Reposted with permission from World Socialist Party (US)
by Janet Surman
21 December 2008
Socialist society will have no need for money. This will profoundly affect all aspects of life.
Removing money from the current economic equation would strike most people as impossible, unthinkable, absolutely imponderable. Everything we do, every transaction we make, from a simple cup of tea to sending a space probe to Mars, from birth to death and at every step in between, money has become a necessary part of getting what we require. It has become an accepted, entrenched method of acquiring anything and everything but it wasn’t always so and in a genuine socialist system money will be shown to have been an unnecessary, wasteful and divisive way of ordering world communities.
When initially presented with the notion of a world without money the first imperative is the willingness to contemplate a huge paradigm shift, to put aside all familiar long-held views and preconceived notions and to enter into an adventure of discovery that there is a place for all at the table, that it doesn’t entail regression to the Dark Ages and that the welfare and progress of people doesn’t have to come at cost to the environment.
It is well recognised by experts in the health arena that work is one of the most stressful areas of life for reasons such as long hours, extended travelling time to and from place of employment, risk of job loss, lack of security or tenure including competition both within and without, inflexible working practices, difficulty getting release for major personal events such as bereavement, long-term illness of a spouse or partner, or even short-term care of a sick child. Loss of employment can put stress on the whole family, sinking it into debt, causing day-to-day difficulties with the budget and in many cases leading to loss of the home.
When money is not required in exchange for work and when, instead, all contribute their skills, expertise and/or manpower in return for open access to the requirements of life then we can begin to see a different motivation enter the whole concept of the “work” scenario. A moneyless world will free up millions of workers now tied to some very stressful occupations dealing only in (other people’s) money – banking, mortgage brokering, insurance; those occupied in the collection of rates, taxes and utility payments; those in security work such as guards and armoured truck staff engaged only in protecting and moving money and other “valuables” – millions of workers who, when considered logically, currently fulfill no useful function and contribute nothing to society that improves that society.
Right now, worldwide, are millions of would-be workers who are sidelined in one way or another, without employment or scratching on the edges of a black economy and in some of the more “developed” countries we find some termed “scroungers” in current-day parlance.
Within the capitalist system there has to be a pool of workers unable to find work in order to keep the bargaining power in favour of the employers who strive to keep wage levels down, whereas if there is a shortage of suitable labour the bargaining power switches to the employees who try to force wage levels up. The fact that a few “developed” countries have systems which pay a percentage of workers to remain unemployed (receive benefits) is a price the capitalists are prepared to pay to maintain the tensions in society. Encouraging the employed to think that they are the ones subsidising the benefits system maintains one fissure within the working class. Also, allowing a large number of unemployed to be without benefits would cause too many problems for the capitalists with possibilities of mass looting, rioting and damage to their property.
When all work is seen as legitimate and deserving of recognition, from the humblest occupations – collecting and sorting waste, stacking shelves in our stores, keeping the utilities working even in the worst weather, repairing our shoes – to those which are perceived as more elite – heart surgeons, ground-breaking scientists or cutting-edge technicians; when all are respected for their contribution simply by having the same right of access to the commonly produced goods, humankind will have truly developed to a higher level. This change in emphasis regarding human worth would, as a matter of course, give all the opportunity for further personal development in areas of individual choice which leads to the second topic for consideration.
2. Increased Leisure Time
With so many extra hands on deck working hours will be able to be considerably reduced which, with the knowledge that one’s work is not tied to the ability to feed and clothe the family, to house them and provide all the other requirements of life, is to remove the stress at a stroke.
Decreased time, but working for the common good rather than increased time working only for personal remuneration. Less working time was the oft-repeated refrain in the early days of the technology era. Workers were to benefit from machine-operated production systems, computers would be able to handle many of the mundane operations previously done manually, the working week would be much reduced, maybe even leading to job-sharing and part-time employment. In fact this state of affairs never materialised and more employees found longer working hours became part of their conditions of employment, earlier agreements having been gradually eroded to the benefit of the employers.
In socialism, with millions released from wage slavery in the then redundant financial sector free to be a part of the production, distribution and services sectors, with the black economy and “illegals” no longer threatening paid workers (pay being redundant) there will be a huge reduction in individual necessary work time. When there is no profit incentive the emphasis will be on the production of quality goods from quality materials and no one need choose an inferior item based on cost. Providers of utilities such as electricity and gas, water and communications will be able to have sufficient workers to install, service, repair and develop their installations more efficiently and effectively. If there is work that no one is prepared to undertake then an alternative will need to be found democratically.
Without the constraints that we have today the workplace will become a different place, one of cooperation not competition, where we work for the benefit of all, not for the profit of a few. The lines between work and leisure may well be much more blurred than in today’s scenario. People will have time, time to be creative, to learn different and multiple skills and to enjoy the time they spend working. Leisure activities seen as hobbies now – vehicle maintenance, gardening, DIY home improvements, baking, the making of all kinds of hand-made items, giving or receiving educational and training courses – could well form part of one’s service to the community, bringing a greater satisfaction and contributing to individual development generally, one of the aims of socialism. With more leisure time available it is also highly likely that more ‘work’ would be created in the leisure area, whether sports complexes, theatrical and music productions and educational courses in the widest sense and with unlimited opportunities for the active participation of those who choose it.
