No Prices – No Money – No Wages 1/3

A World Without Money

Perhaps one of the bigger surprises for those who begin to look into the World Socialist Movement is that it intends to abolish money – or rather – end the exchange economy which would make the use of money redundant.

Many proponents of left-wing politics reject a system that abolishes the exchange economy and with it, money and prices do so on the grounds that a moneyless scheme would result in those with the least sense of social responsibility taking advantage and winning out because they will take more from the distribution centres since there is no requirement of work these parasitical “free riders” will place a burden upon the system to the point of collapse.

The shirkers, the social leeches, the socially irresponsible, the “lazy” and “greedy”, the “able-bodied idle”, as earlier generations classified them in the Poor Law legislation, will empty the shelves and selfishly hoard, just because things will be free. Or committing the lesser crimes of taking what they don’t require or refusing to pull their weight at work and will live off the fruits of other’s labours. It is an argument that people are inherently anti-social and selfish and the reason put forward is to insist on prices and wages and money. The greedy lazy human nature rebuttal is usually raised by pro-capitalist apologists.

The Left-wing are not psychologically able to continue with the logic to arrive at the only possible solution – a world association of communities in which each person will contribute as one is able and get as one needs. They accept the capitalist claim that a person will do not contribute without remuneration (wage, profit, supply of needs, etc.) They do not accept that social motivation is strong enough for people to change when circumstances and situations change. We have always accepted that as anarchists and socialists and left Original Sin to the religiously blinkered. Nor do we believe that we cannot support non-producers as there are many of these, children, the elderly the infirm who society supports.

Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society. In a society such as capitalism, people’s needs are not met and reasonable people feel insecure. People tend to acquire and hoard goods because possession provides some security. People have a tendency to distrust others because the world is organized in such a dog-eat-dog manner. If people didn’t work society would obviously fall apart. To establish socialism the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in a socialist society. If people want too much? In a socialist society “too much” can only mean “more than is sustainably produced.” If people decide that they (individually and as a society) need to over-consume then socialism cannot possibly work.

Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising.

There is also in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. The notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth would be devoid of meaning because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to goods and services. As Marx contended, the prevailing ideas of society are those of its ruling class then we can understand why, when the wealth of that class so preoccupies the minds of its members, such a notion of status should be so deep-rooted. It is this which helps to underpin the myth of infinite demand. In socialism, status based upon the material wealth at one’s command would be a meaningless concept. Why take more than you need when you can freely take what you need? In socialism, the only way in which individuals can command the esteem of others is through their contribution to society, and the more the movement for socialism grows the more will it subvert the prevailing capitalist ethos, in general, and its anachronistic notion of status, in particular. 

If people cannot change their behaviour and take control and exercise responsibility for their decisions, there is little doubt socialism fail. Day-to-day operation and management will be left in the hands of those who operate a production or distribution unit, and the choice of deciding methods and working conditions will remain their responsibility which will be from an interlocking local to a worldwide level. Choosing what to make and how much to make and where to make it and where to send it, however, are decisions for the community and society as a whole. That’s what is meant by social ownership. There is no anonymous bureaucracy lording it over us? It is in the actual essence of free access to goods and services that it denies to any one particular group the political leverage with which to dominate or control others. So where will the possibility of a bureaucratic power come from, if it cannot withhold the means of life or restrict access to society’s wealth from those it wishes to subjugate or exploit or take advantage of. And how can the status of conspicuous consumption be used as a reward as it is now for a privileged elite when all have equal free access. In free access socialism, the notion of income or spending levels would be devoid of meaning. So, therefore, would the notion of status be based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to goods and services.

The left-wing reformists are Utopian because by not intending to do away with wages, prices, or money, but instead advocating some sort of market-less, capitalist-less self-managed capitalism which still enforces the artificial rationing of buying and selling, opposes the voluntarist society of “from each according to ability, to each according to need” that we strive to achieve. Remaining fixated on the lazy person, greedy individual critique of human behaviour, the left-wing simply preaches conventional bourgeois wisdom about people’s “selfishness” and a pessimistic view of human relationships.

In a socialist society, the productive activity would take the form of freely chosen activity undertaken by human beings with a view to producing the things they needed to live and enjoy life. The necessary productive work of society would not be done by a class of hired wage workers but by all members of society, each according to their particular skills and abilities, cooperating to produce the things required to satisfy their needs both as individuals and as communities. All wealth would be produced on a strictly voluntary basis. Work in a socialist society could only be voluntary since there would be no group or organ in a position to force people to work against their will. Socialism does not require us all to become altruists, putting the interests of others above our own. In fact, socialism doesn’t require people to be any more altruistic than they are today. We will still be concerned primarily with ourselves, with satisfying our needs, our need to be well considered by others as well as our material and sexual needs. No doubt too, we will want to “possess” personal belongings and to feel secure in our physical occupation of the house we live in, but this will be just that – our home and not a financial asset. Such “selfish” behaviour will still exist in socialism but the acquisitiveness encouraged by capitalism will no longer exist. The coming of socialism will not require great changes in the way we behave, essentially only the accentuation of some of the behaviours which people exhibit today (friendliness, helpfulness, cooperation) at the expense of other more negative ones which capitalism encourages.

Goods and services would be provided directly for self-determined needs and not for sale, they would be made freely available for individuals to take without requiring these individuals to offer something in direct exchange. We may thus characterise such a society as being built around an economy of generalised reciprocity. To ensure the smooth functioning of such a system, committees for each world region will be required. Details of how they are elected or appointed or delegated and operate may indeed be vague we will no doubt both be building upon but transforming what already exists, and that more than probably will be many of capitalism’s own organisations. It will not be central planning.  The object is to minimise direction and have society as self-regulating and de-centralised with the minimum of intervention. It is not a “technocratic” vision independent of grassroots self-management.

The World Socialist Movement will continue to campaign to create a structured society where people have accepted socially mutual obligations, accepting the realisation of universal interdependency, understanding that decisions arising from this would profoundly affect people’s choices, perceptions, concepts, attitudes and greatly influence their actions, economically or otherwise. Humanity behaves differently depending upon the conditions that they live in.