The blessings of money
In the March edition of the Socialist Standard there is an article entitled “The Curse of Money”. Whereas I consider such ought to be termed “The Blessings of Money”. For when Pol Pot destroyed money he didn’t advance his country to new heights, but rather dragged it back to the Stone Age.
Money gives the individual the facility of choice: spend it on immediate gratification, or invest it for long-term interest. Do as you please—but of course you take the consequences.
I have also taken the opportunity of enclosing several items from the Nottingham Evening Post, Friday 13 March 1998. You will find its very relevant to my comments.
ALAN DONN, Nottingham
Reply: Of course if you have capitalism people need money—that’s one of the things wrong with capitalism—and the more of it you have the better you can live. But we’re not proposing the abolition of money within a capitalist society. As you point out, when Pol Pot tried this in Cambodia it had disastrous results. What we are advocating is a change in the basis of society from class ownership to common ownership so allowing the purpose of production to be changed from making a profit to meeting needs, one consequence of which will be that money will become unnecessary. In such a society people would have a much wider choice than they do today where the amount of money you have limits what you can get. The point made in the book which the article you mention reviewed was that money also poisons social relationships by reducing them to commercial, buying and selling.
The items you sent us from the Nottingham Evening Post about bonus payments to workers in Jessops department store don’t back up the point you are trying to make. They report that 750 workers are to share a “bumper payout” of £2m representing 22 percent of their annual salary or 12 weeks’ wages. A bit of simple arithmetic shows that each worker will be receiving an average of about £2,667 which is 22 percent of £12,112 a year—well below the average wage, even if some of the 750 will be part-timers. Jessops is part of the John Lewis Partnership which operates a scheme of paying workers low basic wages and then topping them up with bonuses related to profits. Most workers would probably prefer to receive their wages as a guaranteed £12,112 a year rather than as a basic £9,445 plus a possible bonus of £2,667. Profit-sharing schemes are a swindle designed to get workers to work harder and be grateful to their bosses for paying a part of their wages as if they were a share in profits.—Editors.
Socialism on one island?
Re your reply (“Socialism on one island?” April), you restate that a global balanced growth in socialist awareness is more likely, and ask: “What’s so special about the [British] 1 percent . . .?” Of course, the answer is Britons aren’t special, and socialism might take off quicker elsewhere. But can you not envisage a time when one country might have a particularly influential socialist; TV programme; publicity campaign; profits-before-people scandal etc—or a combination of these—which results in exceptional progress? That country’s socialist party would then have a choice of either pressing on to abolish capitalism first, or deliberately easing off to avoid uneven development—this latter choice probably being made if party members believe one-country socialism to be impossible. If this belief is erroneous, a critical opportunity may then be lost. Hence the suggestion that the feasibility of go-it-alone socialism be properly evaluated now.
For example, you suggest the downside of British-only socialism would be going without citrus fruits and other products “that won’t grow in these climes”. But a counter argument is that whereas using large translucent canopies, hothouses, genetically modified plants, artificial lighting etc to enable such growth may be economic madness under capitalism, it can easily become a socialist reality if needed.
I’m not nationalistically “deliberately aiming to establish socialism in just [one] country while the rest of the world remains solidly capitalist”. The fact is common ownership must start somewhere, and even you acknowledge the likelihood of “socialists having won control in some parts of the world but not everywhere”, so why not consider the workability of one-country socialism and its ramifications for global capitalism, in case we get the chance to board the first bus that comes our way? Ignoring it without good reason, and waiting years longer until a dozen come along together, isn’t necessarily the best way of getting from A to B.
MAX HESS, Folkestone, Kent
Reply: The establishment of socialism is not a race between national sections to see who can get there first, but a co-ordinated world movement to ensure that we all get there at more or less the same time. If there is any uneven development it will be up to the world socialist movement to decide what to do. As we said in our pamphlet Questions of the Day (1978, p.64):
“Socialists are sometimes asked about another aspect of uneven development. This relates to the possibility that the socialist movement could be larger in one country than in another and at the stage of being able to gain control of the machinery of government before the socialist movements elsewhere were as far advanced.
Leaving aside for the moment the question as to whether such a situation is likely to arise, we can say that it presents no problems when viewed against the world-wide character of the socialist movement. Because capitalist governments are organised on a territorial basis each socialist organisation has the task of seeking democratically to gain political control in the country where it operates. This however is merely an organisational convenience; there is only one socialist movement, of which the separate socialist organisations are constituent parts. When the socialist movement grows larger its activities will be fully co-ordinated through its world-wide organisation. Given a situation in which the organised socialists of only a part of the world were in a position to gain control of the machinery of government, the decision about the action to be taken would be one for the whole of the socialist movement in the light of all the circumstances at the time.”–