The Battlefield of Nationalization and the Fight for a Cooperative America
Every social problem people face today poses the question: how will society be organized? Will it be organized around the power of the corporations over society – or around the power of society over the corporations? This question is being fought out today in the struggle for nationalization, both from the standpoint of the capitalists and the workers. The outcome will be determined by what people think and do. Revolutionaries have to be in this fight, playing their role as teachers and leaders.
Today this battle is unfolding in a new era when qualitatively new labor-replacing technologies are creating the potential of an unprecedented abundance and at the same time forcing millions into poverty wage jobs, or none at all. The people are in a life or death struggle for their very survival. They need, and are demanding, the abundance of food, clothing, housing, healthcare, education, and even water, whether they have money to pay or not. With nowhere to turn, they are placing their demands at the feet of government. These dispossessed workers are at the core of a huge social movement.
On the other side of the battlefield, the ruling class, owners of the giant corporations that produce and own the wherewithal of life, are also in a life or death battle. They seek to preserve their wealth and property at a moment in history, when new objective conditions are bringing capitalism to an end, and for the first time destroying the foundation of private property itself.
Given these new realities, the ruling class has been forced to move to protect their profits and their property, as society transitions to a new world. This is taking place through the merger of the corporations and government. This is seen today through the increasing nationalization of the economy on behalf of the corporations. This reorganization is developing rapidly. To enforce this corporate takeover of society, new laws that eliminate democracy, and a militarized police State to suppress the struggle of millions for their survival, are being put into place.
Nationalization and the Role of Revolutionaries
Revolutionaries bring clarity to the people about what’s at stake at each stage of the revolutionary process. The first step is clarity about what and whom the people are fighting, and a vision of what they are fighting for. This is achieved in the process of fighting for the next inevitable step in the revolutionary process. For example, during the 1930s, the political development of the working class depended on its social unity. Therefore the fight for African American equality was the inevitable next step in the struggle. Various sections of society were thrown into that struggle. For the revolutionaries, this was the battlefield and the place where they educated people about their class interests and stabilized their organizations.
Today the question is: what is the inevitable next battle of this stage of the revolutionary process? It is to prevent the corporations from taking over all of society. Control of the government is their key weapon. The first fight, then, is to break the grip of corporate power.
The battlefield of nationalization is opening up because the qualitatively new economy is compelling both the masses and the rulers, though for different reasons, to nationalize key industries.
Nationalization is a battlefield where the fight to take over the corporations is moving the struggle along toward communism. Nationalization places the corporations under the control or ownership of the government. The fight is in whose interest will nationalization proceed, the capitalists or the workers?
Revolutionaries must fight for what is possible as each stage of the revolution unfolds or the process cannot advance. Although nationalization is not communism, the fight for nationalization in the peoples’ interest is a key step in that direction. It politically prepares people for the next step.
Nationalization in the Capitalists’ Interest
The danger for the capitalists is that nationalization brings a huge section of society together in a fight for their class interests. This is happening today. The capitalists must ensure that nationalization proceeds on their terms. In an environment in which the American people have historically opposed government intervention, the capitalists are developing new forms of nationalization where government may not own, support or maintain a corporation directly – but it is still nationalization.
This process was witnessed in 2008 when the government came to the rescue of the banks deemed “too big to fail” through a series of partial and temporary nationalizations. Millions lost their homes and livelihood, but that was not the capitalists’ concern. Without government intervention the banking system could have collapsed.
Today nationalization is taking place in the form of “privatization”—where all that remains in the public sphere —public services and public assets such as healthcare, education, pensions, housing, even drinking water are transferred into corporate hands at taxpayers expense. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a prime example. It transferred government tax dollars to prop up the financial stability of insurance companies. For the ruling class, nationalization will not end until every sphere of government is run by corporate interests.
Nationalization in the Peoples’ Interest
The demand for nationalization in the people’s interests is developing on the basis of common needs and is in every battle unfolding today. The homeless are demanding that the government provide publicly owned housing to them and not the speculators. Communities are demanding public education for every child and an end to providing tax dollars to private investors. There is the struggle for government run healthcare for all, the demand for water as a public trust. People are demanding that government act as their government. Although they may not be calling for nationalization per se, objectively they are fighting for it.
In Flint, Michigan the denial of democracy and government inaction over the poisoning of a city brought grassroots leaders together. They are demanding that Flint be declared a disaster area so the leaded pipes will be replaced, and more. They are demanding Medicare for all for life and an end to the emergency manager dictator laws that allowed for the poisoning.
This process points to the contradictory situation where people are fighting for the government to be their government, while at the same time, because government is failing them, they are beginning to change their ideas and separate from the government and the political system. This new awareness has penetrated the minds of millions across the country, who were outraged over what happened in Flint.
An expression of this new awareness was seen in Flint when Governor Snyder, who appointed the dictators who poisoned the water, told an audience, “government failed you.” People yelled back, “You failed us!” They want him jailed. When President Obama came to Flint, people wanted to know what he was bringing (in the way of federal monies). People are angry that the federal government has not declared Flint a disaster area, which would allow federal funds to flow into the city to help the people.
Consciousness is developing in other battles too. In Detroit, grassroots groups put forth a water affordability plan that is essentially the nationalization of water in the people’s interests. It could have stopped the water shutoffs for tens of thousands of people unable to pay the skyrocketing price. City rulers, operating under the same dictator laws as Flint, adamantly opposed the plan. It is now clear that the shutoffs, and the dictators, are part of government’s plan for the complete corporate takeover of the region’s water.
In Michigan, Nestlé, the largest water bottling company in the world, pumps millions of gallons for free from the Great Lakes while Flint drinks poisoned water. The state gave the corporation $13 million in tax breaks for moving to Michigan. People learned how corporations, government, and even federal police forces like the FBI (who were brought in to intimidate the fighters) work hand in hand to secure corporate profits.
Through these struggles the idea that water must be a “human right and a public good” is being propagated. In Fryeburg, Maine, the governor helped a subsidiary of Nestlé get a contract to take over the town’s ground water for their own profit for 25 to 45 years. An outraged community spokesperson said the city should “put our water under a public trust” (a form of nationalization) so it will be available for future generations.
What is important in this entire process is that people are ridding themselves of deeply held ideas that those they elect, and even government itself, are going to represent them. They are seeing that there can be no democracy when private corporations own the economy. This is a necessary stage in the development of the workers as a class and for their political independence from the capitalist class.
A New Society Needed
The changes in people’s thinking set the stage for revolutionaries to educate large numbers of people to the actuality that globalization and robotics makes it impossible for the capitalists to provide for them, and that a new society is needed.
Revolutionaries pose the question: why should anyone own life-sustaining resources such as water, or food, healthcare, and education? Revolutionaries show that the system of private property is not sacred – it stands in the way of people having what they need. There is no way to control these corporations except through public ownership. The workers must come together on a class program to achieve this, if they are to survive.
Taking over the corporations is a huge battlefield. It has never before been possible. Revolutionaries must take up this battle and build an organization of revolutionaries out of the struggle. The next stage of history, and the process of uniting the working class politically around a common program to take on the corporations, will be determined by the outcome of this fight. The demand must be: if the capitalists can’t or won’t provide for the people, then the government must. Nationalize healthcare! Nationalize education! Nationalize public housing! Nationalize water!
With conscious revolutionaries playing their role within these battles, the class will see that their livelihood depends on creating a new America where the world of plenty that exists today can be distributed to all based on need. In such a society, humanity can flourish.
September/October 2016 Vol26.Ed5
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011