Workers Party Logo

THE WORKERS PARTY

July Conference: Jack Jones, the Bullock report & industrial democracy

Image Credit: screenshot of Youtube Channel Thames TV “Workers Rights” with Jack Jones https

The great power of the trade unions and sympathetic Governments in the late 1960s and the 1970s provided an opportunity for the working class in Britain to start becoming the ruling class. These conditions were the result of the social and economic reforms introduced by Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin following the second World War. The Government was prepared to admit the unions as equal partners in planning the economy. The Bullock Committee, on which I had the privilege to sit, was set up under terms of reference devised by the Trades Union Congress and recommended a parity of power between employers and unions on the boards of large private companies. another committee was set up by civil servants to deal similarly with the public sector.

The opportunities offered were unfortunately not taken up in the wider union movement and Britain moved in a Thatcherite direction. This all happened over thirty years ago. A whole generation does not know about these things or about the world as it was at this time.

I am glad therefore that two of the workers’ control activists of the time, Joe Keenan and Conor Lynch are publishing an account of these times and these events as a series in their magazine “Problems of Capitalism & Socialism”. I am also pleased that most of the material will be in the form of reprinting journals, pamphlets, and articles from that era. This will not only inform this generation but to some extent help it to experience the arguments, the controversies and the atmosphere of that period.

Jack Jones, January 2008

(Note: The Bullock Committee was set up in 1975)

Industrial Democracy

A special series of the Magazine “Problems of Capitalism and Socialism” was devoted to the Bullock Report and Industrial Democracy. Those interested in the issue can find a wealth of material on the website of Labour Affairs Magazine here. Jack Jones wrote the Introduction to the Series and a brief but interesting interview with him and other trade union leaders from the 1980’s can be seen on Youtube:

2 thoughts on “July Conference: Jack Jones, the Bullock report & industrial democracy

  1. Here is a selection of extracts from the series of Problems of Capitalism and Socialism to give an idea of the contents:

    Workers Control

    In 2008 Conor Lynch and Joe Keenan devoted a series of 6 issues of our magazine “Problems of Capitalism and Socialism” to Workers Control. They reproduced documents of the time pro and against Workers Control, with commentary, including statements by the Institute for Workers Control, which, despite its name, did not support workers control when it came to it. The series shows that the working class were not helpless ‘victims’ of Thatcher: they had agency, they could have warded her off by directing their actions differently when they had the power to do so.

    Jack Jones wrote an introduction for the series:
    Introduction by Jack Jones
    The great power of the trade unions and sympathetic Governments in the late 1960s and the 1970s provided an opportunity for the working class in Britain to start becoming the ruling class. these conditions were the result of the social and economic reforms introduced by Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin following the second World War. the Government was prepared to admit the unions as equal partners in planning the economy. the bullock Committee, on which I had the privilege to sit, was set up under terms of reference devised by the trades Union Congress and recommended a parity of power between employers and unions on the boards of large private companies.
    Another committee was set up by civil servants to deal similarly with the public sector. The opportunities offered were unfortunately not taken up in the wider union movement and Britain moved in a Thatcherite direction. This all happened over thirty years ago. A whole generation does not know about these things or about the world as it was at this time.
    I am glad therefore that two of the workers’ control activists of the time, Joe Keenan and Conor lynch are publishing an account of these times and these events as a series in their magazine “Problems of Capitalism & Socialism”. I am also pleased that most of the material will be in the form of reprinting journals, pamphlets, and articles from that era. This will not only inform this generation but to some extent help it to experience the arguments, the controversies and the atmosphere of that period.
    Jack Jones, January 2008
    (Note: The Bullock Committee was set up in 1975. Editor)

    The whole series is available on the atholbooks website: http://free-magazines.atholbooks.org/problems_2/Problems_1.pdf. The extracts below of election manifestos, magazines of the time and commentary will give an idea of the contents.

    Workers control was a possibility at the time because capitalists were weak, and the unions were strong; the state was still deeply involved in the economy, from the time during the second world war when a working class man, a union man, Ernest Bevin, had been in charge of economic affairs.

    The weakness of capitalism at the time.

    Industry was in decline, with a lack of investment and a loss of competitivity internationally.
    “The central political issue of the late sixties and seventies in Britain was the power of the working class which had completely undermined management’s right to manage and had demoralised a bourgeoisie which was no longer prepared to make the necessary investment in machinery, plant and training to reverse a long-term decline in industrial productivity. This fundamental imbalance between irresponsible labour and impotent capital generated wage-led inflationary crises and constant political turmoil. It was clear that power and responsibility had to be reconnected within one or the other economically active classes before society collapsed into either purposeless revolution or reaction. and that, precisely that, was the issue in the general elections of February and October 1974”.

