Energy costs crisis: Seize their profits – cut our bills – nationalise now!

Energy companies are making billions in profits while families face fuel poverty (image: Wikimedia commons)

Millions of working class households are reacting with fear and anger after speculation that the latest energy price cap rise will lead to bills of over £4,000 a year by January 2023.

This follows on from huge increases in 2021/22 so far, with another hike to be announced in late August.

Meanwhile, a profits bonanza is taking place for the big energy companies. Centrica, the owner of British Gas, announced half-year profits are up 500% to £1.3 billion. When asked about fuel poverty increasing its CEO said: “it’s just the way it is”.

BP’s half-year profits in 2022 are £11.9 billion, up from £5.4 billion in 2021. Shell’s half-year profits in 2022 are £17.3 billion, up from £8.7 billion in 2021

In the meantime, 38 million people in the UK face fuel poverty. Some will freeze in the winter, many are going hungry, unable to pay their bills. Added to this, because of a lack of planning and investment since privatisation and tensions between capitalist countries, there is the danger of supply issues with “blackouts” being discussed across the UK in January.

The bosses’ politicians are floundering in response. Having already introduced extremely limited windfall tax measures and inadequate cost of living payments to deal with the last price rise,  the Tory government is begging the energy giants for help.

It’s not ruled out that a Westminster emergency budget could be implemented in the next few weeks. Perhaps increased targeted cost of living payments, reductions or freezing of prices, and maybe taxing energy companies a tiny fraction of their colossal profits.

It will not be enough to stop rising costs and the crisis impacting millions. Neither is the response of opposition pro-capitalist parties like Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Liberals, and the Greens, who fail to deal with the root of the problem and oppose renationalisation of energy. You cannot control what you don’t own! Even limited attempts to control energy prices in France have provoked a furious response from the fat cats, like EDF, who are suing the government.

Socialist nationalisation

Socialist Party Scotland stands for the socialist nationalisation of the entire energy industry under democratic workers’ control and management. Only then can the industry be properly planned to meet our needs instead of profit.

Its resources could then be used to bring down bills and invest in infrastructure. Under the control of energy workers and the trade unions, a rapid transition could take place to green energy to combat climate change. This could not just guarantee existing jobs and conditions in oil and gas but improve them with workers’ skills being used on renewables.

Socialist nationalisation has nothing in common with the likes of Gordon Brown, who has recently called for consideration of temporary public ownership until the crisis is over. Like the partial nationalisation of the banks by Brown in 2008, his plan would involve keeping the bankers in charge then handing it back to the market.

A national mass working-class campaign, with a democratically elected leadership, should be built to defend households from price hikes, fuel poverty, and disconnections. Such a campaign should clearly call for energy nationalisation.

This should actively link up with the current growing trade union strike wave for inflation-busting pay rises.

Workers in the energy industry, who have already taken action at refineries and rigs, will have a critical role to play. The TUC and STUC must call for coordinated strike action, and even those unions involved in action now should begin to coordinate action immediately. A one-day general strike could bring down the Tories and strike a blow at the fat cats.

Price freezes are not enough

There is already £1.3 billion owed by households in arrears across the UK. Tens of thousands already on prepayment meters are self-disconnecting.

Many are being faced with being unable to pay rocketing energy bills. Rightly, the memory of the successful mass non-payment campaign of the Poll Tax that brought down Thatcher is being mentioned (which was led by the Militant, Socialist Party Scotland’s predecessor).

Non-payment of bills and cancellation of direct debits organised on a mass scale can be effective, as well as organising physical mass defence to stop households being forced onto the hated pre-payment meters. The Scottish government and local councils must also be forced to use their financial powers to alleviate fuel poverty.

What the energy and cost of living crisis show is that the capitalist market has failed. We need to fight for socialism to end the nightmare of the profit system. Join us today!

Socialist Party Scotland raises these demands on the way forward

  • Seize the energy companies’ profits! Bring bills down now! Nationalise energy under democratic workers’ control. For a socialist transition to green renewables that guarantees jobs, terms, and conditions 
  • Open the books of the energy companies to trade union and community scrutiny. For democratically elected committees of trade unions and communities to enforce price controls
  • For the building of a mass campaign to fight for nationalisation and to support households involved in non-payment of bills, resisting pre-payment meters, and being harassed for arrears. Call public meetings in every area and coordinate non-payment and resistance to pre-payment meters 
  • The Scottish and Westminster governments should legislate to ban the installation of pre-payment meters as punishment for being unable to pay 
  • All strike together! The STUC/TUC should coordinate the strikes nationally, building up to a one-day general strike to win inflation-busting pay rises 
  • Build a new mass workers’ party, based on the trade unions, that fights for socialist policies 

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August 2022