The period from the end of the Second World War to the beginning of the 1970s was one of more-or-less full employment, constantly rising real incomes, a comprehensive welfare state, free education to the age of 21 or 22, shrinking social inequality and expanding democratic liberties.
It is now clear that this was an aberration in the development of British capitalism.
Workers and their families had known nothing like it before - and will know nothing like it again unless they are prepared to fight for it.
That post-war society was based on unprecedented state involvement in the economy. Both Labour and Tory governments took on the responsibility to direct economic policy towards social as well as economic objectives.
Above all, it was the nationalisation of between one-fifth and a quarter of the economy that proved decisive in rebuilding British industry and the utilities. This was the basis on which the welfare state, free and universal education, council housing and other social provision became possible.
Although many socialists intended public ownership to lead to a fully socialist society, it actually rescued British capitalism after decades of mismanagement, greed and underinvestment.
Today, in the post-2007 financial crisis, a new generation is learning afresh that capitalism is neither willing nor able to provide, permanently, the essentials of a fair, decent and civilised society.
Furthermore the drive for maximum profit and the anarchy of monopoly-dominated markets stand in the way of solving humanity's most fundamental problems in the 21st century.
We need nutritious food, clean water, sustainable energy, education, dignity in retirement and peace for all.
Only by planning the production, deployment and distribution of the earth's human and material resources will our society make significant progress towards these goals.
Planning is not possible without control, and control is not secure without ownership.
In Britain, what is needed next time around is progressive, democratic nationalisation rather than capitalist nationalisation.
It would, for example, recognise that other, more efficient and participative models of management are possible. The 1945-51 Labour government imposed the model of the London Passenger Transport Board on the coal, rail and steel industries.
This was a top-down system of decision-making and administration, headed by a board of government appointees. While the boards usually had a token trade union member or two, they were dominated by ministerial appointees from the private sector, civil service and academia.
Joint consultative committees with employees proved inadequate as a means of determining or influencing management policies.
That workers have the ability to participate effectively in economic decision-making has been proved many times over.
Much experience has been accumulated in the co-operative movement in Britain and throughout whole communities such as the Mondragon federation in the Spanish Basque country.
Workers ran the "self-management" system in post-war Yugoslavia, albeit within a flawed "market socialism."
Workers in Britain's armaments industry drew up detailed plans in the 1970s and '80s to turn their skills, machines and technology to socially useful products.
Miners successfully ran Tower Colliery in south Wales, raising capital, planning investment and finding markets for the remaining coal reserves.
Consequently some on the left have always argued for "workers' control" of industry as the only worthwhile alternative to centralised, bureaucratic control. But while the workers in every enterprise have the most direct stake because their livelihoods rely upon it, the whole of society depends upon such vital services as water and electricity.
Yet workers often know more than the managers about their work, their product, their company's potential and their industry - and certainly more than owners who might be US venture capitalists, Arab oil sheikhs, Russian gangster-oligarchs or British hot-air balloonists.
Thus workers and their unions should play a substantial role in decision-making at every level, but alongside other representatives.
In strategic sectors and enterprises, participation would have to take place within a policy framework decided by elected governments at British, Scottish, Welsh and regional levels, in consultation with consumers, users, suppliers, local government and other agencies.
Nor are centralised, state-owned corporations the only type of public ownership.
Municipal enterprise has provided thousands of working-class communities with sports and leisure centres which, initially at least, would never have been profitable enough to attract private enterprise.
Without local authority sponsorship, many regional airports would never have got off the ground.
Now, after enforced privatisation, they are being slowly strangled by the big monopoly operators.
Whatever the decision-making structures a new wave of public ownership will need a new type of manager or administrator.
Wider knowledge and experience are important but public ownership will also need educational programmes that impart the ethics of public enterprise, public service, social justice and social and environmental responsibility.
Another lesson is that public ownership must be both more vertical and more horizontal.
It should include the largest suppliers and contractors within a sector to stop the profiteering that blighted the coal and steel industries.
It should extend across the whole of the sector, so that provision, planning and investment can be co-ordinated.
The competition between oil, gas and electricity and their monopolies is wasteful and short-sighted. It produces shortages and gluts while neglecting vital, immediate and longer term concerns such as energy conservation, global warming and climate change.
Likewise in public transport - where nationalisation will make possible an integrated transport system, operating in accord with social, energy and environmental objectives.
For decades the transfer of freight from road to rail was frustrated by the imposition of narrow profit-and-loss criteria, divided and sectional management and by the partial nationalisations and denationalisations of road haulage.
Much of the case for public ownership of energy and transport also applies to other important sectors.
Instead of growing fat on public-sector contracts the construction monopolies should be taken into different forms of social ownership, including municipal and co-operative enterprise.
The pharmaceutical monopolies make substantial profits from selling drugs to the NHS for about £14 billion a year.
Public money trains the "big pharma" scientists and technicians - so why not nationalise the fruits of their labour and make them available at reasonable cost, not least to the world's poorest peoples?
The armaments industry is a cesspit of corruption, double-dealing and sinister intrigue.
The likes of BAE Systems make their profits from lucrative contracts at home and state-backed arms sales to repressive regimes abroad.
Only progressive public ownership can clean out these Augean stables and facilitate partial conversion to civilian production that protects jobs.
To be effective, planning within the newly nationalised sectors will have to be integrated into a national process. Avoiding the failures of past Labour governments will require more and progressive nationalisation, not less, including of the finance sector.
Since 2007 only state intervention on a mammoth scale has prevented the total collapse of capitalism across much of the developed world.
In Britain alone, the Treasury and Bank of England have pledged at least £1.4bn in different kinds of assistance to the financial institutions and markets.
This has included the capitalist nationalisation of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Northern Rock and £325bn spent in "quantitative easing" to keep the money and other financial markets afloat. Total business investment in the British economy last year was £116bn.
The whole financial sector should be nationalised and non-productive, anti-social speculation and profiteering abolished. Savings, pensions and investment funds could then be managed responsibly, guaranteed by the state and directed into public and private enterprise, new housing, energy and transport infrastructure and the environment.
Of course, nationalisation will cost money, although not on the scale of the post-2007 bailouts. On the railways and buses, the option exists to allow time-limited franchises to lapse.
Some compensation should be paid, notably to pension funds and small investors. But there are ways in which this might be minimised where desirable.
Past state loans and future financial assistance could also be converted into shares. In some sectors, only one or two leading companies may need to be acquired.
There would be massive resistance to some if not all of the nationalisations, featuring legal as well as political action.
European Union treaties and institutions might be used to block or frustrate public ownership. EU laws and directives could be invoked to try to stop public enterprises from operating in accordance with society's social and environmental objectives.
A new drive for public ownership will have to take place, therefore, as part of a wider economic and political strategy that challenges state-monopoly capitalism.
Putting the case for democratic nationalisation now, though, will help to build the strong, self-confident and politically conscious labour movement that will adopt and fight for such a strategy as a stage in the struggle for a socialist society.
Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain
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