Friday, July 01, 2016

Why not here? (1967 – short story)

Why not here? 

A Short Story from the June 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two observers from Outer Space peer at the earth through the porthole of their orbiting space craft.

The younger one turns to his companion.

“How many times have you made this trip?”

“I can’t remember”.

“Have they visited us?”

“Not yet. They haven’t yet developed a ship that can penetrate deep space”.

The younger man glances at a spent booster in close orbit.

“Is that what they are trying to do now?”

“No, they are merely concerned with getting to their dead satellite which they call the Moon.”

“Isn’t that rather a waste of time?”

“Not as they see it. Technically it could be used as a launching base for longer trips, but they are also concerned about exploiting its mineral deposits for use on earth”.

“I suppose they are running out of natural resources”.

“The earth isn’t seriously short but the rival factions are individually concerned about getting their supplies cheaper”.

“What do you mean—cheaper?”

The older astronaut leaned against the cabin wall and smiled.

“Down there on earth they have a system of society known as capitalism in which a small minority owns and controls the earth’s resources and they are enabled to continue in this state by the fact that the non-property owning class are quite ignorant of the fact”.

“How can a large number of people be ignorant of such an obvious fact?”

“Because they are conditioned to accept the proposition that they live in the best of all possible worlds and that their leaders are much more capable than they of deciding which course they should follow”.

“Why do they need leaders? Are they blind, or imbeciles?”

“They need leaders for two reasons. Firstly that they suffer from the delusion that capitalism can be made to run in everyone’s interests, and secondly because they can’t visualise any other system. They vote for one set of rulers and when they don’t get what they had hoped for they vote for another set. The irony of the situation is that whichever set they return to power the ownership of the wealth remains the property of the same class”.

“It seems incredible. I can hardly believe you are serious. How long has this been going on?”

“Years and years. Now they are at a stage where they have solved the problems of production but they can’t distribute the wealth they produce”.

“Why not?”

“Because they operate an exchange system in which metal discs or pieces of coloured paper represent the value of the objects to be exchanged. The slave class receives a certain amount of discs and notes according to the number of hours worked.

“Different types of worker are paid different amounts. Basically it is decided by the amount necessary to keep a worker and his family and to produce more workers. After all, the owning class must never be short of slaves, who are also employed to protect their masters’ property”.

“How do they do that?”

“Every few years various sections of the earth population go to war. That is to say they don uniforms according to whichever interests they are protecting and they proceed to kill one another”.

“Whatever for?”

“To eliminate the opposition. They kill and maim their fellow beings, male and female, young and old, and destroy any form of wealth that could be used against them”.

“How ridiculous”.

“They don’t think so. They allow themselves to be duped into believing that their opponents will perpetrate all sorts of cruel acts against them if they are captured and by these means their masters keep the slaughter going”.

“How revolting”.

“Revolting or not, that is how private ownership works”.

The younger astronaut turned pale.

“We don’t have to land, do we? I wouldn’t like to go too close to that lot”.

“No, we are just seeing how they are getting on and who is destroying whom this time”.

“Are they all as savage as one another?”

“No. As a matter of fact they are highly civilised but they haven’t yet reached the stage of political development where they realise that there is a solution.

“There are political parties in various parts of the globe that want to overthrow the present system and introduce another called Socialism in which all wealth and resources will be owned by the whole community. Where everyone will help to produce what society needs and take from society whatever they need as individuals”.

“Exactly what we’ve got, in fact”.


“It’s all so simple that I can’t understand why they haven’t thought of it a long time ago but the forces of capitalism are so powerful that the majority are still trying to make capitalism work in the interests of everyone”.

“But how can they do that?”

“They can’t, but they don’t know that yet.”