Yes, nationalise the land
“There is a great danger that nationalisation would create a lumbering bureaucratic giant which would be of little use to anyone”, writes John Cunningham (Solidarity 384), to criticise Bruce Robinson’s call for the nationalisation of land (Solidarity 381).
John argues instead for leaving land in the owners’ hands and taxing its rental value.
It’s an odd argument for a socialist. We want public ownership and large-level democratic planning of all major economic resources, not just land.
This would create “giant” economic concentrations, true. But capitalism, in its giant corporations, has already developed techniques to plan and coordinate on a very large scale.
Socialism will do it better because it will allow for free and democratic flows of information and criticism, and because our planning will be for the common good and sustainability, rather than a race for the profit of a few.
In the 19th century, even many bourgeois economists, following arguments from James Mill and David Ricardo, advocated nationalisation of land: Leon Walras and Philip Wicksteed, for example. We should not fall behind them.
Martin Thomas, Islington
Whip neither her nor there
I don’t agree with Solidarity (386) that Labour’s free vote on the bombing issue was a “big mistake”.
Cameron would have gone ahead either way once he felt confident that enough Labour MPs would vote with him. In principle of course MPs should follow party policy but I doubt a whip would have made much difference.
These MPs can be challenged at CLP level once they’ve put their head over the parapet. This will isolate them inside the party.
As the statement also said, Corbyn is too weak in the PLP to impose his line now, but I doubt it will do much harm in the longer run.
Ray Browning, Manchester
Free vote serious mistake
I think it is a serious mistake for Labour not to have used the whip. First it allowed the Tories a victory on bombing Syria. They were given a free run.
That’s bad because it is bad for Syria. And if Corbyn had insisted on using the whip, it is not clear that the Tories would have risked taking it to a vote in the Commons, because the number of Labour rebels would have been reduced, perhaps substantially.
And it is bad because of the situation in the Party. Corbyn needed to bang the table, rally his people and his support in the party. He needed to state that rebels were going against a conference decision and the big majority of members, and siding with the Tories. He needed to act like he understands there’s a big fight coming and this is the first phase of it.
The right in the PLP will gain confidence, and now they have a precedent: next time they want to vote for Tory crap they’ll be able to demand a free vote.
Dan Katz, London
Organise the left
One thing that needs to be factored in, and addressed, is the state of the “Labour left”.
A lot of people who voted for Corbyn have not joined the Party, a lot of the people who have joined the Party are not (yet) active in it, and the “Labour left”, being the “Labour left”, is pretty disorganised.
Whatever one thinks of Corbyn’s decision not to whip, there is the bigger question of organising the left so that it is organisationally and politically coherent enough to assert real control in the Party. A lot of CLPs — and not just CLPs — are still controlled by the right.
Some have almost posed the issue as: Jeremy is the good guy, the Shadow Cabinet are the bad guys, and that’s the only context in which he has to operate.
Consequently, the role of the “Labour left” is reduced to cheering on Jeremy, and expressing commiserations about his plight of being surrounded by bad people.
Dale Street, Glasgow
The dominant thinking<.b>
While doing some background reading, in an attempt to make sense of Hilary Benn’s demagogic speech in the House of Commons (for example his ludicrous use of “internationalism” or his bizarre — and obscene — evocation of the International Brigades), I came across the following from the, alas, deceased Palestinian activist and author, Edward Said.
He was writing in April 2003 about the earlier Iraq invasion, so the parallels with the present situation are not exact. Nevertheless, I think he admirably captures the spirit — if not the letter — of the current dominant thinking.
“This is the most reckless war in modern times. It is all about imperial arrogance unschooled in worldliness, unfettered either by competence or experience, undeterred by history or human complexity, unrepentant in its violence and the cruelty of its technology.
“What winning, or for that matter losing, such a war will ultimately entail is unthinkable.”