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Future Socialist Society

John Molyneux

The Future Socialist Society

5. Producing for need: towards abundance

The establishment of a planned socialist economy on an international scale will put an end to the recurring crises of capitalism which result in the destruction and waste of productive resources through bankruptcies, under-investment, overproduction and mass unemployment. It will mean the truly immense scientific, technological, economic and human resources currently devoted to the preparation and waging of war will be redirected to socially useful purposes.

When you consider that one British Challenger tank costs around £2 million, that the Trident missile system will cost an estimated £42 billion over its lifetime, that Reagan’s Star Wars cost upward of $100 billion, you get some idea of the economic potential that will be released.

Socialism will also remove the enormous waste inherent in capitalist production with its duplication of effort-the manufacture of numerous but essentially similar washing powders, cars, radios and so on. It will put an end to the massive sums spent on advertising and production of superfluous luxuries for the rich. The quality and productivity of labour will greatly increase because the producers will – for the first time – have a direct vested interest in production and be healthier and vastly better educated.

In short, international socialism will bring about a phenomenal development of the productive forces which will rapidly eclipse all that has been achieved in this sphere in the whole of past history. It is this economic advance which will lay the material basis for the transition to a completely classless society.

In the first place it will make it possible to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter – the necessities of life – for everyone on the face of the planet. Never again will any child die of malnutrition or of easily preventable disease. This alone would be more than enough to justify socialism. But in fact it is only the beginning of what socialism will offer. Beyond the achievement of a decent standard of living for all lies the road to abundance and free distribution according to need.

This point is fundamental to the Marxist conception of the higher stage of socialism, or communism as Marx called it, and requires further explanation.

From the start the socialist revolution will produce a great equalisation in the distribution of goods compared with the massive inequalities built into capitalism. The enormous accumulations of wealth deriving from exploitation and property ownership will be expropriated and the inflated salaries paid by the ruling class to itself and to a section of the middle class will disappear. The wages of the working class, and especially the low paid, will be rapidly increased.

Nevertheless, at first – because socialism begins with the resources it inherits from capitalism – the supply of goods will remain limited and workers will still work for money wages which in turn they will use to purchase these goods. Progressively, however, socialism will increase the production of an ever wider range of goods to the point where supply exceeds demand. It will then become possible to cease selling these goods and begin distributing them on the basis of need.

To illustrate how this can be done let us take the example of water. In many parts of the world today water – especially clean water – remains in desperately short supply. But in all the advanced industrialised countries the problem of water has been overcome – even under capitalism. There is more than enough water to go round, so it is simply available to everybody ‘on tap’. This does not result in people madly consuming water. Apart from a certain amount of waste which is easily accommodated, people just consume what they need.

What capitalism has been able to do for water, socialism – with the growth of the productive forces outlined above – will be able to do across the board.

Housing will be an obvious area to start. We will simply build more houses than there are people to house and allocate them according to need. In order to move, people will either transfer to vacant accommodation or exchange houses instead of buying and selling them. Such an arrangement would not only solve the problem of homelessness but also be infinitely simpler to operate than the present tedious and complex house buying system.

It goes without saying that education and health services will be completely free. So too will public transport, which will be massively expanded (probably to the point where the private car becomes redundant).

As each service becomes free, so the labour of all the various money collectors – from estate agents to bus conductors – will be put to better use.

In time the free distribution principle will spread from water, housing, health, education and transport to food, clothing, communications, entertainment and so on, until it becomes all embracing. Buying and selling will fade away. Money – seemingly the all powerful god of capitalist society, but in reality only the means by which the products of human labour are exchanged – will steadily lose its usefulness to the point where it can be dispensed with altogether.

Thanks to the capitalist indoctrination we all receive from birth, this may seem outlandish. But given the premise that international socialism will unleash the productive forces hitherto confined and restricted by capitalism, there is nothing unrealistic about it.

In fact there is only one serious counter-argument – namely that if everything is free, nobody will bother to work.

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Last updated: 15 November 2015