THE demand for the re-nationalisation of the railways and public transport is becoming unstoppable, as workers and the vast majority of the middle classes find themselves quite literally unable to afford the sky-high ticket prices demanded by the private rail and transport companies.
Protests at rail stations in London and other major rail centres all raised the demand for re-nationalisation of the industry and an end to the rampant profiteering by the privateers that has led to continual price hikes accompanied by a massive destruction of services.
These protests coincided with the latest announcement yesterday of a near 2% hike in the cost of regulated fares from next January, and with the publication of a TUC report which revealed that rail fares have risen twice as fast as wages since 2010.
Fares in six years have gone up by 25% while average weekly earnings have increased by only 12%. The excuse trotted out by the rail companies is that fare increases are necessary to cover the costs of improvements to the system – improvements that, as far as rail users are concerned, have led to overcrowded trains, an endless stream of rail cancellations, ticket office closures and staff cuts that endanger the safety of passengers.
What is undoubtedly true is that, while the rail network descends into chaos, the profits of the rail companies remain in rude health. Dividends paid to shareholders in the private rail companies have shot up by 21% in the last year reaching a total of £222 million.
In the face of this and the uprising it has caused amongst workers and rail staff who are under constant attack in the drive for more profits by these companies, the TUC and trade union leaders have been forced to come out firmly in support of re-nationalisation.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, and the Unite leadership along with the leaders of the rail unions were all out yesterday demanding that the service be taken back into public ownership. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged yesterday to re-nationalise not just the railways under a Labour government, noting that ‘even some Tory politicians are now joining us in calling for Southern Rail to immediately be brought into public ownership.’
That some Tories are supporting nationalisation should set alarm bells ringing for the working class. Corbyn was at pains to explain that he was not talking about expropriating the privateers saying: ‘The cost would be not very much because we would be taking over the franchises as they ran out and handing them over to direct rail to run as train companies.’
What the left reformist Corbyn is incapable of understanding is that partial nationalisation of services or industry under capitalism does not equate to socialism. There are numerous examples where the ruling class have been forced to accept a measure of nationalisation in order to stave off revolution and to protect industries vital to the overall survival of the capitalist system.
The coal industry after World War II is a prime example. This vital industry had to be taken over by the state if capitalism was to rebuild after the war, and it was a demand that a working class, revolutionised by the war, was determined to impose along with all the other gains of the welfare state.
But the then Labour government made sure that the old mine owners, who had made fortunes out of the exploitation of miners, were paid vast amounts of compensation for their ‘losses’, and that in no way challenged the existence of capitalism.
Capitalism can live with partial nationalisation, what it cannot survive is the complete nationalisation of every major industry and service, including the banks, under the control of the working class.
Not the piecemeal nationalisation that leaves capitalism intact, but the revolutionary seizure of power by the working class to put an end to the entire capitalist system and the advancement to a socialist planned economy where all basic industry and the banks are under the control of and run for the benefit of the working class.
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