Production Solely For Use
A writer signing himself “Pep” has an article called “Production for Profit—or Use” in “Everybody’s Weekly” (August 8th, 1942). He challenges what he believes to be the Socialist case and argues that there is not and cannot be anything else but production for profit—”no one at any time does anything whatever except for profit.” It is necessary to emphasise the point that Pep’s attack is on what he believes is the Socialist case, for he has neglected to state correctly what is the Socialist. Here is a passage which shows Pe’s line of argument:—
I seem to have heard . . . an orator declaring that the production of goods for profit was a root cause of industrial unrest if not for our defeat in Libya. He asserted that, according to the gospel of Marx, production should be for use. He pictured a greedy horde of plutocrats driving gentlemen called the workers into factories where they were sweated—not in order to make article of use in English homes, but to make profits for the obese owners of vested interests . . .
I objected to the picture because I hold it to be untrue that we who work are driven anywhere. We are, maybe, enticed by pay envelopes , bonuses, pensions and advancement, but we are not yet goaded on by whips or scorpions to produce profits for the rich. And as for ourselves, no one at any time does anything whatever except for profit.
Pep arrives at his curious conclusion by attaching to the word profit not one understandable meaning, but several different meanings: all of them wrong. In one place he appears to use the word to mean wages, and talks of a carpenter making a chair for profit; whereas it is characteristic of capitalism that carpenters, like other workers, live not on profits but on wages. Elsewhere he employs the term in a sense peculiar to himself. He writes:—
Who would make a hay rake except for use? On the other hand, who would dream of making it except for immediate profit—a profit which will be translated during the coming winter into terms of milk, cream, butter and cheese.
Here, it will be seen, he is using the word profit to mean exactly the same as use. He could more sensibly have written in place of his second sentence—
Who would dream of making it except for immediate use—a use which will be translated during the coming winter into terms of milk, cream, butter and cheese.
It is in this curious way that Pep sets out to enlighten the readers of “Everybody’s Weekly.”
If we now state the Socialist case as it really is we can begin to enlighten Pep. What the Socialist ways is that under capitalism production is carried on for the profit of the owners of the means of production, though the usefulness of the products is not in question, and that under Socialism it will be carried on solely for use—note the word solely. As Pep questions the Socialist explanation we can perhaps make things clearer to him by referring to some statements in his own article.
It will be noticed, for example, that in the passage quoted above Pep makes use of the phrase, “We who work.” Thus does the truth slip out in the most surprising places, for by singling out “we who work,” Pep is disclosing that even he recognises the existence of some others who do not have to work. In the same passage he notes that “we who work” are enticed by “pay envelopes.” So “we who work” receive “pay envelopes,” which again differentiates us from some other persons who receive incomes from the ownership of property. The remark made by Pep is that the workers, far from being driven by whips or scorpions to produce profits for the rich, “are enticed by pay envelopes.” He does not, it will be noticed, go so far as to deny that profits are produced for the rich, and he does not try to explain why it is that carpenters and other producers of useful articles should be content to produce profits for others.
Can Pep really be so ignorant of the world in which he lives that he has never noticed how much more persuasive than whips and scorpions is the goad of starvation, or the semi-starvation of unemployment pay? Yet Pep must truly be ignorant for he has not noticed the existence in peace time of unemployment, of millions of men and women who cannot be “enticed by pay envelopes” because nobody will offer them the opportunity. If Pep were to make a few inquiries he would discover that this occurs, not because the workers are unwilling to produce useful articles, or because nobody is in need of useful articles, but because those who own and control the means of production and distribution cannot see the prospect of profit and therefore forbid the workers to work. In that situation Pep’s imaginary carpenter “who prefers to make things for profit, especially his own,” is in a very sad case—solely because of capitalism, which is a system of society in which production depends on the prospect of profit for the capitalist.