UBC Theses and Dissertations
The political economy of nationalization : Social Credit and the takeover of the British Columbia Electric Company Tieleman, H. William
The nationalization of the British Columbia Electric Company by the provincial Social Credit government provides a demonstrative example of a provincial state's relative autonomy being exercised in a dynamic situation. The study examines the state's variable degree of autonomy from the ruling class in society and how it is determined by specific economic, political and social circumstances. It is argued that Social Credit, with the support of its own class base — the petit bourgeoisie, nascent regional bourgeoisie, unorganized working class and others — and the backing of the resource capital fraction of the ruling class, nationalized the economic vehicle of the investment capital fraction, the BCE, in order to further economic development in the province. The nationalization, necessary to ensure the dual development of the Columbia and Peace Rivers and therein the opening up of new areas with untapped natural resources for exploitation by resource capital, is an example of how the relative autonomy of a state can be strengthened by the execution of an economic development strategy which has the support of substantial class forces, particularly fractions of the ruling class. The political economy of British Columbia prior to the nationalization is examined, including an analysis of the provincial economy, class structure and political history of the province. The role of the B.C. state in economic development is outlined and the events surrounding the nationalization detailed. The study discusses the, ongoing development of a neo-Marxist theory of the state and uses the concept of the relative autonomy of the state to create a framework for analysing the actions of the provincial state in nationalizing B.C. Electric. In looking at the B.C. Supreme Court case which arose from the nationalization it also examines the important role the judiciary, plays in the state. The study concludes that the mobilization of significant class forces behind a viable economic development strategy is one way in which the relative autonomy of the state can be considerably strengthened. In the particular case of a provincial state in a federal system this increased relative autonomy can give the provincial state great flexibility in reducing the restrictions imposed by the system and the federal state.