As we were saying: British Trotskyists and the beginnings of the welfare state in the 1940's

Submitted by Matthew on 19 January, 2010 - 6:39

For fifteen years now, the Tories have been chopping away at the Welfare State constructed after 1945 on the basis of the 1942 Beveridge report. Back in 1942, the Marxists of the Workers’ International League [WIL] were already pointing out that any capitalist Welfare State would be unviable, likely to break down with mass unemployment. A WIL circular of 31 December 1942 called on WIL members to put the following motion to their trade union branches.

"This branch… condemns the National Council of Labour for its acceptance of the Beveridge plan. These proposals leave the whole root of the problem — the private ownership of the means of production — untouched; the scheme is unworkable in the event of mass unemployment; the scales of payment are totally inadequate; and the whole cost is to be borne by the workers.

Social Security, now and in the post-war era, can only be guaranteed under a socialist system of society, whereas the Beveridge proposals presuppose the continuance of the capitalist system, and it is clearly stated that the wealth and privilege of the ruling class are to remain untouched.

As a first step towards providing social security for the workers, we demand that the Labour Party and Trade Union leaders wage a campaign not for the Beveridge scheme, but for the following demands

1) A guaranteed minimum wage determined by the trade unions to provide an adequate standard of living

2) A sliding scale of wages to offset the cost of living

3) A sliding scale of hours to absorb the unemployed

4) Work or full maintenance

5) Adequate compensation for the sick and old-aged

6) The nationalisation of the basic industries without compensation and their operation under workers’ control."

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