Reformist nationalisation like capitalist nationalisation, aids the capitalist class. This form of nationalisation is carried out in a limited way and within the framework of capitalism-imperialism. A typical example is the nationalisation by the British Labour government which nationalized coal, electricity, railways and steel, but did not touch the highly profitable banking and insurance sectors and the chemical and ship-building industries (later, steel, the most profitable was denationalised by the conservatives).
Coal and railways were losing money under capitalist ownership. Government takeover not only brought handsome compensation to the former owners, but also cheap services to the capitalist class. Electricity, road haulage and railway rates and coal prices were kept low to provide cheap services to the private-owned industrial sector.
For example, electricity prices m 1958 were a little over 40 per cent over pre-war. This compared with a 172 per cent in general retail prices, 182 per cent for food, 224 per cent for drink and tobacco and 179 per cent for durable consumers’ goods.
Another example of reformist nationalisation was that of the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (NMR) of Bolivia. In 1952, the NMR government nationalised the tin mines. However, its economic development was carried out within the framework of Western imperialism. There was no workers control Instead, there was a wages freeze and ultimately troops were used against the mine workers. Grave dissatisfaction led to a rightist army overthrow of the regime in 1964.
A third example was the reformist nationalisation in the early 1950’s of the Anglo -Iranian Oil Company by the nationalist government of Dr Mossadegh. That government refused to sell the oil to the Soviet Union. The imperialists imposed a tanker blockade and with the help of the CIA overthrew the government in 1953.
The nationalisation of Demba is the Guyanese example of reformist nationalisation. Like the nationalisation of oil in Iran and tin in Bolivia, the takeover of bauxite is being carried out within the framework of imperialism.
The PNC takeover is an isolated event. Only Demba and not even the whole bauxite industry is coming under public ownership. It is not part of an integrated anti-imperialist programme.
This is so because the PNC’s philosophy is no different from that of the British Labour Party, which has been consistently anti-communist, anti-soviet and pro-imperialist. Herbert Morrison in 1946 defended the empire and Ernest Bevin, dubbed “Labour Church chill” in the same year declared: “I know that if the British Empire fell; it would mean that the standards of life of our constituents would fall considerably”.
Instead of cooperating with the socialist world, successive Labour governments have pursued a foreign policy which in cooperation with US imperialism started and maintained the cold war.
Like the PNC, the Labour Party talks about socialism, but does not implement it in practice Its early foundation members talked about class struggle; the new Labour Party leaders practise class collaboration. The New Catechism of Socialism (1970), advocated: “The entire means of production thus being common property, there would no longer be a propertied class to make a profit out of interest or loans or in any other way, and the property qualification, which now divides society into two classes, being thus swept away, classes themselves would disappear”.
Clause 4 of the Labour Party Constitution talk ed about nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy, about public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
Labour’s Let Us Face The Future (1946 shifted the argument away from nationalisation for limiting the appropriation of rent, dividends and profits by the capitalists to nationalisation for making back ward industries more efficient . The nationalisation of key industries would provide cheap services to the public and cheap materials to the industries of the country.
The stress of socialist nationalisation was on the producer – to stop the exploitation of the workers; the stress of reformist nationalisation is on the consumer – to provide a cheaper service.
The capitalist class do not seriously object to reformist nationalization. What should the n be the attitude of socialists to this form of public ownership before the workers have captured political power? To the question. “Do you then oppose nationalisation or municipalisation of any industries under existing circumstances Harry Quelch and Belford Box in New Socialist Catechism (1907 answered). By no means. Even under the present class state, the national or municipal ownership helps, as do also the trusts. to prepare the way for the complete socialisation of all industries”.
Reformist nationalsation has tailed under the Labour Party social democratic regimes in Britain, and under nationalist (bourgeois democratic) regimes in Bolivia and Iran. It will fail in Guyana too unless the Guyanese people force the PNC regime to abandon state capitalism as at the Electricity Corporation, Rice Marketing Board, etc. Only socialism can solve the many problems facing our people.
SOCIALIST (Marxist Leninist as distinct from social -democratic) nationalisation is not an isolated phenomenon. It is part of an integrated economic programme as advocated by the PPP which includes:
(al Nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy – foreign and local comprador-capitalist owned and controlled factories, mines, plantations, banks, insurance companies and foreign trade;
(bl Full democracy and workers’ participation and control at all levels;
(cl Trade with, and aid from, countries in both East and West;
(d) Emphasis on simultaneous industrial and agricultural development, mainly in the public and cooperative sectors;
(el land reform;
(f) Strict system of foreign-exchange control;
(g) Effective rent and price controls.
