Friday, July 10, 2015

Production for use (1983)

From the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

What determines the nature of work is its social context. With the change from capitalism to socialism, the social form of labour will change. Under capitalism labour functions within an exchange relationship of economic values — labour time for wages. With socialism, labour will simply be carried on as an expression of cooperation within a direct relationship between productive activity and needs.

Work itself is an important human need, and by reducing it to a mechanical function and an economic category within an exchange economy, capitalism destroys this vital aspect of work. It makes it a time serving activity, drained of human meaning. As a result, people wish to avoid it.

Capitalist production is enclosed within an exchange economy. It does expand, but only as the self-expansion of capital takes place through the exploitation of the working class—through the use of wage labour. The capitalist's use of labour power results from an exchange of wages with the worker's labour time. This is the investment of portions of capital as variable capital. It is this portion of total capital which is "self-expanding". Labour power is variable capital because, when it is put to use by an employer, it creates values over and above its own value (surplus value). These surplus products of labour power, commodities, then enter into a general relationship of value on the markets, where, as a result of sales, these values have realised in money form. Thus we have an enclosed system of exchange, the key element of which is the self-expansion of variable capital, which is the worker put to work through the exchange of wages for labour time.

With socialism, on the basis of common ownership, the producers are elevated to a social existence which is formed by direct relationships of co-operative activity about mutual needs. In breaking out of the capitalist relationships of value, labour will express a direct productive relationship between people, and will be released for human need. Socialism will abolish all economic relationships of exchange. With production for human need no significant economic relationship will exist between items of wealth, and there will therefore be no need to compare or measure their methods of production in terms of any common factor such as labour time.

The capitalist exchange relationships between commodities themselves, including the human commodity, labour power, will be replaced by a direct relationship in the line of productive activity; items of wealth, and human need. This direct relationship of wealth to need replaces the capitalist relationship between things. The price mechanism which transmits an economic message throughout capitalist production, to do with cheapness and competitive, profit-making success, will be replaced in socialism with a direct relationship of production to human needs.

Production of use will be the organisation of necessary production in line with consciously chosen levels of consumption with no intervening economic factors between the two activities. The organisation of production therefore will resolve itself as a problem of quantity analysis. These will be absolute quantities of things in relation to need, not relative quantities of labour time in the things themselves. Socialism will quantify its needs and then organise production in direct response.

The choice of production methods would not resolve itself simply as the selection of the most efficient method of production, that is, the method which embodies the least amount of labour time. The capitalist market pressure to embody the least amount of labour time. The capitalist market pressure to embody the least amount of labour time in production will be replaced in socialism by all the requirements of need. These will include material necessity, work itself as a human need, social safety, care of the environment, conservation, animal welfare, and so on.

For example, the massive release of pollutants into the atmosphere may be part of the cheapest and most efficient way of converting fossil fuels into electricity, but socialism would not do it. The confinement of animals for long periods in cramped spaces may be part of the cheapest and most efficient method of converting cereals into animal protein, but socialism would not do it.

Paradoxically, socialism will make more economical use of resources and labour, because it will strip away all functions which are irrelevant to the direct relationship of activity to need. This fact was recognised by Marx. "The capitalist mode of production, while on the one hand, enforcing economy in each individual business, on the other hand, begets. by its anarchical system of competition, the most outrageous squandering of labour power and of the social means of production, not to mention the creation of a vast number of employments, at present indispensable, but in themselves superfluous." (Capital, Vol. 1, p.540, Allen & Unwin.)

Socialism will enjoy the latitude to combine different methods of production where this might be considered necessary by the community. It will deploy all its resources more freely according to practicality and desirability regardless of possibly different rates of working efficiency.

Socialism will enjoy more people available for the production of useful wealth; without the limits of market capacity it will enjoy greater use of production methods; without price competition it will enjoy wider selection of production methods; with the ending of national barriers it will enjoy a more rational deployment of world resources; and without capital investment it will enjoy greater adaptability of social production.

Socialism will combine all these practical advantages with all the criteria for the selection of production methods according to need, such as material necessity, the enjoyment of work, safety, care of the environment, conservation.

In this context work is no longer a mechanical function but the satisfaction of vital human need.
Pieter Lawrence

The Socialist Workers Party and Trotwatch (1994)

Book Review from the February 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why You Should Join the Socialists. By Paul Foot. Bookmarks. £1.00
Carry on Recruiting! Why the SWP dumped the "downturn" in a "dash for growth". by Trotwatch, AK Distribution, 22 Lutton Place, Edinburgh £2.95.

