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Arguments for socialism :: Nationalisation
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"The next Labour government will put democratically owned and managed public services irreversibly - irreversibly - into the hands of those workers and those who rely upon their work."
This was John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, addressing Labour's 'Alternative models of ownership' conference. We welcome John's remarks. This approach has been part of the programme of the Socialist Party - and its predecessor, Militant - from the start.
Quite correctly, John says "we will do this not only because it's right, not only because it's the most efficient way of running them, but also because the most important protection of our public services for the long term is for everyone to have and feel ownership of them.
"We aren't going to take back control of these industries in order to put them into the hands of a remote bureaucracy, but to put them into the hands of all of you - so that they can never again be taken away."
John suggests it could be done at zero cost - without preparing for a battle. This does resort to some of what the financiers call 'creative accounting'. He puts forward the idea that nationalisation would be cost neutral, because it would bring an asset into public ownership which would also have an income.
But the Richard Bransons and other profiteers will object. At the very least they will demand compensation for the loss of their assets. We say: no compensation to the fat cats - compensation only on the basis of proven need.
From day one, the heads of the civil service will be in the forefront of the objectors. Appeals will be made in the courts, and even if you win - which is unlikely given the capitalist class runs them - the process will take years.
And some of the first objectors will be found in the parliamentary Labour Party. Many Blairite MPs will vote with the Tories to thwart your plans. These people have to be challenged now, and democratically replaced by socialist fighters willing to support your programme.
This is not to argue that such a programme is not possible. It is.
However, it would require the closest collaboration with organised workers at shopfloor level. Plans should be made now for union reps to form democratic committees in their workplaces, industries and communities, in order to mobilise mass action, including strikes, to defend it.
The capitalist class will use the unelected structures of the state against any serious programme of reforms which threatens its profit system. Only a mass movement to replace the existing state bureaucracy with genuine democratic working class control and management can overcome this.
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Article dated 14 February 2018
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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