1950s >> 1957 >> no-631-march-1957

How well is the “Welfare State”

A number of European countries which have or had Pseudo-Socialist Governments (the kingdoms of Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Holland, or where Labour and Social Democratic Parties are in coalition governments with avowed Capitalist parties as in Austria) are styled “Welfare States.” The term is not used for Russia and her satellites behind the iron curtain; they style themselves Communist but, as the Socialist Party of Great Britain has pointed out ever since the Russian upheaval in 1917 (see summary of articles collected in the pamphlet “Russia since 1917”), Russia with all the basic features of a Capitalist mode of production and with the workers’ lack of understanding Socialism, cannot be a Socialist state. Events have not only proved the correctness of our contention, but revealed the sorry fact that the tyranny which the 1917 upheaval overthrew was replaced by another variety in many respects even more hideous.

If in the course of social development even Capitalism has to be considered as a step in man’s march forward to a classless, moneyless, frontieriess and povertyless society, future generations will nevertheless stand aghast at the gruesomeness of the episodes by which that stage is marked. Cruel as the French Revolution of 1798 was. which, like Russia in 1917, also marked the end of Feudalism and the advent of Capitalism it was almost a parlour affair in comparison with Russia. As if their past orgies of massacres and deportations of millions to forced labour, and as if last year’s Treaty with Austria (after 10 years of military occupation and loot), by which the Russian Government secured, as the price for their withdrawal from this country, such important industrial and territorial concessions, rights of mineral exploitation, control of installations extending over 10 and more years, in addition to a payment of 150 million dollars ransom, had not been enough to show their Capitalist character, we have now to witness the bloody slaughter of Hungarian workers, showing still more glaringly the hideous face of the Russian variety of the Capitalist monster.

Just as Great Britain and France are fighting to regain control of the Suez Canal, Russia is fighting to keep control of Hungary’s factories, rich mines and mineral Springs, chemical industry, Uranium deposits, and of the mass of exploitable cheap Hungarian labour, yielding huge profits with which to finance Russia’s gigantic armament programme. The strategic importance of Hungary is another asset in the Russian scheme of things.

But lest the reader thinks of the Western “Welfare States” as holding the key to peace in the world and to the solution of the social problems, or to be on the road to Socialism, the following should enlighten him.

The “Welfare State” continues the status quo, i.e. the private and State ownership of the means and instruments of wealth production, exploitation of man by man through the wages system, and production of the means of life for sale and profit. The Socialist attitude is uncompromising hostility to Capitalism in all its forms and variations, since Socialists are only interested in, and stand for a fundamental change of the economic basis of society and of the status of the workers of the world.

The reader can judge the conditions in one of the typical “Welfare-States”—Austria—and form his own opinion on the merits of this latest description.

Austria as it really is
Centred as it really is it would not be surprising if the foreign visitor and tourist who comes to Austria, bent on sightseeing and enjoyment during a holiday, learns and sees no more of the country than its scenic beauty of mountains and valleys, forests and lakes, some of its historic monuments, medieval castles and ruins of ancient strongholds, its palaces, monasteries, abbeys with their centuries old libraries and other cultural treasures. Visitors to Vienna may also see the extensive municipal tenement houses, the great building activity, the huge blocks of fiats in process of construction, as for example opposite the Opera House to replace the Henrichshof burned down in 1945 with all its hundreds of luxurious apartments. Close by, huge business premises are arising from the ashes of the de Luxe Hotel Bristol, whilst other luxury hotels on the Ringstrasse which had been occupied by Russian military personnel, are now considered uninhabitable by their international clientele of parasites. Visitors may learn too that only after 10 years of repair work was it possible to reopen last November the two national theatres. The venerable St. Stephen’s Cathedral is still surrounded by scaffolding, and visitors can see right opposite it the plain and not so beautiful new buildings as glaring proof of how near the famous old church itself was to total destruction through bombing and fighting during the war.

Visitors coming for purposes of trade, and Trade Union and other delegations, may, in addition see or be shown over some of the more important industrial enterprises, dams and power stations, social welfare centres and institutions, etc., etc.

Those who had been to Vienna some years before, will be struck by the sight of new and resplendant railway stations. Of the six stations three were bombed out of existence, but out of the ruins of the others there have arisen the new Westbahnhof and the Südost station.

Visitors will note too the shops stocked with commodities of every imaginable kind from the four corners of the earth, and the streets swarming with vehicles of every description, from Cadillacs to Volkswagen.

The average visitor accustomed to judging by appearances cannot but be impressed by what he must consider as evidence of prosperity of the country’, until his attention is drawn to the reverse side of the medal. It is indeed when one looks beneath the surface of things and enquires under what conditions the people live and do all this work and operate all these services, that to talk of welfare and prosperity is not only a very superficial description but utterly untrue as far as the lot of the mass of the people is concerned.

It cannot be denied that there is prosperity—in some quarters. There are about 600 Austrians who state their taxable annual income to be more than one million schillings which even at only one million works out at 3,000 Austrian schillings per DAY, but 47 per cent. of the social insured persons have to exist on an income that does not rise above S1,100 per MONTH (about £15), whilst tens of thousands have no more than a few hundred schillings for a whole month to live on.

