Car production is among the leading manufacturing industries in Britain. This is why it features highly in the growth targets in the Conservatives proposals put forward both in its manifesto and Queen’s speech, Given that this is the case, it is sponsored by Monopoly suppliers and finance capital. It features only in the interests of these capital centred groups and bears no relation to working class interests. It gives lie to their claims of innovation and investment for jobs, it is a fraud and procures only Private Monopoly control over an important sector of the economy. It offers no guarantees over local employment and in reality can serve to do the opposite.
Under the heading, “A Modern Industrial Strategy” in the Conservative election manifesto it stated,
“We will spend more on research and development, to turn brilliant discoveries into practical products and transform the world’s industries – such as the batteries that will power a new generation of clean, efficient, electric vehicles.
“We will build on the success of world-beating sectors such as car and aero manufacturing,,,,”
With Capital centred economics in mind it also said that its strategy would include a,
“National Productivity Investment Fund”,
“If our modern industrial strategy is to succeed, it must address the UK’s slow productivity growth and it must be funded properly from the start. So we have launched a new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund. The government will target this spending at areas that are critical for productivity: housing, research and development, economic infrastructure and skills”.
Further, in the Queen’s Speech,
“My government will work to attract investment in infrastructure to support economic growth. Legislation will be introduced to ensure the United Kingdom remains a world leader in new industries, including electric cars and commercial satellites”.
Three of the most important target areas of car production are; Nissan Washington, Tata Jaguar in the Midlands and BMW Oxford as they are all key areas. Others would include Ford and Toyota.
All are interested in volume car production in Britain and have either developed in the race for all electric or hybrid vehicles. Nissan have already produced its volume “Leaf” whereas the others lag behind.
Significantly the most delicate situation is with the German BMW plant in Oxford. BMW has been prevaricating over where its production should take place for a new all electric model. It is operating in the context of the Brexit negotiations and “productivity” agreements with the local workforce.
Before the General Election, BMW workers had to fight in defence of their final-salary pension scheme, through an overwhelming vote for strike action. Workers were balloted across four plants: Cowley in Oxford, Goodwood near Chichester, Hams Hall near Birmingham and Swindon. Eight 24-hour strikes, along with a work-to-rule and an overtime ban have were announced, starting on, April 19, involving up to 3,500 workers.
“BMW Group wanted to, “improve the cost-competitiveness of the UK as a manufacturing base.”
Car workers proclaimed their right by their actions to their claims, in the form of wages when active, and in the form of pensions when retired, by virtue of being the producers of this added-value during their working lives.
This is not the first time in recent years that BMW has been attacking the claims and conditions of workers in the name of “competitiveness”. In April 2012, a series of “productivity” drives to increase the company’s rate of return by getting more out of the workers for less led to a dispute at the Cowley Mini plant.
Why is it in the interest of capital and not working class interests at BMW? Why does it offer no guarantees over local employment and in reality do the opposite?
In the first place the imperialist interests of the monopoly groups, wherever their origin are only interested in maximising profits and their claim on any new added value. This means that upping sticks and exporting capital abroad is inherent in their motives if it suits. The Government proposal for investing in battery technology or the cars themselves, is not necessarily guaranteed. A single market and free movement of capital is where monopoly groups can move suppliers and the end product at will, this has been the experience of the European Union for car producers in the past. This was the experience of Ford’s “world car” in the 80’s. The second issue of local employment is obviously related. Dominance and British chauvinistic interests serve its narrow national perspective by becoming a force for British Monopoly interest in setting priorities for production. In the worldwide context of the switch from fossil fuel, oil in particular, to other energy production Britain wants its place recognised and monopoly positions maintained in some form. It relies on developing the science and technology and offering incentives in particular for suppliers. It wants the Government claim on the product to veer away from social programmes but towards dominant technologies to establish superiority in markets.
It cannot serve the workers interests if it narrowly subjects the economy to sectional interests of capital. It undermines the rest of the economy and the rights of all. It concentrates capital into fewer hands leaving it wide open to export of the final product abroad anyway and this could be anywhere in the world as it opens up trade elsewhere. It leads to a one sided and isolated area of production.
The opposite is the appropriate solution, which is to develop a broad manufacturing base that serves and protects the rights of all. Where besides the independent working class politics is this mentioned in any shape or form by the Westminster cartel of political parties? The solution is not to be confined to the individual and narrow interests of a few super rich investors. It should be declared that it is our economy and not confined to those who are privileged in the circles and lobbies of the Government represented, at present, by Teresa May. It should be declared that it is not their economy, it is ours and we should be the decision makers as they have no mandate to carry out their manifesto and Queen’s speech.
Whose Economy? – Our Economy!