50 Years Ago – Oiling the works

Commentators have been getting good mileage out of North Sea oil. Not only will it, in a few years, be replenishing the petrol-pumps and generators of Britain. It will bring “prosperity”. The suggestion is of a good time coming, when the working class will be more than compensated for the hardships of the three-day week and wage restraint.

Whoever believes this should read the financial pages. The good time is being had already — but not by the workers. On 4th January the Guardian’s “City Comment” reported the “windfall” which has come to the merchant bank group Edward Bates.

“The principal part of the $12 million deals announced by Bates for the acquisition of working interests and royalties, was negotiated when oil was selling at $4.20 a barrel in the U.S. It is currently being sold at $8.30. As a result, the Bates projection of oil and gas income for 1974 jumps from $2.6 millions to $4.8 millions, not to mention the substantial capital gains which will result in property values.”

The next day the Technology Correspondent told of the prosperity resulting from the latest North Sea find: “£180 millions added to the values of BP and Burmah Oil”. The Guardian writer calls the Bates acquisition “an example of the pickings to be had in the American market” over North Sea oil. Incorrect. The “pickings” are had out of the exploitation of the workers — for whom windfalls from capitalism remain elusive.

(Socialist Standard, February 1974)

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