Why D-Day and the victory over Nazism must be linked to the welfare state and the NHS


A veteran’s view: Click on the image to read Harry Leslie Smith’s Guardian article.

I was disturbed, this morning, to read that parts of the media were trying to silence people who had created images and sites linking D-Day and its 70th anniversary with the National Health Service – its creation and current problems.

The comment was made by an organisation calling itself The Labour Forum and ran: “D-Day and the NHS have nothing to do with each other. Whatsoever. Any photos trying to link today’s political issues with D-Day are offensive and will be deleted immediately.”

This seems extremely strange to me because, from what I have read, the creation of the NHS and a ‘welfare state’ (the term did not actually enter the Oxford English Dictionary until 1955) were exactly what the soldiers at Normandy were fighting so steadfastly to ensure.

When Britain went to war in September 1939, it was woefully ill-prepared for the task. Our professional army was not a match for Germany’s well-nourished, well-trained and well-equipped war machine (Germany’s welfare state had been ushered in by Otto von Bismarck during the 19th century). Not only that, but the crop of recruits brought in by conscription was a step in the wrong direction, being untrained, in poor health and malnourished after 20 years of Conservative rule.

Yet these were the men who were going to win the war, supported by equally poorly-served women, youngsters, and pensioners on the Home Front.

We know the first few years of the war went badly for Britain. We were forced out of Europe and attempts to create a front in Africa found themselves on uneven ground.

Then came the Beveridge report, Social Insurance and Allied Services. It was written by the Liberal Sir William Beveridge, who had been tasked with carrying out the widest social survey yet undertaken – covering schemes of social insurance and – as stated – allied services.

He went far beyond this remit, instead calling for an end to poverty, disease and unemployment by fighting what he called the five giants on the road to reconstruction – Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness – and claiming to supply the means to do so.

His plan dealt mainly with Want and Disease, proposing a system of social insurance against the interruption and destruction of earning power and a National Health Service for the prevention and cure of disease and disability, and for rehabilitation.

Winston Churchill (who was of course Prime Minister at the time) privately made clear his concern at the “dangerous optimism” created by the report’s proposals. In public, although he could not attend a debate on a Labour motion that – significantly – called for the early implementation of the plan as a test of Parliament’s sincerity, he sent a message saying it was “an essential part of any post-war scheme of national betterment”. But he refused to “tie the hands of future Parliaments” by starting any legislation to bring the plan into effect.

I quote now from The Welfare State, by Pauline Gregg (George S Harrap & Co, 1967): “To refuse its immediate acceptance, to refuse to make public any plan for its immediate post-War implementation, even if not for its implementation then and there, was to the people betrayal… You cannot refuse to welcome a saviour without being suspected of not wishing to be saved – or, at best, of being so blind that you do not know salvation when you see it!”

The social and economic questions that most troubled the electorate in 1944 were housing and jobs – as they should be today. But the wartime coalition broke over arguments about housing, and Churchill’s Conservatives refused to commit to full employment, as demanded by Beveridge. Instead it proposed that “a high and stable level of employment” should be one of its primary responsibilities, with no legislation planned on the grounds that employment could not be created by government alone.

This is why Labour won the 1945 election with such a landslide. The people expected the Tories to betray them when peace was restored, and they could not back Beveridge’s Liberals because they were afraid of half-measures.

And the people – both those who fought as soldiers and those who supported them at home – were determined that their war would mean something; that it would create a better future. They wanted Beveridge’s plan for social security and they absolutely demanded a national health service.

That is why they were prepared to fight so hard, and even die for their cause. Not the continuation of a British government that couldn’t care less about them until it needed cannon fodder – but the creation of a new system, in which every citizen had value and could rely on the support of their fellows.

It was a system that enjoyed success – albeit to varying degrees – right up to the early 1970s when Edward Health tried to replace it with neoliberalism. He failed but he paved the way for Margaret Thatcher, Nicholas Ridley and Keith Joseph to turn Britain into the mess it is today.

And here we sit, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, facing exactly the same issues as our parents and grandparents did back then.

Do we want a National health service? Or are we content to allow a gang of money-worshipping bandits to turn it into a profit machine for their own enrichment while our health returns to pre-1939 conditions? Rickets and tuberculosis have already returned. What next?

Do we want a housing boom for the rich, while the workers and the poor lose the benefits that allowed them to keep a roof over their heads (pay having dropped below the level at which people can cover all their bills without help from the state)?

Do we want a job market that deliberately ensures a large amount of unemployment, in order to keep wages down and ensure that the lower echelons don’t forget that their place is to serve aristocrats like Jacob Rees-Mogg?

Or shall we remember the sacrifices made by our forefathers on D-Day and throughout the war, and demand better?

