1990s >> 1992 >> no-1049-january-1992

Your money or your life

Money: the curse of our lives. Waste your week working for it. Rush round the stores looking for the best ways of spending it. Waiting for the thud of the bill through the letterbox—now you have less of it. Dreaming of winning the pools. Dreading debt. Watching the newsreader talking about the basket of European currencies and the pound being weak against the mark. On the streets kids beg for it. Women sell their bodies for it; so do boys. Families break up over it. Street assaults to grab it; bitter strikes to drag out of the boss a few more pounds of it: the knock on the door from the bailiff to tell you the consequences of not paying it. Money stunts our lives until they are hardly lives at all but treadmills of money payments. Money cripples the creative into being “financially sensible”: mean and dull. Money afflicts the many and makes affluent the few.

The morally pure warn us of the perils of caring too much about money. These warnings are issued from tree-shaded vicarages where well-fed men in frocks eat full English breakfasts, read The Times editorial and then proceed to the study to write of how Jesus cared not for the things of this world. Newspaper editors, operated from strings held by millionaire press barons, urge us to abandon the path of greed and pull in our belts. The parasitic rich live in expense-account luxury, thinking little of a few hundred pounds for a business lunch. Mothers anguish over how to buy shoes for three pairs of children’s feet. It is a sick set-up.

There can be no doubt about the answer. It is the only answer; the one workable alternative; the sane way forward which this journal will not shut up about. We must abolish money. More precisely, we must abolish the need for money. Money is only needed when some possess and most do not. Most must buy from some. Workers who produce must buy the necessities of life from the capitalist few who possess the worlds wealth. The right of the minority to own and control must be ended. Class division must be ended. Buying and selling must cease. Money will then be done away with. We will produce for use. The ingenuity of administering money madness can be devoted to the infinitely saner and worthier cause of organising world production to satisfy human needs.

Money must go

In a moneyless world there will be an end to the hardships which are faced by millions today as if they were a natural plague. No more starvation or homelessness or debt or repossession or cheap and shoddy bargain lifestyles. Humanity will gasp a collective sigh of relief.

The sadness which pervades this system—the money-mad world of paying to live—is that so many people have forgotten what it is to be truly human. In fact, we, the victims of this money-wrecked epoch, are all alienated from our humanity. The capitalist, with all his unearned fortune, does not know how to live as a decent social being. Because if he did he would have to confront, both economically and emotionally, the anti-social essence of his vulture-like existence as a robber of other people’s creativity. The capitalist is forced to deny his social nature and surround himself with the mythology of “independence”—of needing no-one and caring for no-one. At best, he will drop a few pounds into the charitable begging bowl of those whose pockets he has systematically picked. At worst, he will be a callous, useless. self-indulging pig, sucking in profits and spitting out hatred for the “greedy” wage slaves who dare to challenge his might. Visit any gentlemen’s club or Chamber of Commerce and see these rich humans turned into piggy banks; a sorry sight.

But we shall not romanticise “the good old horny-handed worker”. We members of the working class also are conditioned to know ourselves only through a slave consciousness which fights against trust and collectivity. Old are turned against young and white against black and men against women and fit against disabled—and all of these the other way round as well. The struggle to survive makes petty-minded money-fighters out of the best of us. The Great Class Struggle, so praised by left-wingers as if it is some kind of Heroic Drama between Good and Evil, makes us workers adopt the meanness of spirit and factional hatreds of our oppressors.

Freedom from money will mean freedom of access to all that we need. But it will mean much more. It will mean the freedom to be freely human; to explore our natures and to nurture our behaviour without pound signs forcing us to Keep Off the better areas of our potential beings. We shall be free to work not for money, but because we are social beings who express ourselves best through the expenditure of useful energy. We will be free to be more than just postmen or just mothers or just doctors or just painters: we will be free to be all of those things. The alienating division of labour will come to an end. It is humanity which will look after humanity, not a class whose function is to service higher (i.e. richer) forms of humanity.

Return to humanity

The struggle for a new system of society—for social revolution and nothing less—is more than a struggle for workers to “get more” out of society. A revolution carried out to let the homeless have shelter and the starving eat and the families on income support have video machines would be a huge step forward, but far less of a step than the leap which we socialists advocate. Ours is not a struggle for a few more “things”—or even a lot more. We do not seek a new world system which is just like capitalism only with more of everything for everyone. We seek—we demand—the freedom of all humans to have full control over society, for only then will we have full control over our humanity. We do not want more money, we want no money. We are not demanding welfare for the poor, but an end to the condition of buying and selling which necessitates poverty. We seek not a better-off working class but an end to the working class. We are workers who want to be humans, victims of wage slavery who will be satisfied with nothing less than an end to all slavery in all of its forms. Only then will we be free to live as true social animals: co-operatively, consciously, happily, in dignity.

Far from being some sort of dull economic determinist. as he is celebrated as being by so many narrow-minded leftists, Karl Marx understood that revolution will be more than a matter of changing the signs on the front of the banks. Consider these extracts from his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts:

   The supersession of private property is, therefore, the complete emancipation of all the human qualities and senses. It is such an emancipation because these qualities and senses have become human, from the subjective as well as the objective point of view. The eye has become a human eye when its object has become a human, social object, created by man and destined for him . . . Communism is the positive abolition of private property, of human self-alienation, and thus the real appropriation of human nature through and for man. It is. therefore, the return of man himself as a social being, i.e. a really human being, a complete and conscious return which assimilates all the wealth of previous development.

Why should not the working class—the overwhelming majority who are treated as profit-churning idiots—demand the “complete and conscious return” of our own humanity? To demand less is an undignified submission to an inhuman rule of money-power. To become human we must abolish money: nothing less, no compromises.

Steve Coleman