Free times are on the way; If you and I agree; To share the world and all it holds. A sane society.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

A Eugene Debbs Quote to Round Off the Year

"I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands."

More abouts Debbs.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Smash Cash!

(Originally published in 1968 in issue 17 of the sixties counter-culture magazine OZ.)

400BC: Hey all you thirsty people, though you’ve got no money, come to the water. Buy corn without money and eat. Buy wine without money and milk without price. (Isaiah).

1652: There shall be no buying and selling . . . If any man or family want grain or other provisions, they may go to the storehouse and fetch without money. (Gerrard Winstantley).

1968: The Abolition of Money. The abolition of pay housing, pay media, pay transportation, pay food, pay education, pay clothing, pay medical help and pay toilets. A society which works towards and actively promotes the concept of “full unemployment” . . . (Yippie election leaflet).

Abolition of Money! Down through the ages this wild and visionary slogan has been whispered by a subversive few. Ever since human beings discovered cash, they have hated it and tried to rid themselves of it – whilst their own actions have kept it alive. In this respect, money is like syphilis.

Today the whisper has become a shout – though still the shout of a tiny minority. Tomorrow it will be the roar of the crowd, the major topic of discussion in every pub and coffee house, factory and office.

The abolition of money is an ancient dream, the most radical demand of every social revolution for centuries past. We must not suppose that it is therefore destined to remain a Utopia, that the wheel will simply turn full circle once more. Today there is an entirely new element in the situation: Plenty.

All previous societies have been rationed societies, based on scarcity of food, clothing and shelter. The modern world is also a society of scarcity, but with a difference. Today’s shortages are unnecessary; today’s scarcity is artificial. More than that: scarcity achieved at the expense of strenuous effort, ingenious organization and the most sophisticated planning.

The world is haunted by a spectre – the spectre of Abundance. Only by planned waste and destruction on a colossal scale can the terrifying threat of Plenty be averted.

Money means rationing. It is only useful when there are shortages to be rationed. No one can buy or sell air: it’s free because there is plenty of it around. Food, clothing, shelter and entertainment should be free as air. But the means of rationing scarcity themselves keep the scarcity in existence. The only excuse for money is that there is not enough wealth to go round – but it is the money system which makes sure there cannot be enough to go round. By abolishing money we create the conditions where money is unnecessary.

If we made a list of all those occupations which would be unnecessary in a Moneyless World, jobs people now have to do which are entirely useless from a human point of view, we might begin as follows: Customs officer, Security guard, Locksmith, Wages clerk, Tax assessor, Advertising man, Stockbroker, Insurance agent, Ticket puncher, Salesman, Accountant, Slot machine emptier, Industrial spy, Bank manager, before we realized the magnitude of what was involved. And these are merely the jobs which are wholly and utterly useless. Nearly all occupations involve something to do with costing or selling. Now we should see that the phrase “Abolition of Money” is just shorthand for immense, sweeping, root and branch changes in society. The abolition of money means the abolition of wages and profits, nations and frontiers, armies and prisons. It means that all work will be entirely voluntary.

Of course, the itemizing of those jobs which are financial does not end the catalogue of waste. Apart from astronomical sums spent on the Space Race, and the well-known scandal of huge arms production, we have to realise that all production is carried on purely for profit. The profit motive often runs completely counter to human need. ‘Built-in obsolescence’ (planned shoddiness), the restrictive effects of the patents system, the waste of effort through duplication of activities by competing firms or nations – these are just a few of the ways in which profits cause waste.

What this amounts to is that ninety per cent (a conservative estimate) of effort expended by human beings today is entirely pointless, does not the slightest bit of good to anybody. So it is quite ridiculous to talk about “how to make sure people work if they’re not paid for it”. If less than ten per cent of the population worked, and the other ninety per cent stayed at home watching telly, we’d be no worse off than we are now.

But there would be no need for them to watch telly all the time, because without the profit system work could be made enjoyable. Playing tennis, writing poems or climbing mountains are not essentially any more enjoyable than building houses, growing food or programming computors. The only reason we think of some things as ‘leisure’ and others as ‘work’ is because we get used to doing some things because we want to and others because we have to. Prostitutes despise love. We are all prostitutes. In a Moneyless World work would be recreation and art. That work which is unavoidably unhealthy or unpleasant, such as coalmining, would be automated immediately. Needless to say, the only reason these things aren’t done by machines at present is because it is considered more important to lower the costs of the employer than to lower the unhappiness of his slaves.

