Socialist Party
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9 July 2014

Labour rejects rail renationalisation

Ted Woodley, Rail worker and RMT member

Back in April, Ed Miliband hinted that Labour would consider renationalising the railways. However, that idea has come to nothing as the Labour Party has indicated it will not commit to renationalisation if it takes power in 2015.

This should come as no surprise as Miliband and Ed Balls' pro-business party has also refused to renationalise Royal Mail which was flogged off cheap by the Tories last year. They have ignored the votes at the 2013 Labour conference for renationalisation of both the railways and postal service.

Labour Leaders have stuck the boot into the millions of trade unionists who pay millions of pounds into Labour's coffers. They've eliminated the miniscule influence union members still had on party decisions, and called in the police when Falkirk activists attempted to exercise their right to select parliamentary candidates.

Public ownership

RMT, the transport workers' union, argues that a simple way to bring the railway back into public ownership would be to renationalise each franchise as it comes to the end of its term, saving additional millions of pounds by avoiding the costly bidding process.

Under public ownership any profits could be reinvested in improving the service rather than lining the profits of shareholders. In some cases, where franchises are owned by foreign state railway companies, UK profits are used to subsidise passenger fares on the state railways of other countries!

But the RMT's proposal is too radical an idea for 'Tory Lite' Labour. The party proposes allowing the public sector to 'bid' for franchises (it costs around 5 million simply to put a bid together) alongside bids from the parasitic private transport companies, potentially resulting in a continuation of the privatised mess we are in at the moment and more wasted money.

Unlike our sister unions in the railway industry, RMT recognises that for this and so many other reasons the Labour Party is now a dead end for workers who urgently need a party of their own.

RMT members, especially the late Bob Crow, were instrumental in setting up the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to stand candidates in local and parliamentary elections on a pro-worker and socialist programme.

At our recent annual general meeting RMT reaffirmed its support for TUSC and finally amended the rulebook removing the automatic support for Labour candidates in elections.

Labour supporters have tried to justify backing their rotten sinking ship of a party by saying we need to drive out the Tories.

Waste of time

But while big majorities of the population enthusiastically support ideas such as renationalisation of the railways and energy companies, no mainstream political party offers this.

Labour does however promise a continuation of austerity and vicious cuts for the foreseeable future.

Labour backers in the trade unions are wasting their time and should help us to build TUSC as a genuine working class political alternative so workers are able to fight the bosses politically as well as industrially.