30 years ago a mass non-payment campaign defeated Thatcher’s Poll Tax and forced Thatcher out of office. Why? Because people could not afford to pay the tax and furthermore they refused to pay a tax that was the same for a Duke and a Dustman.
Today people can’t afford their energy bills. Even before the next massive rise in prices in October one-third of people are unable to afford to heat their homes. By the end of the year this is going to rise to over half the population.
Even before the current price rises 1 in 4 people were forced to live in cold conditions. What this means quite simply is that thousands more people, the sick and elderly, will die for the sake of the massive profits that the energy producers make. Thousands are already dying each year because they can’t afford to heat their homes.
According to The Telegraph energy bills are set to pass £3,000 per annum by next January. In October 2021 they stood at £1,278. Last April prices rose by 54% to £1,971 per year. In October the price cap on annual bills will go up to £2,980. In other words a rise of 133% in 1 year.
Yet the railworkers are being savaged by the Government and the Tory Press for demanding 7% wage increases. The nurses who the Tories were happy to clap for are being offered just 3%. The unemployed and claimants have had their benefits increased by just 3%.
Rishi Sunak’s Windfall Tax (which was more generous than Starmer’s proposals) is just sticking plaster. Most people will get a £400 rebate in October and that will be it. Claimants will get £650 in two stages and disabled claimants an extra £150 or £300 if they are pensioners. Pensioners will also receive an additional £300 on top of the existing winter fuel payment. For details see here.
The strange thing is that gas prices are falling yet prices are rising. Why? Because of the nature of our privatised energy market which is divided into those who generate the energy, those who transmit it and those who sell it.
Massive profits are being made by the energy sector at the same time as prices are going sky high. That is why the French company EDF can increase prices by just 4% in France because Macron has forced them to cut their profits. Boris Johnson of course is in hock to his friends in the City.
Privatisation in the 1980s meant giving away assets built up by the tax payer over succeeding generations to the City for a pittance. Billions have been made at the consumers’ expense and with the latest price rises billions more will be made.
In March 1991 John Major, for instance, was asked by the Soviet defence minister, Marshal Dmitry Yazov, about eastern Europe’s interest in joining Nato. Major, according to the diaries of the British ambassador to Moscow, Rodric Braithwaite, assured him“nothing of that sort will ever happen”.
Ironically Russia has also benefitted from the sanctions that have been imposed because of the increase in prices. It has been impossible for Europe to cut its dependence on gas and this has led the ruble to hit an all-time high, contrary to predictions in February that their economy would tank. According to CBS News the ruble is the strongest currency in the world this year!
The sanctions which have been imposed only benefit the United States energy market whose extraction of shale oil is far more expensive than Russia’s gas and oil. The other beneficiary is US arms manufacturers such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin who have seen massive increases in profits as Jo Biden has handed them $40 billion in arms orders on top of previous orders.
Of course the United States can’t afford to fund a National Health Service or waive student debt but there is always money to fight NATO wars, be it in Ukraine or Afghanistan. Similarly in Britain. There isn’t enough money for things like free school meals but every time Johnson visits Zelensky in Ukraine, usually when things become too hot for him at home, he comes with promises of hundreds of millions of pounds of arms supplies. That is capitalism and the system we live under.
Our demands are simple.
Ø Freeze energy prices at what they were before April 2022.
Ø Nationalise the energy companies without compensation.
Ø Abolish pre-payment meters. One of the more outrageous feature of the present crisis is that those on pre-payment meters, the poorest people in society, are paying the highest prices.