New base URL:

Politics under the rule of
the energy billionaires

by Mark, Detroit
(from Communist Voice #27, September 2001)


The Bush administration: energy bosses run country
The Democrats' pathetic stand
Reformist tailing of the Democrats or class independence?
Environmental groups
Municipal ownership of plants
Is technology itself the problem?
Pseudo-Marxist reformists
Developing a class trend


. The road to deregulation in California and nationally has been paved by the capitalists' hired hands, the Republicans and the Democrats. In California, deregulation legislation passed with overwhelming support of both parties. When Clinton came to power, he continued on the path of energy deregulation begun by Bush, the father. With the Bush-Cheney administration, deregulation and energy policy is safely in the hands of oil capitalists themselves. The workers and other ordinary masses being bled by the energy cartel face a bipartisan front for deregulation. While the energy barons plundered California, George W. looked on approvingly and used the energy shortage manufactured by his cronies to stump for further deregulation. If California was suffering, that was their problem. He wasn't going to order FERC to impose price controls. In turn, California's Democratic Governor Gray Davis blamed Bush for doing nothing, while doing as little as possible to stop the plunder himself. As we shall see, about the only thing true in the verbal jousting between the Democrats and Republicans was that each party was responsible for the energy debacle.

The Bush administration: energy bosses run country

. The Bush administration has responded to the California energy crisis in two main ways. First, it has used the crisis as an excuse to push his national energy policy of financial incentives for domestic oil and gas drilling, opening up new areas for oil-gas exploration with no regard for environmental impact, and freeing the energy companies from environmental and other regulations. Secondly, Bush has resisted doing anything serious to impinge on the runaway profiteering going on by power generators in California and elsewhere.

. All this is not very surprising since Bush and Cheney come out of the oil industry itself. Bush family friend Kenneth Lay is CEO of Enron, an energy company that has pushed hard for deregulation. James Baker III, who led Bush's efforts to steal the presidential election in Florida, sits on the board of Reliant Energy. Baker's law firm kicked in about $113,000 to Bush's campaign, while Reliant added another $289,000. Bush's chief advisor, Karl Rove, holds $100,000 in Enron stock. As for Vice-President Cheney, he is the former head of Halliburton, which provides oilfield services. According to the watchdog group Public Citizen,

"the top nine power suppliers involved in California's market and their executives gave nearly $4. 1 million to Republican candidates and party committees, including more than $1. 5 million to Bush and the Republican National Committee. "(1)

It's no surprise then that Bush's energy policy consists of simply translating industry demands into political policy.

. If Bush's plans sound like they were written in the corporate boardrooms of the oil industry, that's no accident. Matt Simmons, an investment banker to the energy services industry who writes World Oil magazine's annual review of petroleum developments, was a top advisor of his energy policy. Simmons, and therefore Bush's plan, both push the view that California's crisis was a product of insufficient plant capacity and insufficient development of energy resources. Therefore, in their view, a gigantic push must be made to develop more sources of domestic energy and expand storage and transport facilities, regardless of the environmental impact. As well, they want more energy plants, including nuclear and coal. Never mind the great safety and environmental risks with nuclear plants and disposing of nuclear waste. Nor is there a need to weigh the pollution problems associated with coal-burning plants.

. By using California's crisis to create a panic, Bush wants to stampede past any environmental concerns and further eliminate any ability to regulate the energy monopolies. Just turn his energy capitalist pals loose and they'll solve everything. Who cares if drilling in Alaskan wildlife preserves may destroy the ecosystem? Not Bush. Indeed, his offshore drilling plans were so extreme that he wound up clashing with his own brother, Jeb, the governor of Florida, over offshore drilling near his state. An example of what can happen when environmental stewardship is left to the oil companies can be seen in Louisiana. There oil dredging has led to the state losing land area the size of Rhode Island to the sea. Vital wetlands have been destroyed, creating not only an environmental but also a commercial disaster. Bush just runs from such realities and hides behind his neo-liberal dogmas. There are indeed issues of what future energy resources will be and what forms of energy are most advisable to pursue. But to trust this matter to the likes of the profiteering gluttons who have ravaged California and other states is a recipe for disaster for which the masses will pay dearly both financially and in terms of environmental crises.

