The recent heatwave has allowed the water line to drop low enough to fully reveal the wretched monsters that lurks beneath the surface of the stinking sewer that is the UK’s privatised water industry. So what is to be done to deal with the repulsive leeching beasts who have been encouraged to spread into the water system?
There are nine privately run water monopolies in England who have made almost £20bn in profits over the last 10 years. A profit line which of course has been boosted through avoiding paying their taxes. The largest monopolies, such as Anglian Water and Thames Water, have managed for some years not to pay a penny to the Treasury while paying their shareholders record dividends and compensating their chief executives £1.2m and £960,000 a year respectively! As with the railway network, the capitalist class have underinvested in public services to ensure big profits for themselves and their fellow crooks.
The water industry regulator OFWAT’s chairman used to be the boss at Anglian Water. Clearly, as with many other regulators, OFWAT’s boardroom is staffed using a revolving door that connects the regulators directly to their old colleagues who run the companies they’re supposed to be regulating. All of this is, no doubt, accompanied by hearty back-slapping at every heist they manage to pull off at the expense of ordinary people struggling to pay their bills.
This regulatory structure leads to the protection of no one’s interests but those of the capitalist class, and it neglects the needs of the rest of us, the working class. Essentially the water industry is self-regulated and about as much use as a chocolate fireguard or, more appropriately, a dam made of porridge.
In this time of crisis, the corporations have offered few answers to the problems they have created. The reason for this is simple. As far as they’re concerned, the water monopolies only exist to line the pockets of their owners and bosses. They’re happy to exploit the decades-old infrastructure that leaks 20% of the water supply every day, without bothering to invest to fix it, just as long as they get their bonuses and dividends at the end of each year.
Of course, the mismanagement of the environment by corporations exacerbates the effects of climate change.
The world is experiencing one of the hottest years since records began and water shortages are just one of the consequences of increasing global temperatures. Water, and who controls it in the Middle East, for example, is becoming an ever more pressing problem and a question of strategic importance. It should come as no surprise that in 2014, when ISIS were in their ascendency, they purposely targeted rivers and dams that supplied Baghdad and other key areas to wage war on the local population more effectively.
Global environmental disaster is no longer beyond the horizon – it is rising above it. Meanwhile the capitalists who have continued to pillage the planet of its resources and stalled meaningful change to reverse their impact are showing no sign of stopping.
The privatisation of public services, begun by Thatcher, has clearly failed. It has resulted in high costs and environmental damage. The only people it has benefitted are the super-rich, who are now even richer.
As Marxists, we believe that to rescue the UK’s crumbling Victorian infrastructure, end extortionate prices imposed by the utility monopolies, and save the environment, nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy is required. Utilities, banks, construction, housing, energy, healthcare, education, transport and manufacturing – we need to take over the lot!
We support Corbyn’s call for the nationalisation of the water industry, but the Labour leadership must be bold and go further than this if we are to have even a half-decent standard of living under a Labour government. What’s required is for all major industries to be placed under democratic workers’ control and no compensation to be given to the capitalist gangsters. In short, we must fight for socialism.
by Stan Laight, Sheffield Marxists