Sunday, 29 May 2022

THIS IS CAPITALIST CLASS WAR!



The Tories don't bother preaching class war because they're far too busy practising it. 

They and the capitalist class they are part of have launched the most bitter assault on working-class people in living memory - as we persistently warned they would do, during the pandemic.

Inflation has reached the highest levels in at least 40 years. 

The global food price index is at the highest ever recorded. 

New official reports in Scotland confirm 20% inflation in the cost of supermarket shopping over the past 2 years. 

And the poorest Scottish people suffer far higher inflation than the richest: 10.2% already, compared with 8.7% for the wealthiest tenth of people. 

All the different schools of capitalist economists and their political echoes try to convince us that inflation is caused by rising wage demands. Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, who recently claimed under questioning at the Westminster Treasury Committee that he “can't remember” his salary of £575,000, lectured workers that “we do need to see restraint in wage bargaining”. 

The Tories perpetrate the same lie and do everything in their power to slash wages and neuter the collective strength of trade unionists in the defence of living standards. 


ASLEF members demonised and granted some concessions 

Class Hatred Towards Train Drivers 

We see their class hatred in response to the demands of a modest pay rise by train drivers in the face of inflation already at 9%, with forecasts of at least 14%. 

The full might of the media - broadsheet and tabloid alike - has been unleashed to demonise these workers. MPs, 200 of whom have second jobs that brought them in an additional £9million on top of their £84,000 salaries – use the media to denounce the drivers as overpaid, with utterly false and hypocritical sudden ‘concern’ for the comparative wages of nurses and teachers, dredged up to try and isolate and defeat ASLEF members. 

Of course, meantime not a word is muttered about giving inflation-matching pay rises to the very same NHS workers, after the hell they've lived through during the pandemic, with rampant burnout, early retirement, and a growing crisis in an underfunded, understaffed healthcare system. 

Defend the Right to Strike 

Faced with the power at the point of production held by London Underground workers and railway workers in general, and their critical role in the wider economy, the Tories have unleashed renewed threats of effectively banning the right to strike, with proposals to legislate ‘minimum service requirements’ on the railways (and other essential services) during any industrial action - which would effectively mean strikes were banned. 

On that issue the Tories did preach class warfare, but only in the hidden depths of the Tory election manifesto, as we exposed at the time; they now aim not just to preach class war on railway workers but also practise it. 

Like a second-rate echo chamber of Tory propaganda, SNP Education Minister Richard Lochhead has joined the shoddy chorus of demands that workers should restrict themselves to what he calls “sensible wage claims". 



Spreading Strikes 

A vast variety of workers are already taking action on pay as the skyrocketing cost of essentials like food, energy, transport and housing devours their real wages. 

FE College lecturers are striking for decent pay, with a claim for 5,000 staff which would only cost approximately £1.5million in total, whereas the combined salaries of 26 College Principals cost the public purse £2.7million. 

School teacher members of the EIS have overwhelmingly rejected a 2% pay offer by COSLA, as have hundreds of thousands of local authority workers, ranging from Social Care staff to cleansing workers and many others. 

RMT members in Network Rail and 15 Train Operating Companies have smashed the Tory anti-union barriers with a 71% turnout and an 89% majority for strike action, which would be the biggest such industrial showdown on the railways in 40 years. 

The sheer scale of this vote for action may well force some concessions from the employers, but anything short of inflation-proofed pay rises after 2 years of zero increases, alongside reversal of the planned loss of 2,500 Network Rail maintenance jobs, would be unacceptable. 

RMT members on ScotRail are voting for action after a derisory 2.2% pay offer, while the SNP/Scottish Green Party government try to square the circle, claiming credit for ‘nationalising' ScotRail on 1st April, then claiming “we are not in the room" when it comes to this pay dispute, whilst of course ScotRail is not only owned and funded by the Scottish government, but their (grossly overpaid) bosses have to get Cabinet permission for any pay rise above the same government's public sector pay cap. 

Royal Mail workers are balloting to protect their pay, and are about to be joined by fellow members of the Communication Workers Union in the BT Group. 

Countless groups of Unite the union members are likewise squaring up to the employers with demands on pay to catch up with inflation. 



Tories Battered into U-turn 

This rolling thunder of industrial fightback by hundreds of thousands of workers is what helped to terrify the Tories into a U-turn on a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, as they face fights on far too many fronts for their own liking. 

After months of stubbornly rejecting the notion of taxation of the grotesque super-profits of the energy giants, as their profiteering drives millions into fuel poverty, the Tories have conceded a temporary 25% tax on the profits of North Sea oil and gas companies, which they claim could raise up to £5billion. 

Whilst that figure dwarfs the pathetically weak windfall tax demands by the Labour leadership - which they themselves estimate would have raised £2billion - it still goes nowhere near matching the life-threatening hike to energy bills which have already been imposed, with an additional £800 increase forecast by Ofgem's chief executive for October. 

Whereas the universal £400 energy subsidy is a welcome, hard-won concession, it doesn't match even half the rise in bills. 

And in contrast to everything the Tories stand for, they've felt compelled to offer targeted (but totally inadequate) additional aid on mounting fuel bills, in a battle for electoral survival. To pensioners, a demographic with a higher than average propensity to vote; and to some of the most impoverished of the working class, to appease their rage in the so-called Redwall seats of northern England - former Labour fortresses recently conquered by the Tories. Classic ruling class tactics: limited reforms from above to prevent 'revolution' from below. 


Public Ownership of Energy 

And the windfall tax is tied to bountiful concessions to the Big Polluters, which threatens to not only subsidise their profits from taxpayers’ money but also vastly exacerbate the climate crisis. 

Shell, BP and the other fossil capitalists have been promised 91 pence back out of every £1 windfall tax provided they invest in energy production - with absolutely no precondition that such investment should be in clean, green renewable energy. 

It feeds into the renewed drive by Boris Johnson for increased fossil fuel production alongside a binge of nuclear power investment, neither of which offers any short-term answer to the energy crisis, and both of which only add to pollution and the threat to the lives of people and our planet. 

And the super-profitable electricity generating and supply companies and privatised National Grid are sheltered from the Tory windfall tax, which targets only oil and gas producers - leaving profiteering out of people's misery intact. 

