Yes, as pathetic and cliché that it may sound, I have worked at McDonald’s. Where I grew up, McDonald’s was “the” job that every high-schooler held, and I was one of many that swallowed my pride and got a job there. After being a part the corporation for over two years, I learned all the nooks and crannies of what McDonald’s has to offer. But, even after working at the bottom of the food chain, I never quite realized how political the system was until reading Marx and Engels’s work, The Manifesto of the Communist Party.
Marx and Engels argued against the capitalist system, which can be modeled by a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid, the layer is labeled as “We rule you.” They tried to make people understand that the capitalist system only profited the few at the top who enjoyed the riches, basically ruling the rest of the population within the system. They called this level the bourgeois. This is much like McDonald’s as a corporation. The few leaders at the top, who have made McDonald’s their career, are the only ones who seem to be making any money. With the restaurant being a multi-billion dollar company, it’s hard to justify the fact that workers make minimum wage, whereas corporate employees make anywhere from $40,000-$115,000 a year.
The next level emphasized by Marx and Engels is what they call the proletariat, or the average workers within the society. Marxism emphasized that there’s an unfair exploitation of the workers by the rich elite, which is like the relationship between crew workers and corporation workers. As a crew member, I made minimum wage, had to report to multiple managers above me, and was governed by the corporate “head honchos.” I worked when they told me to, I got paid what they decided to pay me, I cleaned when they told me to clean, and I obeyed because they were the higher power. Marx argued that in the system, when the elite make more and more money, the poor become even more enslaved because of the uneven distribution of wealth. And that’s exactly how McDonald’s is.
When describing the proletariat level, Marx and Engels elaborate on the starting position of the level: “At first the contest is carried on by individual labourers, then by the workpeople of a factory, then by the operative of one trade, in one locality, against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them.” They later go on to say, “Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes.” As predicted, McDonald’s workers did just that. In Jack Temple’s article, “Going Nowhere Fast at McDonald’s“, he describes the strike put on by employees where they argue for $15 an hour and a union for their branch. Although the strike has ended, it still is a great example of exactly what Marx and Engels argue, and shows just how close to a capitalist system the McDonald’s corporation is.
Can it be fully argued that McDonald’s Corporation is a capitalist system? Maybe so, by using Marx and Engels’s arguments. Should the system be restructured into a Marxist establishment? Now that’s an argument for another day.