The money system is obsolete and antihuman. So what should we do about it? In years to come, with the increasing education and increasing misery of modern life, together with growing plenty, we can expect the Abolition of Money to be treated more and more as a serious issue, to be inserted into more and more heads. The great mass of individuals will first ridicule, then dare to imagine (Fantasy is the first act of rebellion – Freud), then overthrow.

In the meantime, as well as propagating the notion of a Moneyless World, those of us who see its necessity have a responsibility to sort our own ideas out, in order that we may present an intelligible and principled case. We must stop thinking of the Moneyless World as an ‘ultimate aim’ with no effect upon our actions now. We must realise that the Abolition of Money is THE immediate demand. A practical proposition and an urgent necessity – not something to be vaguely ‘worked towards’.

Unfortunately those who want the Moneyless World frequently wade in a mire of mystification. Above all it is necessary to understand the workings of this society, capitalist society (Moscow, Washington and Peking are all in the same boat) if we are to know how to destroy it.

For example there is a commonly held view that Automation is going to settle all our worries, that money will expire automatically as part of a “natural process of evolution”. This is quite wrong. As pointed out above, this society only automates to increase profits and for no other reason. Employers even take machines out and put workers back in – if they find that labour-power is cheaper. Any gain from automation these days is more than cancelled out by the waste explosion. Do not imagine that the slight increases in living standards of the last twenty years are the beginning of a smooth transition to Abundance. Another huge world slump is approaching.

A different illusion, also popular, is that cash can be abolished by example, by opening giveaway shops or by starting small moneyless communities which are parasitical upon the main body of society. These experiments accomplish little. Those people, for instance, who open stores to give and receive books without payment, face a predictable result: a large stock of lousy books.

These projects stem partly from a belief that we need to prove something. Relax. We don’t need to prove anything. The defenders of this insane society, it is they who stand accused, they who have to supply the arguments – arguments for poverty and enslavement in a world of Plethora!

All theoretical constructions which relate to wages, prices, profits and taxes are ghosts from the past, as absurdly outdated as the quibbles about how many angels could dance on the point of a needle. ‘Incomes policy’ is irrelevant – we want the abolition of incomes. “Fighting crime” is irrelevant – we want the abolition of the law. ‘Workers’ control’ is irrelevant – we want the abolition of ‘workers’. ‘Black Power’ is irrelevant – we want the abolition of power over people. ‘The national interest’ is irrelevant—we want the abolition of nations.

And let no one raise the banal cry: what are you going to put in their place? As though we would say to a research scientist: “And when you’ve cured Cancer, what are you going to put in its place?”

Then there is the myth of the small-scale. We cannot go back to being peasants and we should not want to. Keeping several thousand million people alive on this planet necessitates railways, oil wells, steel mills. Only by intricate organization and large-scale productive techniques can we maintain our Abundance. Do not be afraid of machines. It is not machines which enslave, but Capital, in whose service machines are employed. McLuhan represents the beginning of the New Consciousness of man-made artifacts. Computors are warm and cuddly creatures. We will have a beautiful time with them.

Many of the worst errors which retard the development of the New Consciousness, the Consciousness of Plenty, are to be found in Herbert Lomas’ piece on “The Workless Society” in International Times 43. This at least has the merit that someone is putting forward a case for the removal of money in specific terms. Unfortunately, they are specific non-starters.

According to Herbert Lomas, a political party is to be formed which will take power and proceed as follows. Useless workers in industry will be gradually be laid off and paid for not working. The process will be extended until money can be abolished. In the meantime, those being paid for doing nothing will do what they like. To begin with many of them might play Bingo; eventually more and more would aim at higher things.

What is wrong with this projection? Many things, but chiefly two. First, it fails to take account of the systematic nature of society. Second, it assumes that present-day society exhibits a harmony of interests.

In the first place, Lomas says: “Why are these people working? They are not working for the sake of production, for the truth is that if they were removed production could be increased beyond measure”.. He concludes that they are working because of their attitudes, the attitudes of their employers, the attitudes of the rest of society. But the fact of the matter is that these workers are working for the sake of production – not the production of goods but the production of profits. The reason why things are “made with great ingenuity to wear out” is not because of the attitudes of the people involved. The management may think it’s criminal but they are paid to optimize profits. If they produced razor blades to last for centuries, the firm would go broke. It is not the attitudes which are crucial, but economic interests. If a teetotaller owns shares in a brewery, it does not make booze less potent.

