First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly No. 11, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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British imperialism is dying. The bourgeoisie’s policy of nationalisation, as pushed by its social-democratic wing, is one of their last ditch efforts to revive the feeble patient. This policy goes against the interests of the working class in Britain.
In order to have a correct policy towards nationalisation, Marxist-Leninists must put it in the general context of the general decline of British capitalism. Over the past few decades British industry has become out-dated, uncompetitive and of a very low profitability. The result of this trend has been a steady increase in the amount of capital sent abroad and a steady decrease in the amount of capital spent on investment at home.
Since the beginning of the century the state has had to intervene in British industry, either to provide large amounts of capital which could not be raised privately or because there was a strategic advantage in the state controlling a particular industry, e.g. the Post Office. Since the mid-sixties a similar bourgeois policy has arisen in which the state does NOT nationalise the industry or enterprise but merely provides the funds for continued investment.
The Labour Party’s programme has nothing to do with socialism. It is a programme to rescue capitalism from crisis. Though this is the principal aspect of the Labour Party’s plans we should not neglect a secondary aspect – the part played by rank-and-file pressure. Among many sections of workers there exists a desire for socialism; because of the influence of Social-Democratic ideology this desire for socialism is diverted into support for the bourgeois socialism of the Labour Party. This gives the Labour Party the mass base it needs to carry out its policies.
The theoretical confusion and lack of clarity on the British left enables the bourgeoisie and their parties to label the policies of the Labour Party as socialist and to confuse the mass of workers about the real nature of capitalism and socialism. The reformists, revisionists and Trotskyists are unclear and muddled about the nature of socialism, of capitalism, the nature of the state and the class character of political parties. Thus the equation of nationalisation with socialism, the description of the Labour Party as a working class party and the demands for nationalisation as a means of making inroads into the capitalist state.
The vast majority of British industry is corporately owned; by banks, by finance or insurance companies, by monopolies or by the STATE. These are all forms of capitalism in which capitalist property relationships remain intact. Surplus-value is still appropriated and production is governed through the market by the operation of the law of value and commodity exchange. These laws operate whether private companies or the state control production. The essence of capitalism is property relationships; ownership is merely a formal question, which can take MANY forms. To portray nationalisation as a means of making inroads into the capitalist system is to ignore the central role of the bourgeois state and that this state must be SMASHED before the revolutionary transformation of the relations of production. Hence nationalisation can never be a means of making ’inroads’ into capitalism. To argue so is to deny the fundamental teachings of Marxism-Leninism – to put forward a revisionist policy. For all these reasons there is no advantage, either strategic or tactical, in calling for the nationalisation of private industry. It is irrelevant to the real interests of the working people of Britain whether profits are in private or state hands.
The primary battle for Marxist-Leninists is, therefore, to combat nationalisation ideologically; to struggle against the social-democratic and revisionist ideology which diverts the fight for socialism to a fight for reformism and gradualism.
Secondly, we must combat nationalisation politically. We must oppose the reformist policies of Labour’s ’hangers on’ – the revisionists and Trotskyists – who support British capitalism. At this stage, the advanced elements in the working class must be won over to the fight for the “Right to Work” – and away from the dead-end reformism of nationalisation.
An important part of the CFB’s work must lie in exposing the socialist pretensions of the Labour Party and in opposing the false strategies of the revisionists and Trotskyists who demand that they nationalise more and more industries. The Labour ’left’ and the Communist Party demand nationalisation as a means of making inroads into the capitalist system – as a form of creeping socialism. The WRP and the ’Militant’ say that they are making ’transitional’ demands, their ideological approach is different to that of the Labour ’left’ and the CP but in essence their strategy is as reformist. The IS and IMG claim that slogans for more nationalisation raise the question of state power and heighten the consciousness of the workers. Objectively all these organisations are serving the bourgeoisie in that they are attempting to mobilise the working class in order to bring about the expansion of state monopoly capitalism to rescue bankrupt private industries and enterprises.
We must differentiate between the GENERAL policy of nationalisation and SPECIFIC acts of nationalisation. It is clear from government policy that support for decaying private industry is conditional on ’improving efficiency’ and ’rationalisation’. In the long-term nationalisation cannot stem the tide of redundancies and indeed may accelerate it; this should be our answer to the demands for nationalisation as a means of avoiding redundancies. Any support for specific acts of nationalisation can only arise out of concrete investigation and must be SECONDARY to our PRINCIPAL task of ideological and political opposition to bourgeois socialism.
The call for nationalisation as a means of saving jobs is an aspect of the general reformist outlook of the British labour movement. Instead of begging the bourgeoisie to save their jobs the working class urgently needs to develop a consciousness of its latent strength. The strength of the working class lies in their labour and their relationship to the means of production – let us help them to learn to use it! Not nationalisation but the right to work! Opposition to the sack based on factory occupations, resistance to redundancies and short-time Working, solidarity strikes etc., will all help the working class to develop, with Marxist-Leninist leadership, a consciousness of the power that they have, will help them to develop the independent, revolutionary fighting spirit needed for the eventual overthrow of the capitalist system.
FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO WORK!
STATE CONTROL IS BOSSES’ CONTROL!
NATIONALISATION IS RATIONALISATION!
NATIONALISATION: NO – SOCIALISM: YES!
The National Committee of the CFB (M-L)