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Sylvia Merrill

Our Plan Is Simple: Socialism!

Measure It Against Their Plans

(April 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 17, 26 April 1943, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The planners are having a hey-day. Everyone has devised a means by which the world can be saved and social security assured the working class. It is not an accident that the air is so full of schemes to give the working class a few crumbs.

War stirs the social consciousness of all people. Men and women both at home and in the battlefield, are asked to, and do, make supreme sacrifices. They naturally ask themselves some questions like: What am I going to get out of all this misery? Will we have one war after the other? Isn’t there some way we can end all of this? After the war – what?

This is very dangerous for the capitalist system. A few crumbs must therefore be given to the workers. The capitalist gives the workers a little unemployment insurance – but he feels he is REALLY getting “cheap insurance against red revolution.” (PM). That was the sentiment of the British industrialists toward the Beveridge Plan – “cheap insurance against red revolution.”

While the plan caused much discussion in the ranks of the working class, and twice as much hurrahing among the liberals, the head of the British government, Churchill, made no comment on it. When Churchill finally did make a speech about his “plan,” he did not mention the Beveridge Plan, but submitted instead what can only be described as a stall.

Roosevelt’s “cradle to the grave” plan was heralded in huge headlines in December. But in March when it finally saw the light of day there was much consternation among the liberals. It didn’t even go as far the Beveridge Plan.

A Model for Future Insecurity?

Now what does the famous Beveridge Plan propose? Remember that it is the plan that has become the “model” for the future security of the working class.

It is extremely important that we read and re-read this statement of the Beveridge Plan: “It is, first and foremost, a plan of insurance – of giving in return for contributions benefits up to SUBSISTENCE LEVEL ...” In clear, simple language, this means that the worker insured under the plan will pay eighty-five cents a week to be insured, the state insurance fund will pay fifty-two cents a week and the boss sixty-five cents. In other words, the burden of insurance will be borne by those least able to pay, the persons to be insured. Beveridge himself says that “one of the fundamental things in my scheme is the large contribution from the insured persons.”

The plan, further insures you no more than a SUBSISTENCE LEVEL. We are asked to fight and die for a better world, and the better world they promise is only enough to keep body and soul together. We can all remember from relief days that subsistence level can mean a lot of different things to different people. We remember when “food experts” used to eat: lunches prepared at the cost of a few cents, proclaim them good and nourishing and proof that relief clients could live on thirty-two cents a day. I guess that was subsistence level if you had a good dinner to go home to. So the war will be over and instead of PLENTY we will once again have “subsistence levels.”

The Beveridge Plan is supposed to take care of you from the cradle to the grave. Upon examination of the concrete proposals one notes that there is a provision for a “childbirth grant” and a “burial grant.” The only fallacy is that between the time you are born and die, you are going to have a rather difficult time grubbing along on the Beveridge Plan.

You will get free medical and hospital treatment under the Beveridge Plant. But the fact that the conservative medical profession has declared itself against socialized .medicine, and all public hospitals have never had the necessary facilities to care for the sick, isn’t answered by any specific proposals in the plan. This is a typical example of capitalist planning.

Beveridge Himself Admits Plan Is No Good

It is impossible to discuss every phase of the Beveridge Plan here, as space does not permit it. Besides which, it would, in our opinion, be a useless task, since the whole plan is based on an economy of scarcity in a society where the basis for PLENTY exists. If once we understand that it is possible for society to provide health insurance commensurate with the needs of the patient, and in line with a standard of living that is based on how much is necessary to maintain good, healthful living, and not on how little you can get by on, it becomes meaningless to discuss an increase of $3.60 a week in unemployment insurance such as the Beveridge Plan provides. The problem is not how to provide unemployment insurance – but how to wipe out unemployment!

The impracticability of the whole plan is stated by Beveridge himself:

If we have mass unemployment we may not be able to carry out the proposals in my report. We may give people money, but there won’t be goods for them, and thus there will be poverty. I don’t know how we shall continue productive employment after the war. When people say we cannot abolish unemployment, I say we have abolished it twice in my lifetime – during the last war and in this war. I simply won’t believe it is impossible to abolish mass unemployment, yet I do not know how it is to be done and do not even know whether anyone else does.”

Do we need a more lucid statement of the bankruptcy of capitalism? Do we need a clearer statement of the worthlessness of a plan than the opinion of its author? He declares that the fundamental premise upon which the plan is built – no mass unemployment – cannot be achieved, unless it is during war. And what is more, he admits neither he nor anyone else knows how to abolish unemployment.

We Socialists Have a Workable Plan

It is quite true. Capitalism does not know how to abolish unemployment – BUT WE SOCIALISTS DO! If capitalism, with its system of production for profit – its system of international rivalry for domination of foreign territories and trade, which produces one war after another – if capitalist, which keeps millions subjugated and exploited, whether it be by its wage system, or its outright suppression of colonial peoples. – if this system cannot give peace and plenty to its people, socialism will.

Socialism means production for use and not for profit. Socialism means internationalism. It means that one working class is not pitted against the others in wars, It means that one working man is not pitted against the other in the fight for a job. It means that one working class is not cutting the throat of the other by producing at lower wages than the other. The criteria for production under socialism would be – how much is needed? Some people will argue that it can’t work, it’s a utopia. We can only answer that capitalism has demonstrated that IT can’t work. A society organized on the basis of production for use would have more of a chance of working than our present economic system.

Capitalist Plan Runs Afoul of Capitalism

Not only Beveridge has condemned his own plan. Without understanding that they are giving away the basic fallacy of the Beveridge Plan, the liberal and conservative press writes that it “solves no fundamental economic problems, such as the cyclical mass unemployment that swept the industrial World in 1929 ...” (The newspaper PM)

Time magazine pointed out that “contrary to general pre-publication expectation, there was not a revolutionary idea in the whole report.”

And the conservative British weekly, The Economist, understood that the Beveridge Plan was going to change nothing essential when it said that this was “a plan for the security of incomes up to a minimum level ... based upon existing schemes and existing methods.”

Let us not be taken in by all of these plans now floating around. In actuality there is nothing new about them. If you go to a library and look on the shelves for books on post-war plans, you will find hundreds of them. If you open them you will see that they are not dated 1942 or 1943, but 1917, 1918, 1919 and so on up to the present war.

The thing to observe is that none of these people have been able to devise any kind of plan to solve the basic ills of capitalism. They all seek to do the impossible: make capitalism work. Two world wars in twenty-five years, untold misery, poverty and unemployment are the living facts that prove that capitalism doesn’t work – not for the working class, anyway.

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Last updated: 23 May 2015