Nothing short of public ownership of all forms of energy, democratically controlled and managed by elected boards comprising union representatives of energy workers, alongside representatives of the wider working class and governments, can begin to tackle the underlying energy crisis, cure poverty and pollution - all of which requires the planned production of clean, affordable green energy in a People's Energy Service. Made affordable by taking the profit out of it. And made clean by a worker-led transition to renewables. 

Tories party whilst thousands die in isolation 

Tories Can be Beaten! 

However, the £15billion package of concessions on the cost-of-living crisis, wrung out of the hands of Rishi Sunak against all the Tories’ ideology and inbuilt instincts, holds rich lessons for the wider struggles of working-class people. 

Despite their parliamentary majority the Tories are not invincible. They can be beaten. This is something like the 25th U-turn in their short period of office since December 2019. 

They are in crisis, as is the capitalist system they are part of, and can be driven back or even toppled. 

Public outrage at ‘partygate’ has laid siege to Boris Johnson's callous cabal, who arrogantly partied, quaffed alcohol to the point of vomiting all over 10 Downing Street and abusing cleaning staff, at a time when everyday people couldn't even say goodbye to dying relatives, at the height of the pandemic. 

Fury at the outrageous behaviour of this entitled, upper-class razor-gang, led by a serialised liar, has fused with rage at the rising cost of food and fuel, leading to a very significant upsurge in the readiness of workers to strike back through collective action. 


Coordinate the Strikes 

Instead of allowing employers and the government to isolate and pick off one section of workers at a time, national trade union leaders should urgently organise coordination of strike action, including the potential for a 1-day general strike, with common demands on wages, prices and job protection. 

The TUC’s ‘We Deserve Better’ national demonstration in London on June 18th is a welcome opportunity to rally the combined forces of the trade union movement. 

It cannot just be an exercise in going through the motions and letting off steam. Instead, it should be used as the launch-pad for systematic coordination of struggles, including strikes, across different sectors, to demand pay rises that at least match inflation; in round figures, at least 10% across the board. 

In doing so the TUC and individual national union leaderships need to take up the cudgels to bury the malicious myth that wage rises are what cause inflation. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Wages are lagging behind prices, and have been doing so for years. To illustrate the point, figures from the USA show that in the 20 years before Covid, corporations systematically suppressed wages, making labour's share of national wealth the lowest ever by 2019. 



Wages Don't Cause Inflation 

Real weekly wages only rose by 0.4% per annum, whereas annual growth in the national economy (GDP) was over 2% a year. In the period 2012-19, corporate America (excluding the financial companies) made $1trillion a year in profit; in contrast they made $1.7trillion profit last year alone. 

Corporate profit margins are at their highest since 1950 – increased by a median 49% in the last two years, whereas workers’ wages have only risen by 1.6%. The same pattern applies across the globe, including in this country. 

It's fattening profit margins which are causing inflation, not wage rises, which are failing to keep up with inflation. As the Economic Policy Institute sums it up, 54% of all price increases are due to increased profit margins, with labour costs only accounting for less than 8% of price rises. 

One more stark example: the big energy companies recently reported their profits had doubled in the last quarter, at the same time as most people's energy bills have doubled, as their real wages are collapsing, after over a decade of wage stagnation. 

Fattening profits fuel inflation, combined with the bottlenecks in supplies of certain goods because of snarl-ups in the logistics of shipping supplies across the oceans, which was previously hailed as the magic of globalisation, with its ‘just in time production’ slashing costs and turbocharging profits for global multinationals. 

The impact of Covid lockdowns, including port shutdowns, has thrown the globalisation ‘dream’ into chaos, creating supply chain bottlenecks and terrible costs to the working class worldwide, as scarcity of supplies pushes up prices. 

The crises of capitalism create inflation, not wage rises. 

Demand Price Controls 

The TUC London demo should also be used to demand price controls, as at least some governments did in the aftermath of a similar inflationary spiral caused by blockages of goods supplies in the aftermath of World War Two; to be monitored and implemented by Price Committees of workers and consumers. Cut prices and profits, not pay! 

Going beyond that, the trade union movement needs to crank up a serious campaign for democratic public ownership of key sectors like energy, transport, construction, food production and retail, to end the grotesque profiteering and horrendous escalation of food poverty, fuel poverty, substandard housing and social isolation. 

Trade unionists and socialists need to bombard the Scottish government and local authorities with demands for an emergency plan to retrofit every home free of charge, with insulation, draught proofing, new eco-friendly boilers and fast broadband – to slash energy consumption, fuel poverty, and create tens of thousands of skilled jobs into the bargain. 

The Scottish TUC missed an opportunity for far greater mobilisation of workers in Scotland on 18th of June; instead of just laying on transport to London they should have organised a Scottish demonstration to pound the employers and politicians closer to home with demands for pay increases of at least 10% across the board, underpinned by a Scottish minimum wage of at least £12 plus inflation. And investment in a Socialist Green New Deal based on public ownership of energy, all forms of transport and construction, rather than allowing the Scottish government hide behind the limitations of devolution as an excuse for following fundamentally the same path of real terms wage cuts as that being pursued by the Tories. 


Build a Scottish Mass Demo 

The STUC summit on the cost-of-living crisis on 17th of June is a golden opportunity to plan just such a mass demonstration in Scotland, to build solidarity with the various groups of workers taking industrial action, mobilising communities alongside trade unionists, and to rally behind an emergency programme on wages, job creation and a Socialist Green Recovery Plan to combat the cost of living crisis - which in reality is the cost of greed crisis, the cost of profiteering inherent to a capitalist system of production.

Protesting P&O, an obnoxious example of class war by employers 


 Seize the Billionaires' Wealth! 

We live in a fabulously wealthy economy, with no excuse for people having to choose between heating and eating; making all the more reprehensible the reports by Energy Action charity of people in Scotland literally burning furniture and floorboards to heat their homes. 

The combined wealth of Britain's 177 billionaires rose by 9.35% last year, to £653billion. A rise of £55billion in a year for 177 bloated fatcats. No ‘sensible wage demands’ for these creatures, one in three of whom have funded the Tory party. 

