Socialist Worker

Labour nationalisation plan will pit party against bosses

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2591


Corbyn said he would introduce "public ownership and democratic control" (Pic: Neil Terry)

The Labour Party’s left wing leadership promised an assault on private energy and water firms last weekend.

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell laid out plans to bring utility companies “into public ownership” and end “the failure of privatisation and outsourcing”.

Their plans would bring a Labour government into a major conflict with bosses at the most powerful energy and water firms.

McDonnell said Labour would replace the privatised system with regional, publicly-owned water companies.

And last Saturday Corbyn promised a “catapult into 21st century public ownership” at the Labour conference on “alternative models of ownership”.


He said his government would put the national grid “in public hands” and introduce “public ownership and democratic control”.

The speeches marked a return to the radical feel of Labour’s successful general election campaign last year.

Corbyn’s plan for regional, publicly-owned energy companies might not mean wholesale renationalisation.

But it would still provoke outrage from the bosses, bankers and spivs who make huge profits from private industry.

They would threaten to crash the economy rather than let Labour take their businesses—and Corbyn and McDonnell know it.

McDonnell sought to reassure bankers at the London Chamber of Commerce last week that Labour would have a “good relationship” with the City.

According to the City AM newspaper he promised them, “There’s nothing up my sleeve, there will be no surprises”. He even reportedly told them, “When we go into government, you will go into government.”

McDonnell insisted that banks should not see Labour as a threat.

And he revealed that he had been in “roundtable” talks with businesses and joked that he ended his meetings with, “Thank you comrades”.


McDonnell said his aim was to convince bosses that investment under Labour would give them a “steady return”.

But putting energy companies “irreversibly in the hands of workers”, as McDonnell pledged last weekend, must mean full public ownership of the whole sector with democratic control.

And that can only mean a fight with those same bosses.

They’ll do everything they can to destroy the government or bring it to heel—as happened to the Syriza government in Greece.

Stopping them will mean hitting back with a mass movement of demonstrations, strikes and occupations.

The only way to be ready for that battle is to build that movement now.

Blairites back market

Labour’s plans for renationalisation would mean defying the rules of the European single market.

These demand that publicly owned utility companies should be open to private sector competition.

Blairite MPs such as Chuka Umunna and Alison McGovern are leading the charge to remain in the single market.

Umunna said on Sunday that support for leaving the single market would mean lining up with bigots.

Yet Labour right wingers support harsher immigration controls alongside staying in the single market.

The left can fight for a Brexit that takes power from the bosses and the EU insitutions—and defends and extends workers’ freedom of movement.

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