Last week’s collapses on Wall Street and on the Japanese stock market emphasised to the whole world that the capitalist crisis is deepening. The two shocks were accompanied by gigantic rises in the price of oil and gas.
Oil is now heading for $70 a barrel, and is expected to reach $100 a barrel, as the price is forced upwards by fears that Iran will cut back its production, while in Nigeria, the oil bearing Delta Region has become a war zone.
The first casualties of the deepening crisis were the capitalist world’s airlines, with a number of leading US airlines going into bankruptcy in order to cut the wages, jobs, pensions and health care commitments of their workers.
The British airline, BA, angrily denied last week that it was considering bankruptcy as a way of resolving its pensions crisis. It aims to resolve its crisis by transferring to Heathrow’s Terminal Five in two years time, with thousands less staff, and those who remain on much worsened terms and conditions of service, including much reduced pensions. In fact, the Gate Gourmet lock-out of 800 workers and the firm’s determination to have a cheap slave labour force is directly linked to the deepening economic crisis and its undermining of the air transport industry.
The international motor car industry was the next great battle ground of the crisis. General Motors has already shut down over a dozen assembly plants and is to sack tens of thousands, with more to come, while Ford announced its own mass closure and mass sackings programme yesterday. The one-time GM owned Delphi parts producer is demanding mass sackings plus a 62 per cent cut in wages.
Meanwhile, the shadow of mass sackings, closures and wage cuts hangs over the entire European motor car industry.
This massive destruction of the productive forces is forcing the working class forward to defend its jobs, wages and basic rights in all the major capitalist states. In the US while the UAW car workers union leadership is paralysed in front of the crisis, the rank and file of the union is organising to fight every cut and closure.
The decision of the 30,000 New York transit workers to reject the just negotiated settlement, which big business had denounced as giving away far too much, has reduced the billionaires who run New York to an unheard of silence. The vote to reject is being seen as confirmation that the working class in the US now means real business, and is convinced that a very serious struggle is necessary to defend the gains that it has made in the last 50 years.
In fact, all over the world the deepening crisis and the crashing of jobs, pensions and basic rights is driving the working class forward. Last week 8,000 EU dockworkers marched to the EU parliament in Strasbourg routing the French riot police, and ‘convinced the assembled MEPs to throw out by a massive majority an attempt to completely eliminate dockers by allowing ships’ crews to unload cargo.
In Britain the locked out Gate Gourmet workers are showing a remarkable combativity with their determination not to allow the TGWU leaders to sell them out to the bosses.
This year in Britain matters are coming to a head over wages, jobs and pensions. Industrial action against the Labour government is on the cards. The issue is that the working class must have a leadership which is prepared to beat the government and bring it down, to go forward to a workers’ government that will expropriate the bosses and bring in a socialist planned economy. This is the only way to resolve the crisis that is developing, not just in Britain but on a world scale. This means building the WRP in Britain and sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International all over the world.