Which brings us to the second point. Today’s world is a jungle of conflicting vested interests. The Abolition of Money will represent the liberation of slaves, yes – but also the dispossession of masters, i.e. the employing class. We cannot view the government as an impartial panel which looks after the best interests of everybody; it is an instrument used by one set of people to oppress another.

On one point Herbert Lomas is correct. The movement for the Abolition of Money must be political, because when we destroy money we destroy the basis of the power of our rulers. They are unlikely to take kindly to this, so we must organize politically to remove them.

For the moment though, what is needed is more discussion and more understanding. We must be confident that the movement will grow. We must think, argue, and think again – but never lose consciousness of the one, simple, astounding fact: Plenty is here. The Moneyless World is not an ultimate millennium. We need it now.


Also read "The Market System Must Go!" here.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Erich Fromm on Youtube

Erich Fromm, psychoanalyst and social critic, talks to Mike Wallace about society, materialism, relationships, government, religion, and happiness.

It hasn't aged. It's as relevant today as it was 50 years, or so, ago.

Erich Fromm interviewed by Mike Wallace (1 of 3)

Erich Fromm interviewed by Mike Wallace (2 of 3)

Erich Fromm interviewed by Mike Wallace (3 of 3)

Thanks to Arminius at worldincommon for the link.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Oil or democracy, what do you think?

Our rulers tell us they are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for democracy. Not true.

In June 2009 in Afghanistan a group of heavily armed (with US weaponry) and masked Afghan thugs forced their way into the office of a Provincial Prosecutor and demanded that a detained prisoner be handed over to them. The Prosecutor refused and as the thugs became more threatening he called for the police. When the Provincial Police Chief along with the head of CID and other police arrived there was an escalation in the confrontation that culminated in the deaths of the chief of police, the head of CID and a number of others. The assailants fled the building and “vanished”.

Investigations led the police to a US Special Forces camp outside the town where US officers initially denied any knowledge of the incident or the perpetrators. Following several days of intense and very public pressure from the US installed puppet president, and former vice-president of Unocal (Union Oil Company), Hamid Kharzai, some 40 so-called “contractors” were eventually handed over to Afghani custody. (Kharzai, accused by the US of failing to run a tight enough ship, is not currently “flavour of the month”). The US Army and Special Forces washed their hands and denied any responsibility for these “civilians”.

Were these rogue elements outside of US control? History as well as current practice in Iraq make this unlikely. The US (and UK to a lesser extent) has a real penchant for creating, training and fully equipping foreign “special units”. From Nicaragua, where they called them “Contras”, to Colombia and most other Central and South American countries whose military officers were trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia and who then went on to direct regular or irregular units that waged war against the supposed enemies of freedom and democracy; in Iraq they are called the Iraqi Special Operations Forces. In every case local people call them Death Squads.

Read the whole sorry story here

Cleaners 'worth more to society' than bankers?

Hospital cleaners are worth more to society than bankers, a study suggests.

The research, carried out by think tank the New Economics Foundation, says hospital cleaners create £10 of value for every £1 they are paid.

It claims bankers are a drain on the country because of the damage they caused to the global economy.
They reportedly destroy £7 of value for every £1 they earn. Meanwhile, senior advertising executives are said to "create stress".
The study says they are responsible for campaigns which create dissatisfaction and misery, and encourage over-consumption.

See a full report here

See here for more about who will do the 'dirty work'

Monday, 14 December 2009

Joseph Heller's Catch 22

Joseph Heller's classic anti-war work was published in 1961. Click on the link below for the 1962 review of Catch 22 from the Socialist Standard.

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. "That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed. "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed. "

See 1962 review here

Friday, 11 December 2009

Ecology and Socialism

To produce the things that people need and want in an ecologically acceptable way presupposes a particular relationship between society and the rest of nature.

For this to happen the members of that society must be in a position to control production and direct its purposes. This cannot be done in a society where the means of production are owned and controlled by only a section of society nor in a society whose economic structure is such that production is governed by the operation of blind economic laws which impose their own priorities. Production for needs therefore demands an end both to minority control over the means of production and to production for the market.

