We reproduce below the thoughts of one of our party members on the situation facing workers in Britain as the year turns.
Wholesale gas prices are now back to the level they were at before the Russian SMO began. The question is: why hasn’t the price we pay also dropped?
The gas companies are privately owned, and the first people they keep happy are the owners themselves, the shareholders. If they reduce prices, the stock price of energy producers falls. The shareholders want eternal endless growth, endless profit.
They don’t think in timescales of decades or years, or even quarters these days. Fast profit, and bugger the consequences. If profit falls too far or stops, they take their capital and flee.
Also don’t forget, rather than cut into the already massive profits, ‘our’ government just raised the cap on what energy companies ‘could’ charge the consumer per unit. Of course, ‘could’ very quickly became ‘would’.
So we’ve seen our gas storage in Britain removed, because upkeep of it chips into profits. Why would we need storage, right? Get rid and the profit margins go up! Oh, when we sanction huge gas-supplying countries to further political goals, then we are even more at the mercy of the energy market – one manipulated by a tiny handful of people who own our means of heating, cooking, electricity generation etc.
That’ll be why we need storage.
Gas in Britain was once owned by the British state. During that time, even though it was still controlled by the capitalist class for their own interests, infrastructure and storage was invested in. North Sea gas was being invested in and we were at least able to heat our homes and had some kind of energy security.
Once this was all sold off to the monopoly capitalists (who else would have the funds available to buy a whole nation’s gas infrastructure and extraction rights?) North Sea gas was seen as expensive compared to other gas fields they own around the world, so investment was pulled.
Reduced supply under monopoly conditions means huge spikes in prices, at the low low cost of closing or underinvesting in an entire nation’s gas supply. You didn’t think they were supplying gas out of some strange post-Christmas Scrooge-like generosity did you? Profits before people is the mantra.
So here we are today, where our ability to access energy (electricity prices are set according to the price of the most expensive way to generate power, which, owing to the highly inflated price, is currently gas) is controlled by a group of people who might not even fill a bus if they were gathered in one place. A group of people who have no choice but to squeeze us dry of our meagre wages.
The solution? Well, a short-term fix would be to bring the means of production back into public ownership. They’ve earned enough of taxpayer-funded infrastructure and development, grown rich off the taxes bled from workers, that we could take it back without ‘compensation’.
Long term, this needs to be done to all of industry. We’ve lost steel, water, shipping, coal, housing, agriculture, our NHS – all to a handful of the owning class. What have they done with these assets? They’ve hollowed them out to maximise profits at the expense of the people who use them, people like you and me.
We need to take all our industries and services into common ownership, so that decisions can be made by the producers, the workers, the very people who are affected most, instead of having our lives smashed to pieces by decisions made behind closed doors by unelected parasites.
We can’t fix this system; this isn’t a ‘rough patch’ or a one-off crisis. These booms and busts, or, more accurately, overproduction crises, have been happening for 200 years, every eight to 12 years.
Without revolutionary change to the way our economy is set up, with its masses of poor workers, producing socially the commodities that a few bourgeois take and use individually, we’ll be doomed to suffer these crises over and over while our friends and family freeze in unheated, unfit-for-habitation houses, starving while food rots in warehouses, and dying waiting for treatment because of run-for-profit healthcare.