Saturday, July 30, 2022

Cashless - but not moneyless (1995)

From the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Welcome to a World without Money” ran the headline of a full-page feature article in the Daily Mirror on 30 January. But it wasn’t an article on Socialism or anything like it. Written by Tanith Carey, it was about an experiment that starts in Swindon this month when people will pay for things by using a special smart card instead of notes and coins or cheques or even ordinary bank and credit cards.

Tanith Carey describes what the experiment will involve:
“Imagine going on a shopping spree and never having to shell out a penny for your purchases. Groceries at the supermarket. a new outfit, even a burger on the way home all yours without ever opening your wallet. There are no bills to sign, no rooting around in your back pocket and no reaching for change in the bottom of your purse. In fact not a note changes hands. Instead, everything is taken care of with a simple swipe of a card. ”
If ever this was to be adopted universally the result would be a cashless society, not a moneyless society which would be something quite different.

A cashless society would be one in which we no longer used paper notes and metal coins to pay for things; in other respects things would stay the same. A moneyless society, on the other hand, would be a society in which the whole concept of money—as a unit in which prices are expressed and as a means of payment—would have become redundant because the things we need to live would not have prices and would no longer be bought and sold. It would be a radically different society from today.

Most people tend to see money as giving access to wealth. Indeed it does, on condition that you have some. But from another angle it can be seen as a means of excluding people from wealth—from the wealth we need but can’t pay for because we haven’t got the money. Money, in other words, only gives conditional and restricted access to wealth. It is a means of rationing—it only gives people access to what they can pay for—and the workings of the capitalist system distribute these rations to people in very' unequal amounts.

Cashless society
The idea of a “cashless society” was first promoted by the banks in the 1960s as a way of encouraging people to use cheques and so open bank accounts. In those days most people still received, each week or fortnight, a pay packet in the literal sense—an envelope containing cash. This you put in your wallet or purse and spent to meet your needs over the next week or fortnight; if you wanted to save something you had to take it as cash to a bank or building society or to the Post Office.

The banks’ scheme to increase their business worked and today most people have a bank or building society account and are paid either by cheque or by a direct transfer to their account. People now pay for many more things than they used to by cheque, with the result that the need for cash—circulating notes and coins—has declined and an approach towards a cashless society made.

A cheque is basically an IOU, a promise to pay the payee (the person or business it is made out to) a sum of money at a later date, when it is presented to their bank in fact. This, too, takes place without the need for any physical transfer of cash. It does, however, involve the physical transfer of the cheque and the feeding of the details into a computer by a bank employee. This is time-consuming and so relatively expensive for small amounts, and now the banks are dissatisfied with cheques too. They prefer bank cards.

Originally these were guarantee cards presented with the cheque to guarantee the payee that the bank would honour the cheque up to a certain amount even if the payer didn't happen to have that amount in their account at the time the cheque was presented for payment. Then, with the incorporation into them of a microchip, they became "smart cards” which enabled their holders to withdraw notes from the hole-in-the-wall cash machines that sprang up in high streets throughout the country. Now they can also be used instead of a cheque to pay for things, provided, that is, the seller (a supermarket, shop, restaurant, etc) is equipped with a machine that can read the information on the card's microchip and transmit details of the transaction to a central computer. The banks envisage these cards eventually replacing cheques altogether.

So, after the cashless society the chequeless society, the society of electronic money or, as the computer bull's call it, “digital dosh”.

Digital dosh
The experiment in Swindon, financed by the Nat West and Midland banks, takes a different approach towards the same end. It aims to see if it is practicable—and of course profitable—to replace not just cheques but cash itself in everyday transactions.

Cash differs from a cheque in two important respects. First, it circulates: the same note or coin is used many times, by the different people whose hands it passes through, to pay for things. Second, payment in cash is a transaction between two persons only; no third party is involved, only the payer and the payee, the buyer and the seller To recreate electronically these conditions, while at the same time safeguarding against fraud, is technically more difficult than the bank-card-type system which uses a third party—the central system—to carry out and confirm any transaction. But it can be done, and has been done for the Swindon experiment.