    The Tories acknowledged it in their 1974 election manifesto, putting the blame entirely on the government and the unions:
    “Our taxation and industrial policies will therefore be designed to encourage firms to invest more money in new plant and machinery in our factories. It is here that we have fallen behind other industrial countries. In the last few months, investment and industrial confidence have received a terrible and deliberate battering. Taxation has clawed back much of the cash which industry needs. Threats of nationalisation have destroyed confidence. It is time to call a halt to these immensely damaging policies…”
    A previous report, the Plowden report, had acknowledged the situation:
    “From North London WC group “From Plowden to Bullock” 1976
    What we have today is a dual power situation; a stalemate in which the class responsible for managing industry cannot deliver the goods, and the only class which can deliver the goods has no say in management. It’s a stupid situation that can only be resolved by workers demanding and taking control of industry and using it to ensure efficient use of the resources inefficiency is squandering. Dual power and inefficiency are common to both the public and the private sectors. There is only one solution in both sectors – Workers Control.”
    The text continues:
    The TUC’s report on industrial democracy is just such a principled compromise. While it can be twisted any which way on paper, by either right or left, in practice it can lead only to real, effective workers control; which neither right nor left want in any shape or form. Both really want to preserve the present stalemate. The left because it needs to direct its activities to doing down
    the employers and is even prepared to prop them up in order to continue doing so. The right because its only reason for existence is to defend the employers (they not being capable of defending themselves) against vicious, ‘unnecessary’ left wing attacks.
    There will be no need for either concern under workers’ control, when workers themselves will determine manning levels and wage rates. When all the paraphernalia of restrictive practices which the working class has accepted to date as defences against predatory entrepreneurs go out the window, when workers themselves are demanding maximum productivity on their own terms, in their own interest.
    Then we will require a vigorous, offensive trade unionism, dedicated to maximising production efficiently. Unions then will be involved in directing resources—labour, capital, raw materials, plant and machinery —where they will be most needed. They will co-ordinate nationally the activities of worker controlled industries.
    Fair enough, ideally, the TUC shouldn’t be bothering its head about 50% participation in either the public or the private sector. It should be advocating 100% control. But, when you get right down to it, it’s not numbers that matter. It’s the support workers’ representatives can mobilise against the employers’ representatives—and that’s overwhelming. Immediately, they can count on the backing of the workers in the industry and, if need be, can call on the entire working class. What forces has any decrepit management to throw into the ring against that kind of opposition? What punter worth his copy of last week’s ‘Sporting Life’ would bet against the workers?
    Again, ideally, the TUC should be advocating that workers’ representatives should involve themselves in all areas of policy making, including wages and conditions. But again, in practice, what workforce involved in a dispute over wages and conditions is going to let its representatives off the hook?
    […]
    However willing it may be, no Labour government can institute industrial democracy simply because it likes the idea. The impetus for reform and the muscle to back it up must come from the organised workers of the Labour movement. Bullock’s job is to sound out the feeling in the country. Ours is to organise that feeling and give it concrete expression.”
    The following issue of Workers and Industry summarised the situation:
    “Workers and Industry 7 May 1976
    Britain’s economic crisis is the result of deadlock.
    The employers no longer have the power to manage industry efficiently and profitably. The workers now have that power but use it in a negative fashion.
    While this further demoralises the employers, it does nothing to ensure the development of a strong and prosperous economy. It is now time for the workers to end this deadlock by taking effective steps towards replacing the employers as the rulers of industry.
    Such steps involve workers immediately demanding the right to hire and fire management, to supervise management’s activity and determine its priorities.
    Workers’ Control is the only way forward and out of the crisis.
    Jobs are safe only when the economy is expanding; and new jobs would be created daily in industries run by the workers.
    Standards of living would rise with productivity in industries run by workers, when workers determine how much goes to wages and how much to investment.
    Only workers themselves can ensure economic expansion and so safeguard their jobs and living standards.”
    Workers Control is about workers developing the habit of being rulers
    “Workers and Industry May 14, 1976

