Ursula Huws reflects on the history of ‘prefigurative’ approaches and community ownership models in the UK – and how these can be used to rethink public ownership amid the current cost-of-living crisis.
From the depletion of fish stocks to the burning of the Amazon, profit has proved a failed regulator for use of our natural resources. The market has also failed to decarbonise at pace, or to end the scourge of fuel poverty.
Anyway, as governments wrestle with the increasingly impossible predicaments of our times, it seems to me likely that this space of publics versus governments will become a lot more politically diverse. And that’s the point at which the question of ‘public ownership’ becomes a really live issue.
On a practical level, remunicipalisation involves bringing privatised public services back into public hands by terminating private contracts. It also means reversing the outsourcing of services and re-organising services in-house of the municipality. In other words, it is insourcing.
By strengthening local government ownership of public services and bringing them back under public control, these initiatives offer promising pathways out of neoliberalism.
One that stands out as a particularly strong example is the local government of Recoleta, a commune in the metropolitan region of Santiago, Chile.
The coming decade is arguably the most important in human history, especially as relates to climate and the environment. The status quo – of a planetary emergency and deep inequalities – is unsustainable and insupportable. Strategies for extending democratic public ownership over the commanding heights of the twenty-first century economy can open up a more innovative, sustainable, and inclusive futur
The private sector is held up as better, more efficient, the way to modernize… Yet worldwide, hundreds of services are being brought back into public ownership, which suggests that people aren’t buying the hype around greater private sector efficiency.
I think we’ve got to the point where we have to name British politics for what it has become: a wholesale looting of the state and the public, with the complicity of the political class, to reward the financial sector.