IT'S THE ECONOMY, SILLY!
John McDonnell is organising an annual State of the Economy conference as part of his 'New Economics' discussion tour.
An excellent idea! The revelation by Oxfam that just 67 billionaires own the equivalent wealth as the poorest half of the planet shows just where corporate capitalism is taking us!
So getting the economics right must surely be at the heart of Corbyn’s Labour. Everything else flows from this.
With perfect timing, an excellent article in the journal Renewal, “Bring back the Institute of Workers’ Control”, revisits a pivotal period in Labour’s recent history during which this issue of economic strategy was first worked through.
During the 1970s and 80s, Labour and leading trade unions produced the famous “Alternative Economic Strategy" (AES).
The article, by Joe Guinan, opens by referring to the existential threat now posed to the planet by capitalism. He proposes democratic control over the economy as the only way it can be managed to meet people’s needs, without destroying the environment.
The heart of his article covers key events in Labour’s near history such as the occupation during 1971 of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. This followed the Tory's withdrawal of financial support which would have led to its closure. That capitalist control of industry could be challenged in an urgent and practical way was given a material - and international - boost. (By the way, under occupation and workers’ control, productivity rose substantially!)
These events (and others he talks about) shaped the economic debate. A key organisations was the Institute of Workers Control. The IWC, supported by Tony Benn and many others, helped crystallise the alternatives, "to both moribund social democracy and emerging neo-liberalism".
Discussion by unions and workers produced workable strategies for deploying the skills, knowledge and experience of workers - but in a socially positive way. This has some immediacy. Workers employed by the Trident “deterrent” are rightly concerned about their jobs.
As early as 1978, a “Worker’s Enquiry into the Motor Industry”, led to proposals that included green and sustainable alternatives to internal combustion-driven cars - an early anticipation of hybrid alternatives, of electric cars and alternative forms of mass transit.
Organised Labour has produced demonstrable alternatives to capitalist management of industry. These alternatives not only can save jobs, but also create additional socially useful work. Here lies the answer to the legitimate concerns of Trident workers!
The "Alternative Economic Strategy" was ultimately defeated under the twin attacks from Thatcher on the one side, and her Labour acolytes, led by the likes of Kinnock and Blair, on the other.
TUSC looks forward to participating in McDonnell’s “New Economics”. It offers the opportunity to build a socialist strategy we can rely on - and one that will capture the imagination and commitment of all workers.
The Renewal article is a Must Read. It starts out in a somewhat academic style, but don’t be discouraged! After a few paragraphs, the real story begins. If you want to skip the academic intro - start reading from the section headed, “A Road Not Taken”.