 The state of crisis facing millions of working-class people screams out for seizure of these exploiters’ ill-gotten wealth. For a socialist overturn of the class-ridden system that condemns millions to impoverishment whilst blessing the billionaires with wealth beyond human imagination. 

It’s time to meet the Tory class war on workers with equal determination and collective action. And we are many, they are few! 


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Sunday, 24 April 2022

YES! YES! UCS: WHAT A SHOW OF WORKING-CLASS POWER!

 



YES! YES! UCS: WHAT A SHOW OF WORKING-CLASS POWER!

How delighted I was to be invited by the organisers - People’s Past People's Future - to their showing, in Rutherglen, of YES! YES! UCS!

What a show! What an amazing night of popular theatre. What a powerful, awe-inspiring portrayal of the power of the Scottish working class, once mobilised. And what an impact it had on the audience, overwhelmingly local working-class people.

Written by Neil Gore for Townsend Productions to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the momentous 1971-72 Upper Clyde Shipbuilders famous work-in, the production is a phenomenal combination of entertainment, education on a key chapter in labour movement history, and lesson in class power, delivered with uplifting verve by two young women actors, Janie Thomson and Heather Gourdie.

Workers Occupy the Shipyards

The theatre show is part musical, part sketches and dialogue by the two characters, interspersed by powerful speeches, peppered with humour, pathos and brilliant storytelling. It draws the audience into the whirlwind events of the workers’ occupation of the closure-threatened shipyards, solidarity conferences and general strikes, and the ultimate victory of the class power unleashed against the vicious axe-men of the remote Westminster Tory government, led by Ted Heath.

In what was an overwhelmingly (almost 95%) male workforce, the play dares - successfully - to portray events through the eyes, experiences and personal growth of the two young women characters, Aggie and Eddy, who worked in stock control and the shipyard’s drawing room.

Through dynamic dialogue and song - backed up by vivid poster art, animation, real-life newsreel and recordings of powerful speeches by the likes of the workers’ main public representative, Jimmy Reid - we witness the personal growth of the two young women workers into dynamic fighters, at the same time as the play vividly recounts the mass struggles of the time: the power of the Scottish working class and their active allies across Britain and the far continents.

Personal dreams, doubts, bereavement and growth in ‘the college of knowledge’ that is the trade union movement are all skilfully, powerfully presented in a fashion that never loses the attention of the working-class audience. It is funny, moving, inspiring, and absolutely uncompromising in its socialist message.

Aggie goes from stock controller to shop steward, breaking through nervousness to become an inspiring orator, discovering the power of words to ‘light up something inside us.’ Eddy follows the advice of her dying shipyard worker father and ‘follows her dream’ to become an artist, but never loses her roots, taking up the fight for justice for workers blighted by asbestosis.

Part of the large, working-class audience in Rutherglen 


Hope Shines Eternal

And hope shines out. Hope based on this accurate account of the real victories of united workers’ struggles 50 years ago, but also hope that new, current generations will reawaken to such methods, as – in Aggie’s words – “the Tories never learn but also never forget nor forgive us.”

After an interval during which the People’s Past People Future organisers kindly laid on ‘a strikers’ supper’ of wholesome soup and rolls, the night was rounded off by songs from Rutherglen Community Choir and a powerful rendition of two of his union songs by 81-year-old socialist singer-songwriter, Arthur Johnston.

Socialism Returns!

And yet it didn’t end there! A big group of the audience – including many of the large numbers who bought my pamphlet Socialism Returns in the 21st Century, as advertised by the organisers during the raffle! – kept me back for nearly an hour discussing why we need the spirit of UCS today, or as a few of them said, “we need a revolution!”

Many of these men and women were scathing about all the political parties – “For the first time in my life I won't vote for any of them" – but readily added they trust our party, the SSP, because they know we are honest and tell it how it is on the side of the working class.

I left this brilliant night thinking: imagine if YES! YES! UCS! was shown on mainstream TV!

Imagine the impact on younger people with little or no knowledge of such glorious periods of working-class struggle. Imagine how it would uplift and embolden workers today, as they face the capitalist thuggery at P&O ferries, fire and rehire, and a multitude of daily assaults on our lives as the profiteers seek to recover and replenish their ill-gotten wealth, at the expense of terrible suffering and privation for millions of workers and their children.

Which is why those in power would not dare televise it! And why it’s so important that others imitate the actions of People's Past People's Future by taking this marvellous, inspiring piece of popular theatre into local communities: to the people with most to gain by rising up in the manner of UCS.

As John Lennon sang in response to the UCS, “Power to the People!”





READ THE BLOG & BUY THE PAMPHLET 

Last August 2021 I wrote an article on the UCS work-in, on the 50th anniversary of one of the mammoth demonstrations through Glasgow in support of the right to work. 
It cannot match the graphic portrayal of musical theatre, but it helps give background reading to the events, and lessons for today. Please have a read of it. 
You will find it here: http://richieventon.blogspot.com/2021/08/ucs-still-inspiration-50-years-on.html


And consider ordering a copy of Socialism Returns in the 21st Century - which sold in large numbers at the People's Past People's Future presentation of YES! YES! UCS! 
Order here: https://scottishsocialistparty.org/product/socialism-returns-in-the-21st-century/



Wednesday, 6 April 2022

NATIONALISE P&O TO STOP CAPITALIST THUGGERY


P&O bosses have used the most outrageous capitalist thuggery in living memory, only comparable to Ronald Reagan's mass sacking of air traffic controllers in  August 1981, when he had PATCO strike leaders manacled, chained like slaves, then paraded on TV stations to cow the rest of the American working class.

But the crews on P&O were not even striking! They were sacked on the spot, without warning, by video, then forced off the vessels by mercenaries with handcuffs and balaclavas hired by Interforce, as minibus loads of people from all over the world were dragooned up the gangplanks to replace the 800 workers. When crews on many vessels refused to leave the ship, P&O bosses added blackmail to their physical force thuggery, threatening officers on board with loss of every penny in so-called redundancy money unless they surrendered.

