Orders of the Day — Budget Proposals and Economic Survey

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th April 1948.

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Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley 12:00 am, 13th April 1948

It is clear that this island cannot be self-supporting in the narrow sense. It cannot, like Russia, maintain itself out of its own resources, at a low level indeed, but still at a level where human life can be sustained. Even if the present "soft" Socialism were turned into "hard" or Marxist Socialism, even if still more rigid controls at every point of the economic structure were introduced and enforced, even if all incentive were altogether abandoned and the stick definitely and finally substituted for the very shrunken and attenuated carrot of today, even if the torture chamber and the concentration camp took their place in the new economic democracy, even if all that remains of the bourgeoisie and of the leisured classes were finally liquidated, even if the general standard of living were reduced to something like the Russian, it is doubtful whether the actual productivity of British agriculture, industry or commerce would be on a scale sufficient to maintain the 45 millions of people who have been brought into being by a century and a half of capitalist enterprise in this tiny part of the earth's surface.

In such conditions slave labour—for that is what it would be—would produce only the results which normally go with slave labour. Real output would fall; the quality of our products would be reduced, and consequently their saleable potentialities; our invisible exports would rapidly disappear, or be limited only to those capital sums, such as we are now liquidating, which remain. Moreover, the steps necessary to introduce and maintain this iron discipline—the true Socialist planned State—could not be taken rapidly enough to deal with the present economic crisis without so violent a revolution in our whole way of life as to provoke counter-revolution and civil war. I do not believe that in their hearts even the most sincere and the most devoted adherents of the Socialist or Collectivist faith believe that the mere application of more and better Socialism, hard instead of soft, red instead of pink, could solve our present economic crisis.