Friday, 11 December 2009
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
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