Those taking part in the experiment will be issued with a plastic card but this will be different from an ordinary bank card in that holders can transfer to it from their bank account a sum of money of their choice. This can be done either from a machine at the bank or from one attached to their phone or from an “electronic wallet” This wallet is similar in shape and size to a pocket calculator and it too contains a keyboard and a display panel; money can be transferred to it in the same way as to a card but it can also be used to transfer money directly to someone else’s card.

The card works on the same principle as a BT phonecard except that it can be used to pay for anything from a supermarket, comer shop, pub, restaurant, etc participating in the scheme, even for small items like newspapers, stamps or sweets not normally purchased by cheque. When the amount transferred to the card has been spent it can no longer be used without more money being transferred to it.

When the card is used to pay for something it is inserted into a machine that transfers the money but no information about the buyer to the retail outlet's electronic till. A perfect substitute for cash and one that avoids the dangers of robberies and muggings (but not of counterfeiting).

What a waste
It’s all hi-tech stuff, but what a waste! What a waste of the ingenuity and technical skills of the computer analysts, programmers and software and hardware engineers, since electronic money is still money, i.e. still a means of rationing people's access to things.

All these smart cards, electronic wallets and scanners with their digital signatures, guardians, cryptographic algorithms and PINs are designed for one purpose: to allow those with money access to things and then only up to the limit of the amount they have, and so to deny this conditional access to wealth to those who don't meet the conditions, i.e. to those who don’t have money or who don't have enough money. They only make “sense” in a society based on private property and buying and selling and are yet another example of how' today under capitalism scientific knowledge and technology is prostituted and used to serve anti-social ends.

In a rationally-organised society, where we produced goods to satisfy the various needs of people and where people had free access according to their individually-defined needs to what had been produced, the same technology could be used to set up and operate the efficient system of stock control that would be needed to ensure that the stores were always stocked up with the products people had indicated they wanted. But this presupposes a society of common ownership and democratic control, not the banks' advertising agency’s slogan of a cashless society. Then we would truly be able to say “Welcome to a World without Money”.
Adam Buick

Press Exposure: Winners and Losers (1995)

The Press Exposure column from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

What do you want from your newspaper? Do you want a comprehensive, insightful report on what is happening in the world to help you form your opinion on whether we need to run things differently and if so how? Or masses of analysis and policy to help you come to the same conclusions as the writer? Or would you prefer, along with page-after-page of sport (which usually means page-after-page about the off-field foibles of the sportspeople) and dedicated probing of the sexual meanderings of pop stars. politicians and aristocrats, the chance to take part in some sort of competition which promises a chance of making you rich beyond your maddest dreams?

Competitions have been a consistent feature in the press. There is, for example, the humble (although that can depend on which newspaper it is in) crossword which occasionally offers the sort of prize—like a dictionary—which will not make you rich for the rest of your life. In the past there was a peculiar competition called Bullets, giving prizes for constructing apparently meaningful responses to obviously meaningless phrases. It seemed densely indecipherable but was very popular. Some newspapers have run competitions with a car as the prize, or enough petrol to run a car far into the future. Others have offered to pay the mortgage on a house. The so-called quality press has not been immune from this: the Sunday Times has run competitions—one was about post-war test cricketers—which were little more than lotteries and the Times has run one involving the phantom buying of shares. And of course there is good old bingo, which in the newspapers came in different styles. Sometimes the player had to get a card from a newsagent, sometimes the card came through the letterbox with all the other junk mail. All that you had to do then was buy the newspaper which published the numbers to be crossed off the card. It promised big prizes—perhaps a million pounds but there was a loophole. As both cards and numbers were produced by the newspaper and the "game" was not played openly as it is somewhere like a working men’s club, there was nothing to prevent the cards and numbers being designed so that nobody even won the jackpot.

