Wider lessons to be learned from Grangemouth


  By Ken Ferguson

Recent events at Grangemouth have cast a harsh and brutal spotlight on the realities of the corporate power whose dominance ensures a world fashioned in the interests of a tiny rich minority totally unconcerned about workers, communities or the economic and social life of the countries they operate in.

Lenin’s famous dictum that “there are decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen” might have been written about Grangemouth.

In the course of a few days the understanding of a socialist minority, that all our fates are in the hand of uncaring profit driven capitalists, was brutally put to the Grangemouth workers and, across TV and the press, to millions of others. A process of bloated corporate power which has been developing both in the UK and beyond since the Thatcher era has now been revealed in all it pitiless inhumanity. Under the supposed wonders of the “free market” the only concern is profit, with the public subjected to a constant barrage of spin to pretend it is otherwise.

This process was set in train by Thatcher, greedily taken up by Blair (now a multi-millionaire) and continued by the super elite of public school Tories with their partners in crime, the spineless Lib Dems. The result of this has been a corporate corruption of democracy to the point that all the main Westminster No-supporting parties are fully bought and paid for members of the fat cats’ club and vary only slightly in how they grovel to smooth the path of the rich on their way to ever greater plunder.

The results for the rest of us not on this rich list is falling pay, soaring prices, austerity, cuts and a virtual exclusion from any democratic means of curbing the gross excesses which see figures like Jim Ratcliffe play with the lives of workers, their communities and the vital national interests of Scotland rather like a well fed cat with a captive mouse.

Sadly a quick glance at the world about us shows that Ratcliffe’s heedless drive for ever more profit is just one of the more dramatic examples of the results of handing control over industries and services to capitalists programmed to focus solely on the drive for ever bigger profits.

As we write – in energy rich Scotland – various “advisers” repeat the rubbish about switching energy firms to pay less, others advise how low we should set our heating, while the PM’s office says we should “wrap up warm” putting on a jumper in the cold weather.

So bare faced are the rip offs of the energy profiteers that even ex-Tory Prime Minister John Major called for a tax on their profits, Miliband wants to “reset” the market and the Eton toffs will do as little as possible and depend on their spin doctors. Meanwhile winter deaths figures grow, and it is now predicted that across the UK 24,000 people will die of cold this winter, while millions live in fear amidst a country which is one of the most energy rich in Europe.

As the same elite power brokers engineer another housing “boom” and London house prices soar, poor folk face crushing pressure from the Bedroom Tax brought in by Lord Freud who has lost count of his mansion’s spare rooms.

From failing care homes with abused residents through rip off train fares to bribing the French and Chinese to build nuclear power with bloated guaranteed prices for their power output, the fruits of the profiteers are the same – lousy services and soaring prices. All gift wrapped in a cloak of uncertainty, job insecurity, celebrity worship and various “crack downs” on the poor.

But this process – which reverses gains made by working people over 500 years of struggle and replaces the power once wielded by unelected monarchs, the divine right of kings, with a divine right of oligarchs like Ratcliffe – is neither inevitable nor eternal. What is required is to reverse this system which reduces human beings to pawns on a global chess board and irreplaceable environments, such as the Arctic, to resources to be exploited.

In other advanced capitalist nations, ownership of key resources such as energy and vital services such as railways are kept in public hands in the interests of both consumers and workers, and this was the case in the UK before the neoliberal market madness seized power.

More radically, in Latin America a clutch of left governments backed by mobilised popular movements have taken back natural resources and vital services to meet the people’s needs in an assertion of popular sovereignty which combines both political independence with economic democracy.

The lessons for Scotland are clear. The corrupt Westminster politics, dominated by three pro-market parties, provides no space for the voice of people such as the Grangemouth workers but is entirely in thrall to the tiny minority of greedy men popularly described as “the markets”.

That’s why a Yes vote next year is so vital to break with City-dominated Westminster populated with pro-market MPs riding their own gravy train and open the way to a different politics based on meeting the needs of both people and planet.

The fight for such radical change will be hard and only be won if it also mobilises the Scottish people to bring such a society into being. It will not prove easy but the choice is a stark one between market barbarism or a left/green alternative, coupling political independence with economic and environmental justice.

Courtesy of The Scottish Socialist Voice