50 Years Ago: Trade almighty
The god of capitalist society is Trade.
According to its prophets, when it flourishes there is more wealth for capitalists and more work for the workers. All men, with the exception of the unemployed—who are always with us—sing its praises. When it declines there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth—with little between them to bite, in the case of the working class. There are plenty to sell and few to buy; and while the capitalist fears for his profits, the worker for his job. and one and all marvel at the mystery, not daring to seek an explanation for consequences so universal and so disastrous.
Yet, after all, what is trade? Briefly, it is the exchange of wealth. Now wealth cannot be exchanged until it is produced. It follows therefore, that exchange or trade is something which transpires after the production and before the consumption of wealth. Trade or exchange is altogether distinct from distribution. The latter is absolutely necessary in any form of society where there is division of labour.
Exchange could not exist under Socialism, because wealth would be owned in common and distribution only would be necessary.
From the Socialist Standard, April 1916.