S.P.G.B. lecture at Hackney
"Money dominates Man almost completely in modern Capitalism. Man's history shows no other human invention to which he is so subservient," said Mr. H. Baldwin, lecturing recently at Hackney Trades Hall to the Socialist Party of Great Britain's Hackney Branch. "Despite its universal use, many mysteries surround money and most people have only vague notions about its nature. It is credited with magical, mystical powers which really stem from its users. It has no use or existence apart from men in society. Men do not derive power from money, but money derives its power from men."
In Capitalism, he continued, everything produced by labour is reduced to money terms; has a price. All spheres of human activity are measured by cost. Every human relationship is either directly affected or tainted by money considerations. Working-class family life, particularly, centres around the wage-packet, which determines the standard of living, amenities and social status enjoyed, type of clothes and education of the children, the future wage-earners. Success is measured by pay, irrespective of usefulness of work.
"The basic capitalist relations of buyer and seller, employer and employee, landlord and tenant, into which all enter, are regarded—almost revered—as indispensable, yet they need not exist at all at Man's present industrial development."
A POINTLESS FARCE
The rich are not rich merely because they have money, but because they own the means of production and distribution. The rent, interest and profit they accumulate, derived from the sale of commodities, produced by workers but owned by capitalists, represents their real wealth. The poor, on the other hand, are not poor because their wages are low but because, not owning means of production and distribution, they are compelled to continue as workers for wages whether high or low. Since people are esteemed for their possessions they display rather than for their capabilities, many workers accumulate a mass of trashy, flashy junk, cheap, commonplace substitutes for the possessions of the rich. The so-called culture pattern set by the wealthy is imitated by workers and futile pastimes replace the zest of living.
All this, declared the lecturer, takes place against a background of ceaseless industrial struggle and international conflict, generally accepted as inevitable, a view strongly challenged by the S.P.G.B.
Man's mastery over nature has transformed the Earth but the fruits of science and technology are not readily available to him. The "money" system's straitjacket stifles his every move. Hundreds of millions still starve and "live" in slums. Social techniques remain only potential while the phantom dominates the real. Capitalism's antiquated social relationships prevent abundance for all. These must be replaced but first understood. Hence the need to understand money.
Mr. Baldwin explained Karl Marx's analysis of commodities and money and concluded: "In terms of satisfying human needs, the 'money' system, the production of useful things primarily for sale at a profit, is a failure. Profit is now primary over people. Politicians, world bankers, economic experts, members of Prices and Incomes Boards, all act futile parts in a pointless farce. At this very moment, the Labour Government is prepared to inflict hardship on people in order to defend money: to save the pound even if it brings unemployment and suffering to many workers.
"The S.P.G.B. holds that the social division into rich and poor, the contrasting extremes of wealth, are inseparable from the 'money' system, which is now redundant. The S.P.G.B. points the way to the next stage in Man's social development; to World Socialism, a world-wide, moneyless, classless society in which all Man's productive means would belong in common to all humanity. In Socialism the means of life would be produced in abundance solely for use and distributed freely, not exchanged or sold, rendering money unnecessary. Freed from the debased motives engendered by Capitalism, humanity could at least realise its full physical and intellectual powers."