Expropriate the Banks and Corporations
The Social Rights of the Working Class vs. Corporate Power and the Capitalist State
The basic social rights of the working class can not be achieved without a fundamental reorganization of economic power and the redistribution of wealth within the United States. The realization of these rights requires a frontal assault on the hitherto unchallenged prerogatives of the corporations and the rich. The vast wealth created by the labor of generations of workers must be taken out of the hands of a privileged few and put at the disposal of the people as a whole. Workers will achieve nothing if they seek to avoid such a direct attack on the economic and political power of the capitalist class.
For the expropriation of the banks and financial institutions
The basic needs of the working class come into immediate and direct conflict with the dictatorship of the giant banks and financial institutions over every aspect of political and economic life. These corporations, the commanding heights of the economy, control vast social resources, the product of the collective labor of billions of people all over the world. These immense sums are employed not to benefit society, but to increase the wealth of a tiny layer, buy off governments and dictate policies.
Over the past 40 years, the power of the banks in the US has grown enormously. A wave of finance-driven corporate consolidation during this period has been used to slash wages, downsize companies and raid pension and health care funds. The stock market boom of the 1990s was accompanied by an ever more obsessive focus on the immediate return on investment for Wall Street. This often proceeded alongside, and was in fact dependent upon, the destruction of the real productive forces, the shutting down of factories and the elimination of jobs.
This parasitism of the financial aristocracy, whose wealth is increasingly divorced from the production of real value, was a principal factor behind the financial meltdown of 2008. In some cases, as in Goldman Sachs’ bets on the collapse of the housing market, the crisis was deliberately provoked in order to transfer wealth into the hands of Wall Street speculators. The gospel of the “free market” did not prevent the banks and their political representatives from looting the public treasury to guarantee the bad debts of the financial aristocracy. These debts, transferred to government balance sheets, are now to be paid through cuts in critical social programs.
The actions taken by the financial elite and its political representatives in response to the crisis have vastly expanded the power of the banks. Thanks to a series of bank failures, the top four commercial banks in the US—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo—now control about 70 percent of the country’s bank assets, up from less than 50 percent at the end of 2000.
The banks and other big financial institutions must be expropriated, with full protection for small depositors, placed under public ownership, and operated under the democratic control of the working class. This will make available enormous resources for a public works program to eliminate poverty and meet social needs in the US and internationally.
For the nationalization of major corporations
Next to the banks stand the giant corporations. The extent of monopolization in the US is greater than at any point in history. Decades of deregulation and corporate consolidation have created conditions in which a few massive businesses—such as ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco in energy, Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto in agribusiness, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in pharmaceuticals, and Microsoft, Apple, Google and Intel in computer technology—dominate markets, dictate government policy, and exploit hundreds of thousands of workers around the world.
The claim that these giant corporations are most efficiently run when under private control is a fraud. These corporations work tirelessly to defend their own narrow interests at the expense of society as a whole.
All privately owned industrial, manufacturing and information technology corporations valued at $10 billion or more must be transformed into publicly owned enterprises, with full compensation for small shareholders and guarantees for all pension and health care fund investments. Industries critical to the basic functioning of society—including telecommunications, agriculture, education, health care and transportation—must also be subject to public ownership and democratic control.
This does not mean the nationalization of everything. Small and medium-sized businesses, which employ millions of workers, are themselves in desperate need of reliable sources of credit and relief from the unfair monopolistic practices of the large corporations.
For workers control
The expropriation of the banks and corporations must be accompanied by the establishment of genuine democratic control over production. This is the necessary basis for the development of a rational plan of global production and distribution to replace the anarchy of the capitalist market and ensure that all decisions are based on social need.
The aim of socialist policy is not to replace capitalist financiers with unaccountable bureaucrats. Industrial democracy means real control by working people over their working lives. What is democratic about a system in which the place where most people spend the bulk of their time—the work place—is run as a dictatorship? Decisions affecting conditions of work, safety, salaries, hiring and hours must be subject to the democratic voice of the workforce. This presupposes the opening of the books of all corporations for inspection by the workers and the broader public, and the ratification of corporate leadership by a democratic vote of all employees.