If you think this is farfetched consider the case of Spot-The-Ball. This was another popular, long-running, competition in which the newspaper published an action photograph of a football game, with players leaping and thrashing about—without a ball. Competitors had to mark a cross where they thought the ball was. Addicts of Spot-The-Ball could spend a lot of time with a magnifying glass and a ruler, trying to work out where the players’ eyes were focused and where their boots were aimed at (assuming they were looking at the ball and trying to kick it; which is not always the case) and drawing lines in the hope that the point of intersection would be the winning spot.

In 1990 the Sun ran a Spot-The-Ball competition, in which the photograph was draw up into a grid. The unlikely to prize was £5 million. This desperate venture was quickly copied by the Daily Mirror, then stumbling under the even more desperate ownership of Robert Maxwell. In the Mirror contest readers had to Spot-The-Ball on five consecutive days: the promised top prize was £1 million.

The snag
It all seemed very exciting and enticing but there was a snag. The competition would be judged—that is to say the position of the ball would be decided—after the Mirror had all the entries. This would be done by a panel of judges (on the first occasion chaired by none other than Maxwell himself) who could put the ball in a square which nobody had marked. And that is what happened. Maxwell had instructed his editor "Make sure it doesn’t cost me any money" and, apart from a few "second’’ prizes of £10,000 that is what happened. The whole thing was a fraud on readers of the Mirror who were gullible enough to believe that a newspaper would help them solve their money problems in that way.

When this sort of trickery is exposed—as Maxwell’s Spot-The-Ball was exposed in a subsequent Panorama—we are subjected to a lot of indignation from people who seem to expect the press always to be honest, always to tell the truth. Which brings us back to the original question of what we want from the papers. Imagine for a moment what would happen, if the press suddenly dropped its unwavering support for capitalism and began to publish material which could be sustained by serious argument. What if they stopped treating every pronouncement by political leaders with such grovelling respect? It is difficult to believe that journalists listening to some revered figure churning out yet another discredited placebo for society’s problems do not reflect that that have heard it all before. Difficult to believe that they don't realise that capitalism’s spokespeople have nothing fresh or effective to say and that they should admit to their impotence and advise us to swamp them out in a social revolution.

Because capitalism itself is a massive fraud, in which millions of useful people allow themselves to be exploited to sustain a parasite minority and a social system which cannot be organised in the interests of its people. Beside that, a newspaper's bogus bingo, Win-A-Car, or Spot-The-Ball are so trivial that in the history of fraud they won’t rate so much as a column inch.

World Review: Nightmare scenarios (1995)

From the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

From the middle to the end of May, Western commentators treated the working class, already stressed out and fed up with the rat race we know as capitalism, to a triple synopsis of doom.

In mid May, the International Institute of Strategic Studies revealed US concerns about China's $100 billion annual defence budget, the growing Chinese military assertiveness and their strong resemblance to a superpower.

Only two days after China had joined other nuclear powers in endorsing an indefinite extension of die Non-Proliferation Treaty, it carried out an underground atomic explosion that brought immediate international condemnation.

A few days later the Guardian reported China as setting "alarm bells ringing . . . with its military muscle flexing", and how there were "renewed anxieties about its willingness to live by international rules" (22 May).

China, it seems, had taken a sudden interest in the Spratley Islands and the mineral wealth beneath its reef. That this reef could provide China with oil revenues and access to wider Pacific Rim markets only added to Western fears of China becoming a rival superpower.

A few more days and the Guardian would run another panic-laden story about how "the West’s nightmare scenario of an alliance between Iraq and Iran moved a little closer . . . with the former enemies pledging to improve relations" (26 May).

The catalyst it appears has been the mutual acceptance of Iraq and Iran as the joint focus of Western economic boycotts.