. A Simmons' tract called "Solving our energy crisis" estimates the long-term project of building up the energy sector will cost maybe $5 trillion dollars. According to Simmons, the reason for falling behind in energy resources was low energy prices "far less than the replacement cost of any aspect of our energy complex. " In other words, the $5 trillion expansion of resources should be financed by higher energy prices and profits for the energy fat cats. As Simmon's argues elsewhere, "Unless, they [prices] rise to a level to create attractive financial returns, the projects will simply not work. "(2) Bush's general support of deregulation is based on the same logic that prices (and profits) must freely rise in order to provide sufficient supply to balance demand. It doesn't concern them that this "remedy" of higher prices was what the deregulation medicine was supposed to cure!

. Free-market rhetoric aside, Simmons and Bush are also not above providing a good chunk of government aid to the corporations to help this process along. Indeed, Simmons calls his corporate welfare "a new Marshall Plan for energy. " Along these lines, the Bush energy plan adds to the already-present yearly multi-billion dollar subsidies to the oil companies. Taking Bush's cue, in early August the House of Representatives passed an energy bill including about $35 billion in new tax breaks and other subsidies for the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries.

. While Bush wants to bleed the masses to finance trillions of dollars in investments in environmentally unsound energy, it's ridiculous to justify this on the basis of the California crisis. California was not plunged into darkness because of lack of resources, but because abundant resources were withheld by Bush's private energy cronies. Meanwhile, even some mainstream figures in the energy industry have called into doubt another similar Bush assertion as regards the national oil supply. Bush contends that the U. S. has not had enough oil available to meet its needs, and thus must drill anywhere and everywhere so there's more domestically-produced oil. Analysts like the president of industry consulting firm Cambridge Energy Research Associates and former Nixon official and Harvard energy economist William W. Hogan, criticize Bush's assertion that if U. S. oil production is allowed to continue rising at the same slow rate it did over the last decade, "our projected energy needs will far outstrip expected levels of production. " They note that U. S. energy usage outstripped domestic production for most of the last century, and that imports, though increasing from 35% to 52% over the last 30 years, have made up the gap. These capitalist critics of Bush aren't concerned with the sordid history of the oil monopolies' pursuit of world oil resources. But Bush isn't either. He's not out to curtail "our" energy billionaires from plundering world resources. He's just searching for any excuse to create a panic so as to allow the energy barons a free hand to compound their crimes at home and abroad.

. In line with his general free-market energy policy is Bush's total lack of concern with the plight of California. His attitude is that so long as his energy capitalist buddies are cleaning up, nothing's wrong. For months he ignored the pleas of California Democratic governor Gray Davis, and even some Republicans who saw Bush's callousness as portending their political doom, to subject wholesale energy to price caps. Finally, after letting the energy companies rob the masses blind for months, and after Davis already locked California into expensive long-term energy contracts, this June Bush agreed to make a show of concern with his so-called "price mitigation" decree. To the end, Bush took pains to distinguish his "mitigation" from price caps. In truth, they were price caps, but nearly meaningless ones. Bush's caps were based on the price of a plant producing in the most expensive manner marketing its product during a recent energy emergency, when energy producers command ultra-high prices. And there were enough loopholes to exceed these caps, too.

