Steve Coleman of the Socialist Party of Great Britain answers five frequently asked questions about the abolition of money, from 1981.
Are socialists suggesting that we should do away with money and revert to barter?
No, we are not. Both money and barter are forms of exchange. Exchange is only possible when there is private property. In a society in which all wealth is owned in common there will be no property to exchange and there will therefore be no need for money or barter. When you get dressed in the morning you do not sell your clothes to yourself, nor do you barter them for some other possession, for you cannot exchange that which is already yours. In socialist society there will be free access to all social wealth because men and women will commonly own the means of production and distribution.
Without having to pay for goods and services will people take more than they need?
Why should they? As long as there is enough wealth to provide for everyone (and the potentiality already exists), people in socialist society will take freely to satisfy their self-determined needs. There will be no need to take more than you want because tomorrow you will be able to go back and take more. Socialism will not come into being without conscious socialists and such people will appreciate the importance of reasonable co-operation. If, for example, there is a shortage of a particular resource in socialism, they will have to co-operatively and democratically ration that which is available. The so-called greedy man (sic) is an invention of capitalist anthropology: a worker is said to be greedy if he (sic) wants more than his wage packet can buy him.
Is the price system the best way of allocating resources?
Look around and see. The world is abundant in resources, yet poverty is the lot of the majority. The buying and selling system, based on production for profit, is economically inefficient from the point of view of those who produce the wealth. Socialism means free access to all wealth and production solely for need. This will mean that in a socialist society bread will be produced simply so that people may eat it, and not for sale on the market with a view to profit.
Without wages or salaries, who will do the dirty work?
In society which can land men on the moon and fire missiles across the face of the earth to within inches of a target, the technology certainly exists to do away with much of the unpleasant labour of society. Instead of research into more and more sophisticated killing machines socialism will devote resources to improving productive efficiency from the point of view of both the wealth producer and the wealth consumer. Work in socialism will be based upon voluntary co-operation and not the coercion of the wages system. The division between work (enforced drudgery) and leisure (when your time is your own) will be ended by socialism.
Instead of advocating a world without money, shouldn't socialists be campaigning for a fairer distribution of money?
To expect "fairness" from an inherently unequal is a form of utopianism which has diverted the working class movement for far too long. Under capitalism wealth ownership is concentrated into the hands of a small minority of the world's population. These are the people who have plenty of money. Most people can only obtain money by selling their mental and physical energies to an employer for a price called a wage or salary. You will never get rich by working for money. The only way for the working class to get rich is by getting rid of the money system.
Steve Coleman, June 1981