The choice is yours – and no ‘Labour Forum’ has the right to stop you discussing it.

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  1. Smiling Carcass June 6, 2014 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on SMILING CARCASS'S TWO-PENNETH and commented:
    My father fought in WWII and died in poor health and poverty. His death would have been sooner and his poverty greater without the welfare state.

  2. sdbast June 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  3. A6er June 6, 2014 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.

  4. agewait June 6, 2014 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Thank you for highlighting this issue. I am the creator and apparent antagonist by posting this and another related post on the so called ‘Labour Forum’. I was angered by their actions and told them so (without swearing) – I asked for them to be reinstated, but I was threatened with a ban – So I told the jumped-up, swaggering b*****d just what I thought about him and his tin-pot political correctness, knowing full well I would be banned. I was extremely angry with them for initially removing the posts and angered more by the explanation which was not only inaccurate but extremely patronising. I am not anti-labour, but it does appear to be anti-working class… It is time it realised the people didn’t leave them, they left us…. disengaged chatterers…. and out of touch with the passion people have for the injustices against so many people who have witnessed a blitzkrieg attack upon their NHS and their Social Security system with so many, too many so called labour MPs standing by whilst others cash in on their financial interest in the Private Health sector…. Thanks again – Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere. I feel they should apologise for removing the posts – I don’t expect or wish for a personal apology not after sharing a small section of my anger and disgust with their outrageous tactics. Adrian Wait.

    • Mike Sivier June 6, 2014 at 11:05 pm - Reply

      Was this a Labour Party organisation then? My impression was that it was someone different – mostly because Labour has absolutely no reason to want to disassociate winning the war from the creation of all those wonderful state apparatus that began in the Attlee government. It seems completely out of step.
      Your comment that Labour left the people, rather than the other way around, strikes a topical chord as Ed Miliband has signalled he wants to end that separation.

      • kittysjones June 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm - Reply

        It’s not an official labour party organisation, it’s simply a group for discussion, debate and info sharing, and has accommodated a broad church of ‘lefties’ and a few trolls infiltrate sometimes, too.

        2 of the admins that weren’t involved in this dispute are good friends and one admins on a group with me – I bet – both these two wouldn’t have censored this, so don’t know what happened here. I don’t know the admin who commented though.

        It does seem both out of step, as you say, and out of character of the group. And I am also happy Miliband has signalled a move towards inclusive democracy to address feelings of disenchantment and disenfranchisement,

    • Florence June 7, 2014 at 11:25 am - Reply

      I share your passion and beliefs and personal family history, and can only suggest that the “Labour Forum” is a fifth columnist individual / organisation, of the sort the Blair was the master of.

      We must get rid of these. The best way is to get out there as widely and noisily and as troublesome we can be, to turn the tide, and wash them away. Don’t be put off. the heart and soul of Labour still beats, but we have been deserted through Blair and his Thatcherism. We have to believe, like those in the trenches that the better way is still possible, and can be restored to pre-neocon /neolib greatness.

      The events around the D-Day remembrances have actually stirred us all in a way I found quite unexpected (as a pacifist), and largely thanks to the survivors of the pre & post war years for realising they have to hand on the task of ensuring we are not enslaved by the aristos and their rich wannabe mates again.

      I read today the John Smith, our Labour leader cut down before his time, is buried on Iona – a very special place. One has to wonder what it might have been if he had not been taken so young. Or Robin Cook – the ethical foreign policy. Or many others. Let’s try & create a generation to stand on their shoulders.

  5. Eijnar June 6, 2014 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    I have yet to meet a Labour MP who can explain to me how the British Working Class,you know ,the people they always claim to represent,have been made better off by unrestricted mass immigration.

    Even the most basic knowledge of economics involves the Laws of Supply and Demand.And this forces you to accept that when you increase the SUPPLY of anything then its price falls.Equally if you increase the DEMAND then the price rises.This being the case then mass immigration has caused the wages of the poorest to fall furthest and the price of their housing to rise the most.How EXACTLY did mass immigration make Labour supporters better off when it made them poorer?

    • Mike Sivier June 6, 2014 at 11:30 pm - Reply

      Sounds like a neoliberal New Labour thing to me.
      I could cop out of this by saying the Tories brought us into the EU and signed up to the Freedom of Movement principle (which is part of the package), but I know that some Labour politicians have publicly supported this, and recently.
      Anyone have an answer?

      • Ulysses June 7, 2014 at 10:26 am - Reply

        Broad brush strokes im afraid here, but Immigration brings us business creators, entrepreneurs, as well as the manual labourers who are much maligned as “taking our jobs”.
        Both are tax payers though, benefiting us all by boosting the economy, the entrepreneurs bring us jobs, employment…..