The Democrats' pathetic stand

. How did the Democrats respond to Bush's phony price caps? They had been denouncing Bush up and down for months, posturing as the friend of the little guy being fleeced by the monopolies. Surely, the would heap scorn upon Bush's plan. Not really. They grumbled a bit, then pronounced it was progress and decided to give up for now their own proposals in Congress for tighter price caps. U. S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called the new FERC policy "a stunning turnaround" and "a giant step forward" that could "stop the worst of the gouging. " Gray Davis called it "a step in the right direction. "

. But why should this pathetic show be any surprise? After all, Clinton and the Democrats nationally had also been pushing deregulation. California Democrats were enthusiasts for California's deregulation. Just as Bush is the voice of the oil industry, so California Democrats, from Governor Davis to the president pro tem of the state senate John Burton and state assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg, to San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, have gotten substantial financial backing from the utility companies. Besides the $68,500 that PG&E kicked into Davis' coffers, their lobbyist Darius Anderson was Davis' fundraising and inaugural chairperson, and he created tax exempt nonprofit corporations that Davis uses for travel and throwing parties. Davis tried his best to placate PG&E with bailouts when it threatened bankruptcy, but PG&E saw its financial future elsewhere, anyway. Now Davis is dangling multi-billion dollar bailout money in front of Southern California Edison. For all his talk about how deregulation has been a disaster, Davis hasn't done anything to challenge it. At one point, he threatened state takeovers of plants that were overcharging, but nothing has been taken over.

. Davis' main action besides the bailouts was engineering long-term energy contracts with the power producers, which were supposed to insure supply and reasonable rates and have done neither. These contracts were so bad that Davis has attempted to hide them from public view. But already it is apparent that this supposed great opponent of the price-gougers locked California citizens into paying rates several times higher than pre-deregulation prices for as long as 20 years. The total bill will be $43 billion. And the reformist watchdog group, the Foundation for Consumer and Taxpayer Rights (FTCR), reports that these contracts "appear to require the public to pay the costs of any windfall profits tax that the legislature might impose, pay the pollution fines for dirty power plants .  .  . ". This reveals just how demagogic the Democrats are. Davis and others had been threatening a windfall profits tax to punish the greedy energy corporations. But apparently they have already provided a way for the greedy corporations to shift the payments onto the public should they ever get around to having such a tax!

. Davis is also scheduled to meet with energy companies to negotiate overcharges to the state's present energy tab. According to the FTCR, $50 billion has been paid for energy this year in California and the governor's initial negotiating position, which will likely be haggled down, is that $9. 3 billion of this was overcharges. Thus, Davis has already conceded that over 80% of what was charged was legitimate. So if energy prices tripled, Davis concedes that 80% of that tripled price was OK! The energy corporations must be shaking!

. To top things off, it recently came to light that five California Department of Water Resources consultants who negotiated the high-priced long-term contracts with the private energy producers had to be fired because they had stock investments in Calpine, a San Jose-based energy company which received about $13 billion worth of the state's long-term contracts. Not only that, Governor Davis' chief spokesperson was seeking to cash in too. On June 20 he purchased some $12,000 worth of Calpine stock. Davis so far has not taken action against his spokesperson, on the grounds that he has now sold the stock. And the governor has resisted calls for further investigations into the holdings of state energy consultants.

. Meanwhile, just as Bush created a energy resource panic to wipe out environmental regulations, so Davis used the California crisis to eliminate environmental regulations with respect to bringing new plants on line and allowing the worst-polluting present plants to continue poisoning the masses. The Democrats have proven to be good at huffing and puffing against Bush. But when it comes down to action against the energy giants, they get weak knees. Indeed, they now have stooped to praising the minuscule measures of Bush.

Reformist tailing of the Democrats or class independence?

. With both capitalist parties thoroughly taken with neo-liberal dogma, the worker and poor have a hard road ahead in gaining relief from the energy crisis. What little organization exists among the masses is dominated by reformist trends which more or less function as an unofficial left wing of the Democrats, a party of big capital. The working masses need to develop their own independent class stand and organizations. So while the lack of class organization hinders the immediate mass response, the energy crisis can also be another opportunity to begin to overcome this problem. Activists who wish to see a strong class movement should use the mass upset over the crisis to help the workers see the need for a class orientation.