In the weeks since, P&O top dog, Peter Hepplethwaite, has brazenly admitted they deliberately broke the law in their mass sackings, told MPs he would do it again, and made clear to MSPs he has no intention of resigning, despite his law-breaking. He tried to justify their replacement of crews on union-negotiated wages by slave labour on as little as £1.80-an-hour by boasting the average pay of his scab army is £5.50-an-hour. His basic salary is £325,000... and the rest!

Demand National Union Rates for the Job

Even the Tories felt obliged to huff and puff about applying the £8.91 minimum wage in British waterways – which not only is too little and too late, but dodges the central point that they’d still be vastly undercutting the wages negotiated by the RMT and Nautilus for the proper crews who've been viciously sacked. Instead of such chicanery, laws should be enforced that any seafarers get the nationally negotiated rate and conditions for the job.

And the Tories knew about this wage-cutting thuggery in advance. Not only did P&O inform the Tory Ministry days before, but apparently raised their intentions at least as far back as November.

On top of which, they are not the first pirates of profit to pursue this course, just the first to do it with such crass brutality and disregard for recognised unions.


Pirates of Profit

Irish Ferries, back in 2005, sacked hundreds of crew, albeit with legal consultation procedures, and replaced them with foreign agency workers. The RMT condemned the government at the time for “rolling out the red carpet” for these sackings. The same Irish Ferries last year announced plans to bring in ‘low-cost’ crewing models - similar to P&O – on their Dover-Calais service.

In 2014, the late RMT leader, Bob Crow, denounced “super-exploitation of foreign nationals in the British shipping industry, a massive scandal that the political elite want to keep quiet", as the union organised protests over Condor Ferries, on the south coast of England, hiring foreign crews on as little as £2.40-an-hour.

The response of trade unionists and socialists has been magnificent, with large, lively demos at all the ports, including Cairnryan and Larne. Workers recognise this as a dangerous attack on us all, which cannot go unchallenged. 


Defy Tory Laws to Win Reinstatement

As I’ve tried to convey when invited by the RMT organisers to speak at the demos at Cairnryan and the supply chain of slave labourers, Clyde Marine Recruitment, we need to learn lessons from our class enemies in fighting for reinstatement of the crews on their previous wages and conditions. Politely pleading with them won't win the jobs back. The bosses were shamelessly ready and willing to break the law in pursuit of  even higher profits for DP World,  who last month announced record profits of $3.8billion. Trade unionists need to be prepared to defy the Tories’ anti-working-class laws by taking what would be deemed by the Tories ‘secondary industrial action’.

Unions representing dockers at the ports should be organising non-handling of the P&O slave wage-ships, which are in any case so unsafe, crewed by people so untrained (as well as savagely exploited), that even the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has tied up two of them in the space of one week – at Dover and Larne – which is unprecedented.

Likewise, where any of the haulier drivers are in a union, steps should be taken to stop their use of P&O until the crews are reinstated.

As traffic is diverted to the likes of Stena line, workers and their unions will need to be vigilant and prepared to take appropriate industrial action on the impossible workloads that their own bosses will likely impose, especially at such peak travelling times as Easter. The entire industry is run by profiteers in a ruthless race to the bottom, and now is the time for the workers' movement to start to turn the tide.


Blockade the Slave Wage-ships 

While taking these steps, the wider trade union movement leaderships – national unions, TUC, STUC included – need to seriously build blockades of the ports, properly mobilising members from the workplaces, after organising meetings with RMT or Nautilus speakers, to form human rings of steel that prevent sailings by P&O slave wage-ships.

And the Tories’ crocodile tears don't  wash! They have consciously, systematically created the atmosphere and the battery of anti-union laws to punish workers with savage wage cuts to turbocharge profits for big business, especially in the aftermath of the Coronavirus crisis, as we've warned they would for the past two years.

They need to be bombarded by massive demonstrations of trade unionists and their communities with demands that the government should seize the ships, take them out of the hands of the law-trashing P&O pirates of profit, and take them into state ownership, to make them safe by reinstating the trained crews on the wages and conditions previously won by their unions.


Nationalise under Workers’ Control

It is outrageous that not only does P&O account for a huge proportion of passenger traffic, but 15% of UK freight, and yet they have been allowed by the government to add to their portfolio by being big players in the first, London-based Freeport being pursued by Boris Johnson's regime – the tax-dodging haven for exploiters being pursued not only by the Tories but also Scotland's government, as spelt out by the RMT's Gordon Martin in a previous issue of the Voice.

P&O is the epitome of capitalism, of ruthless class rule for profit, deploying physical force in pursuit of their aims when they think it necessary. The united response of the trade union movement needs to match that class determination, demanding nationalisation of P&O and the entire shipping and transport sector, under democratic workers’ control, to create a public service, not a haven for profiteering tax dodgers who will resort to the vicious super-exploitation of desperate people to achieve their maximum profit margins.

This whole episode reinforces the case for socialism, for a future based on People not Profit. 

WATCH VIDEO DURING BLOCKADE OF CLYDE MARINE RECRUITMENT AGENCY, SOURCE OF P&O SLAVE LABOUR: 

https://youtu.be/uOQsTi8K2ug




Thursday, 3 February 2022

BIG WIND, BIG SELLOUT, BIG PROFIT



It must be the biggest sell-out in modern history; certainly, in Scotland. 

About 40 years ago, Scotland's burgeoning Oil and Gas production was handed over to an ugly clutch of planet-trashing multinationals in an orgy of privatisation by Maggie Thatcher's Tories, which meant the vast wealth flowing from the North Sea never benefited the people of Scotland, or indeed those of the UK. Fabulous profits were siphoned off and sent abroad, with maximum tax-dodging thrown in.  

Now, the Scottish government has followed fundamentally the same path in the ScotWind development of Scotland's lucrative offshore wind energy production, squandering an estimated £5.5billion to the annual income of Scotland. 

Wind Privatised 

Over 7,000 square kilometres of Scotland's seabed have been auctioned off, at £700million, for the construction of the biggest offshore windfarm project in Scottish history – 17 different sites, estimated to be capable of generating 25 Giga Watts of electricity, where one GW is enough to power 750,000 houses!  

This sell-off was conducted by Crown Estates Scotland (CES), whose chair and board are appointed by the Scottish government. And it must be the biggest fire sale ever! 

