ABSTRACT

I HAVE purposely only sketched very lightly the vision of the Co-operative Commonwealth, as I only wish to indicate the broad lines of true co-operative development. But one objection which will immediately be made to the vision must be briefly answered. It will be said that the commodities required by the community could not possibly be produced under this system unless practically the whole community spent nearly all its time in industrial production. But people who make this objection are really following the tail of the sheep immediately in front of them in the vicious circle of existing industrial and social ideals. They fail to observe a necessary corollary to this system of co-operative production. The Co-operative Commonwealth through its National Authority of Consumers for Productive Purposes (which I shall continue to call the C.W.S.) would find itself compelled to produce only necessaries and those of the simplest kind. Thus the C.W.S. would use the conscription of industrial labour for producing only the simplest kind of food, clothing, houses, and furniture. All the labour now expended on advertising, and on producing luxuries and “shoddy” and useless articles, would be available for these purposes. If the whole community were properly organized for industrial production, all the pure and simple food, and all the simple clothing, houses, furniture, etc., could be produced, although no individual in the community worked for more than three months in the year on industrial production. Every one would receive a claim to an equal share of these productions in the form of an equal wage. Therefore, every one would start with an equal standard of necessaries. Every one would also have nine months of the year free to him in which he could pursue the occupation which was congenial to him. If he painted pictures which other persons desired, he could exchange them for gold-138mounted walking-sticks—if that was what he desired—provided that he could find persons who had a passion for producing gold-mounted walking-sticks in their nine months of leisure. If he could not find such people, then he might spend his own nine months of leisure in making himself a gold-mounted walking-stick. Similarly, any one who did not like the standard table produced by the C.W.S., would either make the table of his ideal or make something else which he would exchange with persons who had a hobby for making tables. Thus the Co-operative Commonwealth would solve the problem of practical Art, for over and above the bare necessaries of life, which would be produced industrially, everything else would be produced by people who voluntarily chose to produce them and took a personal pleasure in the work. Under this system we should for the first time see what human beings really wish to do with their time, and what they are really capable of producing.