[Book] Ted Grant Writings: Volume Two


The Beveridge Report

A directive to members

By WIL Political Bureau
March 1943

In dealing with the Beveridge Report our comrades must be crystal clear on how to approach the problem. It would be criminal on our part to create the slightest illusion in the minds of the workers regarding Beveridge, and in particular regarding our attitude towards it.

Because of the broad popular support which has been created in the ranks of the workers for the Beveridge Plan as the result of the skilful newspaper propaganda, aided by the workers’ press, and by the illusions created in the minds of the workers as the result of the right wing opposition in Parliament and their refusal to legislate it, our comrades can easily slip into a position of critical support for the Beveridge Plan, and not make our principled position clear. The grave danger is, that as the result of the opposition of big business, the main weight of the discussions in the labour movement will centre around this question, and it is our task to continually strive to bring the discussions back to a principled plane. Even the more advanced workers have some illusions on the “Plan”, and despite their scepticism, are easily confused unless the clear alternative is posed. They regard the Plan as a “lesser evil”.

Our whole perspective of crisis for British imperialism and coming tremendous class struggles, teaches us to place the Beveridge Plan in its correct relationship in the economic and political life of the nation.

In the first place, only the petty capitalists and their reformist allies believe that it can be implemented. The genuinely conscious representatives of big business know better and are scientifically correct, as capitalist economists, in their arguments against the Plan. The Beveridge scheme is utopian and if it were introduced into the Statute Books as the result of a radical upsurge, and even partially operated, it could only be for a short duration when the position of British capitalism would engender crisis and collapse.

Seen in perspective, the Plan is in the nature of a vent for the energy and revolutionary ideas of the workers, and thus acts as a red herring to distract the minds of the workers away from revolutionary socialist measures as the basis of social security.

The following directive is issued in the attempt to establish for our comrades the correct and concrete method of tackling the problem when it comes up for discussion, and to clearly establish our position as against that of the reformists.

1. The Beveridge Plan is a miserable reform with a number of reactionary features.

2. Our general attitude towards the Plan is determined by this characterisation.

3. The weight of our argument is thrown into exposing the Beveridge Plan rather than opposing it.

4. Our task is to explain the limitations of the Plan its reactionary characteristics; the difficulties and indeed, the impossibility of putting it into operation with the best will in the world on the part of the ruling class to explain that in the event of a political crisis that puts Labour into power, or a left coalition pledged to operate the Plan, that the financial guarantees would be undermined by inflation which the big business executives would inevitably introduce.

5. The primary reason for its introduction at this stage is to sidetrack the inevitable revolutionary upsurge of the masses, who will demand radical changes in the social and economic structure of the nation, into the blind alley of reformism.

6. From this flows the necessity to oppose the Labour and trade union leadership who present Beveridge as a panacea for social security after the war, and to counterpose our own demands that Labour break the coalition and fight for power on the basis of our socialist programme. We demonstrate that, by limiting the demands of the workers to Beveridge, the policy of the leadership of the Labour movement is a policy of betrayal. That this policy must inevitably lead to the disillusionment of the mass of the workers and lower middle class and that it must therefore strengthen reaction and lead to fascism in Britain.

7. In the trade union and Labour movement, our attitude towards Beveridge will be determined by the character of the resolution.

If it proposes to endorse the attitude of the National Council of Labour, the TUC, or the Co-op leadership towards the Beveridge scheme, we oppose the resolution and present an amendment demanding that Labour break the coalition and fight for power on a socialist programme as the only basis for social security. We vote against the original resolution in the event of our amendment not being carried, and thus demonstrate our principled opposition to the policy of betrayal.

If the resolution demands the immediate implementing of Beveridge and calls upon the Labour leaders to fight for its immediate and unconditional legislation, we put an amendment as before, and in the event of this falling, we put a second amendment demanding that Labour break the coalition to implement Beveridge, again explaining and emphasising our attitude towards the plan, and pointing out to the workers that if they seriously believe that it will partially solve their problem, then they have no alternative but to take this step. We would explain that without a directive as to how the Beveridge scheme could be implemented, i.e. by breaking with big business and conducting a struggle against it, the resolution was a farce. We would explain that if this was carried out we would give full support to the Labour Party against the reactionaries. But all the time we counterpose our own programme and thus, demonstrate to the workers in their own experience that the Beveridge scheme is incapable of solving the problem of social security, and teach them that the only alternative is the socialist revolution.

If this amendment was carried – to break the truce to implement Beveridge – we would vote for the resolution. But if our amendment fell, we would vote against the original resolution.

8. The question of our attitude in Parliament is not a practical one for us at this stage but it has a certain theoretical value. We would expose the meagreness of the proposed reform and its reactionary features, and explain why it is being introduced at this stage. We would demonstrate the soundness and the correctness of the reactionary opposition’s argument from the capitalists’ point of view as the result of Britain’s position in the world market. We would demonstrate from this that socialism is the only basis for social security. We would expose the reactionary attitude of the parliamentary reformists in accepting this Plan as the basis for social security, and clearly state that this attitude was a betrayal and that they were preparing to conduct a shadow fight with the ruling class around the question of Beveridge, instead of demanding large scale socialist measures as the basis for social security. We would then call upon the Labour leaders in Parliament to break the coalition and fight for power on our programme as the only basis for social security.

Having made our political attitude crystal clear, we would vote for the immediate implementing of the Beveridge scheme with the reformists and against the reactionaries.

9. The difference between our attitude in the working class organisations and in Parliament arises from the class character of the two institutions. In the labour movement there is no question of voting with the reactionaries when we vote against the Beveridge scheme, or the fakers who wish to limit the struggles of the working class to Beveridge. The full weight of our argument would be levelled against the Labour leaders for their policy of betrayal and our principled attitude demonstrated clearly and decisively in what we say; it must be emphasised by our vote which is against all false resolutions on the question. In Parliament our political case is identical, but the emphasis is thrown on the attack against capitalism, because of its hostility towards even this miserable reform and its inability to grant the workers even a minimum measure of social security. From this flows our criticism of the Parliamentary Labour Party for not decisively breaking with the capitalists and calling upon the workers to introduce a Labour government with large scale socialist measures as the only basis for social security and thereby, as the result of their sparring with the capitalists over the question of utopian and miserable reforms, misleading the workers and crippling their class basis of activity. Our vote would go with the reformists against the reactionaries so that our class position and hostility to capitalism would be harmonised with throwing the maximum weight for legislated reforms.