If Iraq, with a population of 17 million, and with a rag-tag army, war-weary after an eight-year conflict with Iran, necessitated the mobilisation of 750,000 allied troops and accompanying hardware in 1990, what, analysts wonder, would be the consequences if Iran sided with Iraq?

Iran, for instance, with a population of 55 million, with a recently upgraded missile system and a nascent nuclear programme and an army of fundamentalists famous for their suicide missions, siding with a vengeful Iraq, could give Western governments and their masters the mother of all headaches.

War footing
On the last day of May, Britain declared it was sending 6,000 troops to the Balkans. The US also looked for ways of muscling in on the world publicity this would generate and NATO gave a sigh of relief, at last being given the chance to justify its existence.

The Guardian's front page headline—"Allies on war footing"—appeared a sad irony for those apologists who saw VE Day in May as a vindication of world peace thanks to Western liberal democracy.

May had also been the 50th anniversary of die United Nations—a contradiction in terms considering there have been over 300 conflicts since 1945. Nowhere has the futility of the UN been more apparent than in the Balkans in which the Croat-Bosnian-Serb war has exhausted every UN method of conflict resolution. Sanctions have been imposed, negotiators have redrawn maps and attempted to broker cease-fires while peacekeepers have been sent to see they are carried

Any credibility the UN had was lost when the UN pulled out 75 percent of its forces from Rwanda following the death of 10 Belgian peacekeepers, leaving the country to anarchy, starvation and the machete. This was followed by the UN pull-out from Somalia at the end of another attempt to bring stability to an African country.

It is a grave indictment of the capitalist system, that the initial relief and joy with which the demise of the cold war was greeted has melted into an increasing anxiety about the future. Within five years of the Berlin Wall falling, 25 new states have sprung up, only two minus the blood that accompanies such birth pangs. More await to be born.

The logic of capitalism is as insane as it is obscene. Conflict rages in 30 countries and much bigger ones await that gentle shove into motion, from Iraq to China. There are wars in Chechenya, Bosnia. The South China Seas seethe with tension. The time-honoured panacea remains military readiness and the threat of aggression. just as the nuclear bomb and the awareness of its destructive potential forced a 40-year stand-off between the US and the Soviet Union.

The 20th century, more than any period in history, should have taught the working class that bombs and borders do not solve problems or bring peace. They only stall war and make conflict, when it does come, more gruesome.

As we approach the millennium, we look back over 100 years that have witnessed more bloodshed than any other century in human history, on a world punctuated with 100 million land mines, on a world one fifth of whose population live in extreme poverty. What an indictment of capitalism.
John Bissett

50 Years Ago: This Phoney Election (1995)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Voters who try to interpret the issues in the election by studying the more flamboyant utterances of the Party leaders may well wonder what it is all about.

Mr. Churchill declares that the election is a fight between individualism and Socialism and between his own Party and the "Socialist Party”. By individualism he means capitalism, which has, however, long since got past the stage of a competitive struggle between independent small capitalists and gone over increasingly to giant monopolies.

The Labour Party, equally anxious to misrepresent the situation, accepts Mr. Churchill's “terminological inexactitude" that they are a socialist party and declare in its Election Declaration (“Let us Face the Future”), “The Labour Party is a Socialist Party and proud of it"—and then proceeds to give us a blue-print of the State Capitalism that they propose to retain and develop.

We confidently make one electoral prophecy. Whatever the result capitalism will be safe because the majority of the working class are not yet Socialists.

(From editorial in Socialist Standard, July 1945)

Help, you’re trapped (1995)

The A Word in Your Ear column from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Get up in the morning. Go to work. Receive as pay less than you produce. Give the surplus to your boss. Survive on your wage. Spend it on buying back what you and the other wage slaves have produced. No wages left. Need money. So . . . get up in the morning. Go to work. Receive as pay less that you produce . . .  Repeat until you die or are thrown on the scrapheap.