The options to construct massive, super-profitable windfarms were auctioned off at one-third the original estimated value set by the government offshoot, CES. All bar one of the successful bids came in at the capped price set by CES, meaning it was grossly undervalued, seen as “cheap at twice the price” by the collection of fossil fuel capitalists and overseas multinationals who have been handed power over Scotland's main source of renewable energy production.  

Not a single one of the successful bidders is based in Scotland; they are from Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Nigeria and England.


Over 20% of the total has been grabbed at fire sale prices by two of the globe's biggest polluters, BP and Shell. 

Shell and its partner Scottish Power - which contrary to its name is owned by Spanish giant, Iberdrola - have seized the seabed space to construct two of the world's first large-scale floating offshore windfarms: MarramWind (the biggest of all 17 projects auctioned off) and CampionWind, which between them will have the capacity to generate 5 Giga Watts, enough to power over 6 million homes.

BP and its German partner EnBW have bought the rights to build the Morven offshore windfarm, with the capacity to produce 3 GW - which could power over 3 million homes. 

BP: 'Literally a Cash Machine'

Let us not forget these rampant profiteers have plundered the planet for fabulous profit, as dominant members of the fossil capitalist club. 

Shell has just announced a quadrupling of their profits in 2021, to £14billion - the sae day that the Tories used Ofgem to lift the price cap on household energy bills by about £16.7billion!

BP's chief executive officer, Brendan Looney (sic), notoriously and shamelessly declared his company to be "literally a cash machine" - as their profits soared at the cost of widespread, desperate fuel poverty. Mr Looney is no fool in making this description of the Big Polluter: BP raked in profits of £900 a second!

Having set the planet on fire through their decades of greenhouse gas emissions, these planet-trashers have now been issued a licence to make money out of green energy - by a Scottish coalition government that fought furiously to bask in a green light during the recent COP26 Conference in Glasgow. 


Scottish Green Party Greenwash Fossil Capitalism 

This grotesque sell-out of Scotland's natural resources has been hailed by ‘Scotland's National Party’ – allegedly the party of Scottish independence - as one of the most significant moments in our history, to quote Nicola Sturgeon. 

She was backed up in this bizarre claim by the allegedly radical voice of the Scottish Green Party, Ross Greer MSP, who echoed SNP excuses that this privatisation was necessary because the government doesn’t have the capital investment capacity to develop these vast green energy projects. 

Ross Greer added, for good measure, the outrageous boast “Still a long way to go but we are winning", because the Big Oil lobbyists, Oil and Gas UK, have just changed their name to Offshore Energies UK. This is fossil capitalism being greenwashed, with the Scottish Green Party gleefully spraying the green aerosol, as Big Oil now also becomes Big Wind in an orgy of Big Profit.

Scotland Loses £5.5bn Annually 

Although the £700m paid to the Scottish government for the auction of the seabed bases will be added to by annual rents of between £50m and £90m, economists have calculated this could have been an annual income to the Scottish government of at least £5.5billion, had it been carried out through a state-owned Scottish energy company. 

Their estimates of the value of wind energy generation – based on the experience of the world's biggest offshore windfarm company, Denmark’s Orsted - not only means the multinationals can recover the costs of (vast) infrastructure investment within a year, and make pure, undiluted profit the other 24 years of a 25-year licence, but recover the cost of their initial fees for the seabed licences in just two days of production! 



Pure Profiteering after the First Year

Back in 2017, the SNP government promised to create a public sector National Energy Company by 2021. As we persistently warned, this was always going to be a glorified shop, a purely retail energy company, not involved whatsoever in the actual production of energy. But even that feeble plan was abandoned in September 2021 by the SNP and their new partners in government, the Scottish Greens. 

Now, in the absence of a state-owned energy industry, the same coalition has handed power over to the likes of Shell, a capitalist giant not only notorious for trashing the planet for profit, but for helping to overthrow elected governments that dared nationalise ‘their' industry, such as Mossadegh’s in 1950s Iran, and for spearheading the 1995 execution of Ken Saro Wiwa when he led opposition to Shell’s desecration of the land and people of Nigeria. 

No Scottish Jobs Guaranteed  

And contrary to the hosannas sung by the Scottish government, there is no guarantee that this will lead to any substantial job creation in Scotland. 

The auction process itself quite explicitly excluded any regulations about the supply chain. Many of the winners in the auction are big investors in overseas turbine manufacturing, so that lessens the likelihood of job creation in Scotland compared with reliance on cheaper labour abroad to maximise private profit. 

Twelve years ago, the SNP government promised 28,000 jobs by 2020 in the offshore wind industry alone. The latest available figures show a measly 1,400 actual jobs – twenty times fewer than promised. With that track record, based on adherence to the capitalist market and reliance on inward investment by marauding multinationals rather than a coherent industrial strategy rooted in democratic public ownership of all forms of energy production and distribution, job prospects look bleak. 


https://scottishsocialistparty.org/product-category/pamphlets/

Build Socialist Change not Climate Change 

This betrayal of the interests of the Scottish working class and of environmental campaigners by an SNP-Scottish Green Party coalition that refuses to break with the power of big business serves to reinforce all the arguments we expanded in our book, Socialist Change not Climate Change.  

Unless we build a mass movement of workers and young people with a vision of democratic public ownership of all energy forms, and initiate an alternative plan of green production primarily devised and led by workers in the industry, we face a future dominated by Big Oil, and now Big Wind, with the slaughter of jobs and pollution of our planet, all in the name of Big Profit. 

As a working-class eco-socialist party, the SSP will fight alongside the unions for jobs, and redouble our efforts for a clean, green, independent socialist Scotland. 


BUY BOOK HERE: https://scottishsocialistparty.org/product-category/pamphlets/



Sunday, 16 January 2022

BUILD ACTION TO BOOT OUT THE TORIES: turn the tide

 

The Tory crisis is the working class's opportunity 


The Tories are ripping each other's throats out in a desperate struggle to survive the public rage at Boris Johnson's booze-up with Tory flunkies - held at a time when the rest of us were banned from meeting more than one person outdoors, and relatives couldn't even visit their loved ones, as they died a cruel, lonely Covid death.

Boris Johnson is a dead Prime Minister walking.

