RJB Mining, which owns most of Britain's coal-mining
industry, looks set to be taken over by a US conglomerate.
RJB is in talks with Renco, one of the largest private
corporations in the US, with £1.7 billion of annual sales. The corporation
has interests in US magnesium mines, among others, is one of America's largest
steel producers, and manufactures military vehicles for the US army. Renco is
headed by Ira Rennert, a billionaire industrialist noted, according to reports,
for his ostentatious standard of living and for financing US politicians. Renco
is said to be offering around £110 million for RJB Mining.
What is Renco's interest in RJB? For one thing, the
government has underwritten long-term supply contracts of RJB to power
generators, a guarantee worth £100 million. For another, the Department of
Trade and Industry has said it will pay a £75 million subsidy to RJB
Mining, whether or not Renco kept or sacked the 3,000 mine workers whose jobs
the subsidy was designed to secure (£25 million has been promised to
mining communities). The coal industry in Britain only now employs 13,000
workers overall. And it is safely predicted that Renco would close pits. The
50,000 acres of land owned by RJB is ripe for redevelopment. RJB paid £814
million for the bulk of Britain's coalfields six years ago.
In other words, what is termed "state
intervention" has made RJB Mining an attractive proposition and a bargain
for take-over by US capital. It is clear that such inward investment would be
the final blow to the coal industry in Britain. No one is arguing that Renco
would be willing or able to halt the coal industry's decline. The final chapter
of this section of Britain's manufacturing base looks set to be written, and an
industry that had 700,000 workers in 1947 would be at an end.
Is there an alternative? The above facts show that state
intervention under the present economic system is neither a guarantee of jobs
or of a flourishing industry. And where the government points to various
success stories of inward investment and hinges its economic strategy on such
appeals to foreign capital, these success stories are turned to disasters in
the blink of an eye. The steel, car and electronics industries are all
examples. In such circumstances, changes in interest rates, the strength of the
pound, and other fiscal factors, are all quite peripheral to the underlying
Nothing other than a change in the direction of the economy
is the answer. The "knowledge-based economy" which the G8 countries,
among others, are promoting, does not represent a change in direction either,
and is not an alternative. It represents only increased globalisation and
taking the national economy further down the road of destruction. A change in
the direction of the economy means that the economy must be made to serve the
people's needs, and what has to be changed is the criterion of "success in
the global market" as the motive force in the economy.
What will bring this about? It is not absurd to demand that
the government abandon the criterion of "success in the global
market", stop pouring money into the pockets of the rich through state
intervention and a thousand and one other ways, and instead begin to put more
into the economy than is taken out. Unless this is the number one economic
demand then all others only spread further illusions about the nature of the
capitalist system which is causing disaster for the people.
However, workers should also view the situation from the
standpoint that it is their force as a collective and as leaders of the society
which will provide the way out of the crisis. They should therefore get
organised to discuss what are the features of a new socialist society and how
to set out to achieve such a society. Their spirit must be that what they
produce is theirs by right, and they should organise to ensure that this social
product remains in their hands.