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Saturday, 26 November 2011

why socialists support the robin hood tax, but know it does not go far enough

We hear all the time from reformists of the capitalist system that a few more tax'es her eand there will sort things out. Especially from new labour who claim a bankers bonus's tax will save us from everything. They seem to support this idea of a robin hood tax which yes as socialists we support too but recognise the fact it does not go far enough in our view.

In a nutshell, the big idea behind the Robin Hood Tax is to generate billions of pounds – hopefully even hundreds of billions of pounds. That money will fight poverty in the UK and overseas. It will tackle climate change. And it will come from fairer taxation of the financial sector.

A tiny tax on the financial sector can generate £20 billion annually in the UK alone. That's enough to protect schools and hospitals. Enough to stop massive cuts across the public sector. Enough to build new lives around the world – and to deal with the new climate challenges our world is facing.

As a result of the financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has calculated UK government debt will be 40% higher. That 40% equates to £737 billion pounds, or £28,000 pounds for every taxpayer in the country. Having to pay back that debt means cuts in vital services on which millions of people around the country rely.

Total cost to the UK of financial crisis in terms of lost output according to the IMF was 27% of 2008 GDP.


Capitalism is a social system based upon production for profit not social need. A 'rational' organisation of production is impossible because it is also a blind system. Workers will be thrown out of jobs when there is no 'demand' for their products.

In reality there is always a need for their products - but social need is subordinate to whether or not it is profitable for the capitalists.

Then when production increases in another field after a period of unemployment, some may be integrated back into industry.

Contrast this to the way production would be organised under socialism, especially through democratic workers' control and management.

If there was a surplus of workers and capital in one field and a deficiency in another, a democratic planned organisation of industry would just involve a voluntary transfer of goods and labour from one sector of the economy to another.

Karl Marx showed that this is what happens already, within a single factory or today even with multinational and transnational companies: "...That same [capitalist] mind denounces with equal vigour every conscious attempt to socially control and regulate the process of production, as an inroad upon such sacred things as the rights of property, freedom and unrestricted play for the bent of the individual capitalist.

"It is very characteristic that the enthusiastic apologists of the factory system have nothing more damning to urge against a general organisation of the labour of society, than that it would turn all society into one immense factory." [Karl Marx, Capital, vol 1, chapter XIV, section 4.]

Economic and political power must be taken out of the hands of the destroyers of wealth, the handful of capitalists who control industry and society.

In Britain, this would involve the taking over of a handful of monopoly firms that control 80-85% of the economy.

Compensation would be given to the ex-owners and particularly to the small shareholders on the basis of proven need.

Imagine what would then be possible by utilising the full potential of production! The famous capitalist economist John Maynard Keynes estimated in the 1930s that by the beginning of this century, by utilising the full potential that remained unused under capitalism, the average worker would work no more than 15 hours a week and therefore gain "freedom from economic cares"!

Such a prospect only appears 'utopian' because of the character of modern capitalism with its philosophy of a dog-eat-dog society combined with a programme of 'work til you drop' without respite or enjoyment, repression of wages and ever increasing poverty and unemployment.

Searing inequality - which has deepened and extended during this crisis - has fuelled the revolt of the working class, which in turn has sparked the worldwide 'Occupy' movement.

Its ringing denunciations of the 1% of the population that controls an unprecedented hoard of wealth to the detriment of the 99% majority have found a wide echo.

But the laudable attempts to close and eliminate the 'wealth gap' are likely to be stillborn under capitalism.

We support a 'Robin Hood tax' on the transactions of big business. But history shows that the capitalists always find a thousand and one ways to circumvent any law which seeks to claw back some of the wealth and eats into their profits.

When the Labour government of Harold Wilson attempted to do something similar through a corporation tax in the 1970s, such was the opposition of big business it was completely watered down and rendered largely ineffective.

The only way to prevent this is through the nationalisation of the banks and finance houses.

Similarly, the 'dictatorship of the market', which is holding the whole of Europe to ransom, should be met with the cancellation of the debt to the bond parasites.

This in turn could only succeed if nationalisation was carried through not just in one country but on a continental and world basis.

Inequality is intrinsic to capitalism. The exploitation of the working class - the capitalists garner what Marx called 'unpaid labour' in the form of profits - is the very foundation of the system.