That is your life. You call it being employed. “Luckier” than the poor sod next door: he’s unemployed, forced to look for a boss to exploit him. Employment is exploitation It's legalised robbery: you produce the goods and services and others, who possess the means of producing, get rich. Employment is a trap. You're in it.

The sole reason for workers being on earth is to be employed—robbed—trapped. Without us there would be no surplus value produced. If it could be created without us perhaps we would be culled like seals. But we are necessary to the system. Out of the hole which capitalism has dug for us comes profit. Lots of lovely profits to keep the rich rich. Aren’t they lucky to have us?

But you never asked to be in this trap. Tough luck. It was an act of birth. “Sorry. Mrs Bloggs, but you've given birth to a wage slave" Workers are those who own virtually nothing worth selling except ourselves: our mental and physical abilities, our work. (That’s why we’re called workers—because we’re forced to work ) “Well done, Lady Fotheringdale-Smythe, you’ve given birth to a healthy baby parasite, no sooner out the womb than the inheritor of five company directorships and a trust fund worth more than Worker Bloggs will earn in his lifetime as a wage slave.” No trap for baby capitalist. Well, somebody has to mind the Caribbean beaches while the rest of us look after the factories and offices.

Illustration by George Meddemmen 
You want to get out of the trap and be like the loafers who live off the surplus? Easier said than done, wage slave. You might try robbing a bank. The prisons are full of wage slaves who tried escaping from the trap only to book themselves into a cell. Or do the lottery. There’s always a hope that the fifteen-million-to-one odds will go your way. And that is precisely the function of the lottery: to offer hope to the trapped. Pay a pound and purchase your illusory crack in the cell wall.

Or you can grin and bear it. Most do. Some don’t. Suicide is always an option. (At least it’s not illegal any more.) Or drugs. Yes, the shop doorways are full of kids who thought they could have a little Ecstasy within the trap. Or you could always turn to religion and screw up your mind without shooting drugs. Pie in the sky when you die. But what about life before you die? You're not here to live, wage slave You're here to produce profits. Living is something you can attempt in your own time.

In this trap your time is rarely your own. Most of it is spent being employed. That’s what you're here for. That’s what gives you the right to go home at night and prepare to work the next day. A slave couldn't go home. Slaves belonged to the boss. Slaves had no rents or mortgages to think aboul. You do, sucker. No sooner are you let off the employer’s chain it ’s back home to a place that you must rent or borrow money to live in. You’d probably prefer to live somewhere else. The trap can get a little cramped. That’s the luck of the draw: if you were one of the one percent who own and control the earth's resources you would have had a stately home, or a mansion at the very least, to pass away your idle hours in. But your idle hours are all too few. Unless you’re unemployed in which case you’re forced to be banging on the exploiter’s door begging him to legally rob you. And then it’s back to doing time for the profit system.

You work as you work because you're trapped. You live where and as you live because you’re trapped You travel in a lousy car in congested traffic or in overcrowded public transport on which you pay to go to be exploited because you’re trapped. Your children are born into the same trap as you’re in and they are sent to school to learn how to be trapped. You are well and truly trapped in the profit-grinding machine of this rotten social system And your bosses call it freedom.

And in a way you are free, because like every trap there is a door. The fact that those pointing the way out are labelled loonies or troublemakers might lead you to stay put. You might even be scared of the freedom which lies beyond the cage. At least in the trap you get your wage, just like a dog on a lead gets its bone. You are free to accept your bone to chew on. Tory bones. Labour bones. Green bones. Trotskyist bones. Hie well-adjusted inmate likes his bone.
Steve Coleman

These Foolish Things: It could be you (1995)

The Scavenger column from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

It could be you

Mistake! This print-out from a certain charity’s head office should never have been sent out to its members—because against every name there was a cryptic comment about the person’s housing and social status—for fund-raising purposes. Here are some of them:
Low rise pensioners
       Sweatshop sharers 
Rootless renters
       Pebble dash sublopia 
Bijou homemakers
       Aged owner occupiers 
Gentrified villages
       Rejuvenated terraces 
30s Industrial speculative
      Corporate careerists 
Low rise subsistence
       Smokestack shiftwork 
Co-op club and colliery
      Depopulated terraces
Who concocts jargon like this?

