Raw Injustice

Current Events

1st July 2024

In 1709 Abraham Darby discovered coke smelting, advancing the mass production of brass and iron goods. This discover was the seed which gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. 315 years later on the 20th of March the coke ovens at the Port Talbot steelworks spewed forth their last batch and were shuttered, this is likely to be Britain’s last.

This was the first step of the shuttering of Port Talbot’s two Blast Furnaces and the transition to Electric Arc Furnaces and more the the point, the gutting of Port Talbot’s community and the livelihood of some 3000 people direct and thousands more by proxy, the latest in a long history of class war at the hands of corporations and central governments as they drive forward with reckless social and economic transformation, the workers little more than numbers to be caste aside the moment their labour is no longer part of the grandiose visions of ensure long term profits. Another volley in the class war, the workers however said No.

A Little History

The Steel Company of Wales Ltd formed in 1947 and was Nationalised by Labour’s Atlee government in 1951, only to be chocked into inaction and privatised by the following Conservative cabinet, subsequently being renationalised in 1967. This is how it stood until 1999 when the Blairites had better things to do but consider the working class and it’s back to reckless corporate profiteering, ultimately ending up in the hands of Tata in 2007.

By the 2010’s it was clear that the future was Green, the realities of several hundred years of catastrophic recklessness have made themselves apparent and even if you really really don’t want to agree with the hippies and dossers, the creeping reality of the cascade failure of our biosphere has started to affect profit margins and firmly rooted itself as a political hot potato.

Come 2016 and Britain has allowed a nationalist skidmark Farage and aristocratic puddle of piss Johnson to churn out enough bullshittery and chaff that even Trump would blush. The UK votes for Brexit. The UK leaving the EU and the eventual signing of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) in 2020 absolutely gutted profitability of the UK’s Steel industry.

So it’s time to slap on some green paint and call it progressive, never mind that Tata continue to run blast furnaces elsewhere and the UK government continues to endorse the most horrific environmental disasters of the coming decade, there has just been another COP and we need to look shiny and progressive and secure the future for the capitalist elite.

In 2023 the government decided to put half a billion into Port Talbot and replace the Blast Furnaces with Electric Arc Furnaces. While EAF is far from some environmental miracle and being itself a producer of toxic gases laden with heavy metal and coming with greatly increased demands on power production and the increase on heavy goods traffic it exists as one of the critical industries of the manufacturing future, the truth behind these decisions couldn’t be any less about environmental concerns. It’s about maintaining profits across the vast monolith of a global empire and the first thing any empire is willing to sacrifice in the name of profit it’s the working class.

EAF is more more autonomous and replacing the two blast furnaces means some 3000 workers (directly and even more effected indirectly) that are surplus to requirement. The unions rightly object to this, Community and GMB outline a plan for Tata and Unite would issue Statements of intent. Ballots for industrial action went out.

Industrial Action Time
The lingering memory of the deep mine closures echoes through the valleys, starting with the loss of some 6000 job cuts in Wales through the 70’s and the killing blow of 25,000 through the 80’s leaving just 3000 in the early 90’s. Then as it was now, the working class are being tossed onto the scrap heap,with neither care for their individual well-being or that of the wider community. The raw injustice behind the decision being made masked over with green washing platitudes and displaced promises of eternally imminent high tech jobs, jobs which on paper fill the maths but still leave the working class cut out of a market in-favour of the middle class aspirants.

Two generations might have gone by but the scars are deep and it’s absolutely no surprise that the ballots returned with a demand for action. The Industrial Action has already been dismissed by bosses and politicos alike as union bluster and the result of “troublemakers” as such action tends to be by filth in suits however the truth of it is than it’s works showing the absolute best of solidarity with each other and fighting for a just transition for fellow workers and for Port Talbot.

The general (and simplified) plan from the workers is this: maintain a single blast furnace for ten years alongside the development of the EAF furnace, allowing for a suitable transition phase, one which would allow workers time to take appropriate steps, whether that’d be secure retirements, further work, savings or training. This while maintaining profitability for Tata and maintaining a secure diversity of production methods during times of economic instability.

This has been roundly rejected by Tata, it’s primary arguments is that they’ve got “Net Zero” targets to meet and well it just isn’t profitable, Port Talbots losing £1m a day! Both arguments are of course hog wash.

Suprise! The Bosses Lie
Tata Steel Limited has reserves of £1.6 billion and has paid out dividends of £1.4 billion to shareholders between 2019 and 2023. It’s global revenue is £117.78 Billion (FY 2023), up on the previous year. Choices are being made here and when the bosses section off their assets in such a manner it is little more than a weak attempt to obfuscate to wider picture so that they may validate (in the short term at least) redundancies.

The second of these arguments is even more laughable. You can’t claim environmentalism and pin “Net Zero” as your purpose for closing two blast furnaces and tearing apart the economic well being of 3000 households as you build one of the largest blast furnaces in the world in India, and maintain numerous others including in the EU, such as the vast IJmuiden Steelworks in the Netherlands.

Their IJmuiden Steelworks was subject to a criminal investigation in 2022 into “intentional and unlawful introduction of hazardous substances into the soil, air or surface water.” and was the focus of a report on dangerous emissions just last year. The Dutch are now considering subsidising this plants “green development” to the tune of £2.5 Billion. Public money again going into corporate greed.

Tata’s Kalinganagar industrial complex in India equally is an absolute obscenity, consuming the ancestral lands of locals and the ecological splendour of the surrounding national park alike. Vast and polluting. It’s one of four such plants in India.

The final hammer in this preposterous claim and the offloading of carbon responsibility is that even the most ardent advocates for the environment From Greenpeace to Friends of the Earth, Reclaim the Power, to Extinction Rebellion stand with the workers of Port Talbot.

