Plant closures: it's up to the companies and their shareholders to foot the bill!

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22 October 2015

Osborne's "recovery" is once again exposed for the lie it is, with large-scale redundancies back on the agenda. Suddenly, the steel industry has gone into meltdown - on a scale not seen since its privatisation under Thatcher, 27 years ago.

Over the past 4 weeks alone, Caparo UK and SSI UK have been put into administration. Their steel mills are now in the process of being closed down. Meanwhile, Tata Steel has decided to stop producing a whole range of products, shutting down one of its two large British plants and cutting jobs in others..

With the closure of Tata Steel's operations in Scunthorpe and Glasgow, SSI's huge works in Redcar and Caparo's plants in the West Midlands, over 5,000 steel workers are facing the threat of losing their incomes, unless something is done urgently - and at least as many others who are employed by contractors which depend on these steel mills.

Hypocritical nationalist blame game

Predictably, the government has been quick to preempt any suggestion that this meltdown might have something to do with the ongoing economic crisis - and the fact their so-called "recovery" is, and has always been, a con.

So, ministers are blaming falling demand from the Eurozone - but, strangely enough, not from Britain itself! They also blame the "strength" of the pound against other currencies - although they fail to mention the fact that this "strength" is largely due to the response of speculators, British and otherwise, to this government's ruthless cuts!

However, their main justification for this new wave of redundancies has to do with China's alleged "steel dumping" - China is supposedly flooding the world with under-priced steel.

This is ironical since, at the very same time, Cameron is bending over backwards to welcome Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in the hope that his visit will generate substantial profits for the City.

But irony aside, this is also ludicrous. The world price of steel started falling after the 2008 banking crash, losing 75% of its value since. But over that whole period of time, China's steel exports to the entire world have been lower than Britain's production - which is just 1% of the world's steel output. This is hardly a "Chinese flood"!

Besides, who mentions the fact that while China's steel exports are mostly raw steel, Britain manufactures more technologically advanced, finished products? In fact China has been buying 15% of Britain's steel exports - providing a bounty for Britain's steel companies!

To put it in a nutshell, this attempt at explaining away the steel industry meltdown by blaming it on others, be they the Eurozone or China, is a lie, pure and simple. And if China was affecting the British steel industry, it is not because of its exports, but because of its falling orders, due to the crisis. This nationalistic nonsense should not be allowed to divert workers' attention from the real culprits.

Pointing at the real criminals

However, Cameron's clique is not alone in trying to hoodwink us in this way. All those officially meant to be speaking in our name follow a similar script.

From Jeremy Corbyn, to union leaders, they're all calling on the government to protect Britain's market from Chinese steel. And they're all calling on Osborne to bail out the steel companies - as if public funds should be used to prop up the bosses' profits! Or to cut their energy bills - when the rest of us are paying a lot more! But none of them dares speak the truth - that the crisis is still there and has never gone away. Nor do they dare to condemn the policy of the steel bosses themselves.

Indeed, the choice of these ultra-rich companies to deprive thousands of workers of their incomes, for the sole reason that it is "unprofitable" to pay their wages, is nothing short of criminal. It is criminal because, in the best of cases, the sacked workers don't have a chance in hell of finding a job on a similar wage, and in the worst case, like at Redcar, they're unlikely to find one at all.

And yet it is not as if a giant like Tata, which owns Jaguar-Land-Rover and has 620,000 workers worldwide, cannot pay wages to the 1,200 workers it wants to dump - even for doing nothing, indefinitely, if it comes to that! And the same is true of SSI, which is South-East Asia's largest steel producer, or of Caparo, which is an international empire comprising many other profitable companies. And even if it were true that these giants were hard up, why shouldn't their shareholders be made to pay back some of the juicy dividends they earned thanks to the sweat of the workers they want to make redundant today?

This demand, however, is just not conceivable for union leaders, nor is it part of Corbyn's "radical" agenda - because neither wants to rock the capitalist boat. Yet it is the only way to make the bosses pay for the criminal damage they cause on our backs - by putting this demand on our own agenda!