Re: José Widens the Argument

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Wed Jul 10 15:23:23 MDT 2002

Let me start with garbage. In talking about private versus public haulers,
it did not for a second occur to me that it would be interpreted the way you
seem to have done. My experience has always been in terms of whether the
city has its own garbage trucks or whether it hires an outside company that
provides the service. In other words, individuals do not establish a
contract with a private hauling firm. The question I had in mind is whether
the city operates its own sanitation department or hires an outside company
to be its sanitation department. That, in and of itself, is a complete wash.
And in terms of certain things it could do in garbage collection to
structure recycling, that is as easily done either as a department policy of
the sanitation department or as one of the clauses required by the city in
the contract with the company hired to serve as, in effect, the sanitation
department. Now, please don't misunderstand,

NB I say in and of itself. This doesn't mean I consider it "a wash" if a
city proposes to get rid of its unionized sanitation department with a
private hauler paying minimum wage. All over Europe I'm sure this must be
almost instinctive, as you have unions everywhere. In the United States,
unionization rates are now down to somewhere around where they used to be in
the era of craft unions a century ago, 13.5%, and only 9% in the private

But even that is somewhat deceptive. In the public sector, the most heavily
unionized group are the cops, and up there with them are firefighters and
teachers. Leaving aside what I know is likely to be a controversial idea
here, that, politically, cops cannot be treated as part of the working
class, many of these cop "unions" are company unions, as are a significant
number of the teacher's "professional associations" and ditto for the
firefighters. The real unionization rate is significantly lower than the
30-some percent of the official count, and that figure is already a
miserable one.

In a state like Georgia, where I live, barely 6% of the workers are
unionized, mostly (some) public employees and the workers at an auto plant,
Lockheed Martin, maybe there are a couple of more places like that.

So if I didn't immediately say, a privatization most likely means they're
trying to bust the union or welch on the contract, that is because here,
most likely there is no union and no contract.

I am with you that garbage collection should be paid from general revenues,
as opposed to being billed individually. And that tax structures should be
heavily progressive. Here, of course, they are heavily regressive and taxes,
charges and "user fees" are so infinite and varied that they make the
creative accounting at Enron and Worldcom seem like child's play.

I am like you  quite leery of any proposed privatization of anything,
figuring that if the ruling class is taking the time to reorganize
something, they MUST have some ulterior motive that, one way or another, is
going to come down to screwing working people. There are of course the
obvious cases, where privatization is just a way of breaking strikes or
unions or lowering wages or reducing services.

But for exactly the same sorts of reasons I am leery of bourgeois
nationalizations or "municipalizations." If it suddenly comes out that the
ruling class out of the sweetness of its heart and for the general good and
welfare of the population is proposing that, really, this is something best
handled by the public sector, I get *very* suspicious.

Now, in a colonial situation like that of the North of Ireland, or
semicolonial, like in the 26 counties, or Venezuela or Argentina or Nigeria,
you are completely correct, nationalizations THERE are an entirely DIFFERENT
matter, and privatizations are simply give-aways to the imperialist
bourgeoisie (either directly or through their "national" puppets) of
enterprises that the government has quite likely run into the ground through
corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, fraud, theft, etc. That's because
inevitably nationalization in nations oppressed by imperialism have, well, a
*national* character. I can't think of a nationalization I would not support
in a third world country nor a privatization I would not oppose.

But speaking now of the imperialist countries, which is really all I had in
mind in writing about the airline crash, and I should have pointed it out,
and I thank you for doing so, but in the imperialist countries, I would not
say a nationalization should be judged by outcomes, not exactly, but rather
that it should be judged politically. Is the demand for nationalization part
of some working class movement in the direction of taking control away from
the bourgeoisie? If that idea of class distrust, class independence is part
of it, then I'd be for it, even if it is only something as "basic" as simply
punishing some capitalists for some particularly outrageous action, without
further overtones of workers control or some other element like that (which
we would try to inject).

But if it is a matter that a technical argument is made that an all-Europe
air traffic control agency could do a better job than X, Y or Z existing
setup, well it may be true. I can imagine that, in and of itself, other
considerations aside, that might be true. But then we'd have to look at the
rest of it. Is it going to be used to lower wages, carry out layoffs, and so
on. Almost certainly there's going to be that involved, otherwise the
bourgeoisie wouldn't be the bourgeoisie.

Now, you look at the voucher thing through the prism of nationalization or
privatization, a municipal service. I do not. And frankly, I don't think
that's what I had in mind when I wrote the post in 1999 about smashing or
however I put it the "anti schools" in the ghetto, although I certainly
understand why you read it that way. But let me take that up separately in a
separate post.


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