Boris Johnson has sent his sympathies to Harland & Wolff workers over the threat to the shipyard but has said that ultimately its future rests upon a “commercial decision”. With mealy-mouthed words, he says he wants to develop industry, but he and other capitalist ideologues cannot – or dare not – conceive of an economic model which is driven by anything other than profits for a tiny elite.
That doesn’t mean the capitalist class are opposed to nationalisation under any circumstances. When the financial crash hit, the banks were effectively nationalised, at a cost of £500 billion. Even Thatcher nationalised Rolls Royce. But these moves were aimed solely at rescuing the bankers and bosses, funnelling public money into the companies until they could be stabilised and handed back over to the same capitalists who had created the crisis in the first place.
Socialists reject the premise that private ownership and profit must be the basis of our economy. We believe there is a more rational, efficient and sustainable alternative. We want the wealth created by the labour of working people to be used in the interests of society as a whole.
We stand for the nationalisation, not just of struggling companies, but of the major corporations which dominate our economy and all the key sectors which are vital for its functioning. We stand for democratic control over these industries by the workers within them and the wider working class, not top-down control by bureaucrats with no understanding of how they function on the ground.
On this basis, the huge wealth which exists in society – currently hoarded by a parasitic elite – could be used in a planned and democratic way to invest in manufacturing, infrastructure and public services which society needs, creating secure jobs with living wages while improving the standard of living for the vast majority. Skilled workers like those at Harland & Wolff, Bombardier and so on wouldn’t be thrown on the scrap heap. Through a socialist industrial strategy, these skills would safeguarded and developed in the interests of society, with the training of new generations of apprentices, giving young people a decent future.
One obvious use to which the skills of workers like those at Harland & Wolff could be directed would be in tackling the imminent threat of climate change, building wind turbines and other projects which could help us rapidly shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and avert catastrophe. This requires an urgent and co-ordinated plan of action and investment which capitalism simply will not deliver. We cannot wait for ‘the market’ to learn that there are no profits on a dead planet.
The failure of capitalism to deliver prosperity, security and a sustainable future for the vast majority of people on our planet is self-evident. A democratic, socialist economic plan is the rational alternative to the madness of this system. But it will require a profound struggle by the working class to wrest control of our economy and our future from the capitalists who are destroying both.