    That’s what industrial democracy is about. It’s a period of joint control in which workers will inevitably gain experience of wielding their immense industrial power positively in pursuit of definite economic objectives which they will be in a position to determine themselves. Industrial democracy is about workers learning the skills they’ll need in order to devise realistic and efficient policies which promote both their interests and the interests of the economy and society at large. Its about workers taking on the valid social functions which the employing class is no longer capable of performing and themselves forcing the pace of technological change and economic and social progress.
    Above all industrial democracy, the period of common consent and joint control, is about workers developing the habit of being rulers. Workers
    will soon get used to exercising power to achieve constructive, predetermined, ends. before long they’ll have all the self-confidence they need to sweep
    the employers entirely aside and assume complete control.”
    More on the use of power:
    The use of Power
    Workers’ Control as a matter of political strategy is not about the right of workers to be involved in consultation exercises or decision making processes at shop floor or board level in industry. As a matter of fact it is not about rights at all. Workers’ Control is about power and nothing else. It is all about power.
    Workers’ Control is about power in precisely the way that Ernie Bevin was about power. In the course of winning the anti-Fascist war in Britain and fitting- out Britain to play some part in winning that war abroad Bevin established all the elements of working class life, from trades unions and Methodist chapels
    to working men’s clubs and music halls, at the heart of British social life. In just the same way that the acknowledged routines of social power in the First World War were middle class by origin, training, manning, accent and inclination the force that infused the second effort wore cloth caps and hob-nailed boots.
    Historically British society is adversarial; so much so that its managers often have difficulty in making a pattern out of the war of each against everybody else which occupies so much of their social space. Margaret Thatcher couldn’t see it at all, famously declaring in an interview with Woman’s Own in 1987:
    “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.”—then moving on with policies to undermine the economic basis of family life.
    For almost forty years the working class, by sheer combative reflex, was on top of the zero sum game of British politics. Unfortunately that combative reflex was never absorbed in reflection to become a body of knowledge providing workers with a programme for imposing their collectivist instincts on the bourgeois morass. While he lived Bevin was the closest thing the British working class has ever had to a programmed body of knowledge. After his death it lived on for some time in the great union he founded and built. Elsewhere the class reverted to brute force and an ignorance which to say the least suited many of those who were supposed to be providing it with political leadership.
    Back in the day, having shared in winning the war on the back of working class social power the British state had no immediate choice other than to acquiesce in Bevin’s consolidation of that power as a Welfare State. It had no choice because if it was to remain true to itself it had to abide by the one rule of the zero sum game of British politics—to the victor the spoils.
    Britain’s welfare state was an acknowledgement on the part of its ruling class that working class power entitled workers to rights. Though these may have been mostly negative rights in the first instance, such as the right not to die screaming in a Poor House or on a charity ward, they very quickly acquired a positive character, transforming the quality of life of individual workers and the political prospects of the class as a whole. But this, though rooted in power, was all perceived as a question of abstract right and was tenuous thereby.
    Bevin would have had it otherwise. He would have had the welfare state develop as a logical outcome of working class power, in such a way that just seeing itself in the light of such power relations would impel the class to the further consolidation of still greater power. To that end Bevin asked the unions to manage the welfare state. And the unions, probably blinded by the rights, certainly frightened by the responsibility, refused.

