From the Western Socialist, 2, 1969
"PRODUCTION FOR USE" - a phrase uttered so often by socialists as to become almost a cliché, yet understood (in a superficial fashion) by both enquirers and opponents. It describes our concept - our visualization - of a future social system superceding the present "un-social" system we call capitalism. Our enquirers and opponents alike recognize this.
But the full implications of the term are not grasped, even by many who consider themselves to be socialists. The thinking of these people is so conditioned by the institutions of the present order that their thoughts take on the coloration of their master’s ideology.
The concept, "Production for Use," implies the existence now of something different and contrary. This basic difference we emphasize and amplify by adding a further phrase: "and not for profit."
"Production for Use" is a concept basic to a socialist order: it is the cornerstone of the socialist edifice. It rules out the notion that socialism has been established in Russia, Cuba, China, etc. Production in all these countries is for the sale of production itself. Of course, as with capitalism everywhere, commodities must have a use, but they are "useful" goods produced primarily for profit. They are also the product of wage-labor. And wage-labor co-exists with money. Yet the question almost always posed by the very people who seem to think that "Production for Use," and a society based thereon is, maybe, a good idea is: "What are you going to use for money?"
The Money Concept
Here is an example - somewhat paradoxical - of the confused thinking now obtaining which constitutes so great an obstacle to the advancement of scientific socialist ideas.
The ideal, "Production for Use," springs from the material conditions of modern capitalism: the reality. The money concept derives from the same source. Because "useful" are now produced with the ultimate objective of being sold, i.e. exchanged for money, our confused friends burden their future ideal of "Production for Use," with the concept of the present reality of things exchanged for money.
"Production for Use" means just what it says: goods needed by people who can use them, not for those who can pay; goods produced and distributed socially on the basis of social needs.
Some claiming to be socialists are also victims of this paradox. Our friends of the Socialist Labor Party (evidently being more clairvoyant than we) not only visualize a new social order, but carry with their vision elements from capitalism which are distinct hallmarks of that society. Money is a necessary item in a society in which goods are produced for profit. With the sale (via money) to the consumer, the profits (surplus value) is finally realized. But whatever characteristics and functions money has in measuring value, acting as a standard of price, medium of exchange, etc. such functions are related to capitalism, not to socialism. The SLP, of course, does not claim money to be necessary to a new social order, but they substitute it for something which is to do the same work.
The character of a thing is revealed by its function. To substitute one thing which is to function similarly to the one substituted, and then claim that a basic change has taken place is to deny reality. We hold that while the concept of "Production for Use," and a social order based thereon arises from an understanding of what is, the drawing up of pre-conceived blue-prints for the future, with organizational schemes for administration, etc., which one might imagine that future might require, calls for a detailed knowledge of the social circumstances of that time. This, we confess, we do not posses. Such a concept, also, implies that man has fee will.
While the SLP holds that Socialism means Production for Use, they claim that under that form of society the workers, instead of receiving wages, will receive a voucher according to the amount of work, measured in labor-time. This will be exchanged for goods, etc., similarly measured.
Here again appears our paradox; an ideal view of a future society burdened and beclouded with the concepts of today’s reality. What else are wages paid to workers now but tokens of their wage-slave status?
The Law of Value
The idea of measuring a worker’s output by labor-time is a misapprehension (and misappropriation) of the Marxian Law of Value. This law applies only to commodity production, that is to say capitalism. Under this system, where goods are produced for a market, to be exchanged through the intermediary of a third something (money), the Marxian Law states that these various products - different in so many ways - exchange one with another on the basis of some property or characteristic common to all. Exchange implies an equation. That was the position of Marx and that is ours. The exchange value of commodities (goods produced for SALE, although useful) is determined by the amount of socially necessary labor-time incorporated in them. But this socially necessary labor-time is reduced in the theoretical Marxian analysis to simple undifferentiated labor.
To take the yardstick used in this analysis of capitalist commodity production and apply it as a measure of "value" to a workers output under socialism is to establish a completely false premise. If a premise so established is shown to be false then the reasoning erected thereon must also be false.
In our efforts to disabuse the minds of honest enquirers of the confusion that arises from the setting up of false concepts, as also in our efforts to remove the false notions developed by those who appear to hold views on capitalism somewhat similar to ours, we hope to advance our ideas without rancor, using explanation rather than declamation.
"Production for use and not for profit" cannot exist where money (or a substitute) is present. To "pay" a worker, under socialism, on the basis of his output or the length of his working day is a denial of socialism. "From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs," is for us quite sufficient.
Socialism is, and can only be, a system of society in which the means of production and distribution will be democratically controlled and administered BY SOCIETY AND FOR SOCIETY.
And, as of now, that is the only blue-print we have to offer.