But nobody should be fooled into thinking that whenever he's dumped on the dunghill where he belongs that suddenly all will be well, in the best of all capitalist worlds. 

The escalating crisis enfeebles the Tory government and should be the signal for the organised trade union movement, working-class communities and socialists to launch mass struggles on pay, public services, job protection, safety at work, full average wages for sick workers - and to topple the entire, corrupt Tory razor gang.

We have often described Johnson as a vicious, anti-working-class reactionary masquerading as a buffoon. His right-wing populist pretence of being different from the upper-class Tory grandees helped the Tories win their 80-seat majority in December 2019. Many of the reptiles belatedly calling for his resignation to try to save their own skins became MPs through his shenanigans. And they have happily backed his corrupt regime for the past 2 years. Now that the ‘Party-gate’ scandal has further exposed this serial liar, making him an electoral liability, the Tory parliamentary rats are deserting his sinking ship.


The infuriating, upper-class sense of entitlement must be punished 


All Tories Must Go!

Whilst the growing chorus of ‘Johnson must go’ is entirely justified, it would be utter folly - and a cruel deceit of the working-class majority population - to imagine his replacement by Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss or some other Tory worthy would make any difference to the growing crises facing ordinary people, including the cost-of-living crisis.

The High Court has this week found the entire Tory government guilty of illegally fast-tracking PPE contracts to their profiteering pals, providing them tens of millions in profit, whilst failing to provide workers with any proper PPE. 

The same applies to the outrageous failures by privatised Test and Trace schemes. The Tories, and the capitalist employers they defend and enrich, have blood on their hands.

Tory privatisation of energy suppliers - sustained by successive Labour governments - has led to the collapse of cowboy energy companies amidst free market chaos, which working-class people are paying a terrible price for, through rocketing fuel bills. As an example, my own family's monthly fixed tariff rose from £64 to £104 in November – a leap of 61 per cent!  

Rampant Profiteering by Energy Companies 

Even money expert Martin Lewis was in tears as he confessed he could do absolutely nothing to help a family unable to pay the price of heating their home and eating. And that's even before the predicted £500-600 further increase households face in April, as the Tories raise the fuel price cap. Instead of taking all forms of energy into public ownership, to eradicate the profiteering, the Tories are predictably bailing out collapsing capitalist firms with taxpayers’ money; for example, gifting the owners of Bulb £2,000 per customer, but leaving these outfits in the hands of the privateers who have profited for years. As millions suffer fuel poverty the energy monopolies see their profits surge.

Governments' incompetence in the face of COVID-19, rooted in putting profit before people, has seen the wealth of the world’s billionaires turbocharge from $8 trillion to $13 trillion in just 12 months, whereas working-class people have suffered mass deaths, massive pay cuts and job losses. Like wars, pandemics are good for some: energy giant Shell has just replaced drugs barons AstraZeneca at the top of the FTSE 100 index. 

The rage at the Tories has peaked at their display of arrogant self-entitlement, wilfully ignoring the COVID-19 regulations they imposed on the population at several Tory booze-ups. However, this public fury goes deeper than that: the Tories’ corrupt practices over contracts; their cavalier failure to act swiftly to protect people from the virus; the near-collapse of the NHS and burnout of frontline staff after decades of consciously-planned austerity; their encouragement of fire-and-rehire tactics by employers, to crucify workers’ jobs and conditions; the escalating cost-of-living crisis as inflation reached 7.1% in November (the highest in at least 30 years) whereas average pay deals last year were 2 per cent; scrapping of the £20 Universal Credit uplift; abolition of the triple lock on pensions...

University workers amongst those striking back 

Day of Reckoning 

There needs to be a day of reckoning for the multiple Tory crimes against working-class people. The current mayhem engulfing what historically has been the strongest, most successful and ruthless capitalist party in the world should be seized by the leaderships of workers’ organisations as an opportunity to fight back, mobilise action, and reverse the slaughter of living standards suffered by millions.

The potential for a coordinated, systematic counter-offensive by the organised working class, their families and communities is shown by the increased outbreaks of (mostly localised) struggles -  particularly on issues like pay and the bosses’ fire-and-rehire atrocities. This upturn in action is underpinned by an increased awareness of the key, indispensable role of the working class in making society function, revealed to millions during the pandemic.


Clarks shoe factory workers boot out fire and rehire 


Workers Fighting Back

Workers in the Clarks shoe factory in Somerset have given the boot to fire-and-rehire by sustained strike action and demonstrations. Previously prolonged strikes by Manchester bus-workers and pre-Christmas strikes by Weetabix workers likewise defeated this vicious new weapon being deployed by employers.

Wincanton drivers won a 24% pay rise by striking for two months. The threat of strikes by Tesco distribution depot workers won at least an improvement on pay. Encouraged by the fighting stance of recently-elected Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, strikes and threats of industrial action have conquered £25million extra in Unite members’ wages during the first 100 days since Sharon was elected. Several groups of railway workers are out on strike, as are some offshore workers.


Coordinated action urgently needed in workers' defence 

Determined and high-profile strike action by Glasgow City Council cleansing workers has at least forced the beginnings of renovations in the decrepit, disgusting conditions they suffer in the depots, but they are likely to stage a new wave of action against the failure of the SNP Council to grant Covid bonuses, a decent pay rise, or upgrades to these key workers - who wallow in the lowest-graded jobs. As their GMB convener Chris Mitchell told me, “The council's service reform has created posts that make no sense on £40-80,000 salaries for a few people at the top, but done sweet FA for the workers or people of Glasgow.”

Thousands of low-paid Glasgow city council workers - overwhelmingly women - are gearing up towards further strikes to win interim pay-outs denied to them since the victorious 2018 equal pay strike, and to enforce equal pay which is still not applied to these key workers 52 years after the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

University staff increasingly see themselves as part of the working class as they prepare for renewed and increased strike action on wage cuts, pay inequality, job insecurity, impossible workloads and robbery of their pensions.

Mostly young bar staff in Dundee and Glasgow are spearheading battles against a litany of crimes by the trendy bar owners during the pandemic, ranging from pay and failure to provide COVID-safety measures to bullying, sackings and sexual harassment.