    Work Ethic
    Its work ethic was the point at which the British working class asserted its humanity against the reductionist crudities of the capitalist division of labour. Workers who could control nothing else in their working lives could at least decide how well or how poorly they performed their allotted tasks at the point of production. Where and when they decided to take a pride in their work was the moment that determined them to combination and collective action. Wreckers don’t form unions and struggle to secure their future. Workers taking a pride in themselves and in their work do precisely that. It is precisely so that working class confidence and power was built, precisely in the loss of all such that the New Labour cancer developed and spread.
    Opposition to Workers Control from the unions.
    (From TUC report 1976)
    “The traditional British trade union attitude to schemes for ‘participation’ in management of private industry has been one of opposition.
    It has been considered that the basic conflict of interest between the workers and the owners of capital and their agents prevents any meaningful participation in management decisions. The reasoning behind this opposition has varied
    from the claim that the trade union’s job is simply to negotiate terms and conditions and not to usurp the function of management, to the proposition that trade unions should not be collaborationists in a system of industrial power and private wealth of which they disapprove…”
    Another attempt to solve the stalemate
    In Place of Strife
    Conor Lynch
    Two months after the War in Europe ended, Winston Churchill called a general election. The Labour Party won by a landslide. The Party, led by Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin set about transforming the social and economic relations in the country. They set up the Welfare State and the National Health Service. They bought out the owners of the commanding heights of the economy and nationalised them. All this was done at a moment when Britain was deeply in debt to the Americans for war supplies—a debt only finally paid off a few years ago. The mobilisation for war had put millions into the armed forces and redirected industry to wartime production. Many cities had suffered bombing damage and a huge house building programme had to get under way. Yet Labour achieved all of its goals. It shows that the apparent lack of money is no barrier to social reform.
    The Conservatives under Churchill returned to power in 1951 and retained power until 1964. But apart from the privatisation of steel production (renationalised by Labour in 1967) the Tories left the structures established by the post-War Labour Government intact. In some areas, housing in particular, they vied at elections with Labour to promise yet more social provision. And they delivered. The withdrawal from the colonies continued apace— with the resulting development of a national mindset which was beginning to see a Britain focused on matters at home rather than abroad.
    The Government did attack Egypt over the latter’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal—with the help of France and Israel—in 1956. The thing was a fiasco and the Americans opposed the attack. The Tories were ruthless in getting rid of the leaders responsible. But the national Psyche cannot be changed in a generation. First, Margaret Thatcher, and then Tony Blair revived the imperial spirit of the nation and gave the country the steady stream of wars that it has conducted over the last 18 years.
    By the time Labour returned to power in 1964, Britain was,
    at the very least, a semi-socialist state. But one which had brought almost all parties to accept the social democratic rules of the political game. Democratic socialism, in other words. A result of all this was that the organised working class, i.e. the trade unions, had extended their power beyond their wildest dreams. They could get almost whatever they demanded and do almost whatever they desired. Strikes within most industries were a foregone conclusion where they were caused by a dispute between management and labour. More and more they took the form of battles between the unions and the Government at the bar of public opinion.
    So, when the seamen struck in 1966 (under the leadership of, among others, one John Prescott) the fight was for public support. In this case the Government won. The Government did not win in the series of strikes by coal miners between 1974 and 1981.
    After the seamen’s strike the Labour Government saw clearly that this kind of public industrial warfare was going to get nowhere. Already they had been talking about a prices and incomes policy to ensure a steady and even rise in living standards which would avoid inflation:—avoid the situation where higher prices gave rise to higher wage demands and vice versa. Barbara Castle, probably the most left-wing member of the Government, and in her last years a thorn in the side of Tony Blair, introduced a Bill called In Place of Strife. This was intended to put labour relations within a legal framework. There was an instinctive suspicion of this since in the past legislation to do with unions was always to their detriment and they only wanted legislation which dismantled previous legislation.
    Castle tried to explain that things were different now. That the unions were the new power in the land and that their power required an equivalent share of responsibility. The unions rejected this and believed that the old methods of confrontation were the best. Their power and their unity was growing steadily and opportunities for squeezing the employers (state or private) seemed endless. Some trade union leaders, like Jack Jones, began to worry. The unions may have been powerful, but some were more powerful than others. The cake, (ever-expanding or not) was not being divided up evenly.
    On top of this the political leadership which the working class looked to also thought, or pretended to think, that the possibilities under free collective bargaining were endless and encouraged the unions. The people who were the theoretical leaders of the coming Workers Control movement, Ken Coates, Tony Topham and Michael Barrett Brown, opposed any legal working out of the new balance in class relations. They were supported by left wing agitators such as Neil Kinnock—later to become a disastrous leader of the Labour Party.”
    Workers Control was a solution to the problem; it was opposed by some if not all Tories, but also by some unions and by some political groups that claimed to be defending the working class; the rank and file when it was not influenced by political groups was not militant for it.
    The Bullock report died the death; it was the last effort to resolve the stalemate between workers and managers in favour of the workers, before Thatcher solved it the other way.
    The series concludes:
    Labour in Retreat
    “Between them, Bevin, Citrine and Attlee established the preconditions of the Labour Government of 1945-51 which began an explosion of working
    class confidence, living standards and organisational power that continued for thirty years and then took almost another thirty to wind down and be put into reverse. The context within which they worked was the essential condition of their success—1931’s detailed rolling up and rout of the joint forces of the Progressive Movement.
    It is no coincidence at all that the collapse of the Labour Movement that Bevin, Citrine and Attlee built up from the ruins of a Liberal-Labour project has seen the resurgence of that project. The return of New Liberalism within a Labour shell is not a mysterious thing.
    The only mystery is how so much of the Labour Party watched and listened, but saw and heard nothing of what it was being shown and told. And now has the nerve to complain of ‘betrayal’; some weird generic form of betrayal that, from the outset, outlined the future course of itself in great detail.
    If New Labour’s New Liberal Project had been a betrayal there might be some hope of the Party being rescued by the Unions, as occurred after August 1931. But the Unions are part of New Labour’s Project. The people who manage the union.plc’s of today were formed in, by and for the Project. We needn’t look for any Bevins or Citrines to emerge from the politics and economics graduates who run Unite and Amicus and Omnivore or whatever. There is no hope there.
    Only the Left is looking to the Unions. And the Left, a shower of petty factions, is only looking to the Unions to switch their political funds to one or other petty faction that it might develop and grow into the next in an inevitable sequence of betrayals that is their only notion of working class history.
    Which leaves ourselves. We are not of that Project and not of the Left that began it or the Left which is angling to succeed it. We are, indeed, just old fashioned conservatives with fond memories of the warm human social relations that obtained within the working class before Progress exploded it into an atomised mass of compulsive borrowers and frenzied shoppers. We are conservative enough to want to see those relations restored.
    We have no resources but ourselves and the hope that ourselves will be enough at least to destroy the odd illusion or two and uncover here and there the unobserved course of events. Destroying illusions and recovering lost narratives is not sufficient in itself, but it’s a start.