. The leadership of the AFL-CIO unions is not going to lead the workers toward class independence. Quite the opposite. With its class collaborationist stand toward the employers and close ties to the Democrats, it's no wonder they didn't raise a whimper as deregulation went forward. Of course now that deregulation has proven to be such a disaster, they are big critics. But their idea of fighting deregulation is to promote some weak-kneed liberal Democrat as the answer, the same Democrats who promoted deregulation, gave up their own demands for price controls in deference to Bush's phony price "mitigation", are in the pockets of the management of PG&E and SCE, and so on. As well, the AFL-CIO bureaucrats took a harsh stand against any activist promoting the idea of public power, as they saw this as jeopardizing the private utilities, though reportedly they have toned down their attacks recently. Most likely this has something to do with the fact that PG&E may well collapse anyway, and the union pension fund was destroyed by the financial manipulations of PG&E and its parent company. And even some Democrats started to talk about taking over plants and/or establishing a few state-run energy facilities.

Environmental groups

. Many activists have thrown themselves heart and soul into activity to save the environment. They are rightly angered over the environmental disasters, and disasters in the making, for which the bourgeoisie and their profit-system bears responsibility. Indeed, with so many environmental problems looming, even the neo-liberal bourgeoisie cannot completely ignore the issue, and they are quibbling among themselves about what to do. The Bush administration's disregard for the environment is so extreme that even the Democrats must object to this or that aspect of his energy program. On a world scale, Bush's opposition to even the token measures of the revised Kyoto Treaty have been ridiculed by the rest of the world bourgeoisie. The wrangling between bourgeois factions won't solve the environmental problems, but the divisions between the bourgeoisie provides an opportunity for the masses to question what the bourgeoisie is up to and for activists to expose the stand of the bourgeoisie as a whole.

. While taking advantage of every opportunity to oppose environmental destruction, it is important to consider questions of orientation within the movement. Within the environmental movement there are major differences in approach which reflect different class stands. An example of this can be seen in the California crisis. According to the article "Guilty parties" in the February 14, 2001 San Francisco Bay Area Guardian, some major environmental groups actually worked to promote deregulation. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) worked with the power companies in shaping California's deregulation legislation. The NRDC agreed to the gigantic $28 billion "stranded costs" bailout on the promise that the utilities would spend about $2. 5 billion on renewable energy and assistance for low-income customers. As well, the NRDC squashed a report commissioned by its director that exposed how much money the utility companies were lavishing on legislators to get a b ill suited to their desires. Democrats used the NRDC's approval to help ward off critics of deregulation.

. There were some reformist environmental groups who disliked the craven stand of the NRDC. For instance, there was TURN (Utility Reform Network). But they failed to oppose the original deregulation bill, too. TURN did oppose the fall 1997 legislation that implemented the utility bailouts and has since exposed deregulation. But the reformist groups opposed to deregulation were relying on funding from various tame bourgeois organizations like the Pew Foundation and the Energy Foundation. The bourgeois foundations, however, were cutting off funds to anyone opposing deregulation. As the article puts it,

. "The grassroots organizations that wanted to fight the utilities and hoped to get a better deal from the legislature were essentially thwarted by their inability to get funding, and thus overshadowed by the NRDC. "

Clearly, such reformist groups, with their ties to the liberal bourgeoisie, are not going to be capable of organizing the oppressed for militant battles.

Municipal ownership of plants

. Reformist glamorization of various reforms also hinders an independent class stand. An example of this can be seen on how they have dealt with the just demand for public ownership of power production and distribution.

.Among the activists who are outraged at the "free-market" fiasco in energy, there are various ideas of alternative set-ups. In California, one of the most prominent alternatives being proposed is the creation of so-called MUDs (Municipal Utility Districts). MUDs would create municipally-owned power, including generation and transmission facilities. They already exist in Los Angeles, Sacramento and 28 other California cities. Activists in San Francisco are pushing for the creation of one there. Actually, public power was supposed to exist there since 1912 when the city was given rights by the federal government to water power from damns in Yosemite National Park. As a condition for using federal resources, the electricity was supposed to go to a public power system. Instead, one city administration after another, including liberal Democrats, have cut a deal by which the power generated in Yosemite is sold cheap to PG&E who then sells it at high prices to the public. This is why many activists aren't excited about merely returning to the regulation of investor-owned monopolies, and want the government to take over supplying power.

