In Wales, we know as much as anyone how mass unemployment devastates lives and local communities. It produces anxiety and fear, economic distress, family disruption, debt, poverty, malnutrition and homelessness. People are demoralisation as they lose their confidence and dignity. Trust and solidarity between workmates is eroded as pay and working conditions are undermined.
Unemployment is not caused by lazy or greedy workers, strikers, ‘benefit scroungers’, immigrants ‘taking our jobs’ or workers who lack skills. Those are the people targeted by the right-wing press and politicians, who want to sow division when we need is unity.
We now face a surge in unemployment in the wake of the Covid crisis. But this is not the root of the problem.
Form time to time, workers have always been thrown out of work in large numbers. It happened before Covid-19 and will again afterwards.
Capitalism is a system in which the drive for profits produced booms, gluts and slumps. On top of this, whoile industries and regions can go into decline. Domination of our economy by the City of London bankers and speculators makes our economy even more unbalanced and unstable.
Tory governments try to ensure that working people and their families pay for the crisis with their jobs and livelihoods. Then, as rival companies go under and labour becomes cheaper, the big corporations find it profitable again to revive employment, investment and production.
Our strategic aims
Only an economic system — socialism — based on democratic planning, public ownership of strategic industries, investment in modern and sustainable technology, first-class public services and full employment will put an end to the destructive crises of capitalism.
In the meantime, what we need in Wales and Britain are governments and policies that will:
- Protect jobs in vital industries and services as a top priority.
- Outlaw asset-stripping, mass redundancies and company ‘fire and re-hire’ schemes.
- Take failing companies into democratic public ownership.
- Promote new technologies that maintain wages, reduce hours and enhance working conditions.
- Plan the economy to ensure that we have balanced, sustainable development that will lift people’s living standards everywhere.
Public ownership and investment
Relying on big business, foreign investors and venture capital ‘entrepreneurs’ will never create a secure and stable basis for the economy.
They come to Wales, take public money to set up or expand their operations, then they cut or run … or hold out a bigger begging bowl. This often sends smaller contractors to the wall when what they need is a secure place in the supply chain.
The Welsh Communist Party has long argued that public money should be matched by a public shareholding in the company. This could mean nationalisation of important enterprises where the alternative is bankruptcy and mass redundancies.
When large numbers of jobs are under threat in a strategically important industry, for example at Airbus in Broughton or Liberty Steel in Llanwern, direct state intervention must involve not only financial support but a stake in the company that gives a powerful voice to central and local government.
In particular, we call for the establishment of a Welsh National Economic Development Authority with the power and resources not only to invest in new or failing enterprises, but also to direct the investment of private capital to where it is needed most. Welsh Communists have long called for a comprehensive Economic Plan for Wales, but we also must have the powers and resources to implement one.
Local government and community organisations should also have the powers and resources to set up new enterprises in their areas, especially in order to promote community energy and transport schemes, ‘green’ technology and home improvement projects, and the like. Many such ventures could be run along cooperative lines, involving workers and communities in decision-making.
Policies for the planet
Today’s climate emergency has arisen as a result of the wasteful practices and overproduction of the capitalist system. In Wales we have seen centuries of exploitation of our natural resources to benefit big business, often based outside our country, and this has contributed greatly to the current crisis. Our coal reserves were ruthlessly exploited, our land has been mismanaged and our water resources plundered.
The Welsh Communist Party calls for substantial investment in renewable energy production, an increase in public transport and rail haulage, and a new approach to land use and agriculture.
We appreciate that the proposed Severn Barrage cannot be supported because of its detrimental local environmental impacts, but schemes to develop tidal lagoon power in Swansea Bay and the Severn estuary offer greater benefit and lower impact. There is also an urgent need to investigate the possibilities for harnessing tidal power in the Dee and Clwyd estuaries. There is scope to expand offshore wind farms around Wales.
The aim should be to shift completely to renewable sources. In the transition period we support the development of clean coal with carbon capture technology from deep mining, with no open-casting. This offers a much safer option as a transition fuel than nuclear fission. We support those struggling for a nuclear-free Wales until it can be demonstrated that a safe nuclear fusion option is available.
Under EU systems, our agriculture has been designed for export to the EU market, whilst exposing our retail sector to massive imports. The environmental consequences of importing large quantities of lamb from New Zealand while we export 95% of Welsh lamb is only one example of the chaos of the current market system.
A focus on local needs will free up a proportion of Welsh agricultural land for alternative uses such as natural carbon capture and storage through replacement of trees and the reinstatement of natural bog-lands.
We recognise that the carbon trading schemes developed by the EU and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are yet another attempt to shift the burden of the climate crisis away from the big business producers and their government backers who are most responsible. We need direct regulation of industry and funding for carbon reduction from direct taxation, instead of allowing the big polluters to continue to wreck the planet.