Michael Kidron

The Fight for Socialism – 5

(June 1958)

From Socialist Review, 8th Year No. 11, 1 June 1958, p. 5.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Mike Kidron examines Nationalisation and Workers’ Control

EVEN IF THE BRITISH ECONOMY were completely nationalized we would still be dependent on the world market. The Control Plan would still have to take account of the fact that more than half of our food and vast amounts of raw materials must be imported and paid for with exports. We would still have to compete with foreign capitalists in selling our goods. Accumulation would still appear as an imperative necessity and wages would still have to be kept down in order to allow this accumulation. Otherwise we would lose our export market, be unable to import and be starved out of existence. Socialism in one country is impossible.

That this is not simply a nightmare but a fact is borne out by the experience of Russia. In November 1917 the Russian workers took power. The capitalist class was eliminated. The revolutionary movement swept over Europe and almost engulfed the whole European capitalist class. Almost, but not quite. In the event, Russia was left isolated. The pressure put on her by world capitalism in the form of military invasion and economic embargo, forced the pace of accumulation in Russia. Whatever could be invested in industrial power was invested, only the remainder was left as workers’ wages, only what was strictly necessary to keep them alive and able to produce the capital goods. The workers had to be subordinated to the process of accumulation; whatever else happened, accumulation had to go on if Russia was to remain on the map. And where the job of accumulation must go on and the workers have to pay for it in much the same way as they do in Britain, somebody has to see that it will be done. Somebody who can carry it out in spite of working class opposition, somebody who is not responsible to the workers. The old capitalists had been wiped out; a new bureaucracy (a ‘collective’ capitalist class) stepped in. The job that the old capitalists did so badly was now done with ruthless efficiency by the bureaucracy. They could do it better because Russia was now one big ‘firm’ with one plan and one directing centre; they had to do it because Russia was only one ‘firm’ amongst many competing ones.

Full nationalization in one country is possible. Russia proves that. Socialism in one country is impossible. Russia proves that too. As long as competition exists, whether in the market or on the battle-field, production for accumulation will go on and production for consumption will be only incidental to it. There can be no Socialism until the working class kills capitalist competition internationally. To do this, the workers must control production in all countries. Nationalization has Nothing to do with Workers’ Control:

Every railwayman will agree that little has changed for him since Vesting day. Before then he worked for a private boss; since he has worked for a public one. Bosses come and go but the relations between boss and worker remain (or have done until now). The change in the form of ownership does not mean an automatic change in the relations of production.

This can be seen in many ways. A couple of pages back we saw how the representatives of Big Business packed the economic posts of the Government. Even in the nationalized industries where Business was supposed to have been bought out, the same applies – the previous owners and their friends still formulate policy. Of 272 Members of National and Regional Public Boards of a Commercial Character, in March 1956, 106 were Company Directors, 9 were Landowners, 5 were Regular Officers, 15 were civil servants, and 71 were managers.

So much for workers’ control!

Last updated on 16 February 2017