Thursday, 21 February 2008

Nationalisation? Yes Please!

A shocking thing happened in the UK recently - a bank - Northern Rock - was nationalised! It wasn't the fact that the bank should have gone bust that shocked the reactionary press, and politicians, nor the fact that undeserving shareholders will probably given a payout (and I am one though I've never bought a share in my life - I was given the shares when Northern Rock de-mutualised). It was the fact that the government took ownership that really rocked the boat.

Even though the government had no choice but to nationalise
Northern Rock in order to protect British taxpayers, after a catastrophic private sector failure, taking such a step was seen as heresy, a blow against the sacred tenets of the free market.

But the sun is still shining, and as far as I know the earth is still on its axis. The simple truth is that after ten years of New Labour's slavish obedience to the market Britain is more divided and unequal than ever, The only time in our history when the gap between rich and poor has narrowed was the 30 year period following the second world war. The we had strong trade unions and public control of utilities, coal, steel and the railways. All of the latter were nationalised, not out of ideology, but because they were strategic industries which had failed under private sector ownership. While the private owners starved these industries of investment, the workers were sweated in near slave conditions. The owners wrung every last drop of sweat and profit out of them before they were nationalised - oh and then they got a handsome payout for their troubles. Ever since then the Tories have lied about nationalisation, and the Labour Party have spinelessly failed to refute their arguments.

We need more nationalisation not less. We need the utilities to be nationalised and taken out of hands of foreign owners and shareholders who don't care if we have secure energy supplies and clean water. We need to nationalise the railways and end the obscenity of private sector profits being paid out of taxpayers money, and Richard Branson trousering £24 million which could be spent usefully on reducing extortionate fares. We need the post office retained in the public sector, as a public service, not postal competition which relies on imported labour being paid minimum wages. The sooner this happens the better, and the sooner Britain will be back on the way to becoming a more equal and equitable society.

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