Rail fares increase every year but this time a coalition of leftists, trade unionists and passenger groups took the opportunity to launch a campaign calling for the re-nationalisation of Britain's rail network.
Every August we discover how much rail fares will be going up by the following January, last year we were told fares would be going up by 6.2% - double the rate of inflation - and this year we've been told it will be by 4.1%, once again outstripping inflation (and wages).
What makes this year different is a number of groups and individuals have come together, declaring themselves to be "the collective voice of disgruntled rail passengers and disheartened train employees" and are demanding the re-nationalisation of the UK rail network.1
Unsurprisingly a number of key figures on the left have voiced their support for the campaign which was on it enough to get some press coverage from the rail fare increase announcement. It remains to be seen if the campaign develops and starts to achieve anything though.2
What has been surprising is the number of anarchists and ultra-leftists who appear to be backing the campaign, the anarchist argument against both privatisation and nationalisation isn't new but seems to have disappeared in recent years.
Making the case far better than I could is a great pamphlet by the Syndicalist Workers' Federation's Tom Brown called Nationalisation and the new boss class, written in 1958. Here's an excellent quote:
"That the nationalised industries should be used as the spearhead of an attempted offensive against wages would have seemed and odd idea to millions about ten or twelve years ago. Now, certainly to the workers in those concerns, the idea seems not at all remote. The state workers soon learned to regard the rulers of these industries as a new set of masters. Anyone who has travelled in South Wales or Durham since the war and has talked with miners there, must soon have noticed how conversation is continually directed against "They", as it ever was.
Before state ownership, "They" were the coalowners and, more particularly, the owners' agents and colliery managers. Now "They" are the National Coal Board, the mine agents and the mine managers, but the antagonistic attitude is the same - as though against a set of alien conquerors, like Anglo-Saxon peasants against Norman overlords.
Nor is the relationship of directors and managers with workers any better in the electrical power industry, gas, railways or airways. "They" are always the bosses, who must be watched, who must not know, who are opponents and must be fought - not merely to improve conditions a little, but even to retain what has already been won."
In short, derail the "re-nationalisation express", for workers control!