Production for needs requires, first of all, that control over the use of the means of production (nature, raw materials, instruments of production) should cease to be the exclusive privilege of a minority within society and become available to all. Everyone must stand in the same relationship with regard to the means of production. Class control of the means of production must, in other words, be replaced by common ownership and democratic control. Secondly, production for needs demands an end to production for the market. It means that wealth is produced simply for its use-value, that is, capacity to satisfy human need.

Production for the market is an expression of the fact that means of production and therefore the products are owned, not by all the members of a society in common but by individuals or groups. Exchange would completely disappear in a society in which there were no property rights over the means of production.

Production for needs can only take place on the basis of common ownership. With common ownership, what is produced is no longer the property of some individual or group, which has to be purchased before it can be used, but becomes directly available for people to take in accordance with their needs. It is for the majority class, which does all of the work, to democratically take political control in order to end minority ownership of the means of production and distribution.

The social arrangements permitting production for needs are basically the same as those that prevailed the last time it was practised by humans, in societies based on hunting and gathering that existed until the arrival of class society: the absence of property rights over the means of production and the ability of each member of society to have access to enough products to satisfy their life-needs.

Today, however, humans are no longer living in small bands engaged in hunting and gathering but in a world society, embracing the whole planet and the whole human species, in which they practise agriculture and the industrial transformation of materials. When we say, then, that it is common ownership which provides the framework for the development of a balanced relationship between human society and the rest of nature, we are talking about the common ownership of all the Earth's natural and industrial resources by the whole of humanity. We are talking about a world socialist society which would recreate, on a world scale and on the basis of today's technological knowledge, the communistic social relations of freedom, equality and community which humans enjoyed before the coming of property society.

From the point of view of satisfying the needs of human beings, capitalism is a quite irrational system. Within this society food is not produced primarily to be eaten, houses to be lived in, or clothes to be worn. Everything is produced for sale, not for use. The aim of production, far from being the natural one of producing useful things to satisfy human needs, is to maximise profits.

Humanity is now in a position, and has been for some time, to supply in an ecologically acceptable way the needs of all its members. The means of production and the technological knowledge at its disposal are sufficient to allow this to be done. What is lacking is the appropriate social framework: the common ownership of the Earth's natural and industrial resources.

See the whole pamphlet here

More pamphlets here

Monday, 7 December 2009

Capitalism and Other Kids' Stuff

Capitalism and Other Kids' Stuff asks us to take a fresh look at the world we live in and to question some of the most basic assumptions about life in capitalism.
Watch it here

This and other vids can be accessed here

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Market System Must Go!

Socialism is the only system within which the problems that now face workers can be solved - but what will it be like? Socialism is a system in which the means for producing and distributing wealth will be owned by society as a whole. Socialism will end the class monopoly of the means of production that exists in capitalism, converting what is now the private property of a few into the common property of
all. Socialism will be a genuinely classless society in which the exploitation and oppression of humanby human will have been abolished. All human beings will be social equals, freely able to co-operate in
running social affairs.

Drawing up a detailed blueprint for socialism is premature, since the exact forms will depend upon the technical conditions and preferences of those who set up and live in socialism, but we can broadly outline the features essential to a socialist society.

Socialism can only be democratic. At one time socialism was also known as ‘social democracy’, a phrase which shows well that democratic control would extend to all aspects of social affairs, including the production and distribution of wealth. There is an old socialist slogan which speaks of ‘government over people’ giving way to ‘the administration of things’, meaning that the public power of coercion, and the government which operates it, will have no place in socialism. The state, which is an organisation staffed by soldiers, the police, judges and jailers charged with enforcing the law, is only needed in class society for in such societies there is no real community of interest, only class conflict. The purpose of government is to maintain law and order in the interests of the dominant class. It is in fact an instrument of class oppression. In socialism there will be no classes and no built-in class conflicts: everyone will have the same basic social interest. In these circumstances there is no need for any coercive machine to govern or rule over people. The phrase ‘socialist government’ is a contradiction in terms. Where there is socialism there can be no government and where there is
government there is no socialism.

Those who wrongly assume that government and administration are one and the same will have some difficulty in imagining a society without government. A society without administration would indeed be impossible since ‘society’ implies that human beings organise themselves to provide for their needs. However, a society without government is both possible and desirable. Socialism will in fact mean the extension of democratic administration to all aspects of social life on the basis of the common
ownership of the means of living. There will be administrative centres that will be clearing-houses for settling social affairs by majority decision.

