Josh Asker, North London Socialist Party
Bosses of energy-intensive industries are clamouring for government bailouts. Soaring gas prices internationally are hiking the cost of energy and threatening the profits of industry. With the threat of some firms going under, workers’ jobs could be at risk.
As is increasingly the case, cracks are widening in Johnson’s cabinet. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has come into conflict with Chancellor Rishi Sunak over the issue of financial help for British industry hit by rising energy prices. This reflects divisions among wider sections of the capitalist class about what way forward for British capitalism, with Sunak favouring spending restrictions. Johnson sided with Kwarteng’s call for a rescue plan but details of any deals are yet to be revealed.
There can be no trust in the Tories to save jobs and act in the interests of workers. Many of these industries have been raking in profits, and their shareholders collecting lucrative dividends, and now they want a bailout. In September, ministers already agreed a bailout for CO2 supplier ‘CF Fertilisers’ – such are their fears of a lack of CO2 disrupting supply chains, particularly food production. Many workers will ask: where is our bailout to cover the cost of rising energy bills?
Responding to this pressure, Sunak has insisted any package will be subject to conditions – that questions will be asked about dividends and bonuses before issuing state-backed loans. No doubt the Treasury is feeling the extra scrutiny following the Greensill scandal – where former PM David Cameron used his connections to lobby for a loan for Greensill Capital before its subsequent collapse in March.
Details of exactly what government financing went to Greensill, and the extent of the bailout for CF Fertilisers, remain secret. The only way to determine what resources these companies truly have access to is to open the books to inspection by workers and the trade unions.
Bailouts, including in the form of government-backed loans, must not simply be handed over to the bosses only for them to proceed to sack workers or resume making lucrative profits in the future. The only way to secure jobs in these industries is on the basis of nationalisation under democratic workers’ control and management. Investment could then be planned to ensure a transition to green production that protects jobs, terms and conditions.
The volatility in world markets, and further disruption to supply chains, will continue to add to capitalist instability, with rising prices hitting workers hardest and putting jobs at risk (See ‘Capitalism’s economic instability in the new normal’ at socialistparty.org.uk). Only a democratic, socialist planned economy based on the public ownership of the banks and main levers of the economy can overcome the chaos of crisis-ridden capitalism and provide security and prosperity for workers, and a sustainable future for the planet.