Nationalization (or nationalisation) is the process of transforming private assets into public assets by bringing them under the public ownership of a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets or assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being transferred to the state. The opposites of nationalization are privatization and demutualization. When previously nationalized assets are privatized and subsequently returned to public ownership at a later stage, they are said to have undergone renationalization. Industries that are usually subject to nationalization include transport, communications, energy, banking, and natural resources.
Nationalization may occur with or without compensation to the former owners. Nationalization is distinguished from property redistribution in that the government retains control of nationalized property. Some nationalizations take place when a government seizes property acquired illegally. For example, in 1945 the French government seized the car-makers Renault because its owners had collaborated with the Nazi occupiers of France.
Nationalization is to be distinguished from "socialization", which refers to the process of restructuring the economic framework, organizational structure, and institutions of an economy on a socialist basis. By contrast, nationalization does not necessarily imply social ownership and the restructuring of the economic system. By itself, nationalization has nothing to do with socialism, having been historically carried out for various different purposes under a wide variety of different political systems and economic systems. However, nationalization is, in most cases, opposed by laissez faire capitalists as it is perceived as excessive government interference in, and control of, economic affairs of individual citizens.
Since nationalized industries are state owned, the government is responsible for meeting any debts. The nationalized industries do not normally borrow from the domestic market other than for short-term borrowing. If they are profitable, the profit is often used to finance other state services, such as social programs and government research, which can help lower the tax burden.
The traditional Western stance on compensation was expressed by United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull during the Mexican nationalization of the petroleum industry in 1938, saying that compensation should be "prompt, effective and adequate". According to this view, the nationalizing state is obligated under international law to pay the deprived party the full value of the property taken.
In 1962, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 1803, "Permanent Sovereignty over National Resources", which states that in the event of nationalization, the owner "shall be paid appropriate compensation in accordance with international law". In doing so, the UN rejected the traditional Calvo-doctrinal view and the Communist view. The term "appropriate compensation" represents a compromise between the traditional views, taking into account the need of developing countries to pursue reform, even without the ability to pay full compensation, and the Western concern for the protection of private property.
In the United States, the Fifth Amendment requires just compensation if private property is taken for public use.
Nationalization was one of the major mechanisms advocated by reformist socialists and social democrats for gradually transitioning to socialism. In this context, the goals of nationalization were to dispossess large capitalists, redirect the profits of industry to the public purse, and establish some form of workers' self-management as a precursor to the establishment of a socialist economic system.
In the United Kingdom after the Second World War, nationalization gained support by the Labour party and some social democratic parties throughout Europe. Although sometimes undertaken as part of a strategy to build socialism, more commonly nationalization was also undertaken and used to protect and develop industries perceived as being vital to the nation's competitiveness (such as aerospace and shipbuilding), or to protect jobs in certain industries.
A re-nationalization occurs when state-owned assets are privatized and later nationalized again, often when a different political party or faction is in power. A re-nationalization process may also be called "reverse privatization". Nationalization has been used to refer to either direct state-ownership and management of an enterprise or to a government acquiring a large controlling share of a publicly listed corporation.
In 1972 the Chilean government acquired control of the major foreign-owned section of the Chilean copper mining industry. The process, commonly described as the Chilenización del cobre, started under the government of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, and culminated during the government of President Salvador Allende, who completed the nationalization.
Granahorrar Bank was a bank based in Colombia (1972- 1998). When it was open, it was part of a business conglomerate called Grupo Grancolombiano. The conglomerate also owned Banco de Colombia (Bancolombia), which is Colombia's largest bank. In 1982, the conglomerate underwent a period of crisis. Consequently, the Colombian government nationalized Granahorrar Bank; effectively, the government took over the bank by force from its private owners.
The railways were nationalized after World War I. Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company is owned by the Federal Republic. In 2008, it was agreed to "float" a portion of the business, meaning an end to the 100% share the German Federal Republic had in it, with a plan that 25% of the overall share would be sold to the private sector . However the onset of the financial crisis of 2007–08 saw this cancelled.
In 1982, President José López Portillo started the nationalization of the Mexican banking system, in response to the debt crisis. Under the Carlos Salinas de Gortari presidency (1988–1994) the nationalized banks were privatized very rapidly between 1991 and 1992 to Mexican family groups privatized.
Since 2007, the government of Hugo Chávez started the nationalization of different companies. It started with the world’s biggest oil companies (May 1, 2007). On April 3, 2008, Chávez ordered the nationalization of cement industry and on April 9, the nationalization of Venezuelan steel mill, among other industries such as cement and rice processing and packaging plants.    
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At the heart of its vision has been social or common ownership of the means of production. Common ownership and democratic control of these was far more central to the thought of the early socialists than state control or nationalization, which developed later...Nationalization in itself has nothing particularly to do with socialism and has existed under non-socialist and anti-socialist regimes. Kautsky in 1891 pointed out that a ‘co-operative commonwealth’ could not be the result of the ‘general nationalization of all industries’ unless there was a change in ‘the character of the state’.
- The Economics of Feasible Socialism Revisited, by Nove, Alexander. 1991. (P.176): "Nationalisation arouses no enthusiasm, in the minds of most socialists and anti-socialists. It would probably be agreed that hopes which reposed on nationalisation have been disappointed. Conservatives hold that this is due to defects inherent in nationalisation, that private enterprise based on private ownership is inherently superior. (Mrs Thatcher’s government tried to ensure that this was so by preventing essential investments and ordering the nationalized industries to sell off their more successful undertakings.)...The original notion was that nationalization would achieve three objectives. One was to dispossess the big capitalists. The second was to divert the profits from private appropriation to the public purse. Thirdly, the nationalized sector would serve the public good rather than try to make private profits...To these objectives some (but not all) would add some sort of workers' control, the accountability of management to employees."
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- "Venezuela to nationalize steelmaker Sidor: union". Reuters. April 9, 2008.
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