Getting rid of pollution (1)

Albright and Wilson, the Oldbury chemical firm, has just set up a joint venture with Hunan Resun Industrial General Corporation in China to manufacture wetting and foaming agents for detergents and toiletries. This adds to the manufacturing plants they have already established in Singapore, Malaysia. Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The night-time emissions of foul smells from their Oldbury chimneys may soon be only a fond memory. They will have moved to the other side of the world.

Getting rid of pollution (2)

GEC Alsthom of Rugby is to build £2 billions-worth of power stations in China, including a second nuclear installation at Daya Bay, association with two French companies. But this one will be 20 percent cheaper than Daya Bay I because China has forced down the price. Nuclear power stations are no longer popular around the world. The People’s Democracy of China, however, has no such misgivings.

Getting rid of pollution (3)

Resio Moses, a senior official from the Federated States of Micronesia, said pacific governments are worried about “numerous approaches that have been made to some island countries by unscrupulous foreign waste dealers.” These South Pacific nations have recently agreed a draft treaty banning the passage or dumping of all hazardous waste in the region in an attempt to halt this growing branch of capitalist enterprise.

Three in a cell

Britain’s prison population of nearly 52,000 is increasing by 250 a week. New blocks costing £55 million are being built in an attempt to house the 2,000 surplus to capacity. Six private prisons are planned for the future but none of these is likely to be ready for about two years. Meanwhile, severe overcrowding, like that of the 1980s, seems inevitable.
The Scavenger

Letters: Oxfam — only seeking to alleviate (1995)

Letters to the Editors from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Oxfam — only seeking to alleviate

Dear Editors,

I was greatly saddened by the attack on the work of Oxfam by your columnist,"Scorpion", in the May Socialist Standard. Oxfam has never claimed, as Scorpion implies, to end hunger, disease, exploitation and poverty, that is endemic to capitalism in the third world; and the first one for that matter, but does set out to alleviate some of the effects of these evils, to the utmost of its abilities. Of course the establishment of Socialism world-wide is the only real answer. but what do we do in the meantime? Sit on our hands and sneer at those who show their concern in a practical way by doing something?

Oxfam goes much further than just raising funds to combat the ravishes of war, famine and floods. A vital part of its work is promoting Fair Trade with groups (mostly co-operatives), of small-scale producers of foodstuffs and craft goods in the third world, that are sold in Oxfam shops. Such Fair Trading has grown over the past thirty years so that there are now well over 300 groups in 40 countries that are paid a guaranteed price for their products, that is a fair reflection of their labour, i.e. one that enables workers and their families to provide enough food and other basic necessities including schooling for their children. Oxfam as trading partners are committed to ensuring producers have health and safety regulations in the workplace and are allowed to organise. This kind of practical Socialism in action, is in stark contrast to the gross exploitation by the multinational companies of workers in the third world; most obvious of coffee, tea and banana growers.

Since the early 1970s Oxfam has been campaigning to increase public, and government awareness that the root causes of third world poverty lay in the unfair trading policies imposed by the industrialised countries of the first world, aided by the IMF and World Bank of course. An indication of the impact this has had can be gained from the fact that our government has been stung into threatening to withdraw Oxfam’s charitable status on more than one occasion for being "too political". But Oxfam is part of a growing international movement of more than 50 organisations that are trading for change in the third world, by means of Fair Trade principles. It's a pity that Scorpion didn’t pay a visit to his nearest Oxfam shop to do a little research into the scope of their work, instead of making a cheap jibe in order to fill his column.
Peter Kentfield, 

You yourself admit that Oxfam only seeks to alleviate. not abolish, world hunger and poverty. So why isn't it fair comment to point out the ultimate futility of only trying to relieve the symptoms while leaving their cause intact? And if, as you say, you accept that "the establishment of Socialism worldwide is the only real answer" surely you should be devoting at least some of your time and energy to promoting this too? By not doing so you are helping to prolong “the meantime" and its miseries including those Oxfam and all the other charities are trying to relieve.

