Pictures of the Socialistic Future

Richter, Eugene
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Henry Wright, trans.
First Pub. Date
London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Ltd.
Pub. Date
Introduction by Thomas Mackay.
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Chapter X


TRADE is very brisk with the photographers. All persons between the ages of twenty-one and sixty-five years, that is to say, all those who are not inmates of State establishments, have received instructions to have their likenesses taken. This step is an essential part of the Government plan for the introduction of the new currency. The old system of bank-notes and coins is to be abolished, and so-called money certificates issued instead.


In a leading article on this innovation, the Onward very truly remarks that the Minister of Exchange has displayed much sagacity and prudence in solving the problem of procuring a means of exchange which shall fulfil all the legitimate duties of such a medium, and at the same time not allow of the resuscitation of a capitalist class. Unlike gold and silver, the new currency possesses no intrinsic value, but it consists simply of orders or cheques drawn on the State as the sole possessor of all articles of sale.


Every labourer in the service of the State receives once a fortnight a series of money certificates in the form of a coupon booklet. The name of each holder is printed on the cover, and with a view to preventing the use of the coupons by other persons, it is enacted that the photograph of every individual holder be attached to his book of coupons. It is evident that that the Government orders regulating the hours of labour for all persons alike, and prescribing for all persons the same scale of remuneration, will prevent the return of social inequalities consequent upon the gradations of faculty possessed by different people, and the use made of these faculties. But, in addition to this, care must be taken to prevent, through inequalities in the scale of consumption, all accumulations of value in the hands of such persons as are of a thrifty turn, or whose requirements are small. This was a self-evident danger, and, if disregarded, would in due time have the effect of producing a capitalist class, which would, by degrees, bring into subjection those less thrifty persons who were in the habit of consuming all their income.


To obviate the misappropriation and misuse of money certificates, it is expressly understood that coupons are not, under any circumstances, to be detached by the holders, but that they only then have their representative value when detached by the State vendors or other similar officials appointed for this purpose.


All payments are to be made on the spot in coupons. Thus, for instance, it is the business of the hall porter, stationed in each house, to detach daily a dwelling's coupon from the booklet of each person resident in the house.


The new distribution of dwellings is to take place immediately before the opening of the State cookshops, an arrangement by which the further necessity for private kitchens will be obviated. When these are opened, the equivalent for a dinner will be detached by the Government official in the shape of a dinner coupon; that for the allowance of bread (one pound and a half daily, per head), in the shape of a bread coupon, and so on. The several coupons in the booklets represent, of course, different values, very considerable latitude being left to the taste of each holder as to how he likes to employ his coupons. All purchases are to be made at the State magazines and shops, and care is to be taken that the vendors in every case detach none but coupons of exactly the right value.


As each coupon bears the same number as the outside cover, and every holder is entered in the Government registry, it is an easy matter at any time to learn from the collected coupons the way in which each person has expended his income. The Government is thus, at any moment, in a position to observe whether persons spend their income on dress, or on eating and drinking, or how they spend it; and knowledge of this kind must materially lessen the difficulty of regulating production and consumption.


Every purchaser has the fullest liberty either to apply to his own use such wares as he has obtained in exchange for coupons, or to resign them to the use of other persons. Nay, he may even bequeath things to others. The calumny that has often been hurled at Socialism, that it aims at the distinction of all private property, is thus, as the Onward pointedly shows, fully refuted, and refuted in a manner that ought to make the enemies and calumniators of Socialism blush with shame. Socialism never wished for more than to see such bounds set to individual caprice as should prevent the formation of private capital, and of a system of plundering.


Those persons who, at the expiration of the fortnight, have not used up all their coupons, get the remnant entered to their credit in the new booklet. But, of course, even here it is necessary to draw the line somewhere, and to concert measures to prevent these successive remnants heaping themselves up to actual capital. A sum of sixty marks is regarded as being more than sufficient to enable its possessor to indulge himself in the gratification of all reasonable desires. Any more considerable savings than sixty marks are forfeited to the State.

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