Book Review: ‘World Without Wages’

Samuel Leight ‘World Without Wages’

It is a rare treat to review a book that claims to be about socialism which is not bursting with misconceptions and illusions. Samuel Leight’s World Without Wages is not only readable (which contrasts sharply with those academic “Marxist” tracts written in language that only the initiated can comprehend), but it is full of the kind of basic socialist arguments which every open-minded worker will want to know about. There are fifty chapters and two hundred and twenty-nine pages, so it is possible to read the book in stages, absorbing the case for socialism bit by bit.

Samuel Leight is a member of the World Socialist Party of the United States, a companion party of the SPGB. World Without Money is based on talks given by him on KTUC radio station in Tucson, Arizona. From the first page the writer loses no time in providing the basic message:

    “Visualise with us a completely different economic, world-wide system of society. Within this system all the means of production and distribution that exist on the face of the earth will be owned and democratically controlled by the whole of society. Each person will stand in exactly the same economic relationship to the instruments for producing and distributing wealth. There will be no class owning and there will be no non-owning class—it will be a classless society. Goods and services will be produced and distributed solely for use and not for profit. People will contribute according to their individual ability, taking from society according to their needs. This means literally free access to whatever they require. Visualise then a system in which there will be no means of exchange, no money, no barter. A system wherein there will be no capitalist class paying wages, with no employers or employees. Such a system cannot operate in one country, as no one country is economically self-sufficient; nor can it be inaugurated until the vast majority understand its economic and social implications.”

Recognising that socialism is “possibly the most abused, misused, misunderstood term in the English language”, Leight makes no assumptions about his readers’ acquaintance with the terms he is using; the socialist case is explained with the kind of clarity that only a real desire to communicate can achieve. Academic writers on the Left—especially those of the New Left Review type—often deter working class intellectual interest by the use of pretentious jargon. By contrast, Leight’s approach is that of classical, down-to-earth Marxism—Marxism according to Marx, not Lenin, Trotsky, Mao or Mugabe. The class struggle, recognition of which is the basis of the socialist movement, is clearly explained:

    “In a society wherein the vast majority are non-owners of wealth production and distribution and a minority are the owners, a conflict of interest must exist . . .  We acknowledge the absolute necessity of Trade Unions under capitalism, and we support the active participation of workers within the Trade Union movement in their attempts to safeguard, and improve, their wage levels and working conditions. At the same time we also fully realise the limitations of the Trade Unions . . . We are the sole advocates of the highest expression of the class struggle on the political field—the demand for the abolition of class society, together with the class struggle, through the establishment of socialism.”

The key to capitalism’s “closely guarded secret”—the appropriation of surplus value by the capitalist class—is well brought out in Chapter 22 on The Wages System:

    “Most workers spend a lifetime blissfully unaware of the fact that as a class they are being legally robbed when they produce values equal to their pay cheques, but then continue producing excess values for the bosses.”

There are chapters on war, human nature, Russian state capitalism, nationalisation, racism, ecology, charity, leadership, and the materialist conception of history—as well as chapters dealing with recent events in American labour history. Were this writer not a committed socialist he would have been convinced to become one by reading Samuel Leight’s book. World Without Wages is distributed in Britain by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and costs £3.50, including postage and packing. Don’t just buy a copy for yourself; buy one for your best friend and another for your worst enemy.

Steve Coleman

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