PRACTICAL EXAMPLES OF CITIZENS OWNERSHIP
The case for Citizen's Ownership (CO) would be best served
by practical examples. Tower Colliery springs to mind,
but caution must be observed. Not all worker ownerships
are not all what they may seem. In Europe much play is
made on "partnerships", but partnered with whom?
It always with companies and remember the object of a
company is to serve the interests of the shareholders;
not the workers, nor the environment, nor the nation,
nor safety, nor anything else and when firms undertake
some magnanimous gesture They are well able to afford
it and it makes no impact upon "shareholder value".
Another point, to ask is how much control do workers
have over the finances? For example: there are massive
redundancies at the German car maker Volkswagen. We ask
what real control did the employees have over that. To
make matters worse the trade union IG Metall went along
with a 20,000 jobs loss; we ask what manner of trade union
is that? (Source wsws 11-2-06).
This huge loss of jobs is happening all over the Western
world where the present economic system reigns.
In a CO system firms such as Volkswagen would organise
alternative work; but what? Flooding is endemic throughout
the planet, a wholesale drive to build excavators and
similar machines could be used to deepen rivers and so
release the flood-water into the sea. Such a plan would
be rejected by the present economists. They would opt
for redundancies, rather than re-employ the ex-Volkswagen
employees on a project the world sorely needs; again an
illustration of profit before people.
This notion of Âshareholder valueØ casts a long shadow.
The costs of safety on the railways as an example - it
should be extended into other areas; sea going ferries
comes to mind. The Hatfield train crash was due to inadequate
track maintenance. This author has an engineering background.
Any layman can see for themselves by standing upon a railway
station platform and observe a train going over the rails,
they buckle slightly and spring back, this constant buckling
and returning sets up a fatigue phenomenon - all metals
do it - and after thousands of times of this buckling,
eventually the rail cracks and then breaks.
Proper track maintenance consists of replacing the rail
before it breaks is the remedy, another extra safeguard
is consolidating the ballast under the sleepers thus making
a firmer foundation and so largely preventing the rails
buckling. All this costs money, not only in labour, but
also the track is out of commission whilst this work is
undertaken. A CO company by disregarding Âshareholder
valueØ would ensure safety comes first.
Another area in which a CO system scores is in housing.
The lack of affordable housing plagues our society. The
United Kingdom has the highest rate of home ownership
in Europe. Owning your own home is a mixed blessing, it
is true that after paying the mortgage The house is your
own, this is fine for younger folk; but D.I.Y. for the
elderly is a chore, or an impossibility especially when
one is on a low pension.
A CO Housing Association runs something along these
lines; who also finance the building. The prospective
house owner engages a CO builder - or he may start the
work himself or with co-operation of others of like mind.
The secured loan at interest free (or modest bank charges).
The work is supervised by the Association at no cost,
or at a nominal cost and to ensure a good quality of housing
is maintained any extensions are supervised by the Association
and solar panels are fitted as a standard practice. Because
of the excellent service given by the Association a small
annual payment is paid to the Association to cover the
outside fabric repair, this very useful for the elderly
owner. Upon the death of the owner, or him/er selling
the property, either to a nominated person e.g. a member
of his/er family or back to the Association. The Association
has the final say.
One reason for the Association intervening could be
a desperate need of someone who is homeless. In a nation
wide CO Housing Association exchanging could a comparative
simple procedure. The reason for this, it is that policy
of the local CO Housing Association to secure plots of
land to build upon if the necessity arises. For some people
there are many job opportunities lost because of a shortage
of housing in a particular location.
WWII should teach the present Government a lesson: but
it hasnØt. We refer to a supply of energy. It is the life-blood
of the nation. All the U-boats the Nazi navy could muster
did not stop the flow of oil. A far more efficient way
of strangling the energy supply of our country is buying
oil and gas from the unstable countries in Europe by turning
off the tap!
In a CO regime energy must be generated within our own
territory, be it wind power, solar panels, tides, but
not nuclear, one, among many, objections is that it is
hugely expensive to build, they only last, say, thirty
years, and then decommissioned, another hugely expensive
task and then there is the problem of waste.
In 1982 a two volume report was published, Strategic
Review of the Renewable Energy Technologies, Stated That
the U.K could create 110% of its generating power; Wind
power (land based) 20%: Wind power (off-shore) 50%: Wave
power 25%: Tidal power 15%: Total 110%. It was compiled
by the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) and
the Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU) which is a part
of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, and these
are official bodies. (Source. TRIBUNE 23/2/1990).
If renewable energy can be used sixteen years ago; with
our increased efficiency today, we ought to be able to
do better. Such a source of energy would be almost ØfreeØ.
