There are a few things I like about Wetherspoons; real ale at around £2.50 a pint, plenty of space, and you can always eat for free if you hang around long enough, no one ever seems to finish their dinner and I’m not really that bothered what I eat when there isn’t a transaction involved.
Their selling point is you know what to expect and can more or less budget for it before you walk in, and that’s all they’ve got going for them really, the privileges that come with a large chain, high turnover and the resulting leverage with suppliers. Chairman Tim Martin was heavily influenced by Wal-Mart’s founder Sam Walton, to the extent of making his book required reading for pub managers. His policy was to corner the market by buying up and selling off smaller pubs then open larger ones nearby. Your local struggling independent hostelry may charge up to a pound a pint more. Chances are it also puts on live music, participates in a local sports league and is embedded in the community; you’ll miss it when it’s gone.
The elephant in the room is Wetherspoons’ notorious tolerance of the far right; the lure of cheap beer from breakfast time could have been made for the E.D.L. to organise its political piss-ups for feckless bigots. I’m not giving much away by saying that antifascists usually sus out the nearest ‘spoons to the railway station as the most likely locus of any fascist infestation. The police tactic, excused as containment, is to give the fascists a ‘muster pub’ to get tanked up in with a blind eye turned to racist chanting and the kind of drug use that would get anyone else barred if not arrested. On the other side of the bar are our fellow workers, most of whom will not have chosen pulling pints as a career path but because they need the money. Antifascists on the other hand are always contained in street kettles, because the police are set the task of making sure the fascists can proceed unmolested.
The dark side of Wetherspoons surfaced in Cardiff last weekend, at the Prince of Wales 81-83 St Mary’s Street Tel: 029 2064 4449, opening a heated debate on their business practices. The disgrace of out of town fascists drinking with police protection in the main city centre pub whilst the overwhelmingly local antifascists were refused service or barred entry was followed by frantic buck-passing between the licensee and the police, each blaming the other for the decision. Had they done this anywhere but South Wales, with its proud Working Class antifascist traditions, they may well have got away with it. The fascists are now gloating on the internet that Wetherspoons is theirs, but are there enough fascist sympathisers in Cardiff to keep the Prince of Wales open?
An entity that has so painstakingly identified itself with Working Class culture now has to demonstrate its loyalty by publicly disassociating itself from anti-Working Class movements and show a bit of backbone where the state is concerned, as we have to, every day. As a minimum, we should demand a statement from Wetherspoons on its policy toward fascists, the immediate dismissal of the Prince of Wales licensee, and that those staff who were forced into contact with fascists should be compensated with a day off on full pay, as they should have expected had their management behaved honourably. We would especially like to hear from Wetherspoons staff on this issue, we strongly advise joining a union, and recommend the IWW. Until this matter is resolved, we need to take direct action against this and all Wetherspoons’ premises, with boycotts, pickets, communications blockades, occupations and the like. Why not vote with your feet and drink in an independent? They’ll be pleased to see you.
One thing’s for sure, the fate of J.D. Wetherspoons will not be decided by their board of directors, the police, councils or licensing authorities, but by the Working Class, who have made it what it is, and without whose consent it will not survive for another month.
Tell them so: 01923 477777
Mal C x