From this flow all the inequalities and the class antagonisms which shape this society.

The system can go ahead for a while as long as the surplus is invested in productive industry to create more factories and thereby the production of more goods and services.

But it stagnates and falls back when the restricted incomes of the working class - particularly marked in the last few decades - mean they cannot buy back fully the goods and services they produce.

This results in 'overproduction', a glut of unsold goods and redundant workers and capital. This, in turn, can produce a 'death spiral' reflected in the paralysis of production evident throughout the world today.


Combine all this clear evidence of the wasteful character of the system with the extraordinary mass movements - Greece, Italy, Spain, Britain on 30 November, etc - and it is clear that capitalism faces one of its greatest threats in its long history.

In fact, a new social system is knocking at the door of history. This is the idea of a socialist democratically planned and organised economy and society. To usher it in requires a movement and the urgent building of a mass workers' party.

Ironically, this current threat to capitalism arises from its very triumph following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the downfall of Stalinism.

The consequent dismantling of the planned, nationalised economies and their replacement by 'wild capitalism' represented a big ideological victory for capitalism.

This in turn moved the leaders of parties such as the old Labour Party, at its base a 'workers' party', and the trade unions to the right, leading to the transformation of these parties largely into pro-capitalist formations.

This meant that the capitalists no longer needed to look over their shoulders at a threat posed by the working class. There is no check on their actions as there had been previously.

Capitalism was therefore unrestrained in pursuing the policies of financialisation which were already underway in the late 1970s and 1980s.

In this sense, it became its own gravedigger, manifested in the economic madness of debt-driven capitalism; financial bubbles on top of financial bubbles, which collapsed like a house of cards in 2007-2008.

The consequences of this are evident in the idle factories, workplaces and the tragedy of the millions of 'idle hands' which presently litter the economic landscape of world capitalism.

"Hang on a moment! This idea of socialism is nothing new. It has been tried before and failed miserably in Russia, and elsewhere," argue the representatives of capitalism.

Winston Churchill, Tory prime minister in the Second World War and the 1950s, got it right, they say, when he asserted: "Capitalism has many faults but it is better than the other alternatives on offer." This threadbare argument is all that the capitalists can now fall back on.

Firstly, the Russia they refer to was a Stalinist regime not a genuinely socialist workers' democracy.

It was totalitarian in character and dominated by a bureaucratic elite, although resting ultimately on a nationalised planned economy.

Where the first attempts were made to lay the foundations of socialism, for instance in Russia between 1917 and 1923 this did not 'fail', as our critics argue.

On the contrary, the establishment of a nationalised planned economy with democratic control exercised by the working class and the poor peasant masses through 'soviets' - workers' councils - gave us a glimpse of what was possible on the basis of socialism.

Russia, a poor, culturally backward society, did not have the material base in terms of industry to immediately establish socialism alone.

However, the 'chain' of capitalism broke at its weakest link, and this inspired a worldwide workers' revolutionary wave.

Through the immediate shortening of the working day, working people will be allowed to participate in managing and controlling nationalised industry through a plan. Now, the working day is being extended under capitalism.

The Russian revolution and its aftermath indicated the direction in which society could develop, particularly if socialism was rooted in the advanced industrialised countries.

Great efforts were made to establish a collective, solidarity type of consciousness. Industry and society were under the control of the workers and poor farmers.

This allowed the setting up of communal laundries and eating places in the first period after the revolution.

However, it is unlikely that the organisation of a new social society in today's conditions will be like this.

Given the widespread use of technology today - domestic washing machines - communal laundries are probably not necessary.

On the other hand, such is the intensity of the working day - for instance in America - that a form of 'communal' eating already exists in the form of 'diners'.

These tend to be widely used by working people during the working week, with families eating at home at the weekends.

It is impossible to prescribe exactly how a plan of production, with all the details and priorities to be worked out, will be implemented in today's society.

This will be best left to the initiative and intelligence of the working class organised through their own collective power.

But the present horrors of capitalism will continue to exist, indeed, will be perpetuated, if this system is not replaced by socialism.



So we do support such a tax but stress this is not it and will not solve all our concerns as working people. only the end of this rotten capitalist system will do for us.

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