"Fair Trading" is merely an extension of the principle of charity since it relies on the generosity of people to buy goods they might not really want or of a lower quality than they can get elsewhere just because they have been produced by poor people in the third world. (This no doubt is why the Charity Commissioners allow it.)

In any event, it is not the solution—or even an embryo of a solution—to the problem of world poverty. Like food handouts, it's only ever going to help a comparative handful compared to the millions who suffer from hunger. You proudly announce that "there are now well over 300 groups in 40 countries that are paid a guaranteed price for their products”. Yet. according to the United Nations, "some 550 million go to bed hungry each night. More than 1.5 billion lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation". (Fact Sheet 2 on "Global Poverty", prepared by the UN Department of Public Information. July 1994, for the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, Denmark. 6-12 March 1995.)

Nor is Fair Trading an example of "practical Socialism in action”. Socialism is the common ownership and democratic control of the productive resources of the Earth. In other words, the expropriation of the multinational corporations and ruling classes who currently own and control these resources. It is only once this world framework has been established that we will be able to get down to the urgent task of tackling world hunger and poverty. The world is quite capable of producing enough to decently feed, clothe and house all its inhabitants, only this is held back and distorted by world market forces which only respect paying demand and the profit motivc. Socialism is needed precisely so that we begin to produce directly to satisfy human needs, instead of for sale on a market—trading whether "fair" or “unfair"—or for profit. 

A Socialist police force?

Dear Editors,

I was surprised to read your brief reply to Terry Liddle's letter in the May Socialist Standard. The statement that "there won't be any cops or prisons in a socialist society" demonstrates an alarming naiveté which occasionally runs through your publication, made all the more worrying by the fact that it is the voice of people who are proposing to create a better society.

While it's obvious that a great many crimes are directly or indirectly caused by capitalism (especially theft and fraud), surely the worst crimes, such as rape and murder happen because of the mental instability of the perpetrator as much as. if not more than, wider sociological factors. Under Socialism, a police force of sorts would still be necessary to deal with such crimes. If a Socialist society was run properly it would promote a healthier state of mind in its population, but it would still take many years for us to evolve out of a capitalist state of mind. For example, the effects of the capitalist media's exploitation of women, which is a root cause of rape, are now so ingrained in the minds of many men, that a conversion to socialism couldn’t instantly reverse this. If a police force became unnecessary under Socialism, I would estimate it to be two or three generations after conversion. Even then, an organisation would still be needed to investigate suicides, disappearances and the occasional murder or rape which Socialism hasn't been able to prevent.

Your original statement assumes Socialism to be a magic wand, one wave of which will sprit away all of society’s faults. A Socialist society needs to be constructed through a clear, fair, common sense approach, not by making rushed, naive generalisations.
Clive Hendry, 

Our short reply to Terry Liddle was in a different context to the one you posit. He had raised the question of what would happen if vegetarians employed civil disobedience in a Socialist society to oppose practices of which they disapproved, and asked "will socialist cops kick and baton us and throw us into socialist prisons?"