  2. here is a useful glossary of who was who and what was what in the 1970s, at the time of the Industrial democracy debate:
    Who was who and what was what in industry and politics in the 1970s

    Glossary
    From Problems of Capitalism and Socialism special series on the Bullock Report, Number 2

    AUEW: Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers led by Hugh Scanlon (see below). An
    uneasy amalgamation of engineers, builders, foundry workers and white collar workers (TASS). TASS, which was Communist Party dominated, split away and merged with the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS) to form the Manufacturing, Scientific and Finance union (MSF).

    In 1992 the AUEW merged with the EETPU (see below) to form the AEEU. This, in turn, merged with the MSF in 2001 to create the present day Amicus— whatever that means.
    British Leyland: By 1976 the bulk of the car industry, except for Fords, was amalgamated and nationalised as British Leyland. It produced such lines as Mini, Jaguar, Land Rover, Austin etc. Leyland Cars employed 128,000 workers at 36 sites and Leyland Trucks and Buses employed 31,000 workers at 12 sites. The company produced many other related products.
    CEB: Central Electricity Board, proposed by Plowden to further centralise the industry under one Board. It was to comprise the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) and the 12 Area Electricity Boards. Legislation for this was going through Parliament when the Government fell in 1979. The Thatcher Government went instead for privatisation. The CEGB was divided into Powergen, National Power, National Grid and Nuclear Electric, and a myriad of electricity distribution companies. Only Nuclear Electric remained in the public sector.
    EETPU: The Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbers Union was formed in 1968 in a merger between the electricians union and the plumbers. The electricians union was a major power base for the Communist Party. But in 1961 some Party members led by Les Cannon and Frank Chapple exposed ballot rigging and took the union to court. They then led it in an ever right wing direction. A problem for the ideological left is that the idea of principled compromise is out of the question. They only see sell out. So when they react against their Party position they do indeed sell out. Chapple took over the union in 1966 and promoted the policy of privatising the entire state sector.
    EPEA: Electrical Power Engineers Association, founded in 1913, represented the top echelons in the electricity industry. In recent years the union has been very much involved in promoting ESOPs—Employee Stock Ownership Plans, especially during the privatisations. It was involved in a plan to completely buy out a power station in Northern Ireland by managers and workers.
    GMWU: General and Municipal Workers Union was formed in 1924 and largely duplicated the work of the Transport and General Workers Union. After merging with the boilermakers it became the GMB. Union mergers have as much to do with rivalry within industries as with common sense. The boilermakers, very much based in the now almost defunct ship building industry, would be expected to unite with the sheet metal workers and/or the engineers. But not ‘til hell freezes over! The union became notorious in the labour movement in 1970. It was run by Lord Cooper. Its largest branch was the glassworkers branch at the Pilkington glass plants in St. Helens, with 7,400 members. The workers went on strike and the union refused to support them. For a brief period there was an independent General Glass Workers Union. Cooper had a string of directorships and was involved with the Atlas Foundation, a CIA funded organisation.
    Hugh Scanlon and Jack Jones were the two most important trade union leaders in the 1970s.
    Many have reasonably said that they were the two most important people in Britain, politicians included. Scanlon wrote the first pamphlet for the Institute for Workers Control. But after that he went cool on the matter and opposed specific policies to implement industrial democracy, especially the Bullock report. He implied that such schemes never went far enough: his was left wing oppositionism. Hugh Scanlon joined the Communist Party in 1937 under the influence of the Spanish Civil War. (Jones was also influenced by that conflict and went to Spain where he was wounded in the Battle of the Ebro.) Scanlon left the CP in 1954 but remained in the CP front organisation, the Broad Left. The Broad Left was the springboard for the rise of many future politicians, e.g. Charles Clarke. Scanlon became leader of the engineering union in 1968 and retired in 1978 going into the House of Lords as Baron Scanlon of Davyhulme.