      • kittysjones June 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm - Reply

        Labour are and always have been democratic and inclusive, they won’t pander to the anti-immigration rhetoric and racism of the right. Quite properly so. Miliband is right to address the issue of exploitative employers, and promote the rights of all workers, that is what equality means.

        Human rights apply to everyone, including migrants, otherwise there’s no point in having them. Labour’s Equality Act and Human Rights Act apply to all, and not just disgruntled blue collar workers. Human rights were originally a cooperative international response to the Holocaust, and they are premised on the socialist axiom that every human life has equal worth. Nationalism, Fascism and Conservatism are premised on inequality, a hierarchy of worth and Social Darwinism. http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/when-the-oppressed-are-oppressive-too/

  6. Linda June 7, 2014 at 3:41 am - Reply

    It isn’t about supply and demand any more. The reasons for this are complex.Firstly there is the effect of general increase in affluence, which results in more people being more educated and both they and their parents not wishing to do the harder dirtier manual work their forefathers did. As long as a situation of affluence exists this holds good.

    Another factor is debt, something we know has increased dramatically in both personal terms and for nations. A lot of this debt is about interest, which means it is hard to get rid of.

    increased mechanisation has diminished the role of the worker, so jobs are now scarce. Computers and robots have changed how things are done. And people are increasingly not needed.

    Social practices have not caught up with the above. We could all have less work, more means to support ourselves and generally a pleasanter world, but it means that the richest people won’t be able to keep on doing what they do. They are very resistant and so actually are most people, we don’t like change that much.

    Mass immigration hasn’t done anything directly for the British worker, it has served to hide the fact that change needs to happen. That is why it is not the fault of the incomer, it is the fault of decision makers, or in other terms, policy makers.

    Freedom of movement is not the problem, the problem is we have an 18th century monetary system overlaid with 20th century work practices, and an economic model, that of supply and demand that no longer fits a 21st century world..Not in production, employment, fiscal or human terms. It all needs a re-think, but no-one will do it because they are scared they’ll break the whole machine, and tbh, they are so inept that they probably will. That and losing their voters, of course.

    Which means it will probably have to be effected more organically. By this I mean that things will start to crumble at the edges as people find more and more different ways of bypassing it all and develop solutions that work for them. Its happening, in part, already but if you are talking economics theres still a away to go, because you have to watch it in action to see it how it works. There’s a little rarely mentioned nation called Somaliland which out of necessity had to try something different, I know it worked for a while, I’ll have to look and see how things are going there. Bircoin is the obvious well known experiment. This is my point though, it will involve some failures, a bit like growing stuff in a garden you don’t yet know well, you’ll get a high rate of failures to start with but after a while you start to learn to do things better.

    Work has fundamentally changed, you say supply and demand, our labour does not have the same value, and that is set to get worse. We had a period where many jobs were ‘invented’ to keep things going, today the opposite is happening. The financial bubbles are about that too, derivatives of derivatives, financial products, insurance, are all symptoms of something bigger that needs fixing. They are plugging a boat with a big hole in it, and won’t leave it without taking all their baggage, even though it is wading distance to the shore.

    Against this immigrant workers are taking the flak for the failure to find good solutions. Ideally they would work to help make their own countries better and so would we, not in an insular way, but because the work that will emerge and the new social model it will involve will make it more relevant for people to work in their own localities. If these will not support them, as is the case right now, we will have to accept that change is a necessary part of global existence, there will be plenty of meaningful work to do, but we will not have to work every hour possible to get through. Besides we will need a cross-fertilisation of ideas, because we will be doing things in news and different ways. So migration will happen.

    Right now we are fairly dependent on workers from elsewhere for our existence. Something we are only partly aware of. We produce very little, and are not really aware of how little. So work itself needs to be repurposed and not linked directly to production. Instead we need to recognise that money is a useful concept, it allows ebbs and flows, a movement of resource, that wouldn’t happen otherwise. It could also enable a better world, too, if we will allow it.

    This is not idealism, it is pragmatism.

    • Mike Sivier June 7, 2014 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure of the relevance to D-Day, the welfare state and the NHS but this was such an interesting comment that I’ll be fascinated to read what everyone thinks of it.

    • Florence June 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      I have a few fundamental disagreements, though not to pick a fight!

      Firstly, the supply & demand you speak of – the “old capitalism” is an outmoded concept that the neo-cons hide behind while fleecing us.

      The second is the failure to recognise the stranglehold of the economics of the neocons, for just that, which will impoverish the masses to accumulate wealth, practically just for the sake of the “richer than you” at the top of the pile.