Whatever else can be said about Paul Foot, he's a good writer. The trouble is that he employs his talent in a bad cause: writing books to recruit people for the SWP, an undemocratic Leninist outfit which goes in for manipulative politics.

The SWP sees the mass of workers as just that - as a mass, capable only of being passive followers. On this analysis, politics becomes a struggle for "the leadership of the working class", between their present leaders - Labour MPs and councillors and trade union bureaucrats - and their would-be leaders, the SWP.

The strategy of the SWP is to discredit the Labour and trade union leaders so that the workers will desert them and follow instead the leaders of the SWP. The tactic is to call on the Labour leaders to "fight" on some issues of concern to workers and, when they don't, to denounce them as weak or bad leaders or as traitors and sell-outs.

All this presupposes that workers do follow the Labour leaders; if they don't, the SWP strategy doesn't make sense. So, at the same time as it denounces the Labour leaders as weaklings and traitors, the SWP calls on workers to follow the, and in fact actively carry out pro-Labour propaganda by blaming the problems of capitalism not on capitalism but on the Tories. In effect, the SWP's position is "follow the Labour leaders until you're ready to follow us".

Paul Foot's book reflects this approach though, to be fair, genuine socialists will find little to quarrel with in the first two chapters: "A World in Chaos" and "The Robbers and the Robbed". In fact, the first in particular is a powerful criticism of capitalism. The tragedy is that, to the extent that Foot's book does attract people who want to get rid of capitalism, it will divert them into the dead-end of Leninist politics.

Foot calls on people to join the SWP but he doesn't tell them what they will find if they do. For this, anyone impressed by his prose should get hold of the Trotwatch pamphlet. This is mainly devoted to describing the SWP's manipulative politics in relation to the anti-Poll Tax campaign and the protest against the recent (now largely achieved) pit closure programme.

However the final chapter "What's Wrong with the SWP" documents the undemocratic internal structure of the organization, where a self-perpetuating leadership dominates with the ordinary members playing the passive role of followers:
The party's line is handed down through the pages of the party's press from the Central Committee via the editors of the different journals. The branch cadre organise and deploy the new troops and orchestrate their activity. The bulk of the work involves simply selling the party's journals . . . A Leninist party simply reproduces and institutionalises existing capitalist power relations inside a supposedly 'revolutionary' organisation: between leaders and led, order givers and order takers; between specialists and acquiescent and largely powerless party workers.
Adam Buick

Party News (1969)

From the March 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

May we draw your attention to three important meetings being held in London over the next few weeks.

The Government White Paper on Trade Unions, "In Place of Strife", has caused a stir in T.U. circles. But only a logical sequence to the running of Capitalism by the Labour Government. These T.U. restrictions and the Socialist alternative will be discussed on Monday 10th March, 8 p.m. at Head Office. Advertise this at your T.U. Branch.

Student unrest, bound up with the educational system, is the theme of our meeting at Friends House, Euston Road, on Thursday, 20th March, 7.30. Leaflets are in the course of printing and will be available to members for distribution. This is an interesting and important topic and Friends House is a new venue for Party meetings. Try and attend yourself and bring some friends. A number of our speakers have attended various colleges and universities over the past months, to put the Socialist case. If your college would like a speaker, drop us a line.

Our Conference rally this year, Friday, 4th April, Conway Hall, 6 p.m. will be a little different. Instead of the usual lecture, we shall have four or five speakers, dealing with the organisation and policies of the various 'Left' Parties. The S.L.L., Radical Students Alliance, International Socialism etc. We hope it will take the form of a 'speak-in' and go on for a couple of hours.

The voice of Socialism continues to be heard in New Zealand. Wheels, the journal of the Drivers' Federation, is the second union paper there to republish our article on devaluation. Meanwhile the New Zealand Building Worker has our article "Get Rid of Wages" and a couple of others.

The December 1968 issue of the left-wing New Zealand Monthly Review inadvertently introduces its readers to the view that in North Vietnam there is state capitalism and not Socialism. In a report from London on the October 27 demonstration, Freda Cook makes the following fatuous remark:
"Apart from such political freaks as the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which advertises Vietcong, No! Mao, No! Che, No! Socialism, Yes! and bleats that North Vietnam is 'State Capitalism' . . ."
Our thanks for the free advertisment.

No. 17 of the "underground" paper Oz carried an article "Smash Cash" by a Socialist explaining that money could only go after a world-wide social revolution converting the means of life into common property and not before or apart from as suggested by some Hippies.