. Municipally-owned power would no doubt be an improvement on the present situation. It would eliminate some layers of profiteering inherent in the present free-market and the previous regulated private monopoly systems. The MUDs in California are more reliable suppliers and generally cheaper. At the same time, they should not be made into a panacea, as is commonly done by those in the reformist left. Just as city governments in general represent not the people in general, but an array of capitalists interests, so it is with the local authorities running the MUDs. Though there aren't private owners, those running the MUDs are oriented to the bourgeois establishment, not the masses. Nor does the conflict between the workers and management go away just because of government ownership.

. As well, there are many possible ways for a government-run system to operate. A lot depends on the degree to which they are run like ordinary profit-making businesses. There could be a wide variation between the level of service, the rates charged to the masses, the approach to environmental issues, how they are financed, etc. Which direction they take is influenced by what kind of political trend runs them. They could be run by neo-liberals who run them like a business consumed only with the bottom line. Or the masses may force more concessions from the government-run systems.

. One of the things that the reformists tend to gloss over is the extent to which certain California MUDs, like the huge Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) or the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), incorporate many of the practices of profit-oriented businesses. For instance, these MUDs are supposed to be self-financing and are hailed for turning a profit. This has intensified management's attacks on the work force looking to drive down "labor costs" using the normal rotten capitalist methods. For example, in order to make itself competitive in the deregulated climate, the LADWP management slashed 20% of its unionized workforce in 1998. LADWP boss S. David Freeman, who was a top energy advisor to the Carter administration and has served other presidents, boasts of how this assault on the workers helped take care of some $4 billion in generating debts previously racked up by the LADWP. LADWP management attacks on the workers also led to a 1993 strike.

. Moreover, not only are their own power-generating resources subject to price hikes by private sector producers of energy resources like natural gas, at least some MUDs are heavily dependent on the private sector for electricity generation, including some of the same companies that indebted PG&E and SCE. On May 3, for instance, the Sacramento MUD (SMUD) decided to raise rates 19% on residential customers and from 23-30% on commercial users. It seems that only half of SMUD's energy generation is their own. The other half is contracted with the private sector producers. Thanks to SMUD reliance on the private sector, it says that its rate stabilization fund, which was a hedge against rate increases, is being depleted by rising wholesale energy costs. Nor are MUDs always immune from blackouts. There have been blackouts in the Sacramento MUD because it has a deal with the state ISO which allows the ISO to order blackouts in that district under certain conditions. Meanwhile, MUDs in L. A. and Sacramento are not above blatant profiteering in the deregulated wholesale market, where they market their surplus power. No wonder one can go to the SMUD web site and find high praise for the idea of deregulation, however troubled at present, from SMUD general manager Jan Schori.

. Sometimes there are also exaggerated pictures of the MUDs as models for fighting pollution. The energy production facilities of the LADWP are actually pretty bad polluters, as even their management will admit. In 1999, over 70% of their electric power was produced by out of state coal and nuclear plants, with coal predominating. Alternative energy production is negligible. The LADWP management says it's committed to converting to renewable energy, but it only makes token efforts at present. There's a program whereby customers can opt for purchasing power from alternative energy sources for a higher rate, but so far only a tiny fraction of customers has taken the offer. But the LADWP isn't making large investments in these alternative sources themselves. They're merely purchasing the alternative energy from elsewhere and re-selling it. Alternatively, the LADWP will help subsidize home solar energy systems. Of course since the price after these subsidies is still between $10,000 to $14,000 for a modest home, and since these units will supply only 20-60% of the electricity needed, they are not going to make much immediate impact. SMUD also has virtually no alternative generation of its own and otherwise has a token "green" program similar to the LADWP.

