In the name of infrastructure, capitalists are to be enriched and our pensions funds looted. But there is another way...
The short-term vision of today's capitalists is nowhere more obvious than when you look at infrastructure – for example gas, water, electricity, railways. At present Britain’s decision-making on infrastructure is conducted by different sets of capitalists, influenced by different concerns and not paying much attention to each other. This goes some way to explaining the obstacles that currently restrict economic development. Apart from the maximisation of profits there is no strategy or co-ordinated planning.
Now is the time when we should catch up with infrastructure needs too long neglected. But the capital demands for this work are such that they could never attract voluntary investment on the scale required from those private organisations that currently control our utilities. This is because the costs and time needed for the building of new infrastructure would mean tying up their capital for too long before generating any profit.
So private capital hoarders are only interested in infrastructure already built from public finance which then becomes available for asset-stripping through political connivance.
Bearing this in mind, it is not by accident that Coalition thinking on infrastructure is confined to new projects only. It conveniently overlooks the privatised infrastructure that was grabbed when many members of our class decided to play the fool by agreeing that our assets should be levered from public ownership – as when the “Tell Sid” adverts of the 1980s urged people to buy a few shares in hitherto public utilities while the controlling stake was grabbed by finance capital.
So in an attempt to “skin the cat twice”, the Coalition now seeks to confine itself to greenfield sites and load start-up costs onto the backs of workers via a levy on the price of gas or other utilities. If they can find any way to wrap up and market such levies inside a bit of green environmental nonsense, then so much the better.
To run alongside this, the Coalition has also been investigating other ways of using our assets to do the grunt work. As little helpers, the local government think-tank Localis and Lloyds Banking Group have come up with the idea of setting up a National Infrastructure Bank that could be used to syphon capital from our public -sector pension funds.
Our trade unions must be clear and active about this scheme. Having dismembered the Coalition’s “we are all living longer” arguments for downgrading our pensions expectations, unions should now push forward and reject any proposal that permits our pensions assets to be used as infrastructure start-up fodder for capitalist companies.
We need to go further – to rid ourselves of the parasites who pretend to address social needs through levies and raids on pensions funds and take back our existing infrastructure from private ownership and control. Such an approach would free up for use here a steady flow of revenue now going in the form of profits to companies mostly based abroad. Instead this revenue should be used to finance fresh loans for new infrastructure arrangements.
Apart from the economic benefits and the ability to raise large loans immediately, it would also serve to bring together workers in building new projects throughout the British Isles, combining expertise with a national rather than a regional perspective. Such ideas are anathema to the Coalition, representing the exact opposite of the instructions they take from the EU on further privatisation and geographical division of the country – for example, to push forward the EU annexation of Scotland.
The British government, as we have recently experienced, has no problem with nationalisation. During 2008 Northern Rock, RBS and Lloyds (HBOS) were nationalised in all but name. But what that nationalisation amounted to was the socialisation of debt by placing bank losses onto the balance sheet of Britain’s public accounts.
This private sector mess has since resulted in Government debt rising to some £1 trillion. In contrast, nationalising (socialising) our infrastructure would help provide a way out of the mess by fully utilising current infrastructure revenue to raise credit as an instrument of planning in pursuit of growth.
No doubt the idea of taking back these assets from the privateers will raise squeals from the opposition and naysayers hoping that we will fall for their fake National Infrastructure Banking ruse, and so on. But their smoke-and-mirror techniques are no longer working.
The desire of the working class, having experienced the effects of over 30 years of industrial decline, is now for genuine national economic development. This puts the Coalition, the private capital hoarders and the other managers of Britain’s decline under the spotlight.
In particular, they get uncomfortable when they are forced to talk about economic growth.
Within their limited vision they have no idea how to make it happen. Time for our class to take the lead. Only we have the country's interests truly at heart. ■