George Walford: Human Needs

The “Socialist” Party of Great Britain condemns the society which it calls “capitalism” (while also saying the workers run it from top to bottom) on the ground that it is unable to meet human needs. Under this system “production cannot be carried on to meet human needs.” (Questions of the Day 1978 p. 5)

In support of its assertion the party quotes (as usual, from “capitalist” sources), the statement that some thirty million people annually die of starvation. The thought is horrifying beyond expression, but it does hot serve the purpose for which the party tries to use it. It draws attention to the fact that some five thousand million people do not die of starvation each year. They survive, and if you survive. then some of your needs are being met.

The charge leveled by the party, that capitalism is, without qualification, unable to meet human needs, is a false one. This system has not yet been able to meet all human needs but it has shown itself able to meet some. It provides the conditions within which some five thousand million people are able to meet some of their own needs.

All the goods that have been socially produced have been produced by societies in which the means of production were privately owned. Under this system society has developed to the point where millions of people are obliged to restrain their enjoyment of the available ease and comfort in order to remain reasonably healthy (have you ever thought what it says about a society when books on diet become best-sellers?) and the immediate threats to, society’s survival come from powers it has itself produced.

Strange as it sounds the socialists want to abolish this society. Not to modify, adapt, develop, improve or restrain it but abolish it. They propose that it should be replaced, completely and immediately, without experiment, prototype or pilot test,by the common ownership by society as a whole, of the means of production, a system under which no society has yet, produced anything.

“Capitalism” meets some human needs; it does net meet the all and it never will. Neither would “socialism,” if that illusion be imagined as a system that enables society to develop, for one feature of social development is the transformation of luxuries (some material, others not) into necessities, and thus, the creation of needs.

from Ideological Commentary 16, January 1985.