Friday, October 19, 2018

50 Years Ago: On Whom do Taxes Fall? (2000)

The 50 Years Ago column from the November 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

The S.P.G.B. holds then that the question of high or low prices or taxes is not a working class question because what the working class live by is wages and they have to struggle to maintain wage levels whether prices and taxes are high or low and the principal factors in the struggle are, on the one side, the workers’ cost of living, and on the other side the factors such as good or bad trade, much or little unemployment which help or hinder the trade unions in pressing wage claims.

If then taxation (and this includes rates as well) is not a working class problem whose problem is it? Taxation is the problem of the capitalist class. All of the wealth that the workers produce is the property of the employing class. When the employers have succeeded in selling the goods produced by the workers they employ, and after they have paid wages and met all other expenses of production, they still have to meet the demands of the local and central government for rates and taxes of various kinds. All of the employing class have an interest—as they continually show—in trying to reduce the cost of government. As far as is politically practicable and militarily safe they try to reduce the amount the government raises as taxation and spends on civil service, military service, prisons, police, etc., etc. If they succeed in getting taxation reduced it is in the hope of benefiting themselves; certainly not with the intention of passing on the benefit to the workers.

But beyond this the capitalists are much concerned with trying to place some of the burden of taxation on the shoulders of other sections of their own class. When the brewing interests try to get beer duties reduced (because they hope thereby to increase sales and profits) they do not at all mind if the government meets the situation by putting a corresponding increase of taxation on the capitalists in some other industry—the cinemas for example. But however the struggle between sections of the capitalists over taxation may turn out that is their problem and it involves no interest affecting the working class.
[From “The Bogey of the Tories” by ‘H’, Socialist Standard, November 1950.]

Stop the Newspeak (2000)

From the December 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the article “Education Serving Capitalism” in the April issue Stan Parker made an enlightening analysis of how schools are used to perpetuate the profit-oriented system. He quoted a prominent World Bank official who admitted that “it is true that schools have ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ and that one of their nominal purposes is to take human ‘raw material’ (i.e. children) and convert it into something more valuable (i.e. employable adults)”.

This kind of mis-education and dubious indoctrination obviously costs something and governments spend large sums to provide it. However, there is another more subtle kind of indoctrination which is not only without cost but is also targeted at adults and not just at students.

Under this type of misinformation, words and phrases are manufactured by the World Bank, IMF, UN, etc for use by their operatives. These catchy words and phrases are then extensively used in books, periodicals and newspapers and picked up by politicians, researchers and the like and parroted without giving them a second thought—”duckspeak” as George Orwell might have put it.

Such vocabulary à la Orwellian Newspeak has the damaging effect of not only distorting and concealing the reality of capitalist exploitation and the class struggle but it also slowly narrows the range of thought. A few examples will suffice here.

Global Village: The capitalist propaganda machine coined this phrase to describe the great achievements in the sphere of communications. This term eulogies the presence of the Concordes, Boeings, Airbuses, telephones, email, TV, the Internet, and what have you in the Information Technology industry. These make it possible for events in one part of the world to be followed simultaneously by people in other parts while improved air transport has made it possible for people to be anywhere on Earth within hours. The term “global village” makes it sound that the globe is a like a real village where people can get up and walk from one end to the other. But what people are not told is that only the minority owning class can afford to pay for this. How many people within the working class can conveniently travel round the globe in the same way as a person walks round a village? We can appreciate the advances made in the communications industry (thanks to the labour of the working class) but the other hidden fact about “global village” is who reaps all the profits from the costly gadgets and the sky-rocketing air fares? “Global village” will only be true to the extent that everyone is able to surf the Internet, more anywhere, telephone anywhere at no cost.

Third World: Unwittingly contradicting their concept of a single global village, the same propagandists come up with the concept of a “Third World”. This idea depicts the “village” not as one but as three: the First (the West), the Second (USSR and East Europe) and the Third (Africa, Latin America and Asia). But in reality there is only one world and the division that exists in it is that there is the class of owners of property and the class of those who own no property. Today’s only world consists of the capitalist class and the working class, the rich and the poor. The term “Third World” is a deliberate misnomer designed to push into the background the class nature of this one world of haves and have-nots.

Enabling Environment: The World Bank, the IMF and the so-called “donor agencies” in general normally make loans available to poor peripheral countries only on condition that these countries create an “enabling environment” for business. This term may appear to the less inquiring mind to mean putting in place genuine structures for development. But the real meaning of the term is devaluing the monetary unit of poor countries; strengthening the army, police and judiciary to hold down the working class whilst these countries’ wealth is plundered without any resistance; selling state assets to private capital owners, etc. In short, “enabling environment” is a euphemism for enslaving the working class more and more.

Stakeholders: This is another phrase which is constantly used unquestioningly by NGO staff and government officials. These people revel in repeating their master’s voice without actually understanding it. “Stakeholder” is a term coined to deceive the people that projects in poor countries benefit all those involved: the donor agency, the government and the target group (the poor people). The term sends the wrong signal that all three categories are equal. But the truth is that the working people (the target group) who provide the labour component of the project are always disadvantaged. However, the government boosts its image by posing as the middleman while the capitalists reap benefit as they sell their products (all the machinery and other materials used in the project).

Collapse of Communism: The capitalists and their bankrupt media and academia ignorantly refer to socialism/communism as a system in which the means of production are controlled by the state. With such crass stupidity the capitalists thought that the former Soviet Union and the East European states were communist. People were taught to think this as a means of deliberately camouflaging the truth that the USSR and Eastern Europe were actually profit-oriented entities practising state-capitalism. Therefore as soon as perestroika took hold of the USSR and the Berlin Wall collapsed, the Western powers got another hypocritical opportunity to trumpet repeatedly to the whole world that communism/socialism was dead. But what actually happened in the USSR and Eastern Europe was that state capitalism gave way to Western-style capitalism. In other words, state control of the means of producing and distributing wealth was replaced by individual and corporate control.

Asian Tigers: Fortunately, the capitalist propaganda machine can’t stand the test of time. A clear example is the recent joke of the “Asian Tigers”. To conceal the facts surrounding the pillage and plunder of the human and material resources of the “tiger economies”, the world was inundated with the false story of the success of these Asian peripheral countries. But the lies blew up in their face one morning as the world woke up to see that the tigers had not only lost their teeth but their clawed paws had gone numb.

The important question in the face of such dubious misinformation is whether humanity can afford just to wait until the capitalists confess and swallow their own untruths as time exposes them. This would amount to condoning crime. Therefore humanity must act. The first step should be to grasp the socialist (which is humane) understanding of society; people must know the real causes (not the ones based on faith) of poverty, want, disease, illiteracy, the purpose of production of wealth, etc. Armed with the basic principles of socialism one can easily see through the pseudo-philosophies and phrase-mongering tactics of those presently gagging humanity and human progress just in the interests of their super-profits.