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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’argent, cette imposture!

by Jean-Luc Mélanchon

Money, this Imposture!

Translated Friday 11 May 2012, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Isabelle Métral

Money always has a special odor. It is not the simple instrument of exchange that it pretends to be.

Because all the societies that use money are societies based on class, and thus are systems of domination of some over others. These societies have hardened. Because the birth of money has made possible an accumulation of riches beyond the bounds of its immediate material reality.

Money has made it possible to defer actual exchange. Money causes desires and the objects that arouse those desires to voyage in time. I will eat tomorrow the fish that I can purchase for myself today, because there will always be someone to catch the fish for me if I pay for them. Money is a refrigerator. It stocks and keeps intact the power of the person who accumulates it.

And precisely because the person has that power, it permits him or her to dare something that would not be imaginable without it: to take from others more than he or she needs. In these conditions, when there are many who are in need, money is always the measure of the predation, by some people, of others. From this I deduce that, of all human sicknesses, cupidity is the most antisocial.

Symbolic and cultural powers are perishable commodities for which one must ceaselessly prove anew their reasons for being, in order to reproduce consent to their authority. The power of money needs no proof in order to be exercised. It comes, it presents itself, it takes. Everybody consents. The harshness of the power of money results from its intimate nature, and from the universal consent that protects it. In this sense, individual wealth, that is, the private accumulation of a lot of money, of which one has no need, is, in itself, inhuman, that is, it is in excess of human necessity. It is thus an abuse of power, and is an incitement to all abuses of power.

Money presents itself as an equivalent to the various ways of satisfying one’s needs. In this way it seems a postulate of our common humanity. It even seems to incarnate that which is most human in us, that which is accomplished in exchange!

An optical illusion! What is it that is most fundamentally human? I mean to speak of what distinguishes human exchange from all the other systems of exchange and of symbioses in nature. That which is given without counterpart, expecting nothing in return, without price-tag in the exchange. At this level, money is naked as an earthworm, without power. The carriage is not even a pumpkin! But there you find yourself at the frontier of love and of fraternity.

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