Trots,  UK Politics

Woolies Thinking

Even before the long awaited crisis of capitalism has reached its denouement a collection of ultra-leftists are starting to debate what they believe are opportunities for constructing a socialist economy over at the Socialist Unity blog.

What started it? George Galloway, their erstwhile leader, has proposed that the first step towards a better managed and fairer society should be the nationalisation of Woolworths:

 In my view, Woolworths ought to be on Business Secretary Lord Mandelson’s list of companies which the government should intervene to save, as a matter of urgency. It’s on sale for just a £1 and, although there would be additional costs to keep it as a going concern, the government could turn it into a people’s Woolies, employing local people, buying from local producers and ensuring it provided the services and goods local people on low incomes need.

 Well, that all sounds fine and dandy. Everyone likes a bargain after all, and a mere £1 in return for a bricks and mortar in every High Street in the land has the commentaters excitedly discussing what to do with the retail sites if and when Woolies is nationalised. Turning it into a workers’ co-operative is one suggestion, using it as an outlet for sustainable organic farm produce is another.

Well done George Galloway! the Unity denizens cry as one. God Bless you George! they cheer with gusto. His suggestion seems to be exceedingly popular.

But isn’t the sale price too good to be true? What of the ‘additional costs’ mentioned by Galloway? It’s up to a commenter with some experience of real world economics to pop the soaring balloon:

George, What planet are you living on? Just the small matter of debts of millions of pounds and the fact that it was losing approx £1,000 for every ten minutes it traded in the last 6 months to August. For God sakes…

Oh. That?

You might think the prospect of the idea of purchasing an organisation said to be losing £42,000 every day it opens its doors would make it less of a must have buy for hopeful members of the putative People’s Ministry of Retail Management currently hanging out at Andy Newman’s place. Not so.

If it goes bankrupt then there will be no debts and the government can have it for free…comes the riposte from a particularly Panglossian commentator before they continue collectively deciding how best to construct socialism in one economic sector:

The entire retail sector, (Tescos, M&S, along with Electricity, Gas, Water) the lot, needs to be nationalised and re-organised towards green, fair-trade, local (where possible) production and offer a fair deal to third world producers. The huge productivity benefits of such a reorganisation should result not in job cuts but in a shorter working week on the same wages for the largely female staff in this sector…says one.

nationalised monopoly retailers would open up the possibility for directing and planning the economy along a demmocratically determined pro-environment, pro-society course by and in the interests of the working class and society as a whole…adds another.

The small matter of what should be done with Woolworths many creditors or the requirements of normal insolvency practice clearly mean nothing to the assembled toytown Trots, as neither question is debated in the comments under the article. The more important question of why any taxpayer funded government, socialist or not, should saddle itself with a trading organisation capitalists couldn’t keep going after a hundred years of practice seemingly a matter of no concern to them either.

It’s too late for Comrade Newman’s generation obviously but isn’t this sort of thing evidence to support a case for economics being a compulsory subject at school?