Workers Money

Workers’ Money


notes proposed by certain Utopian socialists and petit bourgeois economists of the 19th century to directly express the working time needed to produce commodities and completely replace metal currency. The idea of workers’ money was proposed in Great Britain by R. Owen and J. Gray, and in France by P. J. Proudhon.

Gray developed the concept of workers’ money to the greatest extent. He believed that the contradictions inherent in capitalism were the result of an irrational system of exchange: the amount of metal currency was limited and could not increase with the growth of total production. He proposed to reorganize society by replacing metal currency with workers’ money and urged the establishment of a people’s bank to issue this new type of money. According to Gray, workers’ money would be freely exchangeable for commodities at their value and would ensure equivalent exchange and guarantee working people the full product of their labor.

The greatest weakness of a workers’-money utopia is that it ignores the contradiction between private and social labor inherent in both simple commodity production and capitalist production. Those who advocated the replacement of metal currency with workers’ money also proposed that every expenditure of labor by a private producer be declared in advance to be social labor, which is incompatible with the nature of commodity production. The concept of a workers’-money utopia also failed because it aspired to organize a planned commodity exchange at a time when private property and production anarchy reigned.

From 1832 to 1834, Owen and his supporters established equitable labor exchanges in London and other British cities, where goods were to be bought and sold in exchange for workers’ money. A mass of unsold commodities soon accumulated, which resulted in the failure of the exchanges.


Marx, K. “K kritike politicheskoi ekonomii.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol. 13.
Marx, K. Nishchetafilosofii, ch. 1. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol.4.
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