But will the administrators become the new ruling class? Democratic organisation does indeed involve the delegation of functions to groups and individuals. Such people will be charged by the community with organising necessary social functions. They will be chosen by the community and will be answerable to it. Those who perform the administrative functions in socialism will be in no position to dominate. They will not be regarded as superior persons, as tends to be the case today, but as social equals doing an essential job. Nor will they have at their command armies and police to enforce their will. There will be no opportunity for bribery and corruption since everybody, including those in administrative occupations, will have free access to the stock of wealth set aside for consumption. In short, the material conditions for the rise of a new ruling class would not exist.

The purpose of socialist production will be simply and solely to satisfy human needs and desires. Under present arrangements production is for the market with a view to profit. This will be replaced with production solely and directly for use. The production and distribution of sufficient wealth to meet the needs of the socialist community as individuals and as a community will be an administrative and organisational problem, it will be no small problem but the tools for solving it have already been created by capitalism.

Capitalism has developed technology and social productivity to the point where plenty for all can be produced. A society of abundance has long been technically possible and it is this that is the material basis for socialism. Capitalism, because it is a class society with production geared to profit making rather than meeting human needs, cannot make full use of the worldwide productive system it has built up over the last two hundred or so years. Socialism, making full use of the developed methods ofproduction brought in by capitalism, will alter the purpose of production entirely. Men and women will be producing wealth solely to meet their needs and desires, and not for the profit of a privileged few.

Unlike capitalism with its profit-driven economy, a socialist system of production for use would operate in direct response to needs. Monetary calculation would be replaced by calculation in kind - that is, calculation in real quantities - and the market could be replaced by a self-regulating system of stock-control, a system initially built up by supermarkets and other retail outlets in capitalism. This
system could work in the following way without the need for a price mechanism. Real social - rather than monetary - demand would arise through individual consumers exercising their right of free access to consumer goods and services according to their self-defined needs, constrained only by what could be made available. Such needs would be expressed to units of production as required quantities such as
grammes, kilos, cubic metres, tonnes, etc, of various materials and quantities of goods requiring productive activity from the different scales of social production. There would be no need for a bureaucratic pre-determined allocative plan.

Read the whole pamphlet here.

More pamphlets here.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Erich Fromm - Alienation, Work and More

“Capitalistic society is based on the principle of political freedom on the one hand, and of the market as the regulator of all economic, hence social, relations, on the other. The commodity market determines the conditions under which commodities are exchanged, the labour market regulates the acquisition and sale of labour. Both useful things and useful energy and skill are transformed into commodities which are exchanged without the use of force and without fraud under the conditions of the market.”

“Modern capitalism needs men who cooperate smoothly and in large numbers; who want to consume more and more; and whose tastes are standardized and can be easily influenced and anticipated. It needs men who feel free and independent, not subject to any authority or principle or conscience—yet willing to be commanded, to do what is expected of them, to fit into the social machine without friction; who can be guided without force, led without leaders, prompted without aim—except the one to make good, to be on the move, to function, to go ahead.

What is the outcome? Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions. Human relations are essentially those of alienated automatons, each basing his security on staying close to the herd, and not being different in thought, feeling or action.”

“Man becomes a ‘nine to fiver,’ he is part of the labour force, or the bureaucratic force of clerks and managers. He has little initiative, his tasks are prescribed by the organization of the work; there is even little difference between those high up on the ladder and those on the bottom. They all perform tasks prescribed by the whole structure of the organization, at a prescribed speed, and in a prescribed manner. Even the feelings are prescribed: cheerfulness, tolerance, reliability, ambition, and an ability to get along with everybody without friction.”

“From birth to death, from Monday to Monday, from morning to evening – all activities are reutilised and prefabricated. How should a man caught in this net of routine not forget that he is a man, a unique individual, one who is given only this one chance of living, with hopes and disappointments, with sorrow and fear, with the long for love and the dread of the nothing and of separateness?”

“In the modern work process of a clerk, the worker on the endless belt, little is left of this uniting quality of work. The worker becomes an appendix to the machine or to the bureaucratic organization.”
(from The Art of Loving, 1956)

From the December 2009 Socialist Standard