. So while public power companies in California are preferable over the present mess, one must have a realistic idea of what they are going to do. Reformism, however, obscures the real way public power operates and pretends it's controlled by the masses. Then, since the masses supposedly control it, they can have it do whatever they want. One example of this approach can be seen in an article in the February 14, 2001 issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, an alternative liberal-reformist newspaper, entitled "The case for public power. " The author, Rachel Brahinsky, argues that "MUD means citizen control of electricity and power-system decisions. " But her own article notes that when SMUD built a nuclear reactor, it took "a grassroots uprising" to shut it down. Indeed, she often argues that you can pass laws that force the MUD to do something good. But if you have to force the MUD to do a good deed, this is evidence it's not run by the masses. A lot of her argument on "citizen control" is simply that you can elect board members. This will mean "a structural incentive to focus on long-term community goals". But "community goals" also includes the goals of the capitalists, not just the nice things the reformists want to see. And the capitalists use their wealth to dominate the electoral system. That's the general way politics works in our "dollar democracy."

. Based on the false picture of citizen control, we then learn that MUDs will create "local jobs". She avoids mentioning the negative jobs creation at the LADWP. She mentions that SMUD has the "largest utility-owned distributed solar-energy system in the nation". (Distributed energy includes home and business solar-energy systems. ) But she doesn't mention that you can only have these systems if you pay thousands of dollars for it. This is a token program, which is unaffordable for the vast majority of workers and poor. Indeed, on SMUD's web site they point out that this program is required by state laws that require both investor-owned utilities and public power companies to put a bit of resources toward cleaner alternative energy. The investor-owned utilities also have their token clean energy programs. Aside from this, SMUD is basically just passing along some savings it made by bulk purchasing.

. It should also be noted that public power, like state-capitalist enterprises generally, can be cesspools of corruption or can suffer from budget-slashing and neglect. In Detroit for instance, the city has its own power-generating plants that supply energy for city government buildings, traffic lights, schools, etc. These systems have been left to decay, resulting in blackouts in each of the past two years. Cities around the country have a major problem maintaining decent public services, schools, etc. True, privatization only makes things worse. But it would only undermine a real fight to improve public services to pretend that once the capitalist state takes over something, the interests of the masses are assured.

Is technology itself the problem?

. There are also more radical trends in the environmental movement, and different perspectives among these trends. For example, there are certain environmental trends, often intersecting with some types of anarchism, which seek salvation from the environmental problems in abandoning industrial society altogether. They may consider themselves anti-capitalist also, but primarily because they identify capitalism with technological advance. Of course capitalist development always brings poverty and environmental disaster in its wake. But technology itself is not to blame. In fact, Marxism shows how modern large-scale production has created the potential to free human society from material want and greatly raise cultural levels once it is seized from the capitalists and run according to the collective will of the working people. This creates the material conditions necessary for eliminating class distinctions. In short, modern production provides material means to advance to a truly socialist system. Scientific and technological development also allows a better understanding of the environmental problems and ways to solve them. Human society cannot exist without affecting the environment in various ways, but the more scientific knowledge advances, the more it can understand the implications of its actions and take appropriate action. Of course, the bourgeoisie does not use science and technology for this purpose, but the working masses will be able to make good use of it.

. Some anarchist environmentalists may raise the objection that running a modern enterprise is impossible without hierarchy, and that alone is sufficient to reject it. They are right that modern production is impossible without some type of subordination of the will of each individual (and in this regard they are more consistent than other anarchists who denounce all hierarchy but want to maintain modern production). But they don't distinguish between the tyrannical and arbitrary authority of the capitalists and the voluntary and conscious authority of workers collectively directing the economy.

. But hasn't the Marxist view on the liberating possibilities of technology been disproved by the former Soviet Union, China, etc. ? Hasn't there been no end to environmental disasters there? No doubt there has. But these societies were not examples of Marxist socialism, but of its abandonment, as we have chronicled in numerous articles showing that these "communist" societies were really a new type of state-capitalism. Of course, there are many trends calling themselves Marxist or socialist today which have long defended the fake socialist regimes as the real thing. They too only pay lip service to Marxism, and this is not only on the question of the phony "communist" regimes, but on political matters in general.

