The Militant: Nationalize the energy companies!

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Fri Aug 22 06:36:49 MDT 2003

The Militant September 8,2003
Well, I like this editorial.  So there!

It puts forward a practical and necessary demand for immediate action
by the labor movement.  Of course, the appeal should be more broadly
to the farmers and broad layers of the middle classes as well who are
being oppressed by the energy breakdowns and ripoffs.

The section on the need to equalize the electrical grids and supplies
to the semicolonial world is very important.

And best of all perhaps, it does NOT end with a quotation from one of
National Secretary Jack Barnes' books in order to make the Very
Important Point that, as the emperor in the Star War series often
says, "It is all happening as I have foreseen." Good.
Fred Feldman

The Militant,
Nationalize the energy companies

In response to the blackout in the northeastern United States and
parts of Canada, the labor movement should demand the federal
government expropriate the power and energy companies.
This demand should be coupled with a call for a massive public works
program to rebuild the deteriorating power grid and related
infrastructure—the result of the profit drive by the utilities—and to
create thousands of sorely needed jobs.

The power monopolies control a resource vital to society. But they are
in the business of making money, not of providing energy. Keeping
rates high to maximize profits is done partly by ensuring that the
supply remains below the growing demand for energy. That’s why
construction of power plants has slowed down, not because “people don’
t want them in their backyards.”

Monopolies such as New York’s Con Edison or Ohio-based FirstEnergy,
which own large parts of the power grid, do not find it
“cost-effective” to invest in regular maintenance of transmission
lines or ensuring the proper functioning of alarm systems that alert
controllers of line failures. Such profit-motivated decisions
guarantee there will be more breakdowns and blackouts.

Through their profit drive, these companies have created a situation
that increasingly endangers the lives and livelihoods of millions of
workers and farmers, as well as small businesspeople. They must be
taken out of private hands and nationalized—run as public utilities
for the benefit of the majority rather than the interests of a handful
of super-wealthy capitalists, and with their books open for public

The source of this crisis is not “deregulation,” as liberal
politicians and pundits argue. All moves to “regulate” the industry
have been done within the framework of accepting the bosses’ profit
prerogatives, and thus serve only to cover up the real problem—the
continuing private ownership of a resource as indispensable to
humanity as energy.

To approach this question from the standpoint of the interests of
working people, we must start with the world, not the narrow framework
of the USA. For example, the labor movement must reject the imperial,
chauvinist arrogance of big-business politicians and media who
complain that the United States and Canada have a “Third World power
grid” that must be fixed. Their view is that “we” should be concerned
about blackouts when they affect “civilized countries” but not when
they are a reality for countries in the “Third World.” But our
interests as workers and farmers are completely tied to those of
fellow working people worldwide, and are counterposed to their
interests—those of the imperialist exploiters in Washington and

Blackouts, lack of energy and drinking water, acute transportation
problems—which New Yorkers and other residents of the citadel of
imperialism got a taste of in mid-August—are commonplace in most of
the world. Roughly 2 billion people, one-third of humanity, have no
access to modern energy sources for lighting, heating, or cooking.
Altogether, the imperialist countries of North America, Europe, and
the Pacific, with 14 percent of the world’s population, consume 57
percent of the electricity. This glaring global inequality,
perpetuated by the workings of the world capitalist system, must be

Electrification and modernization of power grids is a more pressing
need for the semicolonial world than for the United States or Canada.

To address this situation, labor should join in the fight to demand
the cancellation of the foreign debt of the semicolonial countries. It
needs to promote affirmative action measures to redress the effects of
many decades of plunder of the natural resources and labor of the
majority of humanity by a small number of super-rich ruling classes
that have divided the world among themselves and want to keep it that

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