Those who object to windmills could pay for the electricity
energy they use: "putting their money where their
mouth is". Tony Benn commissioned a report on tidal
power. It was called the Bondi Report after Sir Herman
Bondi when he anticipated that nuclear would be "socially
In a CO regime the monarchy is as unnecessary as are
the Chief Executives and their acolytes in the corporations,
as we have indicated above the work of the directors is
governed by the works council.
The Royal Prerogative is a denial of democracy. Under
it Ministers can and do declare wars, sign treaties, release
prisoners, confer knighthoods, ennoble peers and commit
the nation to all sorts of exploits but the most damming
aspect of this medieval custom is the first, all done
without a word of sanction from the Commons or anyone
else. The evil is further compounded by the fact it is
On pensions. Should we regard pensions as a deferred
payment of salary? How much money does a person need in
fifty years time is an absurd question. Earlier we postulated
that the major tax would be corporation tax. The custom
of the young would look after when their parents are old
dates back thousands of years. Which is the reason in
a CO regime pensions are paid out of total current earnings
of the working population and when wage levels are fixed
this is taken into consideration. The upshot being all
pensions are roughly the same, but depending upon the
pensioners status in society. This does not prevent someone
putting aside a sum/s for their future, but in an interest
free society the idea of investing for their old age is
a non-starter; true, they can save up and spend it on
a grand holiday or similar project when they retire &c.
Another question that may be asked on the CO philosophy.
"Does C O stifle 'private enterprise'?" That
depends upon "what is the purpose that the private
entrepreneur has in mind" If it is to make money
and more money; clearly the answer is "yes it intends
to stifle greed". But if the intention is to create
something that will, if pursued, add to the welfare of
society it would get support: then comes the question;
Imagine someone has an idea for making a better "widget".
It could be a breakthrough on a cure for spine injury,
or a new twist in stem cell technology, or a quick and
easy method for filling up potholes in a road. Then the
C O Company or laboratory would be expected to assist
the inventor; another innovation could be for a book on
an obscure topic, but needs the expertise of a university
department. To get the idea under way. The inventor approaches
a suitable C O company who either develops the project
themselves or refers to another C O company; the main
point is that these ideas are not left to moulder away.
Democracy in a CO regime will be quite different from
the usual form that passes for democracy. In voting, the
citizen is handcuffed to the particular party he/er puts
their cross or mark against and that is governed by a
small body of policy makers whose ideas (and could be
fashioned by the lobbies of trade unions or corporations
&c) are probably different from citizensØ wants are.
The fact every worker in whatever profession they are
engaged have a voice in the outcome of their labours,
be it as a member of the producer element, or the consumer
element, or the environmental element. The sum total of
these voices is reflected in the wealth that is created.
Think of the consequences such a policy may lead to: would
the tobacco industry corporations with all their advertising
hype held such an influence over our lives?
What should happen under a CO regime would run something
in this mode: the environmental element in a tobacco factory
on seeing the damage tobacco does to the nationsØ health
would look round for a harmless replacement for tobacco
or change to making an alternative product. This author
has spent a lifetime in engineering and has many colleagues
engaged in arms manufacturing, but has never known any
who prefers to work on arms, True many of the technical
problems related to a particular problem they find profoundly
fascinating and taxes their knowledge to the limit. At
this stage it is worth our while to observe that persons
not normally associated with a trade union are entitled
to have a voice in loose federation of caring citizens.
As to whether the Community Union at www.community-tu.org
is able to adapt itself to accommodate such persons remains
to be seen.
Crime blights any society. Unfortunately, none ask the
root cause. Deprivation is a good place to start. One
thing is certain; we will never have a crime free society.
One of the main ingredients is alcohol and drugs. We ask
why are some people who are so unhappy that they find
their only solace is found at the bottom of a pint pot
by getting drunk. This is a problem the Salvation Army
have been tackling for the past hundred years. A C O regime
would ask them for advice and act upon their recommendations.
The greatest crime of all is greed; hence we are back
to where we started. The advertising industry has a lot
to answer for; but they are driven by the marketeers.
However, we can safely say that crime in a CO regime would
The great fault with the party and parliamentary system
is that the electors vote for the party of their choice
warts and all whereas with the CO concept
citizens can cheerily pick on aspects of the party they
prefer and those they don't. Make no mistake, it is impossible
for any party to please all the people all the time and
that is the reason the CO concept is able to work with
any elected party.
In theory, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) should embrace
the CO concept and remember too the TUC also represent
consumers ° one workers production is another workers
consumption. Unfortunately as a body they have closed
13th March 2006