    Industrial Relations Act. This was introduced by the Conservative Government of Edward Heath. It registered unions and employers organisations and set up an Industrial Relations Court under Lord Donaldson which had the power to jail anyone in breach of the Act. Its jailing of some dockers’ leaders caused uproar and the Act began to fall into disuse. By 1972, the Heath Government changed its tack and sponsored Tripartite discussions and agreements between Government, unions and employers. But the unions decided for the most part to hold out for a change of government which would be more favourable to them. Heath went to the country in 1974 on the slogan “who runs the country”—the Government or the unions. He lost, and lost again more heavily in another election called later in the year. So the unions had a mandate!
    In Place of Strife: This was a Labour Government White Paper introduced by the very left wing and very popular Minister, Barbara Castle, in 1969. It proposed that there must be a ballot before strike action and that there should be an Industrial Board to enforce settlements of disputes. It was the first political acknowledgement that the balance of power had shifted in favour of the working class and that the law had to be reformed to reflect that situation. Union experience of labour laws had been that they were always designed to curtail their activities in favour of the employers. And though this proposal was not in that category, they opposed it in favour of the status quo, which kept industrial disputes outside of any legal framework. In the Cabinet, the future Prime Minister, James Callaghan, led a successful opposition and the measure was dropped.
    The Sankey Commission: The British coal industry in the 19th century was a byword for incompetent management, dangerous conditions, and near feudal practices. During the Great War the Government took control of the industry to ensure supplies. After 1918 there was great unrest among the miners as they sought to maintain the conditions they had achieved during the War. To quell these disturbances, Prime Minister, Lloyd George, set up a Commission on the future of coal under Lord Sankey. It was composed of 50% union representatives and included socialists like Sidney Webb and R.H. Tawney. It recommended the nationalisation of the coal industry. This was rejected by Lloyd George and he handed the mines back to the private owners.
    Whitley: John Whitley was Liberal MP for Halifax from 1900-28. He made a report to Parliament in 1917 on industrial relations which led to the setting up of Whitley Councils – joint worker-management discussion councils. They were a direct response to the rise of the Shop Stewards Committees and the fear of the development of Soviets, especially in the engineering industries. They never took off in the private sector but they did become a regular feature in the public sector, especially in the Civil Service and the clerical areas of local government.
    Nationalised industries: In the 1970s there were swathes of the population, especially in the North of England, who barely came into contact with the private sector. People worked for a state enterprise, lived in a local authority home, travelled by public transport, and shopped in the Co-op— indeed were buried by the Co-op. The privatisation which took place in the 1980s and 90s, and later, not only transferred many sectors to private hands but deliberately destroyed several former state companies in coal, steel, shipbuilding, etc. The Co-op was reduced greatly and, for the most part, operated like private companies where it continued to exist. This was facilitated by the encouragement of the supermarket chains through legal and planning measures. (At the moment a similar process is being proposed for France by President Sarkozy. In Iran its proposal by the Shah and the Americans was a major factor in getting support for the Islamic Revolution.)
    Here is an (incomplete) account of the level of publicly owned enterprises existing in the 1970s.
    Central Electricity Generating Board and the Regional Electricity Boards. The BBC. London Transport. British Airways. The National Coal Board (all mines with more than 30 workers). Bank of England. The GPO (including Cable and Wireless and British Telecommunications as well as the Royal Mail). British Railways. British Road Services (with about 40% of road haulage). British Waterways Board (rivers and canals as well as general water and sewage). Thomas Cook Travel. National Health Service. British Gas. British Steel (there remained
    a couple of private steel companies). Rolls Royce Aerospace. British Leyland. British Aerospace. British Shipbuilders. Many other services were owned and operated by the local authorities – especially housing, which kept private house prices low as well as providing a very large rented sector; it also provided for mobility with schemes for house swaps.
    See Problems of Capitalism and Socialism special series on the Bullock Report, Number 2
    http://free-magazines.atholbooks.org/problems_2/Problems_2.pdf

Give us your thoughts...