AT A time of a desperate economic crisis of capitalism, when millions of families fear that they will not be able to pay their rent or mortgages and feed and clothe their families, the message from the bosses and bankers is loud and clear: it is to hold down wages, push up profits and carry on privatising.
The owner of British Gas, Centrica, has just announced record profits and a 15% rise in first-half adjusted operating profits to £1.45bn.
These results include a 23% rise in operating profits at its residential energy division, British Gas, to £345m.
The company said volumes were boosted by the ‘colder than usual’ weather between April and June.
At a time when millions of families were forced to heat their homes round the clock, the privatised energy companies should have been made to cut their prices; in fact, they were making vast profits out of the situation.
And it will not stop there. In May, British Gas suggested that bills would increase for ordinary people this coming winter, blaming rising wholesale gas costs.
The warning came just four months after it had announced a 5% cut in its standard electricity tariff. However electricity prices had already been raised 16% in August 2011, and gas bills also went up by 18%, making for their truly massive profits.
In 2011 total gas consumption in the UK went up by 3.5%, while revenues rose by 21% to £3.2bn.
Electricity consumption fell by 0.1%, while revenues shot up by 10% to £1.6bn.
Consumer Focus has accused energy companies of being quick to pass on rising wholesale costs to consumers, but slow to cut prices when they fall.
Its chief executive, Mike O’Connor, said that the energy industry seemed to be ‘a recession-free zone’ and that British Gas should be told: ‘You’re making £2m every day of the week; I think it’s about time you gave consumers a break.’
However, privatisation has seen the bosses being handed entire industries with a licence to make billions in profits at the expense of millions of families.
All of the privateers are singing the same tune. Scottish Power warned that rising demand for energy would ‘inevitably lead to higher energy costs in the long term’ when it cut prices earlier in the year, while E.On said in May that the overall trend was for rising wholesale prices.
The capitalist crisis is singling out youth for its really special attention.
Over one million 16-24 years olds are unemployed while sixth-formers have had their EMA allowance of £30 a week abolished.
Students have seen the Tory-LibDen coalition increase the limit for tuition fees from £3000 to £9,000 a year, a 200% rise, while saying that it would never reach anything close to £9,000.
Now, however, according to the Office for Fair Access (Offa) fees will rise in 2013 to an average of £8,507 a year, a gigantic increase, with a huge weight being put onto the shoulders of students and their families.
About three in four institutions are planning to charge the maximum £9,000 for their courses.
Out of the 122 higher-education institutions included in the report every one plans to charge above what was alleged to be the ‘basic fee’ level of £6,000 per year.
There is only one way to deal with the effects of the privatisation of the energy industries and the privatisation of education.
This is to build up the revolutionary leadership of the WRP in the organisation of the trade unions to carry out a general strike to bring down the Tory-LibDem coalition and bring in a workers government, not a Labour government.
This will carry out socialist policies, particularly the renationalisation of the energy industries and the restoration of free state education, as part of the socialist programme to put an end to capitalism.