The crisis proves public ownership is needed
Written by: John S. on 12 May 2020
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed, yet again, the complete failure of the capitalist economic system to meet the needs of the Australian people.
• Virgin Airlines has collapsed. Politicians whine about the potential lack of competition, and about how regional centres will be serviced, because the transport system only services profitable routes.
• World oil prices have temporarily collapsed, but petrol prices still fluctuate wildly, and the full savings have not been passed on to consumers. The multinational oil companies forever price-gouge.
• Globalisation has meant that multinational companies export capital and jobs to the lowest wage countries in the chase for maximum profit. Countries like Australia are left with an emasculated manufacturing industry, and are at the mercy of international supply chains. We can't get what we need, especially in a crisis, when, in reality, we could easily produce things here if people's welfare, not profit, were the motivation.
• The transport of needed goods is at risk in any crisis, because 98% of the shipping to and from Australia is foreign-owned. We don't even control our international transport system.
• For years, the multinational natural gas producers have sold our gas overseas
to the highest bidders, leaving Australia short of gas, even though we are one of the world's biggest suppliers.
• For years, Australians have been ripped off by big companies price-gouging our power and water supplies. Privately-owned power companies continue to use polluting coal and drag their feet in investing in renewable energy. The world needs to use less energy and use it more efficiently, yet our system is run by companies that want to sell as much power as possible, as expensively as they can get away with.
• Australia’s banking system is privately-owned, run solely for profit, and at the mercy of intentional financial capital and its prices.
We clearly need these fundamental services
• under Australian control, and
• run for the public good, not for profit
In the past, there were many state-owned enterprises providing power, water, banking, rail and airline services. While their main purpose was to oil the capitalist system, they did enable governments to provide some better basic services to the people.
In the recent decades, these have been steadily privatised to give private capital the opportunity to make more and more money.
The upshot is worse and more expensive services for Australians.
These basic services should be nationalised – run by the public, for the public. This could happen now if governments were willing. And they could be very efficient and effective if run by the workers rather than just by bureaucrats.
However, we know that capitalists will not accept their cash-cows being taken away and brought under public ownership. Their mouthpieces in the media will scream about 'big government', “inefficiency”, “the sanctity of private property”, “the superiority of private enterprise” etc etc.
And, while some publicly-owned services would be an improvement, the rest of the capitalist system would continue to operate purely in pursuit of profit. Workers would still be exploited; jobs would be insufficient and insecure; capital would be invested in the most profitable speculation rather than productive endeavours; the planet would continue be exploited beyond its sustainability.
In the end, we need a total change of system – an economic system based on meeting the needs of the people and the planet, not based on the pursuit of profit.
Social ownership – Socialism is imperative. Not capitalism – the dominance of private capital.
Print Version - new window Email article