Public ownership makes a comeback in British Labour leader Corbyn speech
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, is joined on stage by supporters following his keynote speech, to sing the socialist song "The Red Flag" at the annual party conference in Liverpool, England, Wednesday Sept. 26. He called for a clampdown on unfettered capitalism and a huge investment in public services. | Peter Byrne / PA via AP

LIVERPOOL—British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the party’s annual conference yesterday was a call to arms for the labor movement, a clear challenge to all those who oppose Tory austerity in Britain to unite and bring an end to it for once and for all.

Unity and diversity were key themes throughout the speech, as Corbyn drew attention to the great variety that makes up the labor movement and the way in which that is reflected in the Labour Party’s new, increased membership.

Similarly, there was a call for a much greater culture of tolerance and the freedom to disagree and debate, then come together around democratic decisions. Anyone who has a genuine interest in standing up for working people and getting the Tories out of power cannot fail to respond positively.

And yet, in spite of his plea for party members to listen a bit more and shout a bit less, his message was certainly not lacking in the fire that has characterized his previous conference speeches.

The abuse of Britain’s so-called “free” press by the media monopolies rightly came in for condemnation, with Corbyn pulling no punches about where their loyalties lie and why they oppose the growth of a politics which empowers the working class and threatens the profits of tax-shy billionaires.

With big-business media using every opportunity to smear the left in general, and Corbyn personally, whether as unpatriotic, anti-Semitic or any other nonsense, we should call out their vested interests at any and all opportunities.

Rather than avoid the issue of anti-Semitism, which has been cynically whipped up by the media, as a number of commentators thought he might, Corbyn took the Conservatives head on for their cynical hypocrisy, citing their support for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, far-right government, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s dog-whistle racism, and the “hostile environment” that was intentionally created to target the Windrush generation and other migrants.

He went on to reiterate Labour’s commitment to opposing racism in all its forms.

This achieves greater significance with the growth of the far right, both internationally and in Britain, and key Labour figures, such as John McDonnell, have been at the heart of calls for a united response from the Labour movement.

Similarly, there was no holding back in the attacks on the failure of austerity, privatization and outsourcing, with clear alternatives proposed in the form of nationalization and the rebuilding of public services. This is a welcome reminder of some of the key policies on which Corbyn stood as leader and which have proved so popular with the electorate.

The concept of public ownership, so long excluded from national political dialogue, with Tony Blair’s New Labour and the Tories equally committed to privatization and outsourcing, has truly made a welcome comeback.

However, public ownership is in itself not enough. The previous model of publicly owned companies that operate like private enterprises within a market system, constrained by rules to prevent them from interfering with the profitability of the private sector, will do nothing to change the position of working people.

Public ownership in name must be combined with the reality of public control, with workers and service-users having a genuine say in the way in which publicly owned companies are run for public benefit.

And in the long run, this must be the first step in a change to the way our economic system is run, to put the needs of people before profit and ensure that the interests of the many, not the few, are the guiding principle in our economy.

That is why the clear statement by Corbyn, as leader of the opposition, that we need to democratize public services, give workers the right to representation at board level and, ultimately to change our economic system to run in the interests of the majority, is so crucial.

Morning Star


Morning Star
Morning Star

The Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.