The nationalisation of companies is one of the most misunderstood parts of socialism. Socialism, at its very simplest is comprised of two very basic ideas, real democracy and a planned economy.
We can not plan the economy if we don’t own the economy. Socialists call for the nationalisation of the ‘commanding heights of the economy’. So in Australian terms, this means we would argue that we nationalise under workers’ control and management the top 150 companies that dominate the economy.
This would include sectors of major industry including the mining industry. We would also bring into public ownership the banks and all the public utilities that have been either partly or fully privatised. Communications, water, electricity, gas, public transport and many other important parts of the economy would be put in public hands.
Large sections of these companies are owned by big business investors and often they have already made their money back many times over in dividends. Socialists argue that profits come from the unpaid labour of working people so why after big business has already exploited us by not paying the full amount of the wealth we have created should we pay again? Compensation would only be given to small investors on the basis of proven need.
Whilst it is sometimes hard to find any companies that are still publicly owned. It was once the case, even under capitalism, that many parts of the economy were owned by the state. In some countries areas of health, education, social security and some utilities are still under the control of the government.
Although this is rapidly changing as most governments around the world are selling assets of to get themselves out of financial crisis. When industries are privatized, almost in every case we see costs skyrocketing and services reduced. This is to be expected as private industry exists for one sole purpose, to make profit. This is done by slugging ordinary people.
Not only do we argue for public ownership but also for workers and community management. Under a socialist planned economy we would argue for representatives from the government to work in conjunction with trade unions and workers from that industry. In areas like transport and healthcare we would also argue that community groups that represent users or patients be involved in the decision making process.
This would provide genuine democracy in society as opposed to the ticking of a ballot paper every four years. Socialists want to create a society where the people that do the work, create the wealth and use the services make the decisions. This would increase productivity and lead to less waste.
On many levels working people are already running society. The collective knowledge we have as a class is the envy of most bosses. The problem is we don’t own the means of production and a tiny minority of people are squandering the wealth. Under a socialist planned economy this would change and society would be run not by the rule of profit but for the good of ordinary people and the environment.
By John Gowland