Tony Greenstein | 29 August 2022 | Post Views:


Can’t Pay Won’t Pay Launch Meeting in Brighton Packed out – the Message is Clear – Heating is a Right Not A Privilege

The meeting organised by Don’t Pay UK/Can’t Pay Brighton tonite (30 August) was packed out.  Over 150 people attended. One of the largest meetings I have attended at the Friends Meeting House. 

There were speakers from the Trades Council (Andy Richards & Matt Webb), Sheila Hall and the 2 co-chairs (Nehaal and myself). People broke up into groups to plan organising on a local basis. 

Here are some photos of tonite. The message was very clear – we can’t pay and we’re not paying. It’s time to return the private energy companies to public hands and we don’t care for the fact that the capitalists don’t like it. Starmer and Truss are 2 sides of the same rotten coin. The present situation is unacceptable and it has to change.

Tony Greenstein     

Heating is a right not a privilege – We need to relearn the lessons of resistance and fighting back

Privatisation is Legalised Theft

The Energy Cap is predicted to DOUBLE in 6 months. There is only one solution – taking energy back into public ownership without paying the parasites a penny compensation. Privatisation of energy and water under Thatcher was nothing less than legalised theft. We need to reclaim what is ours.

Privatisation of British Gas, Water and Electricity between 1986 and 1990 meant the transfer of assets that the tax payer had funded to the City of London for a song. Neo-liberalism and free market economics dictated the transfer from public to private. The consequences are there for all to see.

The policies of all governments since has been a simple one. The transfer of wealth from poor to rich. During COVID we saw naked corruption by the government. The number of billionaires increased by 24 to a record 171 in 2021. In 2022 this increased by a further 6 to 177.

The richest 250 people in the UK this year are worth £711bn compared to £658s billion in 2021. You will also be glad to hear that Rishi Sunak and his partner Akshata Murty made the list for the first time, as their joint £730m fortune put them at number 222.

Privatisation means that the sole aim is the maximalisation of profit above all other considerations. The only duty that the energy companies recognise is to their shareholders, i.e. themselves.

Profits have gone sky high. Eon, one of the big 6, has made profits of €4.06bn (£3.4bn) in the first half 2022 with CEO Leonhard Birnbaum being paid a mere €1.2m (£1m) in 2021. The National Grid made profits of £3.4bn in 2021-22. CEO John Pettigrew trousered a handy £6.5m. RWE made profits of €2.6bn (£2.2bn) in the first half of 2022, CEO Markus Krebber ‘earning’ €4.3m (£3.6m) in 2021. Ørsted made profits of €1.75bn (£1.5bn) in the first half 2022, CEO Mads Nipper receiving a paltry €2m (£1.7m) in 2021. All of the above, except the National Grid, are based in Germany or Denmark.

Centrica, which owns British Gas, made profits of £1.3bn in the first half 2022 and CEO Chris O’Shea took home a meagre £775,000 in 2021 having generously waived his £1.1m bonus. SSE, another of the Big 6,made profits in 2021/22 of £1.2bn, CEO Alistair Phillips-Davies picking up a far from generous £4.5m in 2021. Uniper, another German company, made profits of €1.2bn in (£1bn) in 2021 with CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach picking up €1.9m (£1.6m) in 2021.

Scottish Power, which specialises in pouring untreated water into the sea, made profits of £925m in the first half 2022 with CEO Keith Anderson being paid a mere £1.35m in 2021.

But this is to leave out BP and Shell who are predicted to make profits of £40bn this year. A report found that Shell and BP have channelled £147bn to shareholders via dividends and share buybacks over the past decade, with rival North Sea producers and the big six energy suppliers contributing another £47bn.

Over in France however, where EDF has been nationalised the price rise has been kept to 4%.  The French government has forced them to take a £7bn hit. Instead they make their money in the UK.

As Skawkbox reported Norwegian energy users are being charged only 6% of UK variable rate – on a 3yr fixed  deal. The current variable rate is lower still – less than 1% of the UK price. UK households face paying 52 pence per Kilowatt-hour (kWh) on variable tariffs plus exorbitant ‘standing charges’whereas Helgeland energy in Norway is offering its customers a fixedTHREE-year deal at just 3.2 PENCE (37 øre) per kWh, with a monthly standing charge of just £2.51:And for those who are not looking to lock in the price for three years, the rate is even lower –just half a penny per kWh. Helgeland’s variable rate customers don’t even pay a standing charge at all and clients in north Norway are VAT-exempt. This is just 1% of what British people are paying.

As the article in Skwawkbox  put it

‘We are being ruled by criminals – and the so-called ‘opposition’ is part of the same gang wearing different rosettes to create an illusion of choice while the Establishment laughs all the way to the bank.’

But as the song said, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The predicted price cap for next January and April are eye watering. The Cornwall  Institute has revised its earlier prediction that the price cap next January will be £4,649.  They now estimate it will be £5,387 (the Independent estimates £5,632).

And that is not all, next April, just 3 months later Cornwall estimate that the price cap will rise to £6,616.  Energy consultancy Auxilione go one better – £7,700.  In other words in just 6 months the price will have doubled. In 18 months the price rise will be a staggering 503%.

Why is this taking place? According to Alex Lawson, BP and Shell are not merely content with the profits that result from drilling and selling oil.  They are actively intervening in futures trading and speculation to drive up their profits even further.  In other words it is as much speculation as much as anything else that is responsible for the present crisis.

