Sunday, November 26, 2006
The World Commonwealth
Another depiction of how socialist society could be organised and this time an extract from a 1940s book which was re-printed in World Socialist No.4 Winter 1985-6 .
Money Must Go
This was the title of a short book published in 1943 . Written by two sympathisers of the Socialist Party who used the name “Philoren” ( from their names Philips and Renson ) , it was an attempt to expound the case for socialism without using conventional jargon which they considered to be an obstacle to the spreading of socialist understanding . The book had its limitations , but can generally be regarded as one of the finest political documents not to have come out of the World Socialist Movement . 5000 copies were printed and sold but as the book is now out of print these are some selected passages from it to show the clarity of its ideas .
Professor:- I am not proposing the abolition of money alone , nor a return to barter . In fact , the abolition of money alone , would solve no problems and undoubtedly create many difficulties. But what I do propose is , that the whole system of money and exchange , buying and selling , profit-making and wage-earning be entirely abolished and that instead , that instead community as a whole should organise and administer the productions of goods for use only , and the free distribution of these goods to all members of the community according to each person’s needs.
Since money would not exist , and wealth could not , therefore , be measured in terms of money , no person could say that he owned a share of such-and -such value in the people’s means of production. In fact all the world’s means of production such as land , factories , mines , machines, etc , would then belong to the whole of the people of the world who would co-operate in using them .
The main features of the World Commonwealth are really quite simple , so I’ll proceed to sum them up for you in a few sentences .
Firstly , the new social system must be world-wide . It must be a World Commonwealth.
The world must be regarded as one country and humanity as one people .
Secondly , all the people will co-operate to produce and distribute all the goods and services which are needed by mankind , each person willingly and freely , taking part in the way he feels he can do best .
Thirdly , all goods and services will be produced for use only , and having been produced , will be distributed , free , directly to the people so that each persons needs are fully satisfied .
Fourthly , the land , factories , machines , mines , roads , railways , ships , and all those things which mankind needs to carry on producing the means of life , will belong to the whole people .
Suppose that the new social system were to start tomorrow ; the great mass of people having already learnt what it means , and having taken the necessary action to bring it about.
Everybody would carry on with their usual duties for the time being , except all those whose duties being of an unnecessary nature to the new system , were rendered idle : for example , bank clerks commercial travellers , salesmen , accountants , advertising and insurance agents etc. These people would , in time , be fitted into productive occupations for which hey considered themselves suitable . Periods of duty would then be regulated so that over-production would no ensue . Some sort of shift system would be necessary in some countries to begin with , and it would be as well to add that duty periods could not be reduced very much at the beginning.
George:- Why not Professor ?
Professor:- Obviously , George , because there would be need for an immediate increase in the volume of production of many kinds of goods to relieve those people who were suffering from the evil effects of the old system and to supply the needs of those who were in the process of transferring themselves from obsolete to useful occupations . For example , it would be necessary to produce lots of clothes of all sorts to be distributed to the millions of poverty-stricken people who always lack them nowadays . The agricultural parts of the world freed from the restraints of the present “money-based system” would pour out the abundance of health-giving foodstuffs to feed the half-starved populations of the world ; not , as often happens nowadays , to be burnt , thrown into the sea , or otherwise destroyed because they cannot be sold at a profit . For the first time , the conditions would exist for turning into reality the beautiful plans for housing people in real homes instead of the sordid slums or dull cities which the present social system has called into existence . These plans exist today - on paper - and will remain so , while it is necessary to have money to get a decent home .Released from the “money” necessity , architects , builders , designers , artists , engineers , and scientists would be enabled to get together to build towns , homes and work-places which would be a joy to live and work in , a job at which even today their fingers are itching to get .How long this period would last depend on the size and mess left by this “precious” system of ours . Personally , I don’t think it would take very long since we have seen how quickly even the obstacles of the present social system , backward countries can be developed by modern industrial methods . It should not , therefore , take very long for those parts of the world which are already highly industrialised to turn out enough goods to make the whole of humanity tolerably comfortable as far as the fundamental necessities of life are concerned .
