidently does - right down to personal meetings with these officials. If consultation goes through in the standard fashion (ie/ with absolutely minimal advertisement to the community as to when and where it will be held) then it may even reach planning stage. At this stage, consultation is mediated and then (as in the case of Stockport’s Tesco) ignored by the company as it sees fit.
What perhaps makes this situation different from the standard corruption inherent within our system of capitalist-centric government is that the site proposed for this new Tesco is that of our local sixth-form college, CMSFC. Utilising legislation brought through in 1992 (with certain aspects coming into operation in 2008, it would appear) this public institution is not answerable to elected officials as it is operated by an independent “corporation”.
In terms of this “corporation” and its conduct regarding the sale of the Hibbert Lane site, the emphasis has been almost solipsistically fiscal. One publically available record of this comes from minutes to a meeting in March wherein, in full-blown managerial jargon, it is made clear that this issue is considered to be private information regarding only the “corporation” and the corporation of Tescos (and/or other buyers).
That this publically financed institution refuses the local community any say is a given under our current regime of elective oligarchy. That it needn’t answer to the local authority, however, means that we cannot even attempt to hold our elected officials accountable for the actions of the institution. CMSFC has all the legal rights of a private company in terms of dismissing our demands, yet it is we that pay for it. That we cannot even buy shares in this “corporation” in fact makes it even less accountable than Tesco itself.
What is to be Done?
It would thus appear that liberal democracy has once again cauterised the vessels of public dissent upon receiving its fill of its lifeblood – the electoral mandate to govern. The community of Marple must now beg to its elected oligarchs that they may, as avatars of elected power, think it in their best interests to side with us over the great God Mammon. In less flighty terms, we must write to our MPs and contribute to the petition.
However, in these climactic times we can also look around us to the examples set by other local movements in defending their own communities. The “Save Levenshulme Baths” campaign succeeded in saving its local baths from the Conservative cuts through mass action initiated by (if my personal discussion one of them can be cited) a small handful of people initiating a huge public momentum. Perhaps such a campaign could be looked to in order to inform Marple’s movements? It must of course be taken into account that this campaign was fought against “democratic” power directives where this campaign must be directed against the inhuman engines of capital and monopoly.
Similarly, as this campaign is essentially petty-bourgeois in nature (regarding, for the moment, small businesses over actual human community) systematic boycotts can also come into the equation – most notably of the Stockport Tesco which, as we have seen, has illegally exceeded its planning permission. Plus, it must be asked of the workers at CMSFC whether this sell-off is within their interests and those of their students? Recent successes in fighting against management at my personal establishment (The University of Salford) directed by union activity makes a good case, however partial our outcomes, for a combined front of solidarity against this sale. CMSFC was founded on the principle that the unity of two colleges (Cheadle and Marple) would improve the students’ lot. Can this sell-off be accounted for in light of that principle? I would suggest that this sell-off represents a failure of CMSFC as regards its founding logic of “bigger is better”. This should be a matter of concern for their union – the only institution within the CMSFC that approaches democratic representation.
Furthermore, I would return to the initial point of the economic (thus political) situation as it exists in Marple. The voting record of our constituency is heavily of the Liberal Democrat/Conservative bias, with spikes of Labour votes consistent with New Labour’s “blue labour” appeal. A mass movement will undoubtedly resort (if we can assume as much) to conservative, reactionary “fear of change” and bleeding-heart liberal outcry against the hard-done-by business owners. In terms of realpolitik it is clearly in our interests to work alongside these interests. However! the case I lay out is one against the corrupting force of our current system of government and the overwhelming power of capitalism to have “money talk” more than human beings. This is the same ventriloquist schtick that the Lib Dems and the Tories (and even some democratic socialists, not to mention New Labourites) have won votes on more consistently than Britain’s Got Talent. But I’ve never been that impressed by the talk of puppets…
I am of the opinion that a grander movement of the community that may occur from this campaign could be beneficial to the people of Marple in the long run. Now the chickens have come home to roost we will perhaps see them for the vultures that they truly are. Whether or not we chase them out of the coop is the prerogative of the people of Marple.
 Much of this is taken from residents’ comments upon the “Marple Community Forum and Noticeboard” (and my own experience, admittedly) - http://www.marple-uk.com/smf/index.php
 “In Portwood, Stockport, Tesco built a Tesco Extra hypermarket which failed to comply with planning conditions. At 120,000 sq ft, the store was 20 per cent larger than the size limit that Stockport Borough Council had imposed on it when it granted planning permission.” This is a quotation, yet my browser failed to load the details. The link is for the page it was taken from - http://www.marple-uk.com/smf/index.php?topic=3554.msg15340#msg15340
 Section 14 - http://www.camsfc.ac.uk/assets/file/Govenors/Minutes%20of%20meetings/F&G%2001_03_11m%20Section%20A.pdf
 I apologise for this odd use of terminology but, as far as I see it, a government that ignores its people based upon a mandate to govern given by the people cannot be called a democracy. It is the election of officials who command people - they do not govern upon their behalf.
This is a link to an article prior to their success, yet I feel it gives more of an impression of the movement than the later articles that tow the line of the taggers-on in power - http://manchestermule.com/article/fight-to-defend-levenshume-baths-gathers-momentum
 Massive apologies, but the website I took this from has now ceased to exist. I’m sure there’s plenty out there but my internet is going to slow for a full-on search at this time.