50 Years Ago: What! No money!
What! No Money!
Millions of viewers of the BBC programme last June on the students will have heard Tariq Ali declare “we believe in the abolition of money”. Someone pointed out that “the others looked very doubtful”.
As well they might. Even Cohn-Bendit has only called for equal wages, presumably to be paid in money.
Tariq Ali himself probably did not understand the implications of what he said. But he did break a leftwing taboo. Normally they don’t like to fly so much in the face of popular prejudice and risk being called “Utopians”.
No, normally they like to be seen as r-r-revolutionaries boldly declaring they believe in violence!
Whatever the reason for his lapse Tariq Ali did at least provoke some discussion in the papers as to whether or not it was practical to do away with money. Most people ridiculed the idea but one Guardian letter-writer pointed out that the absurdity of capitalism should be obvious every time you get on a bus and have “to exchange metal discs for a ritual rectangle of paper which an intelligent man was paid to punch”.
Of course to abolish money without making any other changes would be foolish. Capitalism produces wealth for sale on a market with a view to profit and where there is an exchange economy money is very useful. The only alternative is barter which would be cumbersome and lead to a drastic drop in trade and production.
But this is not what Socialists want. We have always stood for a change in society which would make money redundant. Once the means of wealth production are the common property of the whole community they can be used to turn out wealth directly to meet human needs. When this has been done then everybody could have free access to it and take what they felt they needed. And why not, when the resources of the world can provide plenty for all? It is not those who want to abolish money who are absurd but those who want to keep it.
(Socialist Standard, September 1968)