Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised to put “21st century public ownership” at the heart of a radically new economy if his party wins power at the next general election.
Speaking at a Labour conference in London on Alternative Models of Ownership, Corbyn reiterated the promise made in last year’s election manifesto to bring energy, rail, water, and mail into public ownership and “to put democratic management at the heart of how those industries are run”.
“This is not a return to the 20th century model of nationalisation but a catapult into 21st century public ownership,” he said.
“We know those services will be better run when they are directly accountable to the public in the hands of the workforce responsible for their front line delivery and of the people who use and rely on them. It is those people not share price speculators who are the real experts.”
Corbyn attacked the “blinkered faith in untrammelled markets and a doctrinal rejection of the power of collective action “ as “the twin dogmas that have blighted political thinking in this country for nearly 40 years”.
Referring to the collapse of Carillion, the “chronic inability to run the East Coast Mainline” and “the exorbitant costs of PFI”, he said these pillars of privatisation “have been brutally exposed for the destructive blind alley they are”.
“The case for public ownership is so clear and so popular, and we’ve demonstrated how it’s an investment with no net cost for the taxpayer,” he claimed. “In public hands, under democratic control, workforces and their unions will be the managers of this change, not its casualties.”
He focused on the “even bigger market failure” of climate change, arguing that “a decisive turn to collective action” equivalent to that led by Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour government, was necessary to help avert climate catastrophe.
“A green energy system will look radically different to the one we have today,” he said. “The past is a centralised system with a few large plants. The future is decentralised, flexible and diverse with new sources of energy large and small, from tidal to solar.”
He added that “the next Labour Government will guarantee that all energy workers are offered retraining, a new job on equivalent terms and conditions, covered by collective agreements and fully supported in their housing and income needs through transition”.
“By taking our public services back into public hands, we will not only put a stop to rip-off monopoly pricing, we will put our shared values and collective goals at the heart of how those public services are run,” he concluded.
The conference on Saturday 10 February, called to discuss Labour’s 2017 report on Alternative Models of Ownership, was also addressed by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Clare McCarthy of the Coop Party, Red Pepper’s Hilary Wainwright, and Big Capital author Anna Minton, among others.
The report considers three broad alternatives to private property, discussing the pros and cons of co-operative ownership models, municipal and locally led ownership, and national ownership.