The Western Socialist
Vol. 28 - No. 223
No. 5, 1961
The "Weekly People" for May 29th, 1961 published a reply by J. Minal to some correspondence in the Vancouver, Canada, "Province" which Mr. Minal contends offers Marxian advice to the Socialist Labor Party.
The gist of the correspondence in question was that, "J. Minal and G. McQuillan should know that democratic control of the economy or Socialist administration is impossible without social equality, which means production for use according to needs. Social ownership can involve nothing else. This has never been the objective of the Socialist Labor Party. It has always been the objective of the Socialist Party of Canada."
In his reply, Mr. Minal quotes from the "Critique of the Gotha Program" in which Marx seems to equate "the cooperative society, based on the common ownership of the means of production" to the inequality of "compensation" and labor vouchers. And, according to Mr. Minal, "We have here Marx's own word for it that Socialism . . .can exist with a system of labor vouchers . . . "
Certainly one can find no better authority on Socialism than Marx but this does not imply that socialists should regard his statements as a Messianic "word." Marx developed a system of thought, a body of knowledge. The Socialist Party of Canada prefers to regard Marxism in this manner. Consequently we must relate the above quotation to other parts of that work and to other parts of the science as a whole in order to discover what is meant by Socialism as a system of society.
In this regard, it does not seem to bother Mr. Minal that Marx qualified his own "word" in the paragraph following the one he refers to, as follows:
"What we have to deal with here is a Communist (Socialist) society, not as it has developed on its own foundation, but on the contrary, as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges."
It should be much simpler for Mr. Minal to project himself backward to Marx's time than it was for Marx to foresee a still entrenched and highly developed capitalism in the second half of the twentieth century. Yet Marx, it must be noted, did a much better job of casting aside that which historical development had shown to be obsolete. At a period earlier than that in which he wrote his "Critique of the Gotha Program" both Marx and Engels had advocated a graduated income tax, not as a part of Socialism, but as an immediate measure to "increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible." But unlike Mr. Minal and the S.L.P., Marx and Engels did not stand still and graduated from such tactics.
And in this same earlier document, the "Communist Manifesto," they state clearly what is meant by social control when they describe political power and show that political power will still have to be wielded by the working class until class antagonisms have gone, when "we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" not labor vouchers or "the enslaving subordination of individuals under division of labor," that characterizes the first phase. Despite their advocacy and belief in the need of an earlier phase they made no bones about labeling it properly.
In the same vein, in the "Critique" from which Minal quotes, Marx points out: " . . after the productive forces have also increased, with the allround development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly, only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be fully left behind and society inscribe on its banner: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."
Certainly Marx saw the need for a "first phase" of socialism but only because of the low development of the productive forces of his time. This is further shown three paragraphs on where he states: "The distribution of the means of consumption at any time is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves." And he also points out that "Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development thereby determined."
And Engels, in "Socialism Utopian and Scientific" agrees: "With the seizure of the means of production by society, the production of commodities is done away with and along with them the domination exercised by the product over the producers." And further, "It is the leap of mankind out of the reign of necessity into that of freedom." There is no necessity for labor certificates here, or the principle of "the exchange of commodity equivalents." (No more so than in the free consumption of primitive Socialism).
And as if to leave no doubt of his feelings on the subject, Engels continues to describe Socialism: "The conditions of life, which had previously dominated him (mankind) would then be placed under his domination; etc." Such a state of affairs could only exist where each consumed freely according to needs, with all types of exchange relationship absent. Socialism can be basically nothing else and nothing short of Socialism, in the freest meaning of the term is possible in our times, once capitalism has been abolished.
Due to space limitations, the other matters raised by Mr. Minal will have to be dealt with later, if the Weekly People is gracious enough to allow more space to Socialist opposition to the S.L.P. within its columns.
J. G. JENKINS