The 1959 Labour Pledge for Nationalisation and a Mixed Economy

I found this statement in Pauline Gregg’s 1967 book, The Welfare State (London: George G. Harrap & Co Ltd). It was formulated at the 1959 Labour conference as a response to a move by Hugh Gaitskell, then leader of the Labour party, to drop Clause IV, the commitment to common ownership, from the party’s constitution. The nationalisation had not proved popular, and the results were disappointing. It was felt that the party’s commitment to expanding nationalisation in its 1950 manifesto had contributed to its defeat, and the party had again lost the general election of October 1959. Gaitskell stated that nationalisation was not the be-all and end-all of socialism, but only a means to the ends of full employment, greater equality and high productivity. He also feared that the commitment to common ownership would lead to the party being continually misrepresented as wanting to nationalize everything.

However, Clause IV was not dropped and compromise formula agreed instead, pledging the party to a variety of forms of common ownership and to preserving private enterprise . It stated that the social and political aims of the party could

“be achieved only through an expansion of common ownership substantial enough to give the community power over the commanding heights of the economy. Common ownership takes varying forms, including state-owned industries and firms, producer and consumer cooperation, municipal ownership and public participation in private concerns. Recognising that both public and private enterprise have a place in the economy, it believes that the further extension of common ownership should be decided from time to time in the light of these objectives and according to circumstances, with due regard for the views of the workers and consumers concerned.’ (p.129).

Well, now is such a time. Rising fuel prices are pushing a greater number of hard-working Brits further into poverty, as well as damaging the entire economy. Gas, water and electricity would be cheaper if run as nationalised industries. Thatcherism has been an immense, colossal failure, as has its child in the Labour party, Blairism.

Now it’s time to go back to this formula for a mixed economy.

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