What will be the character of the world after this war? Few will want to return to the pre-war world. Most people will have experienced many changes in their normal life even in the present generation. Have a conversation with anyone yon like, ask them if they remember the horse-drawn trams; would they like to return to those days? They would answer No. Yet although many recognise that changes occur, they are rather perplexed as to the future, and what will happen next. At the moment there seem to be two schools of thought, one embodied in the Beveridge plan to unify social insurance and the plan of the Federation of British Industries on Reconstruction, and the other to unify the world or to federate. One is to reconstruct conditions inside the country, the other outside.
In a pamphlet by R. H. Tawney, "Why Britain Fights," he pertinently says, "Nothing does more than insecurity to embitter life for large numbers of our fellow citizens. We have acquiesced with astonishing callousness in the destruction of others by unemployment. When they have saved the nation in the field and the factory, to what are they to return? More of the same kind of thing?"
There is, however, no indication that our rulers can cure unemployment. The capitalist employs a man for the purpose of producing a profit. If he can make no profit, he will not hire the worker, but will fire him, and so the unemployed army is created and will number millions, as our experience has shown us prior to the war.
The Socialist way is to cure unemployment by socialising the machines and factories so that no man can be hired or fired by a capitalist owner, who now is solely concerned with a profit. Under Socialism, there would be no private owner to dictate to labour, and as a corollary there would he no profit. A man would have the right to work and the right to live. There would be no inequality of income, no money required to buy goods, and the wealth produced would be freely consumed by its creators, that is, the entire population.
Our rulers have many conflicting plans to deal with this country after the war, but in the main they visualise a capitalist world, and look to the State to help them financially in their hour of need.
They are keenly concerned to recapture the export markets as may be seen in the Reconstruction report of the Federation of British Industries.
Our masters will reconstruct this country, but will most certainly not introduce Socialism. One cannot expect them to do so, to liquidate their source of privilege and power. Only the workers, conscious of their class, Socialist conscious, could do this. So the question at the moment still remains: To what are they to return? The answer of our rulers is a return to capitalism.
Professor Tawney visualised a super-national authority after the war. He says: "If it has force, i.e., a superior force, war, as we know it to-day, can be stopped. If it has not, war will continue. There is no middle course." This force will be wielded presumably by the victorious allies, U.S.A., Great Britain, the U.S.S.R. and China.
He points out that there were some 16 sovereign states, exclusive of Russia, in 1875, and some 22 in 1914. By 1920, 29 such states were packed into an area smaller than that of the American Union. He asks: Shall we add yet one more suicidal nationalism to those already rampant? He says that the national state was a constructive economic force in the past; when, as to-day, the productive energies have outgrown the limits set by national frontiers, it has become an obstructive force.
It will be interesting to see how this will work out. The world would still be based upon competition, and the struggle for markets must inevitably result in a struggle with armed force among the leading capitalist rival powers. It took only a few years for Germany to re-arm and become a formidable military power. Is it possible to retain capitalism and avoid its consequences in wars, or unemployment for the surplus unemployed army of labour? These are the problems which will confront our rulers after the war.
They are seriously perturbed about the future. In the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "International Conciliation." for April, 1942, one writer frankly says that "Free enterprise could hardly survive a post-war economic collapse, nor could free political institutions either."
So that the world after the war will have grave economic problems for our rulers and the workers are by no means sure of having a better world than the pre-war one.
The contradictions of capitalism which have produced two wars in one generation and mass unemployment, can be remedied, but not by our rulers. The workers alone have the power to change the world, provided they understand and apply the Socialist remedy, i.e., of expropriating the machines and factories from their masters and making them into social property.