Another likely arena of struggle in 2022 is local government, based on the SNP/Scottish Greens government budget cuts of at least £371million to local authority funding, on top of previous cuts of £3-4billion in the past 11 years.

Alongside venue closures, prohibitive charges to community groups for venues, pay cuts and staffing cuts, the Scottish government budget for the first time since 2007 empowers councils to add uncapped Council Tax increases to the assault on working-class people's living standards.

Coordinate the Struggles

Multiple strands of separate struggles need to be combined into a rope to strangle the Tories.  

The potential power of the organised working class needs to be built into coordinated action to take advantage of the crisis-riven Westminster government - to drive back the tide of attacks on pay, benefits, jobs and public services.

The SNP/Scottish Green Party government has zero intention of seizing this moment to mobilize the Scottish people in a mass movement to win back resources stolen by the Westminster razor gang, which is precisely what any socialist Scottish government would do.

Instead, they clearly intend to continue their habit of devolving the cuts initiated by Westminster, rather than defy and defeat them. That puts the onus on the trade union movement and Scottish TUC to spearhead mobilisations through rallies, demos, well-prepared strike action and solidarity with people in struggle to resist the onslaught and begin to reverse the barefaced robbery of wealth by the rich from the rest of us.



United movements need to be urgently built around a series of fighting demands, such as:

# Pay claims to compensate for a decade of austerity and current inflation - underpinned by a national minimum wage of at least £12-an-hour for all aged 16 upwards, with equal pay for women - backed up by coordinated strike action in defiance of Tory anti-union laws.

# Concerted action to defeat and force the abolition of fire-and-rehire.

# Full average wages for every sick or self-isolating worker, with £350-a-week Statutory Sick Pay, and workers’ control of health and safety through elected, trained union reps.

# Demand No Cuts Defiance Budgets in every Council, building protest movements by Council staff and local communities, demanding back the stolen £millions from central government.

# Axe the regressive Council Tax, demanding emergency legislation from the Scottish government to introduce an income-based, progressive Scottish Service Tax to vastly increase funding for local jobs and services.

# Fight for free, vastly expanded public transport networks, to combat poverty, pollution and social isolation - starting with council-run, free, electric bus services.

# An emergency plan to build 100,000 new council houses over 4 years, to the highest environmental standards - and free insulation of every house and public building in Scotland.

# End fuel poverty, pollution and profiteering by taking all forms of energy into democratic public ownership, to provide clean, green, affordable energy.

Socialist Green New Deal

It has been shown by research that such a package of measures - part of a Socialist Green New Deal - could create over 350,000 new, green, skilled and unionised jobs in Scotland, thereby opening up vistas of hope rather than despair for working-class people of all ages; combating poverty and pollution in a green industrial revolution.

Mobilisations in the short term - seizing the time when the Tories are at their most vulnerable - could begin to embolden workers and young people that sweeping change is possible, starting in 2022. Failure to exploit the Tories’ difficulties as the workers’ movement’s opportunity would be criminal - allowing the Tories to regroup and savage the lives and livelihoods of the working class.

2022 poses the point-blank choices of defiance or devastation; struggle or starvation; socialism or barbarism. Let us rise to the collective challenge.



Our two most recent publications present comprehensive socialist alternatives to the growing economic and ecological crises. 

They present a fully-researched, worker-led socialist green new deal to combat the poverty and pollution created by capitalism. Recommended reading! 

https://scottishsocialistparty.org/product/socialist-change-not-climate-change-pźoverty-pollution-and-working-class-solutions/


 

Thursday, 9 September 2021

TAX WEALTH, NOT WAGES: for a legal maximum income

 


Contrary to all the fuss and brouhaha, Boris Johnson's new taxation for health and social care is a pitiful failure to match the scale of monumental crisis in both social care and the NHS.

And equally damning, the Tories' new taxation scheme is one of the most unfair and regressive of all, in a state awash with taxes that hammer the lowest-paid whilst tickling the tummies of the grotesquely rich.

First, the headline facts. From next April, and for the three subsequent years, National Insurance Contributions will increase by 1.25 percentage points - which is a rise of over 10% on the current rate. In total that will raise an additional £36billion, spread over 3 years.

It's a UK-wide tax. In response to the backlash about this being Boris's 'social care poll tax', levied on Scottish workers to (allegedly) bail out social care in England, the Tories have conceded that £1.1billion a year will come to Scotland from this 'health and social care levy'. They furthermore 'magnanimously' granted the Scottish government the powers to decide how to use that extra funding, after being accused of undermining devolution.




Broken Tory Promises

In once again breaking a Tory election promise not to raise taxes – at the same time as also spitting in the faces of those who believed the Tories when they promised not to end the pension 'triple lock', whereby state pensions rise with inflation, average wages or by 2.5% - they try to fool people into thinking they are dealing with the catastrophe in social care, so blatantly exposed during 18 months of pandemic. They are not!

For starters, only £5.4billion of the total £36billion is to go to social care; the rest is to be poured into the gaping hole in NHS funding, which is facing its own escalating crisis. And of that sum, only £2.5billion is being allocated to funding of the social care workforce, training and associated council costs – despite England alone suffering 120,000 unfilled vacancies in that sector! Age UK reports that at least 1.5 million elderly people are not getting the care they need (and deserve).

The £1.1billion a year allocated to Scotland certainly puts to shame the pitiful £148million previously promised by Nicola Sturgeon – and now officially signed up to by the Scottish Green Party – in their entirely bogus claims of establishing “a National Care Service on a par with the NHS”.

But it still goes nowhere near tackling the crises in Scotland's care sector or Scotland's NHS.



Scotland's Health and Care Crisis

Shocking new figures by the nursing union, RCN Scotland, reveal that our hospitals are suffering the highest levels of unfilled vacancies in history. Almost 5,000 full time equivalent posts in Scotland's NHS remain unfilled – 7.1% of all roles in the service. In areas like the Highlands, Shetland and Dumfries & Galloway, over one in every 10 nursing and midwifery posts lies empty, unfilled, adding to the health catastrophe exacerbated by Covid-19. As a mental health epidemic sweeps the country, one in every 12 mental health nurse positions remains vacant, unfilled, unfunded.