In other words, he was dealing with the question of decision-making and the carrying-out of decisions in a Socialist society. As Socialism will be a fully democratic society without any vested interests decisions of a political nature could be settled after a full and rational discussion of all the pros and cons, ideally ending in some consensus but, if need be, by a vote. Obviously this implies that the minority will accept the majority decision. We think this a reasonable assumption given the sort of society Socialism will be—a real community with a common interest in which democratic values will be generally accepted.. Hence our reply that there won't be any need for a police force armed with batons to enforce decisions, nor for prisons in which to lock up those who refuse to accept them. If those in a minority on some issue won't accept a decision reached in accordance with the agreed procedures then Socialism couldn't function. Socialism is a non-violent society of voluntary co-operation or it isn’t Socialism.

We never said there won't be any occurrences of anti-social behaviour in Socialism or that these wouldn’t have to be dealt with. It is true, however, that we do think that these, too. could be dealt with without recourse to prisons as "places of punishment” or to a special coercive body, whether armed with batons or with guns, which is what a police "force” is.

Most crime today is. as you yourself point out. property crime (people trying to acquire in some way money, or property they can sell for money). In fact this accounts for some 95 percent of all crimes and will of course disappear in a Socialist society, where people won’t need to acquire money before they can satisfy their needs but will be able to do this directly in accordance with the principle "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs".

As to the 5 percent remaining. of “crimes against the person", a large proportion of these result today from the corruption of relationships and general frustration due to lack of money and from the alienation that occurs in a society of rampant individualism which tries to reduce us to social atoms who only come into contact with each other when we are carrying out some monetary transaction.

So we are talking about a hugely-reduced level of anti-social behaviour which, apart from cases of people losing their temper (and then regretting it), will be carried out by disturbed individuals. Some of these may indeed need to be restrained or temporarily isolated from the rest of the community but not in "prisons" or anything like them; rather with all the best facilities in places like converted country mansions.

Agreed, we probably will need "an organisation", composed of trained and competent people "to investigate suicides, disappearances and the occasional murder or rape”. But this "organisation" would be more akin to today's rail or air accident inspectors than to the uniformed. hierarchical and baton- wielding police force we know today.

Reconstituted capitalist party

Dear Editors,

What follows is the text of a letter sent to the Labour Party:

"This is my letter of resignation from the Labour Party. The reason for this is my disillusionment with the leadership. The party has always maintained that it is a reformist party, with an emphasis on social justice, rather than socialism. However. "New Labour" is a reconstituted capitalist party. The modernizers in the Labour Party have a vision of "the enterprise of the market . . . the rigour of competition . . . a thriving private sector". This is a contradiction in its attitude towards social justice. F.A. Hayek, the New Right economist, attacked the left's notion of social justice, in that it is incompatible with a market economy, "in which no single person, or group determines who gets what, and the shares of individuals always depend on many circumstances which nobody could have foreseen. the whole concept of social or distributive justice is empty and meaningless". By accepting the "rigour of competition" in a market economy, the Labour Party compromises all notions of social justice to the extent that it becomes, as Hayek states, "a mirage". It is ironic that Hayek used this argument to attack the left, yet the modernizers in the Labour Party will attempt to attach notions of justice to a competitive economy, and in the process be converts to free market capitalism.

The second, more important, reason is that the Labour Party, in government, will set out to change the capitalist system to one in which there is social cohesion with less inequality. Yet will capitalism have the capacity to change? Reforms are generally accepted as temporary and concessionary solutions to the problems of unemployment, homelessness etc..yet it is merely tampering with a capitalist system which is fundamentally exploitative. It becomes useless reforming the social problems, when capitalism is corrupt, and therefore an increasing number of peoples' basic needs are not met in a class-divided society, in which production and distribution is owned and controlled by the minority capitalist class. The only way in which the exploitative system can be changed is through Socialism. This does not mean piecemeal reforms, but by convincing the majority working class that Socialism is desirable and can be achieved on a global scale. Collective ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution in the interest of the whole community can be achieved when there are enough Socialists who are willing to take democratic and participatory action against an exploitative capitalist system.

The Labour Party does not stand for Socialism, but has shifted its commitment from state capitalism, to a competitive market capitalism.” 
Robert Smith,