Monday, April 01, 2013
Fight Asset sales!
The NZ power network is a natural monopoly. The NZ state planned the development and effectively subsidised the capitalist farming & industry by providing access to use of cheap electricity. No individual capitalist in NZ’s history could have built this. NZs electricity system was built by the working class – an international working class at that, with migrant labour a central part of the construction workforce. Power utilities were paid for by the taxes of the working class - as well as producing the profits, (including the bosses’ taxes). The working class built these utilities and financed the Research & Development of two areas where NZ has special expertise, Geothermal and Hydro - electrical. There is massive social capital expropriated from the working class invested in infrastructure and intellectual property in the power SOEs. This is the stake that NZ workers have in state assets. We are against these assets being privatised and the monopoly profits going NZ or foreign capitalist ownership.
Capitalist asset grab
Capitalism rules NZ and the NACT government (National, Act, Maori Party and Peter Dunne) represents the interests of the capitalist class unashamedly. Already they have part-privatisated by increasing the debt levels of the power companies and solid energy (35% of their value is owed finance capitalism), and taken that bank debt as a government dividend (profit). The further transfer of ownership from the capitalist state to the capitalist class (the class of owners) takes place with these sales. This is the theft from the poor of the pretence of ownership (held by the state). This will be the continued exploitation of the working and unemployed poor, and power prices that extract profit margins well above and beyond the costs of power production.
Geoff Bertram has researched the price gauging of the SOE's who have acted as a cartel and put up the price of power at least 50% above real cost. That is monopoly rent which currently goes to the state as dividends. Monopoly rent equals super profits from natural resources, so it amounts to a transfer of profits from other capitalists to monopoly capitalists. The other capitalists have tried to offload this loss of profits with prices concessions and higher prices for private consumers. This is just screwing workers at both ends.
Why is the capitalist class stealing the power companies from the NZ state? When power services are sold the capitalist class will be able to take profits from their “investment” (that investment money is coming from the profits of the production of the working class in the first place). The capitalist system is so weak that capitalism is in search of “good investments” because their profit margins are falling. An electricity supplier is a guaranteed monopoly profit, because everyone uses electricity – so the capitalist is keen to get private ownership of the profits, a loss for all of us since it is a move away from the state dividends that can be reinvested in other infrastructure such as schools hospitals etc.
Their crisis not ours!
The global financial crisis was just the latest symptom of the failure of capitalism. Profits were low in productive sector and “financial” capitalism was promising bigger profits – however finance capital was unable to deliver on these as the many financial company failures proved. Capitalism is a stuffed system and their profits will continue to fall - Marx “Capital”). The capitalist class is in such crisis now seeking a “reliable” profit from exploiting the working class. The sale of power services will drive up the costs of electricity (which even a capitalist state can build and run more efficiently than a capitalist owner).
The capitalist crisis means that the bosses want to milk that monopoly rent directly and not see it spent on schools, houses, welfare etc. It is total cynical bullshit to say that the proceeds of the sale of 49% will be spent on these social amenities. 49% will go straight into the hands of shareholders, while the states shares of rent will go to subsidising big capital and farmers as the plans for roading, irrigation and “Public Private Partnerships” (PPPs) that guarantee private profit.
NZ workers have an historic stake in these assets. They are essential services to meet our need for cheap, reliable electric power to maintain our households. Take back control of power services and put them under the control of the working class and the power service workers.
Reclaim our power!
The language of the “asset sale” hides the fact that these are power services which provide an essential service to the whole NZ population. (99%+/ - anyone left off the grid?) It serves the working class by providing what has become a basic necessity for our living; keeping our food, water, clothing & ourselves clean and healthy, and communicating with each other. Electricity is now a basic need. Reclaim electricity as a need and a service!
The ‘market’ is by definition not designed to meet needs: it is all about profits. The description of power providers as “assets” hides the fact that they were built to provide an electricity supply throughout the whole country, including delivering electricity to the milking sheds, an integral part of NZs efficient milking production. Electricity services are best planned to meet the needs of the population and of industry (an argument for socialist planning) and the NZ state has done that planning and development. The creation of an electricity market has only lead to price increases and profit taking by the state – a burden on the working class through household electricity prices. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and current tools of imperialism will make it easy for imperialism rip off power super-profits, to concentrate capital in the crisis, e.g. Chinese dairying, and we will see these energy monopolies pass into imperialist hands.
