Rates and Taxes.
June 6th, 1929.
I have recently been reading a leaflet issued by the S.P.G.B., entitled, “Rates and Taxes: do they fall on the working class?” Which states that the working class is unaffected by taxes, since they pay none.
Am I not right in assuming that the tax on wages is a tax, and that the working class does pay it?
I shall be pleased if you can explain this to me; or give me the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s views on the matter.
I believe the tax on wages was instituted during the War, and as the Leaflet is a reprint of an article that appeared in the “Socialist Standard” of March, 1912, the question was not dealt with.
I am, yours faithfully,
W. A. Devine.
Our correspondent has misunderstood the case put forward in the Leaflet to which he refers.
In the first place, we do not deny that a few workers pay Income Tax. (The number is, however, very small.) A single man does not pay Income Tax until his earnings exceed £162 a year, or £3 2s. 4d. per week. A married man without children does not pay tax until his earnings exceed £270 or £5 3s. 10d. per week. The total number of persons paying tax in Great Britain and N. Ireland is only 2,150,000. See Constitutional Year Book—P. 389).
What we are concerned with is a different question altogether, and the only one of importance. That question is: “Would the workers be better off if taxes were lower, and worse off if taxes were higher?” And the answer to both parts of the question is No!
If prices fall through the abolition of taxes on various articles, such as tea, sugar, etc., wages fall also; and the workers are no better off. When prices rise wages follow, even if somewhat tardily.
The workers, speaking broadly, receive as wages enough to buy the necessaries of life for themselves and their families. If prices fall and living becomes cheaper, wages fall, too. Taxes, so far as they affect the workers at all, are part of their cost of living. An increase in these taxes will result in employers having to pay higher wages. A decrease in these taxes, which cheapens the worker’s cost of living, leads to lower wages, and benefits the employers only. The question of taxation is not one which affects the workers. Our correspondent is referred to the October, 1928, issue, where the matter was dealt with.
On Educating the Workers.
To the Editorial Committee,
Your much reiterated assertion that Socialism can only be brought into being by an intelligent and class-conscious working class, becomes more seemingly apparent as time passes. It is also very obvious that the progress of a clear understanding of their position by the working class is slow and infinitesimal in proportion to the rapid and relentless development and extension of Capitalism, which must reach its apex. What then? Must the workers endure an indefinite period of suffering whilst a small body of Socialists blandly continue that almost impossible task—education? Do you really believe that the workers as a class will ever accept your position? What credulity ! And optimism ! Incurable, too, from my experience of your party. The larger portion of the working class are steeped in superstition and bigotry of every kind, which will take centuries of education to remove. So far, among contemporary parties, you are unimportant. I assume, however, that the teaching of Socialism as taught by the S.P.G.B., will some day be more generally accepted. You will then find that you will be compelled—in order to further develop and achieve your purpose—to exploit and appeal to the emotions of the workers, religious and otherwise. In short, secure the acquiescence of the majority for your programme by any means possible.
It is difficult to understand exactly what our correspondent’s criticisms are. Having told us that the task of educating the workers is “almost impossible,” and that we are incurable optimists for believing it to be possible, he goes on to say, “I assume, however, that the teaching of Socialism, as taught by the S.P.G.B., will some day be more generally accepted.”
It seems, therefore, that Mr. Watts really agrees with us that we shall succeed in making our views “more generally accepted.”
He then makes another unsupported and contradictory assertion. Having conceded that our views will become “more generally accepted,” he makes the unexplained assumption that the methods which have been successful in making our position “more generally accepted” will fail to help us “to further develop.” We can only ask him why it will be impossible for us to spread Socialist knowledge when we have grown larger and stronger, particularly as he agrees that we shall have succeeded in growing stronger by that means.
Mr. Watts’ suggestion as to an alternative method is again self-contradictory. He says that we shall have to “appeal to the emotions of the workers, religious and otherwise,” in order to secure “the acquiescence of the majority” for our programme. What Mr. Watts fails to see is that no amount of “appeals to emotions, religious or otherwise,” would ever win support for our programme. The Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party has no attraction whatever for the person who can still be reached by emotional appeals. Such persons will continue to support the parties whose programmes suit their lack of knowledge.
Mr. Watts tells us that the larger portion of the working class are steeped in “superstition and bigotry of every kind.” Does he then really imagine that Socialism could be successfully carried on by such people, supposing (an unwarrantable supposition) that by appeals to their emotions they had been won away from supporting Capitalist parties?
Mr. Watts himself illustrates the need for Socialist knowledge, when he talks of Capitalism reaching its “apex.” Even if it were true that Capitalism could be left to itself and at a certain point would collapse, there would still be need of an organised Socialist working class to tackle the work of building up Socialism. In fact, however, this theory of collapse is a piece of anti-Socialist doctrine, repudiated by Marx and Socialists generally. Capitalism will remain in being just so long as the majority accept it. And so long as the workers accept Capitalism they will have to go on suffering under it. While they accept Capitalism no minority can save them from the consequences of Capitalism.
If Mr. Watts thinks he knows a way in which a minority can lead a non-Socialist working class into Socialism, perhaps he will tell us what it is.