|Volume 49 Number 13, June 22, 2019||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Ford is joining other car manufacturers in a line of companies ready to sacrifice their means of production. Nissan in Washington, Honda in Swindon, Jaguar in Birmingham, BMW in Oxford and others are joined by Ford Bridgend in South Wales. The Bridgend plant has been marked for closure in Autumn 2020, Ford suddenly announced in a letter aimed at stunning the workers and their communities.
The closure of Bridgend is another example of the wanton destruction of the productive forces affecting all sectors of industry and the wider economy, but currently being suffered by the car industry in particular, through plant closures, job losses or elimination of whole production lines or methods.
The monopolists in control, from their perspective as individual competing owners, are obsessed with their ultimately fruitless attempts to offset their falling rate of profit. The car industry is currently beset by its own particular problems that are exacerbating this general state of crisis.
Issues affecting the environment, as well as congestion and safety, arising from the increasing reliance on road transport - issues that point, in short, to the need to humanise the natural and social environment - necessitate both technological development, such as the move to electric power, and new solutions for planning, working arrangements, public transport and the distribution of goods.
This necessity finds itself up against the narrow private interests of competing monopolies and their drive to offset their falling rate of profit. Rather than playing the role of contributing to the socialised economy to guarantee the well-being of all, production and the issues it faces pose itself to these interests as one of "market conditions", such as falling demand for diesel and the shift to electric cars. Ford blamed "changing customer demand and cost" for its closure plans.
Ford of Europe president Stuart Rowley said: "Creating a strong and sustainable Ford business in Europe requires us to make some difficult decisions, including the need to scale our global engine manufacturing footprint to best serve our future vehicle portfolio."
After this irrationality that such destruction will serve the future come the crocodile tears:
"We are committed to the UK.... However, changing customer demand and cost disadvantages, plus an absence of additional engine models for Bridgend going forward make the plant economically unsustainable in the years ahead."
In the modern world, globalisation is a reality and cars have long-since become products that are global in nature. Ford itself has plants across North America and Europe, including Britain. Yet globalisation currently takes the form of neo-liberal globalisation, globalisation under the control of competing global oligarchs. With this has come the neo-liberal global crisis.
The competing global oligarchs that control sections of this internationally-socialised interconnected global economy, through their collusion and contention, have given rise to great supra-national institutions such as the EU and sweeping free trade agreements. At the present time, the contradictions inherent in this unstable set of arrangements are surfacing as these arrangements and institutions come under attack from those powerful oligarchs who find them too constraining for their private empire-building aims. The debate and impasse over Brexit reflect these contradictions.
The car monopolies are caught up in these contradictions and are seeking to manoeuvre, either to survive or attempt to use the chaos to their advantage.
Their solution to the contradictions they face and the underlying problem of the falling rate of profit is to demand pay-the-rich schemes, such as government subsidies, only to tear up those agreements when seen fit, and to up sticks and move or close production at will, riding roughshod over the public right to a livelihood and with disregard for regional economies.
In phases starting on September 25, the closure will directly result in the loss of 1,700 jobs, and a huge loss of value for the local, Welsh and British economy, and is part of plans to cut 7,000 jobs worldwide. Workers come from across Wales to produce at the plant, while many more people work for companies supplying it with goods and services.
The government have accepted the decision of Ford virtually without question. Not to take a meaningful stand over such matters is no way to run an economy, and illustrates how private interests have been politicised to the extent that governments either openly or implicitly protect the monopolies for their destructive actions. How to block such unilateral decisions of the monopolies is a matter of great importance, as is how to gain the decision-making power required to set a different direction for the economy.
It is clear that production should continue at Bridgend, a plant and workforce of enormous potential. The interests of the workers, of Wales and indeed the rest of the car industry in Britain should be upheld. This plant has served the entire industry well in the past and should continue to do so.
The issue is that workers do not have any control over the economy, what they produce or the future of these plants. The fact is that the oligarchs who own the means of production act as they do because they can. They have control. That the global financial oligarchy simply views these plants as pawns underscores the need for the working class to organise itself on its own account around its own independent politics and programme. Such devastating arbitrary decisions cannot go unchallenged and demand emergency measures to safeguard the people's well-being and right to a livelihood, and workers need to strengthen their independent consciousness and organisation to make this challenge effective.
The issues surrounding the closure at Bridgend reflect this clash of interests between those who want to destroy production and those who do not, between the rich disconnected owners and the workers and their communities. It is not inevitable; it is not a fait accompli. The closure is already being resisted.
"These workers and this community have stayed faithful to Ford through thick and thin, but have been treated disgracefully in return" said Unite's Len McCluskey, adding that the Ford Bridgend closure is a "grotesque act of economic betrayal".
GMB regional organiser Jeff Beck said: "We're hugely shocked by today's announcement. It's a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend."
"But Ford can forget about it if it thinks we will make it easy for Ford to walk away from this workforce. We will resist this closure with all our might," he pledged.
Unite have been holding mass meetings since the announcement. A recent consultative ballot found 83 per cent in favour of strike action.
The workers are the vital factor in the socialised economy, but are not the vital factor in decision-making. Only by taking up politics themselves and getting independently organised on this basis can they defend their livelihoods.