Adequate shelter, a “right” for all enshrined in the United Nations Charter, is still unavailable to millions (billions, probably). There is absolutely no automatic right to housing within the capitalist system. All must pay. To pay, all must work. It is no matter that you work long and hard and that your children work long and hard and don’t go to school. All that matters is that you have enough to buy or rent or build. Maybe you did have enough before the housing market bubble burst and the “worth” of your house went down while the interest rates went up. Well, tough! Look around you. See the empty houses and FOR SALE and foreclosure signs. These people must be living somewhere now. There is always housing stock available – if you can pay the going rate.
This is one very obvious benefit of not having money. The recent economic crisis has focussed many home-owners’ minds. Why should anyone be secure one month and the next find themselves in queer street? Can anybody justify one individual’s multiple home ownership while others live in slums, in cars, in cardboard boxes on the streets? Please! When the majority of us have eventually decided that this scenario is unacceptably obscene we can at last begin to move to a humanitarian way of ordering our societies. Housing for all. Decent housing for all. Materials that are free and belong to all of us. Our architects, builders, plumbers, plasterers, electricians, etc. etc. will all work for free – they also need homes to live in. New housing can be built to the best specifications using appropriate materials, incorporating adequate insulation and services with regard to environmental protection and best use of alternative energy.
Respect for people and respect for the environment. Decisions made democratically as to best use of urban space vacated by the money businesses; by communities wanting to refurbish or upgrade their older stock. The balance between urban and rural will no doubt change. In some parts of the world there will be a mass exodus back to productive farmland, reclaimed for local use and consumption rather than continuing to grow cash crops for export. Decisions will be taken based on the well-being of communities and determined by the requirements of those communities and there will be no constraints or limitations linked to profit for a third party.
4. Health care
As a result of huge stress reduction, no more worrying about salary or wages from the job, no more worrying about keeping up the payments on the house, increased leisure time – all these various factors will surely result in improved relationships all round and, quite soon, a healthier workforce.
At present there are huge variations in standards of health care around the world and also massive discrepancies in availability and monetary cost to the recipients, Universal health care simply does not exist. Again it is tied in to the ability to pay. Let’s remove this barrier to good health and care of the sick by removing the money element and offer all services, treatments, drugs and medicines free of charge. Hospitals and clinics then will be free of top-heavy budget management and will be able to access resources, whether manpower, equipment or drugs, according to their requirements and not limited by financial constraints. Medical researchers, now mostly tied to global corporations and limited by them in the areas of their research, will be able to concentrate on eradicating disease and providing the best remedies for all comers, not just those with insurance. World diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and polio will soon be a thing of the past when money, too, is history.
Work and training in one of the many varied avenues of health care will be open to those from the pool of post-money redundant sectors. With the shift from a market economy to societies geared to fulfilling human needs there will probably be more priority given to preventive medicine and appropriate information on suitable diet and healthy living, which leads us to consider the topic of food.
Currently the growing, processing and distribution of food is largely dominated by transnational corporations solely in the pursuit of profit. The consumer appears to have a huge choice of goods and numerous decisions to make at each aisle of the supermarket but often the choices are superficial, not actually the choices being sought. For instance, notice the difficulty of buying a processed food which doesn’t contain soya. The soya has probably been genetically modified and the labelling could be unhelpful. The choice becomes buy in ignorance or acceptance, or do without.
It’s well known that products are laced with added sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate etc. to create a certain dependency and craving for more. Last year’s problems of melamine-laced pet foods which caused animal deaths in the importing countries were followed this year by melamine-laced milk products causing infant deaths and multiple illnesses in China, spreading fear to importing countries. There can be only one reason for food to be contaminated deliberately (apart from a mass assassination attempt or the desire to spread fear among the population) and that is in the pursuit of greater profit.
Africa, a net exporter of food until the post-colonial days of the 1960s, became a victim again, indebted to the World Bank and IMF. Recipient of highly subsidised dumping of food from rich countries (US and Europe) the result has been that the countries there have to grow cash crops for export in order to pay off some of the growing debt creating food shortages for the domestic population, many of whom had been forced off ancestral lands (for the growing of cash crops) and who were then without the means of subsistence. There have been a number of studies which reveal there is no problem feeding a world population considerably larger than today’s. There is an enormous wastage of food in the rich world. The major problem for the hungry in the poorest countries is lack of cash.
Food, if regarded simply as fuel for the body, should be clean – free from contaminants, chemicals and the like; fresh – the more local the better; and nutritious. Free food for all would come with the bonus of knowing there would no longer be any incentive to adulterate ingredients. The question of “FAIR TRADE” wouldn’t arise as all along the line farmers, producers, pickers, packers and distributors would have the same motivation to provide good clean food knowing they have the same access as the consumers. This has to be a win-win situation. Another winner in this scenario would be the environment.