WITH the petrol stations closing, British capitalism suffered another shock yesterday when it was announced that the UK’s second biggest oil refinery is on the brink of collapse.
Essar Energy, owners of the Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port, is reported to be facing bankruptcy over a debt of £223 million it owes to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in VAT payments.
The Stanlow refinery supplies one sixth of Britain’s fuel, and during the pandemic made use of the Tory VAT deferral scheme that allowed companies to defer tax repayments.
This was a temporary measure to rescue these companies, enacted by the government in the hope that once all the lockdowns had ended, British capitalism would ‘bounce back’ to recovery.
The reality has now hit home, and Essar Energy is threatening to default on its VAT debt putting the government on alert that it could easily collapse into insolvency. The company is in intense negotiations with HMRC to extend the payback and says that it ‘hopes for a resolution soon’.
No such hope is being held by the millions of workers and their families who face the £20 Universal Credit cut next week on the Tory grounds that this was also a ‘temporary’ measure that the government could no longer afford. There will be no negotiations with them, instead, the workers will be dumped into absolute starvation levels of poverty at a time of raging inflation to pay for the bosses’ bailouts.
The speed with which the crisis has broken in the past few days has brought British capitalism quite literally to a juddering halt as petrol stations run out of fuel.
All the emergency measures the Tories have come up with have been laughed out of court by fuel delivery experts. The use of the army to deliver fuel was met with derision as military drivers have no training and simply do not know how to unload the fuel from the tankers.
It risks army drivers unloading petrol into diesel tanks or vice-versa inevitably leading to car engines being destroyed.
At the same time, Boris Johnson’s plan to provide 5,000 temporary visas for European HGV drivers was met with contempt by European unions representing lorry drivers across the EU.
Edwi Atema, from the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions which represents EU drivers, told the BBC: ‘The EU workers we speak with will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help the UK out of the s*** they created for themselves.’
This pithy remark demonstrates the hatred felt by UK and EU drivers to the long history of their exploitation by the haulage industry of low pay, chronically punishing hours and drivers forced to sleep in their vehicles in lay-bys with no toilet facilities.
Like every worker, HGV drivers were treated with contempt and like animals in the drive to extract maximum profit from their labour by the bosses.
Now it is quite clear that it is not the hedge fund billionaires or the bankers that create wealth and keep the economy going but the labour of the working class.
The working class is the most powerful force in history.
The reformists in the trade union and Labour leadership are desperate to keep the working class from realising its own strength by continuously preaching that nothing can be done except to appeal to the Tories and the bosses for help.
These leaders have accepted the role of attempting to divert the working class away from taking on this Tory government and bankrupt capitalism.
As Lenin said, these leaders are the ‘Labour lieutenants of Capital’; they must be thrown out and replaced with a new revolutionary leadership – a leadership that will immediately organise the strength of the working class in a general strike to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers’ government.
A workers’ government will nationalise, without compensation, all the major industries along with the banks placing them under the management and control of the working class as part of building a socialist planned economy.
Putting capitalism out of its misery with socialist revolution is the way forward for the working class of the world.