Steel Crisis in Britain

Occupy and Nationalise all Steel Production in Britain under Workers Control Without Compensation!

Statement by Supporters of the RCIT in Britain, LIBERATION No 9 (Aril 2016)

 

 

TATA Steel production announced that the UK operation is unviable and hence they are going to sell their UK Business with huge debts. They claimed that they were looking for a new buyer. This new situation engulfing the Cameron Government in crisis once again confirms the prognosis made by the RCIT in its world perspectives .[1] The period we are now entering is a new period of immense contradictions for world imperialism. It shows the incapability of the capitalist government in Britain to resolve the crisis of a doomed system which is heading for a crash.

 

The Cameron Government is at the moment embroiled in political crisis of major proportions. The revelation that Cameron and his wife stood to benefit from offshore funds as revealed in the recent Panama scandal unearthed by investigative journalists. It shows how deep the corruption has seeped amongst all the sections of the world bourgeoisie. [2]

 

“The steel crisis amongst TATA management has increased with the revelation of senior staff being suspended because of corruption amongst its top executives”. [3]

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s and Carwyn James, first Minister of the Labour administration in Wales, has been very muted. Although Corbyn arrived in Wales before Javed, the Business Secretary, his only response has been to argue for partial Nationalisation until a buyer is found.

 

“If we don’t intervene to protect this steel works, and the other steel works, we will have no steel industry in Britain. We will see a continual running down of our manufacturing capacity. We will no longer be able to call ourselves a proper manufacturing economy without a steel industry that goes with it. Our call to the government is ‘intervene now’ to protect these plants” [4]

 

“There have been some early expressions of interest in Tata’s plants – I’ve spoken to one potential buyer this morning. How we deal with these expressions of interest is the substance of our joint work with the UK government. ” [5]

 

Both responses from these reformists’ shows that they have a corporatist approach. Instead of mentioning a program for nationalisation under workers control, they advocate a new capitalist buyer should be lobbied to buy the plant.

 

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, who has a great percentage of members in TATA steel refuses to propose any action to save the plants .His only response is to appeal to the Cameron Government to save the steel industry:” McCluskey noted that Unite was dedicated to working with the government to save the steel industry before it’s too late. We will work with them on all serious efforts to keep our steel sector alive”. [6]

 

This shows the utterly bankrupt nature of this labour bureaucracy who are only appealing to the capitalist class for help instead of organising their members for occupation and full nationalisation of the means of production. It exposes once again Leon Trotsky’s immortal words in 1938. “The crisis facing humanity is the crisis of proletarian leadership”. [7] Trotsky’s statement in the Transitional Programme is borne out by the craven attitude of these trade union leaders who have allowed workers to be dismissed without a fight. Their collaboration with the capitalist class continues with the recent announcement of the closure of the Redcar plant some weeks ago.

 

The perspective of the reformists and the bureaucrats has been to argue for protectionism and for sectional interests. They blame China for its cheaper steel production and they argue for trade tariffs against Chinese steel. They “forget” that China is an imperialist nation in a global war against other imperialist nations. [8] Furthermore there is no mention of the Chinese steel workers who like the workers in Britain will be seriously affected by trade barriers and protectionist measures.

 

The two leading centrist groups in Britain, the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party of England and Wales have produced statements on the steel crisis. Such the SWP writes:

 

Workers have industrial muscle when they withdraw their labour by striking—but this doesn’t always work against bosses who want to sack everyone. But it’s a terrible mistake to think they can never be won. Three things can give workers’ action against sackings more weight. One is to spread it beyond those workers directly affected. The current anti-union laws make it difficult to do this officially. But there are others in dispute that could coordinate with steel workers and call strikes together. And there’s nothing to stop workers walking out unofficially. Another is to take control of the bosses’ assets by occupying. If even a small group of workers started sitting in at a small part of Port Talbot it would win huge support and disrupt bosses’ plans”. [9]

 

And the SPEW states:

 

The idea of nationalisation, if raised in the context of socialist public ownership and economic planning, could totally transform the situation. We call for Tata's books to be opened and inspected by the unions and the workforce. The redundancies that have already been announced should be stopped. The steel distribution network should also be nationalised and every publicly-financed construction scheme in the UK such as Crossrail, HS2, and power projects, should be supplied with steel from the nationalised steel company. This would also pose the renationalisation of the railways, which is massively popular and would be another market for publicly-owned steel”. [10]

 

To their credit the SWP raises the issue of occupation for the steel industry, but their close relation with the trade union bureaucrats means that they don’t fully believe that the working class can fight for revolutionary demands. Likewise the SPEW argues for nationalisation but it is couched in national terms and they have a very reactionary attitude to other workers especially in their support for “British jobs for British workers as demonstrated in the dispute at the Oil refinery at Lindsay in 2009. [11] Their rank and file organisation, the National Shop Stewards Network, is closely identified with the bureaucracy .Their demand for nationalisation is a reformist demand, since it is not combined with the call for occupation and not with the slogan of nationalization without compensation and under workers control. Furthermore, while the SPEW mentions “socialist public ownership”, it naively believes that socialist transformation through the parliamentary election of a socialist government is a realistic possibility. In fact, this is impossible without an armed struggle of the working class to overthrow the capitalist system.

