1950s >> 1959 >> no-654-february-1959

Some Objections to Socialism

The opponents of Socialism and those too lazy or too tired to think, retort that if there were no more fear of the morrow, if the material means of sustenance were guaranteed to every individual from the cradle to the grave as a matter of course, the incentive to work would also be killed. According to this, the rich who are not dependent on, and indeed would think it incompatible with their dignity to work for wages, people whose material existence is assured and who have never known want and insecurity, would long have become entirely degenerate and decrepit from sheer idleness. The propertied class, with their wealth invested in land and estate, in industrial enterprises, in transport and banks, etc., etc., yielding them rent, interest and profit, are still active: not all rich people are indulging in perpetual riotous living, as they could if they wanted to, or if they were stupid enough to do so and invite all kinds of physical troubles, and we see a large number of voluntary organisations devoting themselves to all kinds of activities without the incentive of the wages system; and who will assert that the work of the genuine amateur is less conscientious, less thorough and less fruitful than that of the paid employee?


Children also provide convincing proof that occupation is essential for happiness. They know nothing of the care for the morrow, but no one can say that youth does not want to do anything. On the contrary, they all dream in early years already of what they are going to be, whereby the question of earning money mostly does not yet arise at all. Children’s longing for play is almost insatiable, and is play not physical and mental exertion, a pleasure and enjoyment, as all work will be under Socialism when all who work will know that it is directed to a social end of benefit to all.


And for what reward do the millions of mothers undertake the arduous task of bringing up and educating their children? What wages do these mothers get?


Are we work shy?
Opponents of Socialism who would have you believe that once the individual concern for the material existence is removed, man would sink into indolence, they refer to such things as the discontent and aversion to work shown by the general run of workers, their craving for escape, longing for holidays, etc. It is evident, however that just as the increase in crimes against property and general “offences and crime” is no proof of man’s inborn or increasing villainy and viciousness, but is due to a defective social organisation, in other words, just as such phenomena are only the product of Capitalist society, people’s aversion to work is due only to the CONDITIONS under which that work has to be done. It will be admitted that the conditions of work under Capitalism are anything but idyllic. Apart from the niggardly remuneration of labour, which barely suffices to keep the family from near starvation, not to speak of the denial of partaking in the loftier and nobler things of life, there are all the other brutal features of the class struggle. The end of Capitalism, and therewith of wage-slavery, will put in place of the sordid struggle for existence the healthy cooperation of all for something more than mere food, clothing and shelter, for the greatest possible perfection of physical and mental capacities and therewith for the greatest possible enjoyment of life. Men will have the possibility of engaging in such occupations as correspond to individual disposition, inclination and capacities, which will make work an enjoyment that nobody will be anxious to shirk. In the fullest sense of the word, men will work in order to live and enjoy, instead of merely living to work.


To listen to the opponent of Socialism, it is evident that he is often unaware of the fluidity of things in this world. Childish as it is, yet he seems to think that the present social arrangements with such features as wageworkers and shareholders, money, banks, dividends, and the rest, have existed from time immemorial, and will always so exist. Yet time was when there was no money, and the all-embracing rule of capital is a fairly recent development. Capitalism is the successor of feudalism, but Capitalism’s mad rush really dates from the time of the industrial revolution, from the use of steam and electrically-driven machinery, division of labour, in production and transport, and the opening of the whole world as a market.


Before Capitalism
Slave-labour, by which also the marvellous ancient temples and churches, the tombs, the pyramids, the Colosseum and other astounding edifices were erected; and chattel-slavery and serfdom, by which the medieval castles, abbeys, monasteries, etc., were built, was not wage-labour. The chattel-slave and bondsman who cultivated his master’s land, also had a piece of land for his own use, and even in the middle ages most people never saw money in their lives. The labourers were a responsibility of the then master-class who had to care for them, whereas the wage-slave of today is not a responsibility of his employer. He is only hired where and when his labour is required and he can be dismissed if no longer required, or for other reasons. The very terms in common use “giving him or her the sack.” or “to be fired” betray in all its brutality the position of the worker on the labour market and show that no sentimentality is shown towards the exploited of today.


Fact is that men have worked under all kinds of conditions and that much of the best work has in the past been done by people who did not work for wages, or, for that matter, for material reward. What incentive did the talented and genial poets and writers, the Greek and other philosophers of old, the composers of immortal music, the painters and inventors, the architects and men of science have? Did they give their labour to the world only for wages or material gain? For what reward was the great research-work in the many fields of science, for example, the life-long painstaking work of a Darwin. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and countless others, done?