Letter: Are Our Views On Russia Correct? (1928)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard
Below is a letter from an American reader, with our reply.
San Francisco Labor College,
San Francisco.


I have been requested by some of the members of the Labor College to say a few words to you in regard to the last issue of the STANDARD.

On account of the front page article on "The Class Struggle in Russia," it became impossible for us to sell this issue at our regular meetings. The position taken in this article comes very dangerously close to the position taken by the anarchists in Russia to-day. You do not seem to grasp the difference between Democracy and Dictatorship. If the Bolsheviki did not act in a strong dictatorial manner, and had not acted in this way in the past, then the chances are about 999 out of a thousand that the capitalists would be in control of Russia to-day. 

Trotsky is right in some of the criticisms that he makes. But on other things he is wrong, that is, if he is quoted correctly on democracy.

Also it has been called to my attention that, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Soviet Russia last November, the STANDARD did not have very much to say.

We value the SOCIALIST STANDARD on account of its lucid position on World Capitalism, but we would like to see it take a different attitude in regard to Soviet Russia. Yours for Socialism,

Our critic makes a number of sweeping statements, but does not attempt to give particular instances of our alleged wrong policy, nor does he support his assertions with evidence. Our attitude on Russia is precisely the same as it was when the Bolsheviks seized power. We said then, and say now, that Socialism could not be established in that backward country, dominated as it is by an overwhelming majority of peasants and lacking a highly-developed industrial organisation. Neither the Bolsheviks nor any other dictators can revolutionise the economic basis of society by issuing decrees, nor by exiling or imprisoning all who are guilty of pointing out these obvious facts. Our critic tells us that, if the Bolsheviks had not been dictatorial, the capitalists would almost certainly be in control of Russia to-day. If by this he means to make the astounding assertion that Socialism has replaced Capitalism in Russia, we challenge him to produce one single scrap of evidence. Apart from this, it is interesting to notice that one specific charge made by Trotsky is that Russian industry has become so utterly dependent on credits granted by German and other banks and traders, that in fact Russian policy is again dictated, as it was before the war, by German and other foreign financial groups.

Our critic has apparently overlooked the explicit statement in the article referred to that we could not guarantee the accuracy of Trotsky's estimates of conditions, and that we did not accept all his views on policy. We published the quotations for the information of our readers. Would our critics have us suppress all news and views which we find disagreeable, as is, it seems, the suicidal policy advocated by some of the communists?

If those who consider our Russian policy not in accordance with the facts and with the interests of the working class will point out wherein it is wrong, we shall be pleased to answer their objections.
Edgar Hardcastle

"Too Much Wealth In The World" (1931)

From the February 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard
Mr. Lloyd George, at Barmouth, North Wales, yesterday, said that unemployment was creeping over the whole world, but it was difficult to explain why. There was a famine, not because there was not enough corn, but because there was too much corn. There too much wealth in the world, too much iron, steel, coal, etc. We were suffering because we had too much wealth. The big question confronting the nation at the present time was how were they to deal with the problem of unemployment.
Mr. Lloyd George says it is difficult to explain why. On the contrary, it is one of the easiest things in the world to explain—and to understand—why unemployment is "creeping" over the whole world. The wealth of the world, produced by the working class, belongs to the capitalist class. This wealth has to be sold in the world's markets in order to realise for its owners the difference between the wages and other costs paid for its production and its value on the market. A difference known to the Socialist as surplus value. As the wants of the capitalists and the wages of workers are limited, the world market is more or less choked with goods for which there are no buyers. The competition for markets compels ever cheaper methods of production, only to be attained by reducing the number of workers engaged in production.

This is the explanation in a nut-shell. It has been elaborated more fully many times in the columns of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD. Mr. Lloyd George knows this to be the only explanation. His difficulty is not so much in explaining, as in appearing to be wise on the subject without giving the game away for the class he represents.

His next statement, that there is too much wealth in the world, should be read the other way round: There are not enough markets to absorb the wealth owned by the capitalist class. We can then understand both the "creeping" unemployment and the over-production of wealth.

The big question, How to deal with the problem of unemployment? has also been answered in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD many times. Mr. Lloyd George's way is the capitalist way: enough dole to keep them quiet, and enough armed force in case of trouble. The only working class way is to understand and organise for Socialism. While the capitalist class own the means of life, the workers are compelled to work for wages, a condition which enables the capitalist class to appropriate the major portion of the wealth as surplus value, and scrap workers wholesale in order to increase the amount.
F. Foan