Among the prosperous ones are also the managers and administrators of the State, the Welfare-State—its Presidents, Ministers, State-Secretaries, Professional Politicians, the President and functionaries of the Federation of Trade Unions, the Directors of the Banks including the Workers Bank, of the Mineral Oil Administration (nine directors chosen from the “Socialist” Party of Austria and 11 from the Volkspartei), the Directors of the National Bank (four from each of the parties), and the rest of the managers of the foul exploiting system of Capitalism, which for all these leaders of the two big political parties is indeed a veritable “welfare state.”

While business is booming and bringing millions of extra profits to shareholders of the industrial enterprises like the Steyr-Daimler-Puch-Werke, the Voest, the Veitscher Magnesit, the Alpine Montan A.G., the Socony Vacuum Petroleum Co., the Fiat, Elin, Böhler, and the others, the workers of practically every industry have been forced to strike or threaten to strike within the last 12 month, starting with the municipal tramwaymen early in the year. One of the last industries to follow in the series were the bakers who, after a week’s strike, succeeded in getting their wages increased by a miserable few shillings, whilst the bosses are now making extra profits to the tune of more than 40 million S per year out of the promptly raised prices of all bread products. The civil servants who, before the election in May, had been promised wage adjustments, could only enforce them by the threat of a strike.

The fact alone that the wealth-producers are forced to constantly fight, threaten and eventually resort, to strikes to prevent their standard of living, low as it is, from sinking still deeper, and that they can be locked out and victimized for propagating and taking protective action, should long have taught them and roused them to a realisation that they are a downtrodden and humiliated class. Here is concrete evidence that the “Welfare State” has not altered their degrading position.

To begin with, in order to live at all, a property-less person—and they are 90 per cent. of the people—must have a job with some property-owner, an employer. Since the workers have not even the right to work, they find themselves thrown upon the labour market, reduced to begging the chance to work, degraded to the level of a mere commodity like chalk or cheese, exposed to all the insecurity and the general vicissitudes of a market, and, when employed, they are robbed through the wages system. If the word “robbed” is considered to be an exaggeration or an unscientific term, the question must be asked and answered: Since value and wealth is produced ONLY by the application of human labour power to nature-given material, where does the accumulated wraith, and where do the profits come from, if not from the unpaid labour of the workers? And why does the working-class, in spite of all their labour and 100 years of the most astounding technical progress, remain poor?

Winter Unemployment reaches 100,000
“It is incorrect,” said the Austrian Sozialminister Proksch “to speak of full employment in this country. We have no full employment as long as we have the problem of unemployment in winter.” Whilst unemployment is highest in winter, the figures for. the other seasons are invariably around the 100,000 mark. So that the constant talk by the rest of die politicians and the Arbeiter Zeitung that there is full employment, is not only incorrect, but downright deceiving humbug, especially when it is well known that considerable parts of the country have been “depressed areas’’ for years. In Berndorf where the Austrian Krupp Works before the war employed some 5,000 workers in the production of high-class metal goods, but are now practically at a standstill, all hopes of the building up of a new industry have been dashed, just as there is now bitter disappointment in other parts where the signing of the State Treaty in May, 1955, had been expected to bring relief. “If help is not soon forthcoming, the situation will become catastrophic,” declared the report after the conference of the Socialist Party of Austria. Most of the workers there have been on the dole for years. All the other towns in the area, the largest of which is Neustadt, are sending appeal after appeal to the Government in Vienna for help in their appalling plight. “Ominously looms over the town the question what is to be done when, in a few years, the reconstruction work has been completed?” Thus the Labour politicians and the Arbeiter-Zeitung, who are always telling the workers of “our” oil, “our” iron, and “our” magnesit. and who refer to “our” nationalized industries as being the property of the people, clearly admit this talk to be so many lies and so much humbug. For, if the workers owned these things, or even a fraction of the country’s wealth produced by them (and by them alone), there could not arise such a problem as “what is to become of the workers when the work has been completed.” It can arise only where the mass of the people, the working-class, are IN this society, but not OF it, where they are just so many hands to do the work and make Profit for those who DO own the land and the factories and the means of transport, and do it all for just the bare necessities of life and to pro-create their kind, In other words where the name worker is synonimous with poor. It would seem that catastrophes such as earthquakes, tornadoes and wars bringing destruction and devastation, are welcomed by the workers since they provide work—reconstruction work—and make for full employment, which is all the Labour politicians seem to be concerned with in the Welfare State.

Imagine also the incongruity of the Minister for nationalized industries, i.e. for the industries that have become the “property of the people,” sending out circulars appealing to the managers of those industries to do their utmost to “provide jobs for workers old and infirm who are hit by misfortune of physical disabilities or unemployment.” In other words: here are people said to be the owners of the chief industries in this “one of the richest countries in Europe,” living nevertheless in dire poverty, still compelled to go, cap in hand, humbly begging the chance of a job—in their own industry! You might well ask: How come that—as even the Arbeiter-Zeitung has to confess—“if in a working-class family husband and wife do not both earn, there is hardly enough money for the most necessary things, and if there is a child, the purchase of a suit or even a pair of shoes is a problem.”

R.

(To be continued.)

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