Poor have cap­i­tal­ism to thank for fuel spike

Daily Dispatch - - OPINION - Mluleki Dle­langa Mluleki Dle­langa is na­tional sec­re­tary of the Young Com­mu­nist League of SA

Against the back­drop of the re­cent fuel price hike in our coun­try – the fifth in 2018 tak­ing the price to its high­est ever – loud alarm has been ex­pressed, in­clud­ing from the work­ing class.

Some mem­bers of the gen­eral pub­lic out of frus­tra­tion rather than un­der­stand­ing of the cur­rent eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem, have op­por­tunis­ti­cally laid the blame at the door of Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

Some econ­o­mists laid the blame at the door of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Pe­tro­leum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries (Opec), say­ing its mem­bers op­er­ate like a car­tel, col­lud­ing on set­ting world oil prices.

The SA Pe­tro­leum In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion (Sapia) re­sponded, de­fend­ing Opec.

Cap­i­tal­ists, lib­er­als and their cronies al­ways say we must un­der­stand that oil prices are de­ter­mined by mar­ket forces – the de­mand and sup­ply of oil on the in­ter­na­tional oil mar­ket.

But it’s im­por­tant to note who ben­e­fits from high oil prices and who suf­fers, in­clud­ing in South Africa.

Avhap­fani Tshi­fu­laro, Sapia’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, points out that “petrol prices in South Africa are not the most ex­pen­sive in the world”.

Prices are cheap­est in the mainly oil-pro­duc­ing na­tions, rang­ing from 11cents per litre to R5.50: Venezuela R0.11; Iran R3.57; Su­dan R4.29; Kuwait R4.37; Al­ge­ria R4.53; Egypt R4.64; Ecuador R4.92; Nige­ria R5.27; Syria R5.50; and Turk­menistan R5.39.

These na­tions re­ceive oil rev­enue from their wells and pos­si­bly also sub­sidise their petrol prices.

South Africa is not an oil­pro­duc­ing na­tion and does not sub­sidise its petrol price.

A sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of our petrol prices is tax while most oil-pro­duc­ing na­tions have lower or no tax at all be­cause they re­ceive rev­enue from crude oil sales.

The fol­low­ing are the most ex­pen­sive coun­tries per litre of petrol: Ice­land R27; Hong Kong R26.67; Nor­way R25.72; Hol­land R24.83; Greece R24.31; Monaco R24.15; Italy R24.14; Is­rael R24.03: Den­mark R24.02; and Por­tu­gal R23.50.

In all of these coun­tries the peo­ple who bear the brunt of the high petrol price are in­vari­ably the work­ing class.

I share some of the sen­ti­ment that says Opec op­er­ates like a car­tel. It ma­nip­u­lates the sup­ply and de­mand of oil through­out the world.

I also think there are risks to the sup­ply of oil - which Opec is un­doubt­edly aware of, which can push oil prices up­ward. These in­clude geopo­lit­i­cal risks in Iran and Venezuela, both Opec mem­bers.

With re­gard to Iran – the third largest pro­ducer in Opec – there are fears of Ira­nian oil sup­plies be­ing in­ter­rupted as US sanc­tions against Iran take ef­fect from Novem­ber.

Fuel hikes have an im­mense im­pact on the work­ing class, im­pos­ing hard­ship and also in­hibit­ing the suc­cess of our rev­o­lu­tion. In mil­i­tary terms, no gen­eral has won a war with hun­gry and frus­trated sol­diers.

In our coun­try, peo­ple con­tinue to be rav­aged by poverty, un­em­ploy­ment, in­equal­ity and cor­rup­tion.

But it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that in­equal­ity in our coun­try didn’t just hap­pen, it was cre­ated.

And now the gap be­tween the rich and poor is con­tin­u­ing to widen.

The hikes will hit peo­ple in var­i­ous ways – push­ing up their liv­ing ex­penses, things such as rent, bonds, gro­cery bills, trans­port costs to work and gen­eral daily ex­penses.

Ul­ti­mately, these fuel hikes in­crease the over-in­debt­ed­ness of the work­ing class as they can­not af­ford their daily or liv­ing ex­penses.

This leaves peo­ple more vul­ner­a­ble than ever to loan sharks and the cy­cle of loan­ing money at ex­or­bi­tant in­ter­est rates. This, as mem­bers of the same work­ing class are sub­jected to SMS’s telling them they are el­i­gi­ble for this loan or that. The plight of the work­ing class makes them easy pick­ings for those cru­elly at­tempt­ing to lure them into tak­ing more loans.

Ba­si­cally, it is quite clear that the work­ing class is un­able to con­tend with the up­ward spi­ral of fuel hikes which is ren­der­ing work­ers less and less able to feed their fam­i­lies.

The gen­eral out­cry on so­cial net­works and the num­ber of cars that visit fill­ing sta­tions across the coun­try in the hours be­fore the fuel hikes take ef­fect is tes­ti­mony to the in­creas­ing un­af­ford­abil­ity of fuel and the dire con­di­tions of our work­ing class.

There are mo­ments in his­tory when peo­ple rise up to say that some­thing is wrong and to ask for a change.

This is what hap­pened in the tu­mul­tuous years of 1848 and 1968. Each of these years of up­heaval marked the be­gin­ning of the new era.

Our strug­gle for so­cial­ism is more rel­e­vant as peo­ple con­tinue to suf­fer the im­pact of ram­pag­ing fuel hikes. I hope peo­ple will be­gin to un­der­stand that their predica­ment is the fruit of cap­i­tal­ism – a cruel sys­tem char­ac­terised by these hikes.

Even when mar­kets are sta­ble they of­ten lead to high lev­els of in­equal­ity, an out­come harshly felt by the work­ing class.

So, rather than blame in­di­vid­u­als, let’s blame the sys­tem that has pro­duced these hikes. That’s the bot­tom line.

Clearly a new po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is needed, one to end peo­ple’s suf­fer­ings. I be­lieve that sys­tem is so­cial­ism.

It’s im­por­tant to note who ben­e­fits from high oil prices and who suf­fers, in­clud­ing in SA

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