If so much of the best work has in the past been and is still being done by people who had no. or little, material reward for their labours (great numbers of them died in penury and downright poverty), is it not ridiculous to say that the only incentive to work is money?


Work and Leisure
With the ownership and control of the machinery for wealth production and distribution taken out of the hands of the exploiting class and their State, with this machinery having become the COMMON PROPERTY of the people as a whole, all work and services will at last become identified with pleasure and. enjoyment of life. As there will be no more need for huge armies of soldiers, police, prisons, lawyers and judges, nor armaments, to protect the property and privileges of a parasite class, all the people engaged in these wasteful occupations will become free to do useful work. When, thanks to the process of production being carried on solely for USE (instead of for profit), no individual will be dependent on another individual for his means of life: in other words: when no worker will be dependent for his livelihood on an employer, no woman on a man. or man on a woman, when no children will be dependent on parents, or vice-versa, when the material existence of every human being is the responsibility of society as a matter of course, man will at last have become master over, and be able to enjoy the social wealth created by. his forbears and his own hands and brains, instead of being controlled by it. The whole complicated apparatus and mechanism of buying and selling, of advertising, propaganda, insurance, pensions, sick-clubs, tax and customs schemes. welfare and charity organisations, banks, pawnshops, lotteries and pools, etc., etc., will have become unnecessary and disappear.


The disappearance of these institutions and organisations with their insane waste and destruction will free millions of men and women for useful and more dignified occupation. When, in addition to all these people, the now unemployed (rich as well as poor) will share in the process of production and distribution, one can safely assume that the work and services necessary for the material and cultural equipment, maintenance and enjoyment of all members of society can be done with an individual daily average work far less than now.


No longer will men need to tremble when physical misfortune strikes. No more tramping the streets in search of work, no more fear of losing the job, getting in debt and seeing wife and children suffer as a consequence, since no family will be dependent on the fortune or misfortune of one or the other individual member for their material comforts. Nor need people despair when natural disasters occur, earthquakes, floods, fires, tempests, droughts with resultant bad harvests, etc., since under Socialism, with all the marvellous means of transportation at hand, even masses of people can be transferred from stricken areas to other places and homes, and suffering kept at a minimum. Whereas today, under Capitalism, people affected by such natural disasters usually become beggars, dependent on charity, and are soon left to their miserable fate.


Competition replaced by Co-operation
No burden of want, no hunger whip, no struggle to keep the wolf from the door, will be required to make men do the work and carry out the tasks necessary in the interest and for the well-being of society. Moreover, no material want will drive men to commit anti-social acts, theft or murder, or suicide. With the disappearance of Capitalist competition and the fight over markets, which unleash the lowest human passions, the soil on which the commercial “virtues” of greed, jealousy, mistrust. lying, fraud, hypocrisy, corruption, adulteration and swindle of all sorts thrive, will have been uprooted. And therewith—and most important of all—the cause of wars will have been removed from the face of the earth.


There will be NO wages under Socialism; there can be no payment of any kind since money and buying and selling will have no place. The reward for your activity will be the guaranty of LIFE, a life worth living for everybody. The guaranty will lie in your own activity in co-operation with your fellow men the world over. Your reward will be free access to all means and amenities of life, including all its cultural possibilities. And what greater reward can there be for work and service, even for the exercise of what is called “genius,” than the pleasure and enjoyment derived from it by the individual, and the acknowledgment and appreciation by your fellow men? Here, indeed, in this admiration and appreciation, is room and incentive for ambition! Though never will, nor can, a modest average or minimum contribution, physical or mental disability or incapacity, whether on account of illness, accident or otherwise, jeopardize or forfeit the guaranty of material existence for any member of Socialist society.


Stripped of their commodity character as things sold for a price, all material things capable of ministering to human wants and desires will have none but use-value. Thus in determining the individual’s consumption, no considerations of “cost” or “price” can play any part, since these concepts will have been relegated to the limbo of the past. There can be no question under Socialism of apportioning such and such amount to individuals by some “authority” for work done, time spent, services rendered, or such like. Whatever kind or aspect of human needs and desires there may be. whether in the domain of food, clothing, housing, education or the care of children, the sick and old. cultural aspects, hospitals, sanatoria, travel and transport, everything will be a matter only of production technique and organisation, since financial or private interest considerations of any kind will be out of the way.