Books for cooks (and other workers)

Abolish Restaurants is an excellent discussion of capitalism and how it works. It reads well because it comes from first-hand experience in the ‘hospitality industry’ – which means it describes the world as it is. There’s no ‘look at me I’ve got clean hands’ here. Not only do they know what they’re talking about, they want to communicate it, not sound clever. It’s a quick read, partly because it’s illustrated. It’s stylish – in a good way – once you get used to the fact that no-one in the pictures has eyes. Either the illustrator is paying homage to the great Gerd Arntz, or it’s a metaphor about capitalism being so dehumanising that some people don’t even have noses.

Abolish Restaurants is a hard book to review because there are so many bits to quote. This will have to do as a flavour:

Our fight isn’t against the act of chopping vegetables or washing dishes or pouring beer or even serving food to other people. It is with the way all these acts are brought together in a restaurant, separated from other acts, become part of the economy, and are used to expand capital. The starting and ending point of this process is a society of capitalists and people forced to work for them. We want an end to this. We want to destroy the production process, as something outside and against us. We’re fighting for a world where our productive activity fulfils a need and is an expression of our lives, not forced on us in exchange for a wage – a world where we produce for each other directly and not in order to sell to each other. The struggle of restaurant workers is ultimately for a world without restaurants or workers.”

Abolish Restaurants is published by and available at

Dare to be a Daniel (the story of the French Cooks’ Syndicate) is a classic account of class struggle in the catering trade. If you’ve read the earlier Kate Sharpley Library edition, you’ll not notice a huge difference here. If you haven’t, you’ve missed a treat. I bet even the Abolish Restaurants crew who aren’t fans of unions would have some interesting discussions with the French Cooks’ Syndicate. Dare to be a Daniel by Wilf McCartney is published by the Kate Sharpley Library.

Peace, Love and Petrol Bombs is a fictionalisation of recent anarchist history from the days of summit protests. The bulk of the action is closer to home, though, following the loves and struggles of the disgruntled fast food workers of ‘Benny’s Resistance Army’. Whether you see the ending as a little downbeat or just a pause before further adventures depends on your personality I guess. I read this straight through when I was under the weather, so I didn’t mark any bits to quote. But I did like how the Socialist Worker’s Party ‘broad front’ technique got rumbled: invite liberal speakers to your meetings to make you look radical; like only going clubbing with ugly friends. Peace, Love and Petrol Bombs by D.D. Johnstone is published by AK Press.

Mrs Beeton