Review of Abolish Restaurants from
#328 / September 2010
This made a huge impression on me when I picked this up in its original pamphlet form a few years ago, and it’s good to see it get picked up by PM Press and made more widely available. After a quick summary of the history of restaurants and how they came to their modern form, this writer goes into an incredibly thorough, pointed explanation and critique of the inner-workings of all aspects of a restaurant, including the roles and power dynamics between bosses; managers; individual workers; and customers, the economics of running a restaurant and each person’s relationship to production and capital, the effects of the work and general division of labor on the lives and mindsets of the workers and how they cope with their frustration, as well as the illusion that an owner’s identity or an individual restaurant’s character or choice to sell food produced more ethically changes the equation. The essay is accompanied by striking, monochrome artwork that is aesthetically beautiful in its depiction of the alienating reality of its subject matter, with the point driven home further by faces drawn without features except for eyebrows, facial hair, and sometimes lipstick for lips. The overall style itself may seem reminiscent of CrimethInc-esque propaganda, but this is clearly written by someone with actual perspective and insight into their subject, and does not offer easy, flowery solutions. In addition to articulating the problems with the institution of food service, the author also takes the position that perceived solutions such as worker-ownership, unions, and social reforms don’t change the overall picture, and that the only solution is to abolish the conditions that create restaurants and workers (also known as “smashing the state”). I won’t go into my own thoughts on this, but will conclude by reiterating that this is a powerful piece that’s well worth your time, and has the potential to help restaurant or even non-restaurant workers feel a little less alone.