Pseudo-Marxist reformists

. While the avowed reformists tend to blunt a militant class fight, a number of parties and groups that claim to be Marxist revolutionary workers' trends are no closer to an independent class stand. For example the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Workers' World Party (WWP), which both come out of the Trotskyist tradition, tout the sell-out trade union bureaucrats and various reformist groups tied to the Democratic Party as the leaders of a great rebellion against energy deregulation. Thus, in an editorial in the January 22 edition of the SWP's The Militant, they declare "The unions and farmer organizations" can lead the anti-deregulation movement. This movement will supposedly lead to "nationalized" energy "run as public utilities for the benefit of the majority rather than the interests of a handful of super-wealthy capitalists, bankers and bondholders. " So the AFL-CIO, which betrays the workers to the capitalists daily, and which in California at least has not supported public power, is now going to build a great mass movement that will lead to public power across the country. And not the ordinary state-capitalist public power mind you, but one that allegedly is run by the masses against the capitalists!

. The WWP has similar dreams about the union bureaucrats and reformists leading a powerful mass struggle. They do this by simply promoting unity between the present organizations without bothering to examine what these groups actually stand for. In a WWP editorial of March 1, for instance, they say the key thing is "the entire labor movement must mobilize, together with the environmentalists and the anti-globalization forces. And all must unite with the Black, Latin and Asian communities for struggle. " They don't mention that the present labor movement is under the thumb of the AFL-CIO labor traitors, nor that the main national minority organization are under meek liberal leadership as are the larger environmental groups. Nor do they distinguish between trends in the anti-globalization movement.

. What these alleged revolutionary workers' groups miss is the need for a class alternative to the liberal-reformist forces. Unless the workers have their own voice, have their own independent class organizations, have the ability to organize themselves for militant battles and are guided by an anti-capitalist perspective, they will be incapable of really challenging the bourgeoisie and its neo-liberal offensive.

Developing a class trend

. There are no shortcuts in rebuilding of the class trend. Large and powerful class organizations are not going to quickly spring up and the days of the major class battles are in the future. But each fiasco of the bourgeoisie provides a chance to instill a class stand. As regards the energy crisis, there are a number of tasks which can assist this process.

. The class roots of the crisis must be brought to the fore. The California crisis took place not because California state officials screwed up some details of deregulation, but because the capitalist market cannot give rise to anything else but chaos and profiteering. Nor is deregulation only the idea of a few greedy private energy producers, though they certainly reaped a fortune from it, but is part of the bourgeoisie as a whole turning to neo-liberalism. That's why deregulation was and remains such a bipartisan affair.

. There is the task of applying a class stand to the issue of government regulation or ownership of energy production. These are put forward by activists as a way to counter the energy tycoons. But we can't just trust some state regulatory agency or state-run power facilities to do right by the working people, but must press class demands on these agencies too. We must show the connection of the present regulatory agencies with the corporations and the bourgeoisie as a whole, as well as showing that state ownership in itself is not the definition of socialism.

. The energy crisis presents an opportunity to show the need for societal planning and socialism. The California crisis showed that the market leads to anarchy in the economy and disregard for the environment. The bourgeoisie, after creating enough economic and environmental havoc that there own existence is jeopardized, may go in for a bit of planning itself. But such planning will only be sporadic and partial, never getting at the root causes of the crises. As well, such planning by the bourgeoisie places the burden for cleaning up their messes on the working masses. So long as private ownership of the means of production exists, overall and consistent planning is impossible. But if the workers overthrow the bourgeoisie, take the means of production into their hands, and start on the road of building a truly socialist society, anarchy can be overcome. Real planning in the interests of society as a whole finally becomes possible. <>


(1) Public Citizen's Feb. 15, 2001 article "Cash relationships help explain Bush administration's hands-off policy in California electricity crisis". (Return to text)

(2) "Meeting energy's investment challenges: financing energy's Marshall Plan", May 30, 2001. This was a presentation of Simmons to the Montreux Energy Roundtable XII. (Text)

Back to main page, write us!

Last changed on October 15, 2001.