From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard
From all sides we hear about shortages. Workers are short of money—there is a food shortage, steel and wool shortage, insufficient housing accommodation, and a thousand and one things are in short supply.
This is not a new phenomenon, there has always been a shortage of the necessities of life for the majority of people. The important thing to remember is at the present time these shortages are unnecessary. In the past it was not possible to produce all the requirements of mankind, but with the development of Capitalism there has grown up productive resources capable of producing all men’s needs.
The apologists of the capitalist class claim that it is not possible at the present time to produce all the requirements of mankind. We are constantly being urged to produce more and more and are told that one day, they do not say when, we will all be better off.
It is the claim of socialists that it is the capitalist system itself that prevents production from being sufficient. Commodities are produced for sale in order to make a profit. If there is too much of any particular commodity for it to be sold at a profit then production is ceased or diminished. The abolition of production for profit and the introduction of production solely for use whereby goods when produced would be available for all who needed them, would by itself solve the problem of disposing of these goods. If a surplus arose it would mean that mankind’s requirements were for the time being filled and production would then slow down.
It is not, however, the problem of over-production that we hear about to-day, but under-production.
How can production be so increased that a world of plenty is created? Once again we state that the barrier is the capitalist system. It is obvious to socialists and non-socialists that the war machine created by all the countries of the world is one of the major reasons for shortages to-day. Millions of men are in the armed forces of the world, millions more are producing armaments. Only Socialism, which would make the thought of war ridiculous, can stop this terrific waste of manpower and materials.
How much of the work which we do to-day is essential in order to produce the things we need? How much of it which although necessary under Capitalism would be unnecessary under Socialism? The vast army of civil servants needed by the State, the huge number of clerks engaged in keeping records of the financial transactions of Capitalism, ticket collectors, advertising staff, insurance agents, commercial travellers—there are a hundred and one different occupations which although necessary under Capitalism would not be required if goods were produced for use instead of for profit.
Modern methods of production, plus the gigantic increase of manpower available for production, could turn out goods in such quantity so as to provide plenty for all. Unfortunately at the present time only the socialists see the possibility of ending shortages.
D. W. Lock