Monday, 28 October 2013
Should workers support state intervention ?
Whenever there is a crisis and a huge number of workers are in danger of loosing their jobs such as with Grangemouth last week the thing that comes from the left is to simply nationalise the company in question but very rarely the question of workers control is raised. Simply shouting "public ownership" is the answer to all our woes is wholely inadequate in my opinion. Much like with the big 6 energy companies who are ripping us all off at present the answer from the left is to "nationalise" them everytime. Yet all this is calling for is state capitalism. But would this be benificial to us in any way ? State capitalism was the way of things after the Second World War with many industries being brought into public ownership like the Coal and water industries for example more followed with a national health care system known today as the NHS of course. But the labour government at the time saw it fit to keep the boss's in charge of these state backed companies which meant they were no more democratic or accountable than before. Ok they had huge government funding but remained with teh same boss's as they did d before. This was not socialism and was rightly called state capitalism . "However, that does not answer the question of what we do in the here and now when faced with demands that the welfare state (for the working class, not corporate welfare) and other reforms be rolled back. This attack has been on going since the 1970s, accelerating since 1980. We should be clear that claims to be minimising the state should be taken with a massive pitch of salt as the likes of Reagan were "elected to office promising to downsize government and to 'get the government off the people's back,' even though what he meant was to deregulate big business, and make them free to exploit the workers to increase profits. The state may be influenced by popular struggle but it remains an instrument of capitalist rule. It may intervene in society as a result of people power and by the necessity to keep the system as a whole going, but it is bureaucratic and influenced by the wealthy and big business. Indeed, the onslaught on the welfare state by both Thatcher and Reagan was conducted under a "democratic" mandate although, in fact, these governments took advantage of the lack of real accountability between elections. They took advantage of an aspect of the state if you substitute government ownership for private ownership, "nothing is changed but the stockholders and the management; beyond that, there is not the least difference in the position of the workers." "Privatisation of public services -- whether it is through the direct sale of utilities or through indirect methods such as PFI and PPP -- involves a massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the pockets of private business interests. It negates the concept of there being such a thing as 'public service' and subjects everything to the bottom line of profit. In other words it seeks to maximise the profits of a few at the expense of wages and social obligations. Furthermore, privatisation inevitably leads to an attack on wages and working conditions - conditions which have been fought for through years of trade union agitation are done away with at the scratch of a pen." [Gregor Kerr, "Privatisation: the rip-off of public resources", pp. 14-18, Black and Red Revolution, no. 11, p. 16] is important to point out that the 'nationalise it' or 'take it into public ownership' slogan is far too often spun out by people on the left without their taking into account that there is a massive difference between state control/ownership and workers' control/ownership . . . we all know that even if the revenues . . . were still in state ownership, spending it on housing the homeless or reducing hospital waiting lists would not top the agenda of the government. "Put simply, state ownership does not equal workers' ownership . Thus an revolutionary socialist approach to this issue would be to reject both privatisation and nationalisation in favour of socialisation, i.e. placing nationalised firms under workers' self-management. In the terms of public utilities, such as water and power suppliers, they could be self-managed by their workers in association with municipal co-operatives -- based on one member, one vote -- which would be a much better alternative than privatising what is obviously a natural monopoly (which, as experience shows, simply facilitates the fleecing of the public for massive private profit). Christie and Meltzer state the obvious: "It is true that government takes over the control of certain necessary social functions. It does not follow that only the state could assume such control. The postmen are 'civil servants' only because the State makes them such. The railways were not always run by the state, They belonged to the capitalists [and do once more, at least in the UK], and could as easily have been run by the railway workers. " In the long term, of course, the real solution is to abolish capitalism "and both citizens and communities will have no need of the intervention of the State." [Proudhon, Op. Cit., p. 268] In a free society, social self-defence would not be statist but would be similar in nature to trade unionism, co-operatives and pressure groups -- individuals working together in voluntary associations to ensure a free and just society -- within the context of an egalitarian, decentralised and participatory system which eliminates or reduces the problems in the first place SO in conclusion its all about control and workers control at that . Putting it simply you cannot control waht you dont own. Fighting for democratic workers control from below is the only way forward in my opinion when situations like Grangemouth come up again which no doubt they will do as capitalism fails to develop itself out of a huge rutt. with quotes and extracts from http://www.infoshop.org/AnarchistFAQSectionD1#secd15