Socialism's Consumer Market -- Free Access versus Qualified Access

Socialism's Consumer Market
Free Access versus Qualified Access
reprinted from
The De Leonist Review
published by the De Leonist Society of Canada
Jan.-Feb. 1997


The "downsizing" that is presently threatening workers and cutting them loose from their moorings may cause them to question the economic system -- Capitalism, the Wages System -- that is doing this to them, may also prompt them to look into the bona fide socialist alternative.

There is a basic proposition of true Socialism that no capitalist apologist or "socialist" Social Democrat will touch with a ten-foot pole. That proposition is abolition of the thing that is causing poverty and unemployment -- the wages system -- and its replacement with a system wherein Labor will receive directly and indirectly the full fruit of its labor!

To say that Socialist Labor will be paid in full for the work that it does is of course to imply that Wage Labor is not paid in full but is cheated at the workplace, the point of production. This is precisely what happens! "Politically correct" professors of economics have yet to disprove Marx's proof that unpaid labor is the obverse of the capitalist profit coin, thus:

"The value of a commodity is determined by the total quantity of labor contained in it. But part of that quantity of labor is realized in a value for which an equivalent has been paid in the form of wages; part of it is realized in a value for which no equivalent has been paid. Part of the labor contained in the commodity is paid labor; part is unpaid labor. By selling, therefore, the commodity at its value, that is, as the crystallization of the total quantity of labor bestowed upon it, the capitalist must necessarily sell it at a profit. He sells not only what has cost him an equivalent, but he sells also what has cost him nothing, although it has cost his workman labor."

Seen thus, workers may well ask themselves what is fair about the conservative motto, "A fair day's wages..."? What is fair about a pickpocket economic system wherein capitalist profit derives from labor that the capitalist does not pay for?

Socialism will harbor no such paradox as poverty in the midst of plenty. This because workers will have united on both the political and industrial fields to inaugurate social control and worker administration of the nation's industries and services, thus ending Capitalism and Wage Slavery. What is more, it follows that in so doing they, the workers, will have also dumped into the garbage-bin of history the very thing that they are today struggling to get more of! MONEY!

No more money? Are Socialists mad? Not so. The chief thing about money that Socialists find unacceptable lies outside its use as legal tender or as a medium of exchange. What Socialists decry is an abominable aspect of money which appears to be inseparable from it -- its use in the producers' market as CAPITAL! In simple yet powerful language, De Leon put it thus:

"When the tools needed for production were simple and cheap, everyone could employ himself. There was wealth, but there was no capital.... As soon, however, as the tool of production became too great for every man to acquire, wealth took on a new power. In the hands of those who possessed it, it became a means of purchasing the tool that all needed; it grew into an instrument of oppression; it became capital. Those who worked for the owner of the tool, the capitalist, no longer enjoyed the full product of their labor. The major part they had to turn over to him. The workman was now, as it were, put through the wringer. Whatever of wealth he could carry with him between the rollers became his wages. What was wrung out in the process -- and this was always the greatest portion -- flowed into the boss's tub, labeled 'profits.1 Every increase of capital amounted to a tightening of the screws-more wealth stayed in the boss's tub, less dripped through into the pay envelope."

How, then, will a moneyless society obtain consumer goods that are necessary for life and well-being?

Disregarding a possible need for rationing in the immediate afterglow of a socialist political victory, Socialists appear split into two main camps on the issue-those advocating "free access according to self-defined needs" and those standing for qualified access. In the free access camp are found The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its companion parties of The World Socialist Movement; in the qualified access camp are found De Leonists. Now which philosophy of access to consumers' markets -- free or qualified -- would seem the more likely to ensure a successful transition from Capitalism (a money economy) to Socialism (a moneyless economy)? Let readers judge.

The free access position is, we believe, based on an unwarranted premise -- the assumption that the capitalist class and riffraff among its supporters would willingly bow to the will of the people, expressed in a mandate for Socialism; would NOT attempt to undermine, thus discredit, a newborn socialist economy; would NOT, for instance, have its goon squads use free access to strip markets bare of food.

In contrast we believe the qualified access position (the De Leonist position) is well considered. This position not only enlists the economic MIGHT of an integrally-organized Socialist Industrial Union to enforce the RIGHT of a mandate for Socialism, it at the same time serves notice that Socialism will acquaint a deposed class of capitalist freeloaders with the necessity and duty of honorable toil.

So what should Socialism use instead of money? Labor vouchers! Unlike money, the labor voucher will not circulate. Unlike money, the labor voucher will be non-transferable. Unlike money, whose stamp provides no clue as to how its possessor came by it, the labor voucher will record socially-necessary labor time expended by the worker, which voucher (after deductions for retirees and those unable to work, for maintenance and/or expansion of the industrial and service infrastructure, for medical research, for restoration of the environment, etc.) will be exchangeable for an equal amount oś socially-necessary labor that is crystallized in consumer goods -- value for value.

Bona fide Socialism, whose aim is abolition of wage (and salary) servitude, is accordingly dead set against freeloading in any shape or form, hence will expect all able-bodied of working age to pull their own weight. But how will Socialism ensure compliance with this expectation if not by means of the labor voucher, an instrument well designed to reward the diligent and penalize the shirker? In his criticism of The Gotha Program, specifically here as regards its abysmally confusing call for "a just [Our emphasis]' distribution of the proceeds [the product] of labor," Marx makes the case for the labor voucher as follows:

"What we are dealing with here is a Communist society [i.e., a genuine communist society, i.e., a genuine socialist society!], not as it has developed on its own basis, but, on the contrary, as it is just issuing out of capitalist society; hence,a society that still retains, in every respect, economic, moral and intellectual, the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it is issuing. Accordingly, the individual producer gets back-after the deductions-exactly as much as he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual share of labor. For instance, the social labor day consists of the sum of the individual labor hours; the individual labor time of the single producer is the fraction of the social labor day supplied by him, his share of it. He receives from the community a check showing that he has done so much labor (after deducting his labor due to the common fund), and with this check he draws from the common store as much of the means of consumption as costs an equal amount of labor. The same quantity of labor that he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another form."

-- Alan Sanderson