To a new reader
You work hard when you have employment, you search hard when you have not employment. Your very existence depends upon your finding and keeping employment. Yet, in or out of employment, your daily life is hard, crammed and cramped with hard work and skimpy of enjoyment. From infancy to old age you are surrounded with poverty and the manifold miseries that are due to poverty. While you work and live amidst privation others are idle and enjoy the best the world has to offer.
Poverty is not a disease imposed by nature ; it is not due to a shortage of wealth but to the way in which wealth is distributed. It is born out of particular social conditions and its existence to-day is due immediately to the way in which wealth is distributed. The way in which wealth is distributed depends upon the method of production, so that this is the fundamental cause of poverty.
To-day wealth is produced by means of privately owned means of production (land, machinery, and so on), consequently the wealth produced belongs to those who own the means of production. The workers work upon and operate the means of production but they do not own a fraction of the wealth produced.
The economic evils that exist are caused solely by the fact that the means of production belong to private individuals and not to the whole people. The only solution of these evils is to change the basis of society ; transfer the means of production from the hands of private individuals to the whole of society—change private ownership of these things into social ownership. That is Socialism.
Perhaps you think that this solution, the Socialist solution, of your evils is too easy to be correct. Perhaps present arrangements appear to be too complicated to allow of a revolutionary change without tremendous friction.
If you will consider the matter carefully for a little while you will discover that much of the complication existing to-day is due to, and bound up with, the making of profit.
The fog surrounding international exchange ; the fickleness of demand and supply; the credit system; taxation; Wages Boards ; and the multitude of other things that are such perplexing problems at present, and which in turn are given as the cause of low wages and unemployment, are all problems bound up with a system in which business is carried on for private gain. You can satisfy yourself of this fact by turning to the older systems of society that flourished during barbaric times. There you will find that the problems mentioned above did not exist. These older societies had other problems, chief of which was the lack of the means to produce wealth easily.
If the means of production and distribution are owned in common by the whole of society and used to meet the needs of the whole of society the necessary measures to be taken to secure the requisite production and distribution would be comparatively simple.
Let us assume for a few moments that the majority of society have considered that Socialism is desirable and have elected delegates to Parliament to make the change. What would be the steps to be taken once these delegates had obtained control ? We will emulate the prophets and indulge in a little idle surmise, on the assumption that general conditions will be as at present on the morrow of the revolution.
First of all three main lines of investigation would have to be followed. It would be necessary to—
1. Ascertain the needs of the population.
2. The means available to satisfy these needs.
3. The labour required to do the necessary work.
Let us take these three items in turn and examine them.
1. It would be necessary to divide the country up into areas according to the distribution of the population, and to find out the kind and amount of goods required for different areas. The skeleton of such an organisation already exists to-day in the form of Urban, Rural and County Councils.
It would only be a question of compiling different kinds of statistics from those which are compiled to-day. The main things we require are food, clothing, and habitations.
2. The means available to satisfy the above needs would include land, raw material, machinery, and transportation facilities—roads, canals, railways, sea routes, air routes. Again a question of compiling statistics.
3. It would be necessary to find out the number of workers, the various kinds of skill, and the distribution of the workers over the country.
In the above three directions it would be a matter of compiling statistics. The vast amount of statistical work that is done at present and its nature show that the organisation for doing such work is already in existence and would be available.
Once having compiled and collected the statistics (a relatively simple matter) it would be necessary to distribute the work according to workers and resources, and spread the work approximately equally over all so that more work would not be demanded from one than from another.
It may be urged that England is not a self-supporting country and that once dealings are entered into with people abroad complications would arise. Here it must be borne in mind that all over the world the degree of advancement in the important countries (those that would really matter) is roughly about the same. By the time the majority of the people in this country had arrived at the idea that Socialism was desirable, the people in other countries would be near, if they had not actually reached, the same view. So that a fundamental social change in England would rapidly develop a corresponding change abroad and ease the necessary international dealings. While each country must settle its own social problem, yet each cannot do so without involving the world in its operations. Hence the international character of Socialism.
At the moment of writing a matter is occupying considerable attention in the newspapers that may provide us with an illustration of the complexity of affairs at present.
Within a few days two wild fluctuations occurred in the ratio of English money to French money. The French franc was quoted at 2½d. not long ago, then it suddenly went down to 2d., and at the moment of writing it has suddenly risen to 2½d. once more. These fluctuations, we are assured, are extremely dangerous to business. The production of goods, and buying and selling, are interfered with, and the existence of empires is imperilled. So we are informed by the newspapers. Now surely this is curious and perplexing. Raw materials exist in abundance, workers are walking the streets for lack of employment, yet we are pinched for want of the necessaries of life, and the reason given is that certain purely financial operations are clogging the wheels of production.
The point to be borne in mind is that financial operations are built up on the production and distribution of wealth, and that without such production and distribution there would be no financial operations. On the other hand production and distribution of wealth can exist, and has existed, without financial operations.
When the workers of the world take control of the production and distribution of wealth on their own behalf there will be no room for the financier and the latter’s operations will no longer interfere with the production of the things necessary to life. Born out of profit-making he, and all his tricks and entanglements, will go out with the going out of the profit-making system.
(Socialist Standard, April 1924)