      Thirdly, the old chestnut about mechanisation is just that, it’s just a line that has been used as mood music over the wanton destruction of the manufacturing capability of the UK by Thatcher & followers, as part of the class war and neocon economic policies, leading to the UK being net importers of items that could be made here. The balance of trade is staggeringly negative, and although building houses may get some problems sorted out, will not address that issue. We need a government strategy of industrial policy for support and development of manufacturing here. (How do you mechanise a midwife, architect, builder, baker – clue – we don’t.)

      Immigrant workers are taking the flack because the effects of immigration, admittedly at a gross level a “good thing”, at the sharp end of neocon policies, the working class ARE having a hard time with depression of wages, housing, schools overflowing. It’s a problem we need to have a grown up conversation about as neither sides of the political divide is able or willing to do so. When people are sold the line that “austerity” is the problem, and making the poor poorer the solution (allegedly) then the people most affected will always displace the problem on incomers. It’s more intuitive than looking at the economic policies that treats them as disposable, not real people, and the shortages and problems they face are taken as profit-turning opportunities for the money-gobbling machine that is the neocon economic reality.

      I could go on……….but I guess the short version is – a bit of alternative stuff around the edges isn’t going to address these problems, and we all need to understand the seismic paradigm-shift is needed – like at the end of WWII and the setting up of the Welfare State – to rectify the situation. We need to end the world view we have been sold that neocon or neoliberalism or corporatism are the only models.

  7. beastrabban June 7, 2014 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Mike attacks an organisation calling itself ‘The Labour Forum’ for its attempts to silence those linking D-Day to the creation of the NHS. In fact, Mike is absolutely correct in his statements that the NHS was directly linked to the British experience of World War II and the failure of its malnourished and sickly citizens to withstand effectively the well-nourished and healthy German troops. The Nazi boast was that what little welfare provision the Liberals had introduced into Britain under Lloyd had already been introduced into Germany fifty years before in the 1870s by Bismarck.
    Moreover, the experience of the Blitz also enabled the creation of the NHS because the German bombing campaigns hit rich and poor equally, so it was impossible not to provide the poor with the same medical assistance as their richer compatriots.
    As for the supposed offensiveness of linking the NHS to D-Day and the War, the Labour government certainly did so in its 1946 election campaigns showing servicemen, and urging the public to give them the welfare state and Britain they deserved. Later Maggie used the same tactics. In the 1987 election broadcast, the Conservatives used so much footage of Battle of Britain spitfires zooming around that Punch’s Alan Coren quipped on the News Quiz that the War was won by ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’, and noted the irony that after the War, despite Maggie’s attempt to rewrite history, ‘they all went off and voted Labour’. The Labour Forum’s attempt to isolate D-Day from the defence of the welfare state and NHS is itself ahistorical and propagandistic. They should be ashamed.

  8. Colin M. Taylor June 7, 2014 at 9:09 am - Reply

    I find it particularly galling that Maggie used footage of Spitfires etc when every Tory Government has slashed Defence spending

  9. Nick June 7, 2014 at 10:58 am - Reply

    the UK people remember d-day year on year and rightly so they do not however think of the poor in the welfare system or the NHS until it affects their family then they sing a different tune

    my views are that the NHS and the welfare system are just as important as remembering D-day

    and that’s where the problem lies with the UK’s people and their very selective way of thinking in which they will only remember their own dead and those that fought but will forget all others that struggle in so many ways across the world day in day out

    the government of the day couldn’t care less about d-day we know that on how they treat the weakest in society but have to put on a show for the public’s benefit as if to show they care but as i say there just going through the motions like so many others in society

  10. Methusalada June 7, 2014 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Very clear & effective article Mike. These modern Tory Nazis revel in the grapes of wrath & war ! It’s in their in their bones & psyche caused by selective breeding & private education. 90% of the media & the City of London are controlled by their dragoons . Thank goodness we have the SNP & a few in Wales standing up against them. They are the few ,we the people are the many.

  11. Gordon Powrie June 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Another thing that created the atmosphere that ‘something has to change’ was surely the evacuations from major cities at the start of WW2. It’s fair to say that the ‘middle classes’, then as now, had no conception of how ordinary people lived in places like the East End of London, or Ancoats in Manchester. But when a load of malnourished children, dressed mostly in poor-quality clothes were billeted on them it opened their eyes. THAT’s why there was a consensus for the changes which took place after WW2, and which lasted until Denis Healey’s first budget in 1976.

    • Mike Sivier June 7, 2014 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      What an excellent point! So all we need to do is park a load of disabled ESA claimants in Lord Freud’s mansion.
      I think this may be why they outlawed squatting early in this Parliament.

  12. elizapdushku June 8, 2014 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on elizapdushku's World.

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