What will be used for money under socialism?


Question Period
What will be used for money under socialism?
from The People
[date of publication unknown]

What will be used for money under socialism?

Marx dealt with this question in his "Critique of the Gotha Program," a letter criticizing a platform adopted jointly by the followers of Lassalle and the followers of Marx in Germany, which represented a serious abandonment of scientific principle by the latter. Before going into how Marx dealt with the question, it is important to note that both he and Engels used the terms "socialism" and "communism" interchangeably. Stalinists claim that Marx used the term "socialism" to designate the society that follows immediately after the abolition of capitalism, and "communism" as the name for the matured and developed workers' society. Actually, there is nothing in the writings of Marx to support this view. It was invented for the obvious purpose of giving Soviet Russia a "Marxist" justification for its plainly antisocialist policies.

In "Critique of the Gotha Program," Marx uses the term communist. But he makes it clear thaf he is dealing with the system immediately succeeding capitalism. What we are dealing with here," he rites, "is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own basis, but, on the contrary, as it is just issuing out of capitalist society...." In this society, Marx said, the portion of social output in the form of means of consumption, will be distributed through labor time vouchers or checks. With the advent of communism, or socialism, "the individual producer gets back-after the deductions (for the replacement and expansion of the means of production, reserve funds for natural disasters, etc., general administrative expenses, the satisfaction of common wants and funds for those unable to work) 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."

Marx then discusses the shortcomings of this system that are "unavoidable in the first phase of communist society, as it has just issued from capitalist society after long travail." Thus he twice emphasizes that money, as such, is to be abolished with the abolition of capitalism.

Marx does, indeed, speak of "the higher phase of communist society." But when this phase is reached, there will be neither money nor labor time vouchers. When this phase is reached, wealth will flow from industry in such abundance that society can safely introduce the principle, "From everyone according to his faculties, to everyone according to his needs!"

Isn't the labor time voucher system unfair to those of greater ability?

In "The Gotha Program," Marx took pains to show that compensation on the basis of labor time established an equal standard and that precisely because it was an equal standard it could not take into account individual differences in workers.

Compensation on the basis of labor time establishes an "equal right ... still tainted with a capitalist limitation," wrote Marx. "The right of the producersis roportional to their contribution of labor, the equality consists in this, that the right is measured by an equal standard: labor.

"However, one person is physically or intellectually superior to the other, and furnishes, therefore, more labor in the same time, or can work a longer time; and in order to serve as a measure, labor must be determined according to duration or intensity, otherwise it would cease to serve as a standard. This equal right is unequal right for unequal labor.... According to its nature, right can consist only in the application of a common standard; but the unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal ones) can be measured according to a common standard only in so far as they are brought under the same point of view, or, are regarded from a particular side only. For example, in the given instance they are regarded only as workingmen; we see nothing more in them, we disregard everything else. Moreover, one workingman is married, the other is not married; one has more children than the other, etc., etc. Hence, with equal contribution of labor and, therefore, equal shares in the social consumption-fund, the one receives actually more than the other, the one is richer than the other, etc. In order to avoid all these shortcomings right would have to be not equal, but unequal.

"But these shortcomings," Marx continued, "are unavoidable in the first phase of communist society, as it has just issued from capitalist society after long travail. Right can never be superior to the economic development and the stage of civilization conditioned thereby."

Most people who are horrified by the idea of compensating workers of greater and lesser ability equally for equal labor performed (as measured by duration) accept capitalist practices matter of factly. Capitalism, which compensates its football coaches, screen stars and Johnny Carsons on a fabulous scale, starves its teachers and "rewards" its scientists grudgingly, keeps the great mass of useful producers in a state of perpetual insecurity.

Socialism, by abolishing exploitation, by returning to the workers directly and indirectly the full social value of their labor, will ensure that all will receive far more than the minimum required for a civilized standard of living. If this works some slight inequality on some, it will cease to be regarded as such when people purge themselves of the egoism that capitalism fosters. The important point is that socialism will utilize society's resources to ensure a maximum of well-being for all, hence of right for all. For "right," as Marx reminds us, "can never be superior to the economic development and the stage of civilization conditioned thereby."