August 2017        

Why we need a democratically controlled state bank

Eugene McCartan

The Irish state sold off 28 per cent of its shares in AIB, sparking a debate about the sale and about what the money raised from the sale should be used for.
      But what was missing from the debate was any serious discussion about the democratic control by the people of capital (money), or how the people should actively determine investment priorities.
      All “capital” results from human labour. Without human labour, capital would simply not exist. Working people produce all wealth; yet they have no control over it, nor have they any say in how it should be spent in the interests of the common good.
      We need a state-owned bank for a number of clear and sensible reasons. Firstly, workers need to remember that all wealth created in society comes from the hands of labour, from workers. All work is skilled: it just depends upon the degree of skill required.
      We produce all wealth; but those who own and benefit from our labour are those who own the means of production and the reproduction of wealth: banks and finance houses.
      Banks, like every other business, together with their top managers, are motivated by one thing and one thing only: profit, and the more of it the better. It doesn’t matter to them how they make profit, or what destruction is caused in the process, as long as they make it, and the shareholders get their yearly dividend and they themselves get fat bonuses.
      But with a state-owned bank that is accountable to the people and responsible for ensuring the common good, investment priorities would be different. It would concentrate capital spending (money) in areas where it is most needed by the people, such as building public housing, proper and socially needed infrastructural projects, such as properly funded public transport, and building the necessary schools and hospitals—not because they are profitable but because they are socially necessary for the building of a decent human environment for us all to live in.
      A state bank could direct capital (money) at local job creation and developing our fishing industry and our other rich natural resources. The present government and past Irish governments have told us we have to hand over all our valuable natural resources to transnational corporations, because we have no money with which to develop them ourselves. With a state bank we would have the money.
      People could move whatever savings they have into a state bank, secure in the knowledge that it is safe, that property speculators, grubby landlords or fly-by-night businesses couldn’t get their hands on it, that it would be safe when the next economic and financial crash comes—as it will.
      The growing housing and property bubble will burst, and the blowback will be even greater than the one caused by the previous burst.
      The trade union movement must block any further sale of the state’s control over AIB. It is essential for democracy, and it is essential for people-centred economic and social development.
      The EU should not decide our fate; instead we need to become masters in our own country, to end the subservience to the EU, to end the domination of big corporate interests.
      We have to look more closely at the power structures that affect and control our lives. Whose interests does the state serve, both at the national and the local level?
      Whose interests do the main parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and the minor establishment parties serve?
      Do they serve working people—the majority—or the vested interests of a minority of wealthy individuals and big business interests?
      No—we need a state bank, democratically owned and run by the people for the people, to ensure investment in the common good and not for the greed of the few.

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