Friday, 4 July 2014

Article: Treatment of Workless Denounced as Cowardly

“More clearly than ever it was now to be seen, Mr Walkden continued, that economic situation lay in Socialist reconstruction and the reorganisation of industry as a public service.

Yet reactionary Governments and reactionary employers continued to resist the plain logic of present day economic conditions.

They had the sorry spectacle at the International Labour Conference at Geneva this summer of Governments and employers fighting to prevent the introduction of a general 40-hour week.

In its treatment of the unemployed, the present Government had gone from bad to worse.

Not content with reducing unemployment benefit and the period for which it was payable, and the imposition of its iniquitous Means Test, the Government had now launched a cowardly and mean attack through the National Health and Contributory Pensions Act 1932.

Under the operation of this measure about 80,000 unemployed workers had already lost their insurance rights, and would shortly lose pension rights as well. It was only too certain that as time went on  the numbers penalised would increase.

In addition there were vast numbers of working people who would lose some part of their insurance benefits because being unemployed, they were running into arrears.

Actuarial considerations ought not to be made the pretext for the penalisation of their unfortunate fellow citizens. In any case, the Churchill Economy Act of 1926 robbed the fund of about £2,750,000 a year - a sum more than enough to preserve the insurance rights of the unemployed.

Touching on the Disarmament Conference, Mr Walkden said that as trade unionists they had watched with growing dismay the slow progress made.

They all would pay their tribute in the work of the President, Mr Arthur Henderson, and would earnestly hope the labours of the Conference would be brought to a conclusion this year by the acceptance of the draft convention placed before it.

But even while the Conference was trying to rid the world of the burden of armaments, the militarist spirit was growing and giving strange manifestations. They marked its emergence with great distrust in the proposals of Lord Trenchard for the reorganisation of the Metropolitan Police.

The war mentality was exhibited by Governments also in their trading policies.

In his concluding passages, Mr Walkden urged that the economic and other evils with which he had dealt were not natural and inevitable. Our civilisation was sinking not through  any visitation of pestilence or famine but through lack of courage, vision and the will to grapple with the problems arising from our very success in organisation of the production of material wealth.”

Daily Herald (United Kingdom) 5 September 1933

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