Appeals to Parliamentary Parties a dead end
Labour in the 1980s set up these “State Owned Enterprises” (SOEs) the power companies, coal, and ran the first programme of privatisations / sell offs; BNZ, NZ Rail, Air NZ, etc. Labour MPs say they have learnt their lesson: but they did nothing in their 2000-2009 years in government to reclaim state control of the SOEs and reign in power prices. Labour’s failure to put the SOEs out of reach of sale is just an example of the Labour party’s commitment to capitalism. The “market” continued to price gouge from the working class as “residential customers” and subsidise big industrial users such as the bluff aluminium smelter.
Labour party continues to fail the working class because it includes both working people and a pro-capitalist program and leadership. The bureaucracy within Labour controls the party programme and so will never really challenge the capitalist class. Labour is so weakened by the bureaucracy within its own ranks that it cannot put up a real fight against the “asset sales”. They are all talk and no action. Most state assets were sold by the Lange Labour Government in the 80s. Shearer will not commit to buying assets back even until he sees if he’s got the money. The Greens will not commit to buying assets back either. The only parliamentary parties that have committed to buying back state assets are NZ First a centre right nationalist party, and Mana.
The Aotearoa is not for Sale Coalition is also weakened by its strategy of directing is protests at parliament. Parliamentary parties following capitalist programs take the resistance off the street and into petitions and votes for parliament. So long as Mana and Socialist Aotearoa put their energy into begging parliament to stop asset sales their opposition to sales will not win mass support for direct action. This type of coalition politics is a popular front that ties workers to pro-capitalist parties like Labour and the Greens instead of mobilising a mass movement to occupy the SOEs under workers’ control.
Occupy the SOEs and put them under Workers Control
The key demand that should be taken up by all groups opposed to assets sales is “Occupy!” This is the only language that the bosses’ state understands. They proved this by breaking the law to violently evict Occupy form its sites in Auckland in 2012. The NACTs are so determined to sell the SOEs that they are prepared to subsidise Rio Tinto’s Pacific Aluminium to stay at Tiwai Point under the pretext of saving jobs. This is because if Rio Tinto pull out of NZ the 12% of electricity it currently uses will be diverted to all other consumers creating an oversupply, falling profits and prospect for privatisation nil! This sort of total sellout of NZ workers to foreign monopolies cannot be answered unless by occupations and pickets to defend the stake of generations of NZ workers in state assets.
To protect the occupations workers will need to build solidarity the local community, call on sympathy strikes, mass pickets and self-defence squads. Then they need to put them under workers control. The workers who maintain and run our power services are in the best position to continue to run them. Maori who labour on the power services need to be represented in this leadership and by the right to caucus. The local working class and all workers who consume power services would form in alliance with the power service workers to plan production and service provision. Representation can be based in workplace democracy electing and recalling delegates to a workers council. The local workers council is the forum for making democratic decisions about planning to meet the needs of all. Local Maori from both the end user and production end of power services need to be represented on workers councils.
No compensation to the Capitalist Class
Buyers beware! Don’t line up to buy stolen property – these assets belong to working people. We will take them back with no compensation to the capitalist class. No compensation to the bankers, financiers, or grandma and grandpa investors who have a spare $1000. No compensation to the “institutional” investors or retirement funds. No compensation to any investors since they all gambled to make a profit from the congealed sweat of the generations of workers in the first place. No compensation whatsoever in any circumstances!
No compensation flies in the face of capitalism and imperialism through treaties such as the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) would try to force compensation through international law. The TPPA will try to block renationalisation. So taking back the assets means breaking the free trade agreements. Socialising the assets is getting them back; it is expropriating back to the workers who built and paid for the SOEs in the first place. They are our assets and we will take them back to meet our needs.
Socialise our power services!
We are for the overthrow of the capitalist system, which hides the fact that workers are the creative force in capitalist society. Socialism means the end of this capitalist model of ownership and a move to social ownership - by all. State ownership is still capitalist ownership. This is shown by the fact that they are run to meet the needs of all capitalists by subsidising the cost of power as Bertram’s research proves. Rio Tinto is a classic case. Nationalised assets are easier to socialise under workers control than expropriating individual shareholders. We need to start now to win support for socialising all former state assets as well as the strategic assets of large NZ and foreign corporations.
We can do better than state ownership; we can throw capitalism out altogether and plan the whole economy to meet the needs of all. The meeting of the electricity needs of just part of one basic economic plan that needs to be implemented at a national level: Smash the capitalist electricity market. Plan to meet the electricity needs of all and for industry that meets our needs.
Stop the asset sales! Occupy our SOEs! Smash the TPPA!
Socialise all former state assets and all major NZ and foreign corporations!
For a Workers State to implement a national planned socialist economy!