Letters to the Editors from the November 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard
Money must go
Money must go
I wish to thank you for your review (August) of my book The Universal Impediment, in particular because, despite having sent copies to many persons and organisations likely to be interested, I have received virtually no comment, favourable or otherwise. That perhaps is because it is difficult to imagine how society could function without money. You may have voiced the general reaction therefore when you said that the weakness of the book lies in how it could be achieved. I recognised the problem. Because we cannot visualise how something can be done we tend to assume that it can’t be done and therefore should not be attempted. That is why my suggestions were not intended as a blueprint but to point out that that which we create we can eliminate.
Again, if I do not call myself a socialist it is only because socialism itself has to move on. Just as 18th century capitalism became inappropriate in the nineteenth century, so 19th century socialism is no longer the complete answer to the problems of the twentieth. Social thinking cannot stand still. We progress only by returning to and questioning fundamentals.
But my main concern was that freedom and scarcity, the two essential features of my thesis— and of human satisfaction—were not mentioned.
Government of whatever sort, elected or not. must by definition, be dictatorial. As we have seen in Russia and elsewhere, a socialism that is imposed from above, whatever its merits, always defeats its objectives. Putting the means of production in the hands of the community is a meaningless concept if that community is itself dictatorial. Party politics, the exercise of power for years by one sector over the rest, is no exception.
As I explained, the money system justifies itself by maintaining the concept of scarcity, but today there need be no scarcity. Already, by genetic manipulation, we are able to produce enough food to feed the world. If we cannot yet duplicate all nature’s resources, we have the technology to create substitutes or alternatives to them to meet all our needs and wants, giving us a world of plenty, so that the money system—and its corollaries, power and government—become not just superfluous but a crippling impediment to production and distribution. No longer is it necessary to take from Peter to give to Paul, to fight over that which could freely and plentifully be made available to everyone.
Not only is the money system inefficient, wasteful and socially destructive, but it will corrupt any system in which it operates. This means that there can be no fundamental social advance while we retain a money system. Like all radical concepts, social organisation without money is difficult to envisage and therefore seems impossible, but we ignore the implications of refusing to do so at our peril.
And wages too
I would like to thank you for having reviewed Bread & Roses in your September issue, though I found myself in disagreement with a few points mentioned in the review concerning both the IWW historically and today.
The Industrial Workers of the World was founded in 1905 and was a very influential union for the first twenty years of its history. In fact, despite the attempts of the American State to crush it both during the First World War and at the time of the Russian Revolution, it continued expanding to reach a peak membership of 100,000 in 1923. The IWW began to decline in 1924 as a result of a split between those who wanted to build links with the Communist Party and those who were opposed to this.
I am not convinced that in 1907 the IWW came to be controlled by doctrinaire Anarcho-Syndicalists (the term was not then in use). The IWW refused to align itself with any political parties or ideologies because its role was to organise the workers of the world into one big union to "end the use of workers against each other anywhere—in the same plant, or in the same industry, or across oceans, in peace or war. either to cut each other’s pay or to kill each other’s kids". (Fred Thompson in the introduction Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology.)
Experience had taught them that (i) parties and ideological groups were more interested in promoting their own philosophies and taking control of the union than in promoting industrial unionism, and (ii) that, as explained by your reviewer, the membership of the union would then not have had many more members than there were members of the Socialist Party.
It is our aim to unite all workers into an organisation committed to what we believe to be the basic principles which are vital to any successful labour movement, that is, solidarity, internal democracy. a commitment to changing things ourselves rather than relying upon leaders to change things for us, and having an ultimate aim, which for us means Industrial Democracy and the abolition of the wages system.
The IWW has always had a large influence both through it own activity and also in its influence on other unions. It is because of this that the IWW is worth promoting today. Currently the IWW is in the rise and has negotiating rights and a workplace presence in a large number of towns and cities across North America. It is true that the IWW is still essentially a propagandist group, but for a growing proportion of our members it is also a functioning union. To give just one example, there is a rapidly expanding Construction workers section, some of whose members recently brought 300 building workers out on strike in support of the United Parcel Service strikers.
Our union is also spreading again throughout the world, with increasing activity not just in places where the IWW has been active before like Britain and Australia, but also in Japan, Taiwan, Russia, the Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Colombia, Sweden and. most importantly, West Africa, where our office in Sierra Leone was looted by soldiers during the recent coup there.