20 MARCH 1942, Page 3


MUCH of the old world is crumbling before our eyes, and vaster military efforts will have to be made before we can oegin to roll back the tide of invasion ; yet few today will think it arrogant to begin preparing our post-war social order. The war effort itself is conditioned by the enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm with which men look forward to the future; and the transition from war to peace will be scarcely less disastrous than the war itself unless its difficulties have been anticipated and plans laid. Statesmanship, it is true, will not at this stage attempt to recast the map of the world or define the role which this or that Power will assume' in it. But equally it cannot shrink from the task of preparing certain measures which will have to be taken instantly, if they are to be effective, when peace comes—obvious measures regarding the partial demobilisation of the forces, the setting of ex-service- men to work, the switching over of industry from war to peace production, the rebuilding of town and country, the re- settlement of evacuees, the disposal of shipping for the transport of food to Britain and to Europe, and the continued control or decontrol of food and other articles. These are only a few of the essential tasks which will have to be undertaken the moment peace comes if confusion is to be avoided. The pre- parations must be complete beforehand.

But that is not enough. Such emergency measures them- selves will have far-reaching consequences, and if these con- sequences are to be what we desire, the immediate programme must be part of a larger programme based upon a well thought-out social policy. That was recognised when Mr. Greenwood, as Minister without Portfolio, was charged with the duty of studying the largest issues of Reconstruction, and Lord Reith, as Minister of Works and Buildings, was appointed to deal with special " physical " aspects of the problem. Their mantles have fallen respectively upon Sir William Jowitt, though the office he holds is that of Paymaster-General, and he is not a member of the War Cabinet, and on Lord Portal, whose department is to become the Ministry of Works and Planning. We have heard more of the Ministry of Works and Buildings than of the larger plans with which Mr. Greenwood was concerned. That was natural enough, since for the former there was work crying out to be done in connexion with buildings demolished and plans for rebuilding. Moreover, it is a matter of general agreement not only that rebuilding will be an immediate necessity after the war, but that planning must be on a national scale. The Uthwatt Committee has given its authority to a view already held by all experts who have studied these matters—that there must be a central authority to plan the ,development of town and country throughout Great Britain, providing the master-scheme in accordance with which local and regional authorities are to work. Schemes for the construction of houses, roads, factories, parks, and the reservation and preservation of agricultural land and beautiful open spaces—all these, matters concerning the " physical " shape of Britain, have to be prepared in accordance with a unified plan. For that the course is being shaped by the setting up of the Ministry of Works and Planning. In that sphere " planning " for the future has been accepted as the keyword. But it will be in the void unless it is itself subject to a still more comprehensive plan—that of the social structure of the post-war Britain. And that should be a matter not of aspirations only, nor of piecemeal measures of reform, but of national policy. No one imagines that at the end of the war this country can simply pick up the threads of its old life, and return to 1939. No one will be content to have come though the tribulations of a war to save democracy and return to the old muddle of chronic unemployment, of persistent poverty even among the employed, of blatant inequalities of educational opportunity and in respect of entry to the professions, social security and the minimum amenities of life. The scandal of profiteering will not again be tolerated. The land, restored through the exigencies of war to greater productiveness, will have to be kept in production. The depressed areas, long left derelict through the unplanned location of new factories, cannot be allowed to return to their depression. Alternating periods of trade boom and slump, of which the working-classes were the first victims, will have to be avoided by planned importation of materials, production and distribution. If these great problems are not thought out in advance and an adequate policy adopted to deal with them then it is certain that we cannot avoid an evil as great as the war—that of social revolution. There can be no standing still now. Advantage must be taken of existing goodwill, of the readiness of all parties to work generously together, so that the National Government or its successors can pursue an agreed policy for the transition to a better social order.

Already one valuable contribution has been made by the Executive Committee of the Labour Party, in its interim report " The Old World and the New Society." This is a document of studied moderation, whose authors are not pressing for any measures on party grounds, and hope to discover institutions which may be adopted by consent. If it is objected that they beg the question by demanding rapid socialisation in each country of the main instruments of production, the answer may well be that we should examine the nature of the particular measures they advocate, and not prejudge the issue by a word. It is well to discover how much there is in this programme that all men of goodwill, of all parties, could agree upon.

There is a surprising amount. The Atlantic Charter itself makes it perfectly clear that there can be no return to what this report calls " the unplanned competitive world of the inter-war years." Surely also common sense demands that when peace comes the main war-time controls in industry and agriculture should for a time be maintained to avoid a scramble for profits pending reconstruction. All should be able to agree about generous provision for workers and their families awaiting reabsorption into industry ; the rapid transfer of labour and materials to peace-time requirements ; and the immediate raising of the school-leaving age. If we can agree upon work- able schemes for dealing with such problems as unemploy- ment, housing, education, health and nutrition services, social security, and equality of opportunity, then we have a common platform for working upon. The demand for the rapid social- isation of the main instruments of production may not turn out to be nearly as formidable as some Conservatives suppose. Already war-time necessities have taken us a long way, and there are few who suppose that control of industry can be suddenly taken off and give place to unlimited competition. The universal demand for a scientific planned national economy presupposes control, and the Labour Party itself keeps an open mind about the " most suitable form of control and manage- ment." Many of us will look forward to a great increase Of public concerns such as the London Passenger Transport Board, which combine many of the advantages of private enterprise with public ownership. But uniformity is by no means necessarily the ideal. The supreme essential is a national plan, based upon sound economics, in conformity with the democratic ideals of social justice.

How, it will be asked, can a single Minister in a war Govern- ment address himself to so vast a task ? His first concern will probably be to collect the programmes of all existing political parties, and also of representative or expert bodies not con- nected with parties, and to extract from these the greatest common measure of agreement. There is undoubtedly a very large number of far-reaching measures to which general assent could be obtained—though it would be disastrous to make the programme of reform too small by allowing every small minority to interpose a negative. No scheme will be a success which does not satisfy the genuine needs of Labour. When a general outline of agreed policy has been determined, then begins the work of the experts. The national scheme of reconstruction will ultimately have to be reconciled with an international scheme, and that, in its turn, will have to be worked out in conjunction with America, Russia and all other countries willing to co-operate. It is a formidable task, and the time available before the end of the war will not be too long. Sir William Jowitt will require all the assistance he can get.