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50 Years Ago: The Welfare State

All the major political parties applaud the Welfare State. They vied with each other, during the election campaign, to claim credit for bringing it into existence. The Conservatives made the most of the fact that the government which set up the commission to inquire into the problem of reorganising the social services was a coalition Government predominantly Tory. The Liberals claimed their share of the glory because Sir William Beveridge, who gave his name to the report, was chairman of the Commission, and a Liberal. To the Labour Government was left the triumph of passing the legislation.

The truth about it all was that the so-called "Welfare State" arose not through the good will of any political party but because of the need to adapt the social services to the changing conditions of capitalism. The need to allay any possible working class discontent after the war. Of course, it was a benefit to the health of the working class. That was another reason. To take advantage of post-war conditions and capture as many foreign markets as possible it was necessary to increase production. To do this a healthy efficient working class was needed (. . .)

The socialist view is that the Welfare State won't abolish the poverty problem which confronts the working class but is just the best method the capitalist class have devised to distribute wages from the point of view of efficiency.

(From an article by J.T., Socialist Standard, June 1950)