We publish here an interview with Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary of the RMT railway union, who discusses the importance of fighting for nationalisation of the railways and the restoration of Clause 4.
As assistant general secretary of the RMT railway union, Steve Hedley has seen first hand what a disaster privatisation has been in reality. Due to bailouts, mismanagement, and rising prices, the demand for nationalisation of the railways resonates throughout the public. According to recent opinions polls, over 75% of people support the idea of re-nationalisation of the railways.
Labour4Clause4: What do you think about restoring Clause 4, the party’s commitment to socialism?
Steve Hedley: I think it is a great idea. When Clause 4 was abolished it was a signal to the ruling class that Labour was no longer interested in redistributing the wealth in society and that they were willing servants to capitalism and would not rock the boat.
That was exemplified under New Labour and the Blair administration. He basically continued with the neo-liberal policies that had begun under Thatcher and continued under John Major.
So I think that to bring Clause 4 back would also send a message to the ruling class that the Labour Party has reverted to type and is a party that is interested in wealth redistribution and the redistribution of power in the country. They would not just remain vassals of the elite.
L4C4: Tens of thousands left the party as a result of the scrapping of Clause 4 and many are now returning to the party. Given Carillion, the PFI scandals, etc., there should be support for this move. There has never been a better time to bring this idea back into the party.
SH: Yes that is right. Also most people would not now be arguing for old-style nationalisation. They would want nationalisation – but that would come in the form of democratic control and accountability. Why should we have unelected company bosses, like those in Carillion, paying themselves millions of pounds in bonuses, while squandering billions of pounds in pension funds? It is an absolutely atrocious situation.
We should have elected people, such as from the general public, politicians, and – of course – trade unionists, who could work together to run a nationalised industry. The benefits of that nationalised industry would go to everyone and not a few small shareholders who are making extortionate profits out of it.
L4C4: So if we brought Clause 4 back, would it bring the party back into line with the trade unions? Many have rule books in which socialism is enshrined.
SH: Yes, in our Rule book, Clause 1.4, it says we want the supersession of capitalism with a socialist form of society. So it would bring the LP back to the organisations which founded it, in the first place, basically the trade unions.
If there are going to be debates in the party, then let’s have them. It should not be something we hide away from. Because we have to get away from – and I don’t want to sound derogatory – but at the moment Corbyn seems to be painted as the panacea for everything. It’s suggested that if we just elect Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, everything will be alright.
Of course, if the policies and programme of the party are not correct, then it’s not going to be alright. Because whether it is JC or somebody else, if the policies and commitments of the manifesto weren’t correct, then there is nothing the government can do about it, no matter who is at the head once in power.
So there has to be a debate. We can’t shy away from that. I think there is no doubt about it that there are large sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party who have been cast adrift. That is the reality of it. The membership is now completely at odds with the ideas of a large proportion of the PLP. Those people have a choice: they can either come back into line with the membership, or sling their hooks.
I think debates like this will help galvanise the movement.