British Steel has been placed in compulsory liquidation, putting 5,000 jobs at risk and endangering 20,000 in the supply chain. At the present time no actual redundancies have been announced and wages will be paid as normal. The UK steel industry has been in decline for some time because of a variety of factors such as over-capacity in EU steel-making and cheaper Chinese competition. An industry that employed 323,000 people in 1971 now employs less than a tenth of that, at 31,900.
When the axe comes to your industry and your job, what can be done? Capitalism is a system geared to profit-making. Faced with the prospect of losing our jobs altogether, the issue of not being paid the price of our labour power in cash, assumes insignificant proportions. The prospect now is of finding ourselves having no money at all with which to pay the mortgage, pay for food, heat, light and shelter.
As workers in unprofitable industry about to lose their jobs steelworkers are victims of capitalism. They have our sympathy as fellow-workers and we wish them luck in using their bargaining strength to get the best of redundancy terms they can, but it would be dishonest of us to pretend that there is any way out for them under capitalism. Capitalism cannot be made to operate in the interests of the working class as is very evident by events in the steel industry. In our capitalist society, investment goes where there is profit to be found.
We sympathise with the dilemma our fellow-workers faced Plant closures would have devastating effects on workers in the area, as those of us who live in former textiles, shipbuilding and mining areas can testify.
Unions can achieve limited victories for the working class but they cannot stop the exploitation of the working class. This exploitation is inherent in the wages system and can only be abolished along with it through the conversion of the means of production into common ownership under the democratic control of the whole community. To end the evil of the wages system will take a revolution, though and that requires political action. The revolution needs to be built in the hearts and minds of workers who can defeat both the force and ideology of the dominant class to remake society. Unions cannot make revolutions, only the working class themselves can. Through clear, determined political action.
The time to make capitalism redundant is long past. The only way for us to guarantee our future is to call time on this system