In a further devastating blow to jobs in Britain’s car industry, Honda has announced its intention to get rid of 3,500 workers at its Swindon plant in Wiltshire, with as many again likely to be made redundant in businesses supplying Honda. This follows previous job cuts announced by Jaguar Land Rover and Ford, both of which sought to lay the lion’s share of the blame on Brexit, pretending that otherwise it would all be plain sailing for the car industry. The unions failed to challenge this phony alibi, preferring to agitate for a ‘soft’ Brexit rather than help open workers’ eyes to the crisis of capitalism.
But now Honda has just rudely broken with this orchestrated anti-Brexit propaganda by freely admitting that the decision to completely close its Swindon plant by 2022 is nothing to do with Brexit – and everything to do with maximising profits at the expense of workers. Top Honda boss Takahiro Hachigo told a press conference in Tokyo that the closure decision “was not informed by Brexit” but rather by flagging demand in the European market. Howells, senior vice-president at Honda Europe, echoed Hachigo, admitting that the decision was down to “global factors”. Noting that Honda makes only 150,000 cars a year in Europe, contrasting with the 2 million made in Asia and the US, Howells said that the demand was highest in those regions so it made sense to concentrate investment there.
What he failed to mention is that the overproduction crisis (where the supply of commodities to the market outstrips the market’s ability to absorb them all) cannot be resolved by simply transferring investment from one market to another, however ruthlessly this may be done. Honda sales in China and the US are also growing sluggishly and the car industry as a whole is in crisis. By the mad logic of capitalism, surplus capacity in the means of production can only be relieved by the vandalism of wholesale factory closures, laying waste to the product of years of hard work and trashing useful kit which could otherwise be engaged in making things for which there is a genuine need.
The difficulties facing the car industry cannot be blamed on Brexit and workers cannot be expected to carry the can for the anarchy of capitalist production. Workers at Honda’s Swindon plant must be kept on full pay and manufacturing jobs protected.