1990s >> 1996 >> no-1098-february-1996

Letters: It is money that impedes everything

It is money that impedes everything
Dear Editors,

I have been wondering whether to renew my subscription to the Socialist Standard for the coming year, for there are many differences between your views and mine on how to achieve a just and equitable society. For instance, the expressions that you use. such as capitalists, workers, class, are generally regarded as out-of-date concepts and are likely to lose support. Most of us have savings, however little, that have to be invested somewhere if they are not to lose value because of inflation, so we all are capitalists. Again, what is a worker? Few of us slave in a foundry any more. Are we to be excluded from your endeavours?

Even if elected on such a ticket, your parliamentary candidates are unlikely to have any effect on policy or public opinion, and they would only be endorsing the concept of government. Our aim, surely, is to achieve freedom from control by fallible leaders, whatever their ideology.

No-one is better or worse than anyone else. We are no more than the product of our heredity and of the environment in which we find ourselves. If humans are to change, if societies are to eliminate anti-social behaviour, the environment in which they exist must be changed first. That is our task, but change itself requires an atmosphere of reason, an education system that questions, that stimulates interest and enquiry and recognises that concern for our fellows is the greater self-interest.

Unemployment, capitalism, bureaucracy, poverty, are no more than effects. We need to look at fundamental causes. It is claimed that money is the catalyst without which the productive process would collapse in chaos. Yet in reality it is money that impedes everything that we aim to do. The amount of money that we desire to use, whether for education, health, transport or anything else has to be restricted in order to maintain its value. We are so conditioned by it that we cannot imagine society functioning without it. It is all-pervasive, all-corrupting. No socialist society, no conceivable economic or political system, could survive long enough for it to wither away, and since it creates deprivation as well as wealth, it must create conflict also. Only by first eliminating the money system will we achieve a just and stable society.

We need to recognise that we all differ from each other, have different desires and aspirations, so that what we think of as equality depends upon the view of the individual. To take from one to give to another— or even to the community at large—merely provokes confrontation. Such confrontation could be avoided only in an economy that did not impose an artificial scarcity on human and material resources, and in which production would have no limit.

We need to work together to eliminate the underlying fundamental concepts that impede us in everything we do. Fighting each other, allowing ourselves to be distracted by differences of approach and to quarrel over their effects is self-defeating.

Only by co-operation, reason, debate and listening to others rather than deriding or condemning them, are we likely to achieve our objectives.

So I shall be renewing my subscription not because I agree with all you say but because it is the better world that matters, not differences among ourselves.

Melvin Chapman, 

 

Bath

Reply:
We talk about class because this is the basic feature of present-day society. The productive resources of society are owned and controlled by a minority class and are run for their benefit

Figures (produced by the Inland Revenue and the Statistical Office) show that the ownership of income-yielding financial assets—which are ownership rights over productive resources—is concentrated in the hands of this minority. The top five percent own over 50 percent which is as much as the other 95 percent of us added together. Every one of them owns on average about twenty times as much as everyone else.

This enables them to live on the unearned income their ownership rights provide. Their wealth gives their children privileged access to the top posts in industry and the state, where they are enabled to enjoy bloated “salaries” which bear no relation to the work they do and are in fact a way of giving them a share of the profits produced by the useful majority in society. They are the Establishment, the ruling class, the capitalists.

The other class is made up of the rest of us, who are forced by economic necessity to seek an employer in order to get a living. This is irrespective of the sort of job or type of work we do or indeed irrespective of whether or not we are actually able to find an employer. So we are talking about office workers, civil servants, hospital workers, salespeople, even managers and supervisors, and the unwaged as well as miners, bricklayers and foundry workers—in all, well over 90 percent of the population in an industrialised and urbanised country like Britain.

There is no such thing as a middle class. The so-called middle class is merely a part of the working class. Having a small income from your savings to top up your pension doesn’t make up a capitalist. For that you would need to own at least £250,000 in addition to your house—which is the capitalists’ own definition of a capitalist, being the requirement to be a Lloyd’s Name.

 

We can’t see how you can deny that we are living in a class society and that this is the all-important social fact that those of us seeking social change must take into account. In fact, that the immense majority are excluded from the ownership and control of productive resources means that there is a group in society that has a material interest in ending this state of affairs by establishing a society of common ownership and democratic control, it means that socialism is not some ideal society to which all people of goodwill are somehow to be converted. It provides it with a basis in social reality, with a group of people—the overwhelming majority, it so happens—who have an interest in establishing it as the practical solution to the problems they face.

 

When the overwhelming majority—the working class, as we define it—take conscious democratic political action to do this, classes can then be abolished and a genuine community with a common social interest created. Production will be switched from production for sale on a market with a view to profit to production to satisfy people’s needs. Money—as a means of exchange, a means to buy things produced for sale— will become redundant and disappear.

 

The existence of money and the existence of socialism are incompatible, since the existence of money implies the existence both of exchange and of private property whereas socialism, as a society of common ownership and production for use, implies the non-existence of both and so also of the need for money.

 

This is why we don’t understand what you mean when you say that money would have to be eliminated before a viable socialist society could be established. Under capitalism money is very useful, indeed indispensable. Without it capitalism could not function; to try to abolish it would lead to chaos and economic breakdown. So we don’t stand for the abolition of money now under capitalism. What we stand for is the establishment of the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources; this will allow production to be geared directly to meeting people’s needs, so making money unnecessary.

 

A society dominated by money is one of the effects of capitalism, not its cause as you seem to imply. The only way to end the nefarious effects of money that you correctly identify is to establish socialism, where human values can flourish instead of the commercial and financial values that distort and debase our lives today.

 

Editors

 

Reading the real thing

 

Dear Editors,

 

For years I believed I was a socialist, until I began to read socialist literature, the real stuff of course. It became increasingly obvious that I was a reformer.

 

The first discovery was that nationalisation was not common ownership. There’s that old joke that when the coal industry was nationalised, the old lady went from the mining village to the pithead to fill her bucket up; she was promptly told to go and buy it the same as everyone else has to. Public ownership to her meant it was free. The previous owners still got their money through government bonds and the interest. Miners still had to fight for wage rises and safer and better working conditions.

 

The turning point for me was realising that capitalism cannot be reformed even if it wanted to. Its reason to exist is profit, without which it cannot continue.

 

When you read of people who say they have given many years of loyalty and have been made redundant, they of course do not understand the system they live under. They are a commodity and as such are expendable. When you hear the Opposition spokesman for education saying we must educate our children so as we can compete in an increasingly competitive world, it’s obvious he is talking about training a future workforce of commodities, not trying to get children to have a love of learning for its own sake. When you have a leader of a so-called socialist party who wants to send his son to a grant-maintained school rather than a state school, you realise what hypocrites they are.

 

That phrase “the manufacture of consent”, or that even more apt phrase “the engineering of consent”, tells all where people accept long-term unemployment, repossessions, poor housing, going to the benefits office, plus of course wars where the unemployed are called upon to be patriots to look after the interests of capital.

 

In a stateless, classless and moneyless world society, from whatever angle you examine it, the problems that hitherto occurred would not happen. If only people would realise the power they have.

 

Gerry Geraghty, 

 

Colchester