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The penny drops


The second part of “Then and Now– how we live and how we used to live” look backs from a future time at the changeover to socialism.

 Who would have thought that humanity could organise so quickly to do away with the tangled mess that their money-based world had created? The campaign for a world community of equals became a mass movement in seemingly no time at all. Once the idea of abolishing money and sweeping away the fetters associated with it had caught the collective imagination, all notions that human beings were too selfish or stupid to establish a communal world without political leaders very quickly came to be seen as absurd.

 The growing dissatisfaction with leaders who had no answer to the environmental and political problems besetting the planet at last gave rise to a general desire to produce solutions rather than simply protest. Campaigners against the individual problems created by capitalism began to realise that its worst excesses could not be got rid of without sweeping it away in its entirety; corruption in political and economic life came to be seen not as a problem in itself but as an inevitable result of a world dominated by the need to make money for the rich and powerful minority. Even many sceptics admitted that the new world being proposed could not possibly be worse than what they had – so why not give it a try?

 It became evident that the capitalist class was fast losing its control of the media. Newspaper articles, television programmes, radio and internet discussion forums became increasingly dominated by campaigns for concerted action to sweep away the world of money and governments.  Famous people, and even some of the more enlightened world leaders, began to give their support to the movement, willing to use their skills as delegates and spokesmen although realising that their own positions as revered celebrities or political leaders would soon be redundant.

 As the global movement grew, so the need was addressed for global co-ordination, and mechanisms were put into place for bringing in the new world society and taking control of the state machinery from those in power. Given that most state employees, including members of the police and the military, had by this time more or less come over to the socialist cause anyway, resistance and violence in this process were fortunately minimal.

 Institutions such as the United Nations, the International Red Cross and national parliaments were adapted for the broader, more democratic requirements of a free world community. There was of course no power-based agenda, nobody with greater voting force than anyone else, no rival economic interests.

 Well before any official declaration was made, people had started to do what was needed to begin creating the new world. It’s amazing how easily most things fell into place; local life soon became largely self-administering and wider co-ordination soon ensured that the world’s land, factories and natural resources came under full democratic control and started to be utilised as effectively as possible to satisfy needs directly. Local plans were devised to make the best alternative uses of buildings that no longer served their original purpose, such as banks, munitions factories and stately homes.

 The first major task was an immediate massive movement of food and other essentials to the areas that needed them, making use of what was left of the old army and police as a core with a not inconsiderable complement of additional helpers. The same was done to ensure that the world’s homeless were provided with secure, comfortable housing – a largely logistical exercise, give the abundance of homes that had been kept empty under capitalism. Communities able to grow their own food very quickly became self sufficient: food surpluses were distributed elsewhere to areas of need without any requirement to pass through that asphyxiating intermediary known as the market.

 Some people were convinced that the massive changes taking place all around were God’s will and continued harmlessly to attend their church services. Not everybody understood or welcomed the move to a new world, however, and some thought it wouldn’t last. I would hear people say, “it’s free, get it while you can, they’ll start charging again soon”. In the short term, others took the absence of political leaders or a coercive police force as an excuse to run riot; many of those who had lived a life of violence and crime continued for a time to exhibit disruptive and antisocial behaviour and had to be restrained, in as humane a way as possible, by their local communities.

 Campaigns to keep money sprang up, led mainly by diehard capitalists and their supporters suddenly left with no-one to boss and bully; some people even still used money in their own local groups believing it to be a measure of how hard you’ve worked and hence how much you deserve – something which had never been true in capitalism.

 For a time the old “capitalist” lifestyles and habits continued, but without money in the equation. People still talked of going to work, going on their holidays, getting married…and this is what they did. In some quarters, old habits died hard.

 Some people chose not to do anything much at all, as far as I could see…perhaps deeply traumatised by the lives they used to lead, and relieved not to have to “earn a living” any more, they were content to live out their days in a state of near vegetation.  Fair enough, I said, leave them alone, it’s a more than adequate price for the new society to pay, and surely it won’t last.

 And what of the capitalists themselves, those individuals who had dominated the world of money for so long? Where there was no need to interfere, they were left alone. For the most part, they had been as much trapped by circumstances as the old working class, and most of them, accepting that their time was over, willingly surrendered their factories and estates to the common good and helped to form the new world. Not that they had much choice.

 In many ways, these first years were a transitional phase but not in the way Marx visualised it. Within a generation, attitudes and behaviour would be very different.

ROD SHAW


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