The PNC has stated that it did not intend to nationalise DEMBA, but was forced into it by the unreasonable attitude of the owners. Nor does 1t in tend to nationalise any other company.
This is a reformist, not a Marxist approach. That is why the PPP has called for the nationalisation not only of DEMBA but also of Reynolds Metals Company, and for a timetable for the progressive nationalisation of other sectors of the commanding heights of the economy.
Nationalisation in isolation as advocated by the PNC government cannot succeed unless it incorporates workers’ control and all-round, progressive domestic and foreign policies.
By workers’ control is not meant just appointing a workers’ representative in the Board of Directors. There must be meaningful participation in management at all levels by the workers through the workers end their trade union.
Any real confrontation with imperialism will result In counter attack – military, economic and ideological. Thus, the need for the closest cultural, political and economic relations with the socialist world. Those who preach anti-sovietism and anti communism and falsely equate Western imperialism with their so-called “Soviet imperialism” are only misleading the people. Similarly, those, who like the PNC leadership, talk about the two superpowers, the USA end the USSR, serving their own interests without making any qualitative distinction between them and saying what those interests are only serving imperialism.
To talk about orienting our planning strategy within, and our relations with the “third world” only 1s to live in a fool’s paradise. The countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, however much they must cooperate with one another cannot today provide the markets for their one-crop economies, and can help only to a limited degree in the transformation of their economies. Only the socialist world and to a limited extent some capitalist states which are coming under increasing pressure from US imperialism can materially help.
Cuba is a classic example; it illustrates the necessity for closest links with the socialist world for survival. Carlos Rafael Rodriques, the head of the Cuban delegation at the June 1969 Moscow Conference of Workers and Communist Parties pinpointed this when he declared:
“The Communist Party of Cuba is of the opinion that, in the process of the people’s struggle against imperialism, the Soviet Union is a fundamental bulwark and that that historic role has been expressed in its support for Cuba’s Socialist Revolution, to the Arab peoples in the Middle East and in its aid to the Vietnamese cause. We will never forget the tremendous sacrifices and efforts the Soviet people have made for mankind …. We declare from this rostrum that in any decisive confrontation …. Cuba will unyieldingly be on the side of the USSR”.
Unlike the PNC’s concentration on infrastructure – roads, sea-defence, airport and airstrips, stallings, government buildings, etc the PPP’s economic planning strategy calls for emphasis on industry and agriculture. The former aid imperialism and leads to greater debt burdens, dependency and hardships, the latter generates wealth much more rapidly and leads to self-sustaining growth and self-sufficiency.
Countries like Guyana need not just markets. The issue today in Guyana is not just securing markets for bauxite, but transforming the bauxite industry-: to smelt bauxite into aluminium and establish fabicatingindustries.
This cannot be done under capitalism. The philosophy of people’s capitalism and economic dynamism of the United Force has failed in Guyana as it has failed in Chile under Jorgi Alessandri (1958- 1964) and elsewhere. It is today in serious crisis in the capitalist world, particularly in the USA, Canada and Britain.
Reformist nationalisation has failed also under the “socialist” Labour Party in Britain under Pas Estensoro’s Nationalist Revolutionary Movement in Bolivia, and under Dr. Mossadegh’s Nationalist Party in Iran. It will fail in Guyana too despite the PNC’s slogans of Co-operative Republic and socialism, unless the people of Guyana force the PNC to abandon posturing for performance and to adopt the all-embracing, integrated programme of the PPP.
Socialist nationalisation has made the USSR in· to a great nation, from the seventh to the second world power. In another 10 years the USSR no doubt will be the No. 1 power. It is developing a new type of man free from unemployment, illiteracy, disease, insecurity, crime and prostitution. People’s China is feared by the West as another world super-power, which will become an inspiration to the peoples of Asia and Africa. Socialist Cuba is pointing the way in Latin America.
The Guyanese people must join the PPP in its fight for democracy and for socialism. A joint and relentless struggle must be waged against imperialism and its puppets.
- This article is extracted from a booklet by the same author, Nationalization: The Truth About Bauxite, (Georgetown, Guyana Mirror publication, 1971). It was originally printed In the Mirror, an evening newspaper, the organ of Jagan’s The Peoples Progressive Party.