How is an incoming Labour government – when it arrives – to restructure the British economy so that it is run as much as possible for the public good rather than to meet the short-term demands of private equity companies and shareholders?
It was an issue which was debated ardently at the end of the nineteenth century, when there seemed real hopes that the twentieth century would see an end to rampant capitalism and a move towards more social forms of business ownership. The co-op movement was of course actively involved in these debates, as were trade unions. To take one example, in the debates about the need for public control of the railways (then, as now, run by a host of private sector companies) all sorts of options were discussed, including quasi-cooperative solutions involving workers and users of the railways.
Plus ca change. We need to have some of these same debates today, because I’m convinced that the way forward is not simply to revert to the twentieth-century model of state-ownership through nationalisation. Other, broader, forms of public ownership need to be considered.
This is a lengthy way of getting to the point of this blog. I had an email yesterday from Jo Bird of Co-operative Business Consultants, one of the organisers of next month’s Ways Forward conference Co-operative Solidarity. She’s keen to get the word out about what will be the sixth such event organised by CBC. Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey is one of the speakers, and I hope she’ll be in listening mode too. There’s thinking going on in (parts of) the cooperative world which could potentially help Labour.