Well , having got rid of the worst relics of the old order , production would then be adjusted so that enough is turned out to satisfy fully , the needs of everyone , making , of course , due provision by storage for the possible , though ,infrequent , natural calamities such as earthquakes .
Having produced all that is required , all that is necessary is to distribute it to the people so that each person’s needs are fully satisfied . In the case of perishable goods it would merely be a matter of transport from factory or farm direct to the local distributing centres , and in the case of other goods to large regional , county or city stores or warehouses . From there it is but a step to the local distributing stores which would stock the whole range of necessary goods - a kind of show-room or warehouse - and from which goods could be delivered to the homes of people , or , of course , collected by them if so preferred . After all , George , the daily , weekly , and monthly needs of any given number of people in a district are easily worked out , even nowadays - take , for example , the distribution of milk - so it should not be very difficult to find out what stocks the local stores would require .
We wont want boundaries and frontiers in the World Commonwealth , nor the hundreds of rules and regulations that go with them . The World Commonwealth rule will be “fitness for purpose” , and it will be solely that , whether it be man or mankind with which it is concerned . Just as the man most fitted for as certain duty will do it because he wants to , and not through bureaucratic compulsion or unfortunate necessity , so will these regions of the world most suited for the production of certain goods be used for their production , because it would be stupid to do otherwise . In the World Commonwealth goods will be “distributed” not “exchanged” , neither “exported” nor “imported” ; just as if the whole world’s goods were pooled and then each region were to draw what is required .
When I say that production will be planned , do not make the mistake of imagining some super- bureaucratic organisation or World State imposing such a plan . This would not be necessary as the process would be so simple . The average requirements of a person are known : say X pounds of this , Y pounds of that ; multiply by the number of people in that locality concerned , and you have on an average the total amount necessary to be “shipped” to that place for local distribution . Now , isn’t that , though in a difficult and complicated way , exactly what’s being done now ? Doesn’t Mr Brown , the wheat importer , know almost exactly , how much wheat he can distribute to his factors and doesn’t he import accordingly ? Why should things be different in the World Commonwealth , tell me that ? Though perhaps I’m being somewhat hasty . Things will be different , but only in a small way. Whereas now you have dozens of importers for wheat , eggs , butter , and so on , in the World Commonwealth there will be a food control or administration -
George:- There is nothing new about that , Professor , it’s the usual thing in war-time .
Professor:- Quite , George , but with this difference . The function of such a control in war-time is a rationing of supplies due to the possibility , or the actual existence , of a shortage . The World Commonwealth control will have no need to concern itself with rationing or shortage . Rather the reverse . Its function will be to organise production so that there is no excessive surplus , and that distribution so that the demands of the people are satisfied.
I was saying that production will be planned ; I should have no need to add , it will be planned for plenty .The food control in each region will arrange for the satisfaction of the needs of that region , and will in addition plan for distribution of its own products in excess of its needs , to other regions . There will no doubt be need of a central world organisation - probably a statistical body - to control the whole output of the World Commonwealth , but I can foresee few difficulties in that direction .I believe I have already explained how distribution would proceed from this point . From place of production to distribution depot , and from there to local depots . From the local depots there would be daily delivery of perishable goods , such as we have today for milk , and possibly weekly and monthly deliveries of other foods .
Clothes and other goods not required frequently or regularly , would be obtained at large stores somewhat similar in layout , I should imagine , to present-day Selfridge’s or Gamage’s , These will be placed at points in the various localities according to the needs and convenience of the local population . At these stores people will do their “shopping” without money , much as they do today with ; but of course with this difference . Whereas they would be able to obtain all their requirements without money , most people nowadays are unable to do so because their purchases are limited by the amount of money they get as wages .
That’s all , George . Simple , isn’t it ?
George:- It is , truly , and not very different technically from nowadays .
Professor:- That’s the point , George . Its shows quite clearly we are not planning a Utopia . We are taking the people of today and the world of today and simply changing the methods of working , the organisation - for use instead of for money-making .