 

Below is an excerpt of an interview which LIBERATION (the publication of the RCIT in Britain) conducted with a former UNITE Convenor at TATA Steel in Corby Northamptonshire which employs 683 steelworkers. This comrade agrees with the positions of the RCIT Britain that occupations and nationalisation of the steel industry under workers control and without compensation are the correct slogans in the fight against redundancies and possible loss of jobs.

 

Question: “How do you think that we can stop closures“

 

Answer: “By Occupation, immediate walkouts and strikes:”

 

Q: “Do you think TATA or the government will find a new buyer, if TATA is loss making then what you think happens to the pension fund?”

 

A: “I think they are struggling. No new buyer will come without a massive subsidy. Pension fund is the major problem –no way for a buyer to take over the liabilities.”

 

Q: “What do you think of Cameron’s and Javed’s response?”

 

A: “Disgraceful! We must not appeal to the Cameron government for support, it is not part of their agenda, look what happened at Redcar where many steel workers lost their jobs.

 

Q: “Do you agree that we should have full nationalisation under workers control rather than a partial nationalisation as advocated by Corbyn and McDonnell and McCluskey?

 

A: “Yes but I have some sympathy for Corbyn and McDonnell“

 

Q: “Do you agree with protectionism and trade tariffs to stop Chinese steel being imported”

 

A: “I oppose tariffs and trade barriers against Chinese steel. We should support Chinese workers.

 

The RCIT in Britain calls for a united front with all those forces fighting steel closures in Britain and worldwide. We put forward the following proposals to unite all sections of the working class including migrants and the most oppressed in their struggle to overthrow capitalism and imperialism and establish socialism.

 

* Fight for revolutionary leadership in the trade unions. Organise all migrants and the oppressed in a struggle against the labour bureaucracy and labour aristocracy.

 

* Occupy all steel plants now: Elect an occupation committee which comprises steelworkers and members of the oppressed in all local committees where steel closures or redundancies are threatened.

 

* For full nationalisation of the steel industry under workers control without compensation.

 

* Councils of action to be built in all localities comprising of all workers, migrants and the oppressed.

 

* Oppose all forms of protectionism! Build solidarity with workers in Britain and worldwide including Chinese workers who are engaged in the same struggle to save their jobs and communities!

 

* For an indefinite general strike to bring down this hated Cameron government! Elect strike committees to organise and support workers who are faced with attacks on jobs and conditions!

 

* Support the junior doctor’s campaign and other sections of workers fighting for decent and safe working conditions.

 

The RCIT in Britain says the only lasting solution to the steel crisis is the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism through a socialist revolution. The RCIT in Britain calls for all revolutionaries and socialists to join us as the first step to build a pre- party organisation in Britain leading to the formation of the worldwide revolutionary workers party as part of the Fifth International.

 

 

 

Footnotes

 

1) RCIT: World Perspectives 2016: Advancing Counterrevolution and Acceleration of Class Contradictions Mark the Opening of a New Political Phase. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries (January 2016), 23 January 2016, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2016/

 

2) Michael Pröbsting: What Do the Panama Papers Reveal? 4.4.2016, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/panama-papers/

 

3) http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/apr/08/tata-steel-crisis-senior-staff-suspended-sfo-probe

 

4) http://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2016/mar/30/uk-government-steel-industry-tata-port-talbot-business-live?page=with:block-56fbfa79e4b0597b15f4e78f#block-56fbfa79e4b0597b15f4e78f

 

5) http://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2016/apr/04/steel-crisis-boris-johnson-says-eu-rules-stop-government-helping-port-talbot-politics-live

 

6) Unite News (Spring 2016): Now or Never, Interview with Len McCluskey, pg 11.

 

7) Leon Trotsky: The Transitional Programme and the Tasks of the Fourth International 1938, New Park publications

 

8) On China as an imperialist power see See Michael Pröbsting: Rusia y China como Grandes Potencias Imperialistas, http://www.thecommunists.net/home/espa%C3%B1ol/rusia-y-china/; Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/revcom-number-4 (a translation of this document into Spanish language is currently underway); Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Summary of the RCIT’s Analysis, 28 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-china-and-russia/; More on Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Reply to Chris Slee (Socialist Alliance, Australia) and Walter Daum (LRP, USA), 11 April 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/reply-to-slee-on-russia-china/; The China Question and the Marxist Theory of Imperialism. Again on China as an imperialist Power. Reply to a Polemic from CSR (Venezuela) and PCO (Argentina), December 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 32, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/reply-to-csr-pco-on-china/; No to chauvinist war-mongering by Japanese and Chinese imperialism! Chinese and Japanese workers: Your main enemy is at home! Stop the conflict on the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands in the East China Sea! 23.9.2012,in: Revolutionary Communism No. 6, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/no-war-between-china-and-japan/

 

9) Tata bosses dump their workers to save their profits

 

10) Socialist Party :: Tata steel: Act now - fight for nationalisation

 

11) For our position on this reactionary strike we refer to the resolution of the statement of our predecessor organization Workers Power which at that time was still revolutionary: No to the nationalist strikes, 1st February 2009, http://www.workerspower.com/index.php?id=47,1821,0,0,1,0. See also an article of Michael Pröbsting in German-language: Einleitung der Liga der Sozialistischen Revolution zur Stellungnahme Britannien: Nein zu den nationalistischen Streiks!, 5.2.2009, http://arbeiterinnenstandpunkt.net/phpwcms/index.php?id=25,579,0,0,1,0

 

Free Homepage Translation