Fuel poverty: the cold, dark future of capitalism

Four million households in Britain are so cold and damp that it damages the quality of life and standard of living of the people who live in them. We’re in this situation because wages are stagnating while the monolithic utility companies continue to put energy prices up.

This is happening in a country that has one of the largest economies in the world; where there are some of the most expensive properties in the world; and where the royal family is about to leech hundreds of millions of pounds of public money to do up their palace. Wealth accumulates at one end of society while misery accumulates at the other.

It’s clichéd but true that there are millions of people in Britain who have to choose between heating and eating at this time of year. Lots of people are waiting longer and longer into the winter before turning their heating on. It’s a matter of suffering plunging temperatures or plunging into your overdraft every month.

Things are only going to get worse. The charity National Energy Action has just published a report saying that fuel poverty is on the increase and that, at the current rate at which the government is tackling the problem, it will be at least an entire lifetime (80 years) before the problem is resolved.

But in reality, it’s hard to see any other future than the government scaling back action to relieve fuel and other poverty as the capitalist economy lurches from crisis to crisis. Big business thirst for profits will see more of a squeeze on wages and more of a hike in energy bills – no Tory or Blairite politician is going to put a stop to that.

Corbyn says he’ll cap energy bills. At least he admits there’s a problem but this isn’t a sufficient solution. Ed Miliband promised the same thing when he was Labour leader and the energy companies countered by threatening blackouts. If we leave control of these businesses in the hands of those gangster CEOs the extortion isn’t going to stop.

Let’s nationalise the energy companies so that we can heat our homes properly. Let’s nationalise the construction companies and the land so that we build properly insulated houses. Let’s take these things directly into our hands – the hands of working class people who are asking for nothing more than a decent, warm house to live in.

In a very literal sense, the future of capitalism is cold and dark. The flame of Marxist ideas is what lights the path to a better, socialist alternative.

by Richard Baywood, London Marxists