The future of this planet cannot be secured at the expense of fellow workers. It is secured by the holistic and global end of growth capitalism, profiteering, and industrial recklessness. We must first and foremost stand with the workers. Investment into so-called “green steel” and the future of the industry must place their well-being before profit.

From The Anarchist Perspective
These industries should be operated the benefit of their communities providing a strategic material resource for construction and manufacture, the economic loss made moot, if not by the post-economic social model then at the very least the social, logistical, and environmental benefits of local manufacturing of Iron and Steel.

While we can and should pursue environmentally sympathetic and balanced manufacture, we should do so earnestly and not by displacing manufacture to less economically developed regions of the world or by pursuing rapid transitions without consideration to the people and communities at the heart of it. Our solutions should be rooted in localism and internationalist in consideration. Kicking the carbon can down the road like this is just the latest face of colonialism, building an artifice of green splendour at home, built upon endless factory-scapes across Asia, Africa and South America.

Ultimately this conflict is repeated in numberless reflections around the world. The capitalist ethos views the workers are collateral, little more than abstracts in the math. Human beings are not collateral – let alone to the false promise of “Net-Zero”. While we maintain these abusive relationships with the bosses we will only be maintaining the suicidal cycle of capitalism. The workers of a blast furnace are no more free than the workers of an electric arc furnace. They are subject to the same whims of their pay masters no matter green the whip. While profit is the aim and purpose of such industry we will never be working towards balance and well-being. Green capitalism is no different, especially as we socialise the cost while privatising the profits.

The trade unions, de-fanged and neutered as they are, present no revolutionary purpose towards a true green future. They seek to find compromise with capital and restrict the capacity for swift and meaningful direct and radical action of the workers, instead of stoking flames of change they turn furious rage into a palatable whimper for the bosses consideration. They appeal to the social conscience of those consumed by profit and power. At their most radical, they whisper about Nationalisation, tho rarely as little more than a empty threat to hopefully birth some corporate compassion.

Nationalisation is you could argue, in ideal circumstances at least, one step towards autonomy, a bringer self determination for the working class. I can think of few cases where this has been the result mind, instead it’s implementation has been little more than utopianism by the statists and something the rest of us appeal to as a tiny step of reform towards something better. No, while the state maintains a ethos of growth this is a hollow exchange. The workers are still sent to toil for their bosses and the planet is still treated as a exploitable resource, people still treated as playthings for vast and indifferent bodies of powerful men in some distant boardroom. If the government wants to build a motorway through your house they will, you’re in the way of a new factory? Fuck you. Your family’s farm in the getting in the way of factory profits? Time to move. Just ask the residents of Llanwyddyn and Tryweryn. Even today if we take even a passing example of nationalised industry we see the same apathy and hubris. The Chinese state’s power scheme from the Three Gorges Dam to the vast fields of solar power have caused unimaginable disasters for local fauna and flora. The workers from Beijing to Bristol, whether their live under free market capitalism it’s state mandated reflect, are still treated as disposable playthings. Under their rule we’ll always be kept in line with a mixture of pacification and de-radicalisation at the hands of trade unions and facilitation from the local constabulary when they get a bit too uppity.

The anarchist solution, as always, is rooted in placing authority at it’s most local point. Industrial complexes such as the Port Talbot Steelworks would be collectivized by the workers and operated by the workers for the benefit of the communities local, regional, national and international. Coordinating with guilds and federations across the land to balance need and capacity, ensuring the materials are there when needed without starving the local labour pool in to maintain competitive standing in a growth market. This can’t exist in a bubble, the revolution isn’t an island and we lack the social courage for collectivisation to be on the cards for your average industrial worker, so for now we consider solidarity, for this is fabric upon which with ferment the liberated future.

Solidarity with the workers of Port Talbot, give the bastards hell, stand firm on the pickets and should your actions turn militant or find themselves being “facilitated” by the South Wales police I hope and expect you’ll find many an anarchist stood beside you. ■

Peter Ó'Maille

Since this article was written Tata have responded to Industrial Action with the looming threat of more immediate job losses across the works. Scum.

Read More

/ / /

2nd July 2024
Be Brave. Don't Vote. Revolt | Opinion

I want you to know, it’s OK to vote, we need to stop shaming each other for such tacit involvement in in the electoral state, we’re all at different points along the journey

Read More
28th June 2024
Tax Riots in Kenya | International

At least 200 people have been injured, there have been at least 100 arrests and one protester has been murdered by the police following demonstrations against president William Ruto’s tax increases.

Read More
15th May 2024
Gaza Aid Direct | Mutual Aid

When discussing the on-going situation in Palestine we are often asked “What can I do?” and “Who would you suggest I give aid too?”. Our answer is Gaza Aid Direct, the organisers of which our members can vouch for and assure. “We're fundraising for those under assault in Rafah, so far we've sent 59 families […]

Read More
6th May 2024
Encampment | Opinion

You never forget your first police violence. Some of us, we grown up with the boot tight on our throat, casually accepting the daily PMCs and pushing about, cops and security watching your every step in town and vans of thugs shoving you to the ground on the slightest provocation. We accept it as the […]

Read More
13th March 2024
What Solution for Palestine? | International

There is just no escaping the absolute inadequacy of statism and nationalism for resolving questions of social justice. Here the Anarchist tradition has an old proposal that looks much more promising.

Read More
23rd February 2024
An occupied house is an enchanted house | International

In 2020, a record number of around 100,000 people6 lived in occupations in Belo Horizonte alone and the state of Minas Gerais had the second largest housing deficit in the country, with 500,000 homeless families.

Read More
1 2 3 44