The war in Ukraine has triggered this off. NATO, i.e. the United States, did its best to provoke the war by expanding NATO into Eastern Europe breaking all the assurances it had given Russia at the time of German reunification. War is economics by another means.

The benefit to US oil shale and gas production is immense whilst at the same time creating the conditions for massive speculation as Russia is sanctioned. Indeed the sanctions against Russia have most affected the countries imposing the sanctions.

As Bloomberg reports the Ruble is this year’s best performing currency! It drily notes that ‘the irony of the ruble performing so well while at war is remarkable’. Germany has sanctioned itself effectively as it faces major gas shortages this winter. The international energy market is a speculators’ paradise but it is the consumer who is footing the bill as the European Union is effectively dancing to US imperialism’s tune with NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine.

The current price rise is also going to force many firms out of business as they simply cannot afford to pay the prices asked of them. This will result in higher unemployment and greater poverty.

Date                    October 21     April 22     October 22     January 23      April 23

(estimated price rises)

Price Rise            £1,277             £1,971        £3,549

Cornwall Institute                                                                 £5,387               £6,616

Auxilione                                                                                                        £7,700

None of these predictions can be relied on because whenever someone mentions a figure it immediately increases. What we are seeing is the insanity of capitalism where production is for profit not need.  Instead of fairly sharing resources, investing in insulation and renewable energy, we see vast multinational companies making a fortune at the expense of nurses, carers and other low paid workers.

The Most Profitable Energy Companies Pay NO Tax

The French government under Macron is not a socialist government. However it realises that if it were to allow prices rises such as those in Britain then the streets would be ungovernable. The French have a tendency to riot when the rich get out of hand. The British, because of the legacy of imperialist illusions, which was what Brexit was really about, have become docile and timid.

The days of the Poll Tax riot and rebellions have been forgotten.  We need to relearn what are quite simple lessons. You don’t get anything unless you fight for it. We have an arrogant ruling class represented first by Boris Johnson and now, almost certainly, the pretty vacant Liz Truss who demonstrates the wisdom of the old saying that empty vessels make the most noise.

At the same time as the country is suffering from a cost of living crisis, the Tory Party leadership contest has become increasingly surreal as Truss’s answer to the pain of ordinary people is to call for tax cuts in order that the oil traders and speculators can keep even more of their ill-gotten gains.  Not that they need any encouragement.

Last year BP paid no tax on its North Sea oil operations. Indeed it paid in 2019 an effective tax rate of -54% thanks to rebates from the Treasury.  In 2020 the effective tax rate was -19%. Yes that’s right despite making billions of pounds in profit it was handed yet more cash by the Treasury! In the last 3 years BP has paid no tax whatsoever on its profits from North Sea oil. When North Sea oil came on stream in the Thatcher years instead of using the revenue to create a sovereign wealth fund, as Norway did, they were handed over to the private sector and the proceeds used to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. Yet too many of the working class and poor have been persuaded to vote against their own interests by diverting anger onto scapegoats such as migrant workers.

Indeed since 2016 the 19 North Sea oil companies, far from contributing to the exchequer have received net rebates of £2.4 bn. That is how the ruling class operates. Workers are expected to tighten their belts whilst the fat cats stagger away with the proceeds. 

It’s all very simple and just in case anyone gets the idea of fighting back we can always rely on the billionaire press to tell us that it is immigrants or claimants who are responsible for the crisis. Indeed anyone but those who are really responsible.

The obvious solution to the present crisis is to take back the energy companies into public ownership and end the absurd division between generation, transmission and supply – a wholly artificial market that is a private monopoly.  If we had an Opposition worthy of the name then Labour would have proposed just this.

But Sir Starmer, despite making 10 lying pledges to get elected has ratted on his promises. His main concern is expelling and marginalising the  Labour left. In 2020 he promised that

Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.

For some strange reason the BBC and other media were not interested in Starmer’s serial dishonesty.  It wasn’t in their interests.

What Can We Do?

This Tuesday August 30 @7 pm Don’t Pay UK and Can’t Pay – Brighton is holding a public meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Ship Street, Brighton.  It has a number of speakers but the main emphasis will be on organising in our wards and localities.

There is one and only one way of defeating these price rises which are a tax on living and that is not to pay them! The Labour Left, people like John McDonnell and the  Campaign Group make fiery speeches and then leave it at that. What we need is not words but actions.

There will be some people who will be unable to take part directly, such as those on pre-payment meters, but that is no excuse for those who can refuse to pay not doing so. As a mass movement develops it will generate its own momentum. For example we have to seriously explore the question of neutralising and bypassing pre-payment meters so that people aren’t faced with the choice of eating or heating.  Energy and warmth are our right.

There will be those faint hearts who say we cannot break the law.  This is nonsense. The law is there to serve people not the other way round.  If the law countenances people dying through lack of heating then it is perfectly valid to break that law.  If enough people do it then the blackmail of the energy companies will be broken.

It is essential that we emulate the days of the poll tax when people organised to defy the bailiffs and the police. They can cut off a few people but they cannot cut off millions of people. Unity is strength.

The Tories will no doubt increase their package of payments, which have already been swallowed up by the new price rises, but they are nothing more than sticking plaster.

If they can afford to pay Dido Harding, whose only achievement was to marry Conservative MP John Penrose, £37 bn for a track and trace system that doesn’t work and if they have money to hand over to their cronies billions for failed NHS Covid contracts, then they have the money to ensure that no one dies this winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes.

If you live in Brighton and Hove come to the meeting and help build the resistance!

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Tony Greenstein

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