14. Feb, 2018


'When Labour’s John McDonnell says he’s against a return to top-down state-run industries this is not some sudden conversion. The left, during the era of Keynesian economics (1945-1979), always said there was nothing socialist about bureaucratic, nationalised industries – especially when, as in their final form, they had been turned into public corporations, run on profit-and-loss principles, always rigged to generate a loss.

In addition, because of the technological revolution, it is logical for some hi-tech businesses that were nurtured as state-owned companies to exist as competitive private businesses – as long (and this is a big caveat) as they don’t rely on a monopoly position.

The left that McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn originate from always wanted more workers’ control of state-run industries, advocated worker co-ops in factories that had to be nationalised, and understood you don’t achieve socialism through centralised planning but via a market heavily structured by state intervention.'

Far from being tied to notions of top-down bureaucratic management, John McDonnell's plans for public ownership are about empowering workers and consumers alike. It's a welcome step towards ensuring public services in the 21st century, writes Paul Mason.