Sunday, 3 November 2013

The means of production

Funny how some words can be red rags to bulls. The phrase "the means of production" sometimes prefaced by "Common or "State or "Collective ownership" - can conjour red mist before the eyes of capitalists of any political party. But this stems more from fear of loss of earnings potential for them and their mates than from concern that it may not work. Capitalists know full well that ownership of land, of minerals, of fixed assets is the high ground of their battlefield.

It is time now surely, with the manifestly ideological decision of the Coalition to privatise thoroughly effective public enterprises like Royal Mail and East Coast rail, to revisit the notion of at least State ownership of strategically vital assets. The privatisation of rail was a clear cock-up from the outset, which has delivered nothing for its public stakeholders and everything for its shareholders. Water likewise; energy likewise. Is the private sector so brilliant that its performance shines like a beacon beckoning more assets? Surely not, when the bailing out of banks, the exemplars of private enterprise, via a begging bowl to the State is concerned.

Why wait for the inevitable demand for bail-out when disaster strikes in private hands? Why not put those vital assets which constitute the defence of the realm against cold, illness, starvation and worklessness into the hands of those who most concern themselves with these issues, the people of the country, the people who work in or are served by these industries and their representatives? This has nothing to do with dogma and everything to do with strategic sense.

Politicians seem to have little appreciation of history other than to parrot the failures of the past as reasons not to do things. Better by far to learn from why things failed in the past to get them right in future, if the prize is the right one. Making the management of public enterprises professional but accountable would be a step forward, for example.

Making UK safe from speculator/investors' misuse of the means of production and sure of fairly priced continuity of supply of essential utilities would be the greatest legacy a future government could offer in its manifesto.

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