Long before pollution became a popular cause, and ecology a fashionable term, the Socialist indictment of capitalism included the waste that is inseparable from market production. A minority in society own the means for production, that is the land, raw materials, factories, communications etc. Through this ownership they are able to buy from the majority, the working class, their working ability.
It is members of the working class who run the transport system, who run industry from the gate to the board room, who research, design and make every kind of commodity etc. In other words it is the men and women of the working class who co-operate to perform all of the work necessary to the running of capitalism. But it is not done on their own behalf. All of this work is geared to the profit of the owning class.
Every kind of product, including food, has sale at a profit as the first motive for its existence. It may be thought that it is because commodities are useful that their sale will realize a profit. The fact is that goods are not produced to fulfil human need, on the contrary needs are stimulated so that the results of enormous productive capacity can be sold. A whole industry is devoted to sales promotion; to persuading consumers — hideous term — that their possessions are outdated, outworn or that two of everything might be better!
A marketing expert counselled the home-furnishing industry: “Make people discover for themselves that there’s fun and pleasure in changing their décor. Establish a standard based on changeability and not on permanence.” All this helped provide a philosophical base for the throwaway spirit . . .
(p. 164 The Waste Makers, Vance Packard)
Competition between manufacturers of similar items is not necessarily of benefit to their customers for costs must be kept to a minimum.
Manufacturers themselves have improved anti-corrosion techniques considerably in recent years, but a really thorough job would be unacceptably expensive in an industry increasingly dominated by cost accountants.
(Observer Magazine, 6 April 1975)
Not only are goods produced in the knowledge that they are not the best that modern technology is capable of but some commodities are actually designed to have a limited life. “An engineer’s principal purpose as an engineer is to create obsolescence” — board chairman as quoted in The Waste Makers.
Small wonder that even those workers who are supposed to be enjoying the good life have in reality succumbed to the adman’s dream world. Accumulating material possessions to assuage the frustration associated with work in which they can take no pride and the problems of everyday living.
Society does not have to be organized this way. Capitalism is not the natural order of things and it has outlived its usefulness. The quest for profit which provided the impetus to develop large scale, social production, now prevents that production being used to the advantage of society as a whole. A revolutionary change to Socialism will resolve this contradiction.
When an immense majority of working class men and women become aware of their position in capitalism they will join with us in consciously organizing to elect for Socialism. Thus to carry out the legal formality of abolishing private property. Then the means for production will be owned and democratically controlled by the whole, worldwide, community. This vital fact of common ownership and control will mean production at last geared to human needs. The one reason for making any articles and supplying any service will be that they are of use to human beings. Only the best quality need be made and with due regard to the careful use of raw materials.
All of the wasteful elements of capitalist production will disappear. With all that is on and around the earth owned in common by all of its inhabitants there will be no possible use for armed forces and other instruments of war.
Try listing the pursuits which will not be necessary when money no longer has any role to play in production. Included in the list will be duplication of effort when, for instance, airlines compete for passengers over the same route, banking, insurance, nor will we ‘‘carry coals to Newcastle” . . . but you can continue. Some occupations will be adapted to the needs of the new social order. Perhaps marketing research could be redirected to monitoring the actual needs of the community.
Workers co-operate now to run capitalism. How much more will the spirit of co-operation prevail between the free individuals who contribute to the well-being of Socialist society. Each will give to the best of their ability satisfied that the work in hand is socially useful. Each secure in the knowledge that they have free access to the goods and services which they require. Socialism will do more than resolve the problems of poverty, waste etc. It will be a harmonious, caring social system where human beings are at last free to realize their full potential.
We have given only an outline of some aspects of the Socialist future. To fill in the detail we need your help. What are you waiting for?