A NEW stage has been reached in Guyana’s political history. Thus far, the issue has been “to nationalise or not to nationalise”.
Ranged on one side for nationalisation (public ownership) was the People’s Progressive Party; on the other side, against nationalisation, were the People’ s National Congress and the United Force.
Now that the PNC has been pressured to support nationalisation, the issue becomes: “what kind of nationalisation”.
For the United Force, the issue is simple – nationalisation is bad; all nationalisations are the same; it is opposed to nationalisation. As it had at the 1961 and 1964 elections equated the “PNC’s social ism” with the “PPP’s communism”, so today it says that the PPP gives support to the PNC because both believe in the same thing – nationalisation.
The PNC, of course, is glad for this over-simplification; it can shield it self by pointing to the United Force as the real enemy and at the same time appearing as progressive as the People’s Progressive Party.
Where lies the truth? The fact is that there are three distinct types of nationalisations – capitalist, reformist and socialist.
In capitalist countries like Britain, there has always been some nationalisation – the Post Office, the government arsenals and dockyards. Then there are the “gas and water socialism ‘ of the municipalities – the public ownership of the tramways, gas, electricity and water.
There are many examples of capitalist nationalisation and municipalisation in Guyana – the Sewage and Water Works, the Telephone, the Post Office, the Rice Marketing Board, the Rice Corporation, the Transport port and Harbours Department. All of these were state-owned during the colonial days.
The Demerara Railway Company was taken over by the colonial government in 1921. The company was privately owned and was losing money; the government came to its rescue. So Guyanese have been burden ed by the payment of $84,000 annually (and this will go on forever) as compensation to the former owners.
The Rice Marketing Board was set up to give the government control of the sale of nee inside and out· side Guyana. Control was effected not to help the rice farmers or the economy but firstly to starve off hunger and unrest in the Caribbean and secondly to keep the labour force in and around the sugar estates. High cost-of-living and other wartime hardships had helped to spark off riots in several West Indian countries. Besides, the sugar planters were plagued with a shortage of labour. They did not want the sugar workers to leave the estates and embark on rice cultivation. So from their strategic positions in the RMB , they sold rice to the West Indies at about half the world’s price and checked rice cultivation in the interest of sugar.
The Rice Development Corporation (RDC) was given a $5 million loan by the British state capitalist Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) to extend rice cultivation at Mahaicony-Ahary and to expand government-owned rice milling. Guyanese tax payers had to meet losses of the RDC of $2 million between 1954 and 1961. But interest paid to the CDC m the period 1954 to 1963 was $2.5 million.
A recent example of capitalist nationalisation is the takeover of the Rolls Royce Company by the Tory Government. This company was losing a great deal of money and the Tory Government is corning to the rescue of the capitalist class by saving the company from bankruptcy. Incidentally, the opposition Labour Party is pressing the Tory Government to include in the nationalisation of Rolls Royce the profitable motor car section of the business, but the Tories prefer to keep this out of the hands of the state.
Capitalist nationalisation is not socialism; it is state capitalism. This was practiced in Germany under the Hitler regime, and in Italy under the Mussolini regime. Today, in the USA, there are many areas in which the state has gone into business as in the “space” industry. The capitalist monopolies reap huge profits by becoming government contractors; capital ism has reached the stage of state-monopoly capitalism.
In the aluminium industry, this close tie-up between the state and the monopolies was demonstrated during and after the war. As part of its war effort the United Kingdom government, in 1940, had advanced about $55½ million (US) to the Aluminium Company of Canada (Alcan) for plant expansion which increased capacity by 435 per cent over pre-war. The Un led States. United Kingdom and Australia had placed orders which provided an additional $117 million(US) for plant expansion and $62½ million (US) for the Shipshaw hydroelectric power project – the cheapest source of power in the world. Cheap Power was necessary because conversion of bauxite into aluminium requires a large amount of power – about 10 to 12 kilowatt hours to convert 4 tons of bauxite to one ton of aluminium. Attacking this United States Congressman, J.M. Coffee of Washington, asked why, if it was necessary for the United States to subsidise Canadian power, we ” didn’t make it a gift to the good people of Canada and not to the aluminium trust which has done its best for two generations to stifle power development on both sides of the American Canadian border”.
In the post-war period. ALCOA purchased for $6½ million (US) the Government-owned aluminium plant at Cressona, which originally was built to the value of $25 million (US). Aluminium Ltd. (Alted) and Alcan wrote off most of their profits against plant expansion during a period when incomes were subject to high wartime taxation including excess profits tax. Alcan wrote off ;,, 4½ years about $117,360,000 (US) for plant expansion at the rate of 5½ cents per lb. of aluminium produced, and between 1940 and 1943, Alted amortised $123,606,000 of war investment.
Capitalist parties like the United Force like to fool the working class by disguising state-monopoly capitalism as people’s capitalism. They generally oppose nationalisation, but do not seriously object to state ownership which helps the capitalist class to become richer.