The Social Nature of Modern Production
Capitalism is torn by one major contradiction: that the socialisation of wealth-production has developed to an extent undreamt of in former epochs, whilst ownership of the means of production is concentrated in the hands of a minority. World-wide interdependence in production has made a material abundance possible for all mankind, yet the fetters of private property keep the overwhelming majority in poverty. The socialist answer to the poverty problem is to remove the contradiction by making the means of production the common property of society as a whole.
Most workers who support the social system that keeps them poor think in terms of greater productivity, more technology or other nostrums of capitalism. They fail to grasp that the problem of production has been solved. Nor do they realise that the abolition of private property will end all forms of exchange including barter and will result in free access according to need. Consequently such questions are asked as “say I made bicycles and wanted other things made by other people who don’t want bicycles, how do I get them without money?” These questions show a lack of knowledge of how production is carried out under any form of society. It suggests that individuals carry out the production of objects from start to finish and by virtue of this have rights of ownership. This has never been so and under capitalism, the producers do not even own the places they work in, nor the tools, materials and finished product. These belong to the non-producing capitalist class.
No single person could produce a bicycle right through. Nor in fact does any single industrial combine, huge and diversified as some are. The ores for the metals and their alloys have to be found, mined and processed. The metals have to be shaped and treated to make the tubes for the frame, sprockets, chains, ball bearings, wheels and other component parts. These processes need machinery of many specialised kinds. Transport of all types to move the materials through the various stages and processes, sometimes over great distances; electricity to power the machines, and the fuels to supply the power to generators are also essential. Then there is the paint and chrome-plating to be seen to. No bike can do without tyres, needing rubber from the plantations of South East Asia, cotton for the carcass and steel wire for the beading. The bicycle like other articles is not only the product of co-operative labour, but of a certain form of society. The techniques involved are of a highly sophisticated kind. They are not made in ones and two’s but in millions. The world is involved in producing them and they are available for the markets of the world.