Could we organise things without money? (2005)

Dandelion Salad

by Pik Smeet
From the Socialist Standard
April 2005

How would common ownership and democratic control work in practice? Without a price mechanism some critics do not understand how signals can pass from the user to the producer or how decisions about  production can be made. Yet such non-market systems already exist even within capitalism and a study of  these can give useful insights into the practical operation of a socialist production and distribution system.

What distinguishes the Socialist Party from the leftists is that when we talk of common ownership we do not just include the means of production, but also, specifically, call for the common and democratic control of the means of distribution. Equal access to the common store without requirement of exchange or payment is one of the things we consider to be the hallmark of genuine socialism. After all, you cannot buy something you already own. To people living in a society where everything has a price, where access to any aspect of our society from necessities to leisure and culture comes with a price tag, such a system seems alien, or possibly even naively utopian. Clever apologists of gross inequality and privilege even try to claim that it is categorically impossible to organise provision of any good or service without the vital signals of monetary exchange or market haggling. Continue reading