Portsmouth Industry Cull – It doesn’t have to be this way
The fundamentally exploitative and ruthless nature of capitalism is daily illustrated in the most direct fashion for all to see – except for those who choose not to see… and who would have us believe that this is as good as it gets – perhaps with a bit of gentle tweaking here and there, writes CP chair Bill Greenshields.
In casting 1800 shipbuilding workers on to the scrap heap BAE explained that it was a matter of regret but perfectly normal in times of a “significant decline in demand”. In doing so they held it to be perfectly normal that they have no responsibility towards the people who have been producing their profits year on year, decade on decade. And they were right. Capitalism and its monopoly and transnational corporations have no such responsibility.
Their workers are a source of profit pure and simple. When their labour power is not required they, their families and communities are abandoned. And if those workers show resentment or even anger, they are encouraged by the company, politicians, media moguls and twitterers to blame fellow workers in another shipyard, another workplace, another town, another country… some of whom have, for the time being at least, kept their job.
Meanwhile huge corporate power is used by the likes of Ineos and Nissan to bully workers into accepting worsened conditions, and to dictate what they are allowed to think and do politically, from their view of the Labour Party to their acceptance of EU membership.
It doesn’t have to be that way. At this time of year, we celebrate the 70+ years of workers power in the Soviet Union, in which employment was guaranteed – along with the rate for the job, proper training and retraining, housing, free health, childcare, lifelong education… in fact everything that we in Britain have either never achieved, or that is now being eroded and destroyed through the accelerating ruling class offensive in the name of “austerity”.
Efficiency and sound practice are about meeting established priorities. Those priorities in a Socialist society are the wellbeing of the people and the use of the nation’s resources to ensure it is maintained and developed. The priorities of capitalism are to maintain profits by throwing people out of work and driving down wages, pensions, benefits and public services. Which of these should we accept as “normal”?
So let’s respond. Let’s break with capitalist “normality”. Let’s take up the challenge from Unite’s Chief of Staff, Andrew Murray, who speaking at the London People’s Assembly back in June said that, if this unelected government insisted in governing in this manner, we were duty bound to make the country ungovernable.
Easier said than done of course, but our trade union movement is still more powerful than many think if we choose to use it. And that trade union movement is now at the heart and the head of the growing People’s Assemblies nationally and around the country. Co-ordinated and increasingly generalised strike action, with a mounting tide of civil disobedience – the formula put forward by Len McCluskey at the same London People’s Assembly – is not just rhetoric or an aspiration…. it is a necessity for ourselves and a duty to future generations.
Where to start? Well let’s not reinvent the wheel! 30 years ago we saw the dynamic and energising People’s March For Jobs. Why not now? Perhaps two marches, one from Portsmouth on the South Coast and another from the Clyde to London. Perhaps marches in every town and city of Britain. Marches that would proclaim that exploitation, unemployment, zero hours contracts, poverty wages, here-today-gone-tomorrow jobs, lack of training, the constant decline in manufacture, health and education cuts, the privatisation of everything that moves, housing evictions, growth in food banks and loansharks… that these things are not normal to humanity, though they are 100% normal to capitalism in its corrupt, dog-eat-dog, crisis ridden normality.
So let’s not get on our bikes to look for jobs – let’s take to our feet to demand the right to work, for decent jobs and public services – and let’s take the message throughout Britain. As Bob Crow memorably said during the Bombardier fight for jobs in Derby. “We need to link up struggles everywhere… we need to unite and ignite the people.”