And that says nothing of the terrible state of affairs in Scotland's social care sector.

NIC: Regressive, Unfair Tax on Wages

But as well as being nothing like adequate to the urgent tasks posed, the entire health and social care levy – the 1.25 percentage points increase on NIC contributions – is obscenely regressive, hammering those least able to afford it compared with the rich minority.

Under uproar about increased taxation of workers whilst share dividends were to remain untouched, the Tories have conceded that tax on share dividends will also rise by 1.25%. But let's not get too grateful! Let's look at the relative taxation rates, and how they hammer workers rather than wealth.

NIC is one of the most regressive taxes in the UK. The existing rate for all incomes between £9,658 a year and £50,268 is currently 12% - rising to 13.25% from April 2022. By stark contrast, all income above £50,268 only contributes a miserly 2% NIC – or 3.25% from April!




Wealth Inequality Even Wider

And of course it gets worse. Wealth inequality is infinitely greater than income inequality.

The millionaires and billionaires sink much of their wealth in mansions, yachts, super-cars, diamonds and the likes, and hire vast armies of accountants to devise devilishly ingenious ways to dodge paying taxes on their ill-gotten wealth – whereas you or I would face the jail for refusing to pay taxes on our wages.

Instead of walloping wages, health and social care should be properly funded by taxation on wealth. Here are a few illustrative examples of what could be done, in a fashion that would at least trim some of the worst excesses off the inequality inevitably produced by capitalism - a system that is constructed to create inequality.

Wealth Tax

Even a 5% wealth tax on all couples 'worth' more than £1million would raise £50billion a year – dwarfing the paltry £12billion annual income from the Tory scheme that disproportionately comes from the incomes of the lowest paid worker.

Or a puny 1% wealth tax on households worth over £4million would give the state an additional £20billion a year to fund health, social care and other public services.

Capital Gains Tax comes from selling something which has increased in value. But the highest rate of CGT is a modest 28%. If that was raised to 40%, it would give the state an extra £9billion a year.

Entrepreneurs Relief!

One of the lesser known, perfectly legal, tax schemes is called Entrepreneurs Relief! No, this is not some dodgy form of recreation, but legalised theft of public funds by the hard-at-profiteering. Over 50,000 business people benefit from this state handout. If it was included in Capital Gains Tax, and increased to 40% instead of being zero-rated, it would bring in £13billion a year!

The lowest paid millions unavoidably pay income tax starting at 20%. Just to show how 'equitable' capitalism really is, tax on earnings on stocks and shares is a puny 7.5% right now; we can hear the screams of agony from the big shareholders at facing a tax rate of 8.75% from next year!

Even a hopelessly inadequate rise to 15% taxation would gather £7billion a year extra for health and social care.




Legal Maximum Income

All these facts and figures are mere samples of what a progressive taxation system could do, at the expense of the millionaires, for the benefit of the millions.

But they also serve to highlight the need to transform the whole system with measures that would mean a vast transfusion of wealth and power away from the rich to the rest of us; the opposite to what has actually happened, particularly under successive Tory and Labour governments since the Dark Ages of Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s.

One of the policies pioneered by the SSP over the 23 years since our formation is a Legal Maximum Income, set initially at 10 times the legal National Minimum Wage. It's a policy which in turn I fought for and won as national conference policy in my own trade union, USDAW, the fifth-largest union in the country.

Frankly, the idea that a legally-enforced national minimum wage of at least £12-an-hour should be accompanied by a Legal Maximum Income equivalent to £120-an-hour is absurdly over-generous to the rich. But it would be a good start, in tackling inequality and providing Universal Free Basic Services.

And it could raise a fortune! At risk of boggling your brain, imagine such a policy applied even just to Scotland's 10 billionaires, whose combined wealth rocketed to £22.4billion last year. If a legal cap was imposed on them, at 10 times the proposed £12 minimum wage, that would leave about £21billion for Scotland's public services!

Or extend the geography of this Legal Maximum Income to the whole UK: the richest 250 people increased their wealth last year by over £1million a day, each, on average – every day!

A mere 171 people, the UK's billionaires, have a combined fortune of £597billion. Slap the cap on them, at 10 times the minimum wage, and you can do the sums for yourself.

Capitalism is Designed to Create Inequality

Capitalism by its very nature is a grotesque machine for creating inequality. As even the right-wing Sunday Times was moved to write when it published its annual Rich List in May 2021,

Many readers will feel uncomfortable that such astonishing fortunes have been created as Britain battled a virus that has so far claimed 128,000 lives, increased unemployment to 1.7 million, ramped up government debt, clipped civil liberties and heightened levels of depression and other mental health illnesses.”

Uncomfortable? Furious more like, but all the more resolved to overturn that system. Which would require democratic public ownership of the major industries and services to fully tackle, but which a Legal Maximum Income would certainly begin to transform.

Socialism – not Tinkering with Capitalism

The Tories are openly the political wing of capitalism and its inherent inequalities and exploitation. Labour under Starmer is the New Labour New Tories! It's led by the knight of the realm who led the opposition to mild increases in Corporation Taxes on the giant corporations in this year's Westminster Budget debates!

But neither the SNP nor Scottish Greens fundamentally oppose the continued rule of capitalism, and therefore satisfy themselves with minuscule measures to redress the balance of inequality; measures that are puny in their scale.

The health, social care and general well-being of the population will not be noticeably improved by the funds raised by the regressive taxation schemes just announced, which will serve to exacerbate inequality.

The SSP's policy of a Legal Maximum Income of no more than ten times a living, minimum wage, rapidly reduced to ratios of 5:1 or less – alongside our fight for democratic public ownership of energy, transport, construction, major industries, landed estates and the entire financial system – is what is required.



Successfully proposing Legal Max Income policy at 2018 USDAW National Conference



NOW WATCH THE VIDEO!

This video was made over 3 years ago, so a few of the statistics are dated: we need a MINIMUM hourly wage for all aged 16 upwards of at least £12. 

But the message and policy is even more relevant today than then, with galloping inequality, exacerbated by the Tories' 10% hike of NIC taxation of ordinary workers. 

Copy and paste this VIDEO link in your search, or right click on it for options:

https://youtu.be/oIqKUohclN4