The coronavirus pandemic has put the questions of nationalisation, common ownership, and socialist economic planning on the agendas like never before. The need for a new, socialist Clause 4 has therefore never been so relevant.
Politicians and commentators across the spectrum have all compared the current crisis to the Second World War, calling on the public to come together and show some ‘Blitz spirit’. But what the Tories, in particular, forget to mention is that the war required the government to take control of the economy in order to orientate production to society’s needs.
Every war and crisis has shown that the market does not work. The catastrophe of climate change, as well as the current covid-19 epidemic, are stark reminders of this fact. Capitalism does not allocate resources on the basis of need. The only concern for big business and the bosses is profit.
Save our NHS!
Today, we see the urgent need for public ownership and socialist planning. Privatisation and outsourcing have destroyed the NHS, leaving it now – in this darkest hour – starved of the funds and means needed to fight the virus and save lives. Scandalously, instead of requisitioning private hospital beds, the government is renting them at a cost of £2.4 million per day!
At the same time, there is an urgent need for equipment such as ventilators, as well as protective gear for NHS staff and those working in other essential industries. But instead of taking control of factories in order to produce these vital items, the Prime Minister has been begging and pleading with big business to assist in these efforts.
Elsewhere, we see how Big Pharma have dragged their heels when it comes to developing a vaccine. Why? For one simple reason: it is not profitable. These giant pharmaceutical corporations should be nationalised immediately – without compensation – and incorporated into the NHS!
Take back control
The need for nationalisation and socialist policies extends far beyond just the sphere of healthcare, however. The whole global economy has been plunged into a deep slump as a result of the pandemic, and the paralysis of production that it has caused.
Sectors such as the airline industry and the railways are pleading for governments to bail them out. But instead of nationalising the debts and privatising the profits, as has been done in the past, bankrupt businesses should be fully brought into public ownership and placed under workers’ control. In this way, we can begin to build an economy based on needs, not profits.
Last, and by no means least, we see how unscrupulous bosses have attempted to place all of the burden for the covid-19 crisis onto the shoulders of the working class. Workers everywhere have been left high and dry, with jobs cuts and wages slashed overnight. Where employees have been kept on, management has failed to provide the necessary protective measures to ensure the health and safety of staff.
Nowhere is this more evident than in construction, where profit-hungry bosses – with the support of their friends in the Tory Party – have refused to shut down sites, creating a perilous breeding ground for coronavirus contagion. We say: nationalise the big construction companies and put them under the control of the working class! Then we can begin building housing and infrastructure to meet society’s needs, not to line the pockets of the fat cats.
Across the board, then, we see the vital need for common ownership and socialist policies to fight the pandemic.
It is against this tumultuous backdrop that we see the contest for the next Labour leadership. Whoever are declared the winners this weekend will face an unprecedented crisis – economically, politically, and socially. This is no time for half-measures. The system is broken. We need a root-and-branch transformation of society.
The Labour4Clause4 campaign is supporting Rebecca Long-Bailey and Richard Burgon for leader and deputy leader, respectively. Both have rightly called for a new Clause IV – one that puts public ownership back at the heart of our party. We 100% agree.
If you haven’t already, we urge our supporters to vote for Long-Bailey and Burgon, and to fight for Labour to adopt a bold socialist programme.
In the face of the covid-19 crisis, the demand for a socialist Clause IV is more relevant than ever. Help us realise this demand, and support us in the struggle for a clear socialist alternative to the barbarism of capitalism.
- Once labour movement meetings resume, pass our model motion calling for a new socialist Clause IV, in the words of Tony Benn.
- Organise an online event (e.g. on Zoom) amongst activists from your CLP/trade union branch/Momentum group, etc. on the question of nationalisation, common ownership, and socialist economic alternatives – and invite a speaker from the Labour4Clause4 campaign.
- Donate to the campaign, or affiliate your trade union branch / CLP.