Friday, 19 September 2008

It’s common sense! - Review of the new LEAP pamphlet

  • Review by Mary Partington, which first appeared in the October issue of Labour Briefing.
New Labour's unprecedented assault on the public sector through privatisation and PFIs combined with their refusal to repeal the anti-trade union laws has set back the debate around social ownership years.

UK industries, workplaces and public infilstructure have become more and more unaccountable. The recent collapse of Northern Rock and the Metronet consortium on the London Underground show that the Government was only willing to spend public finance industries or services in order to bail out ventures that have not succeeded within the market. The public took on the risk involved in these projects without any democratisation of either structure. In the meantime the shareholders of Northern Rock and Metronet have, over the years, pocketed huge profits. Nevertheless, these examples – as LEAP Editor Andrew Fisher points out – obliterate the Government's own rhetoric that the market is always more efficient and therefore better.

Building the New Common Sense - Social Ownership for the 21st Century is a useful contribution to reigniting the discussion about the state and the role of workers in exercising control over their workplaces and society. From Gregor Gall's essay on the importance of workplace democracy to RMT General Secretary Bob Crow's piece on the public ownership of the railways, the pamphlet provides a space for alternative arguments about how democratic public ownership is more efficient in providing the needs of society. Rosamund Stock's essay is particularly valuable. She argues that the key component of public ownership is the collective culture of democracy. It is not enough to talk simply of nationalisation or co-operatives, we have to have industries and services that are fully democratically accountable.

As with other LEAP projects, this pamphlet doesn't claim to hold the definitive answer to one clear question. It is an inclusive and discursive contribution to promote rational and informed analysis of how society is run, in whose interest and how it could be run better. These are exactly the sort of intelligent discussions we need to foster.

  • To obtain this 28 page pamphlet, send a cheque for £3, payable to Another World is Possible, to LEAP, PO Box 2378, London E5 9QU or order online from the LRC website.

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