Letter: Money: Will it be needed under socialism?


To the Editor.

Sir,—Having participated, as a humble listener, in many discussions on Socialism, I have noticed, as no doubt have many others, what a stumbling block the money question presents to many earnest seekers after truth. Seeing on sale a pamphlet bearing the title quoted at the head of this letter, I purchased a copy in the hope that it would help in surmounting the obstacle in question.

Mr. A. P. Hazell, the author, is not, I understand, a member of your Party, but I feel sure you will grant him space to clear up my doubts and remove my difficulties.

“The ordinary individual is quite confused in his ideas concerning the medium of exchange,” says Mr. Hazell, with which I quite agree, as I also do with two other statements, viz., “Capitalism presupposes production of wealth which has to be distributed by means of exchange,” and “Socialism does not presuppose distribution of wealth by means of exchange. It assumes that society has evolved a stage beyond exchange, and that, consequently, there will be no need for money.” But I understand that Mr. Hazell is a prominent member of, and an accepted economic authority in, the Social Democratic Party, which has for its object “The Socialisation of the Means of Production, Distribution and Exchange.” Its members refer to this object as Socialism. Why then seek to socialise something which is necessary to capitalism but not to Socialism, which will supersede it? I have heard members of the S.D.P. criticise the I.L.P. because the latter would socialise capital, whereas Socialism means its abolition. Is this not a case of pot and kettle ?

Mr. Hazell deals with “The Guernsey Experiment” which “Shows that money even now under given conditions can be dispensed with.” But the paragraph records that the Governor of Guernsey issued paper money against the cash which was to come in as rent for stalls. As it came in the paper money was withdrawn from circulation. This, in my opinion, proves the opposite to what the author claims.

“If Municipalities” says Mr. Hazell, “could overcome the opposition of the Bankers, and obtain the consent of Parliament, they could easily raise funds and do without the capitalist financiers whose function it is to exact interest on loans.” It seems to me that municipalities will not be able to do this until the conscious effort of the Socialist working class has deprived the capitalist financiers of their political power and appointed its delegates to organise the administration of things. If I am right then it is little use and very confusing to argue upon this “if.”

But it is on pages 4 and 5 that I encounter my greatest difficulties ! Mr. Hazell says : “A socialistically-inclined Cabinet would have to go cautiously to work to realise their aim. Its best method would be to enter the field of production, and bodily attack the present system of exchange,” and again, “But let us be clear. No Socialist Government would enter into production ostensibly for the purpose of either abolishing money or the system of exchange. They would be laughed at by the ignorant, who for a long time yet will remain in the majority,” and further, “Socialists are in favour of direct employment, and will, without question, force the hands of the Government to move in this direction against its will.” We would thus appear to have arrived at a condition of affairs in which we have an ignorant majority but yet a Socialist Government. This Socialist Government would not enter into production on Socialist lines, because they would be laughed at. The hands of the Socialist Government would be forced (against their will) by the Socialists ! Now mark this is not a position arising from a division in the House suddenly placing the Socialist Party in office, because “The capitalists, defeated at the poll, etc.” The unwilling Socialist Government has beaten the capitalists at the ballot box, although “the ignorant are still in the majority.” “Let us be clear,” says Mr. Hazell. Well, let us, by all manner of means, let us

No wonder that Mr. Hazell assumes that his Government is full of trouble ! It wants to borrow money, but has trouble with the financiers ; an agitation in the country has succeeded in getting passed through the House the Right to Work Bill, which increases its difficulties; it is afraid to raise the income tax beyond a certain point because that might cause civil war; but at last the sun appears upon the horizon. The Government receives an order from the Colonies for a warship, to cost two millions. To enable it to construct this monument to the establishment of the brotherhood of man, it issues paper to the value of two millions, which it redeems when the Colonies pay over the cash for the Socialist “Dreadnought.” It extends its undertakings and its profits enable it to defy all opposition. I did not think that warships and profits would play a part when a Socialist Administration had been elected, but I suppose I was wrong.

There are other points in the pamphlet I should like to deal with did space permit, but only one will I touch upon now. If Mr. Hazell endeavours to assist me will he please state whether there will be a “reserve army of labour” under Socialism—an army of unemployed seeking work ? I ask this because on page 15, after the “Reformers” have won, when “the organisation of labour is now so perfect that there is a superabundance of wealth,” he refers to the drafting of “surplus” labour into particular departments, and I do so wish to be “clear.”

Yours etc., Kendrick Johns.

September 9th, 1908.

(Socialist Standard, October 1908)