Capitalism goes back to “normal”

The ruling class around the world have decided that the global economy must get back to normal, and that restrictions introduced to protect people in the so-called “developed world” from the covid-19 pandemic must be abandoned, despite the onset of a new wave of the virus.

Governments have gone back to their “normal,” blaming everything for the latest crisis in the boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism other than their policies and capitalism itself. Once again, as crisis hits, we see them subsidising the creators of the crisis and leaving the citizens to pick up the tab.

Fuel costs, which had already risen steadily by 50 per cent since last May, increased by another 35 per cent since the invasion of Ukraine. What is not mentioned is the bonanza in profits for the oil producers. In times of crisis the poor always pay the price, and the rich cash in. Big Oil has hit a gusher, and the world’s poor drown in a sea of debt.

Last year the biggest oil companies—Shell, Chevron, BP, and Exxon—made profits totalling $75 billion. This year, by courtesy of another imperialist war, they are on the way to an even bigger bonanza. The oil companies could absorb the higher costs of crude oil, but they won’t: the Big Oil cartel are so big and powerful they don’t have to. It’s the same old story: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

How are the oil companies using this massive increase in profits? Are they reinvesting in research into renewable energy to undo some of the damage they have done to the planet over the last hundred years of ceaseless drilling and exploitation? No, they are not. Will they increase supply to lower the price? Once again the answer is No.

The CEO of Chevron, Mike Wirth, didn’t hide their motives when he said, “We could afford to invest more, but the equity market is not sending a signal that says they think we ought to be doing that.”

In other words, the equity markets are telling him and his ilk that the best way to maximise profits is to limit supply—not to produce more. Maximum profit is their only purpose: they care not for the plight of people who can’t afford to heat their home, for the environment, or for the people of Ukraine.

So what is our government doing to appear to be helping hard-pressed consumers? They cut VAT by 20c for six months, at a cost of €320 million to the exchequer, which actually subsidies the price of oil, and props up the sale of oil for the producers.

If they were serious about helping the citizens, and had genuine concerns for the environment, for €600 million they could have made all public transport free for everyone for a full year. This would be of huge assistance to those who cannot afford a car, or fuel for a car, particularly the poorest of society, who always struggle to find the fare, and a major help in reducing carbon emissions for the country at the same time.

 With free public transport along with the unexpected extra cost of sky-high prices for fuel, even more people would abandon their car for public transport. This could lead to a sea change in how people travel and think about travel—another opportunity to make meaningful changes to emissions, where government policy supports business rather than people or the environment.

This change could be introduced globally to reduce emissions in a people-friendly initiative, slashing the use of private cars in a transformative shift in the mode of transport to build a more sustainable world. The winners are the people, the environment, and the planet; the losers, of course, would be Big Oil and the motor industry.

Therein lies the reason these changes will not be made now, and not until the owners of these industries are forced to change. Neither climate catastrophe nor war will force them; they will use them as a method of making even more profits. Only a mass movement of people can and will bring about change.

Oil is a natural resource, a gift of nature, that has been abused and exploited by a tiny elite since its discovery. There is no consideration for humanity or for the planet that we all share. Why are these resources owned by a small group of people? The extraordinary amount of wealth extracted from the exploitation of natural resources is owned and controlled by a tiny elite, while half the world is starving.

Oil is a finite resource and could be used in a sustainable manner if used conservatively for maximum benefit to the citizens of the world. Many people around the world are receiving no benefit from the oil industry while living in oil-rich countries or areas most affected by the oil industry and the catastrophe of climate change that it has brought upon us. We should be managing all the earth’s resources in a global fashion.

Free public transport could provide unimagined freedom for people all round the planet, if only these resources were shared for the common good, instead of gas-guzzlers clogging up cities that have, or can afford to have, excellent public transport systems and no need for private cars.

The owners of these resources have more money than they could spend in five hundred lifetimes.

These companies are an affront to humanity. Oil should not be in the ownership of private individuals or corporations. Imperialism had no qualms about invading Iraq or Libya to control their oil resources. Natural resources of the world should be owned by the peoples of the world and managed for the betterment of humanity, not for the greed of a tiny elite.

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”

Hunkpapa Lakota leader Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake (Sitting Bull).