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Cooking the Books

Cooking the Books: Zollverein

During the 19th century, even before Germany became a single state in 1871 and was still divided into kingdoms and duchies large and small, there was nevertheless a considerable degree of economic unity. This was achieved through the ‘Zollverein’, under which the states and statelets who joined committed themselves to two things – a common market, or customs-free trade with other member-states, and imposing the same tariff on imports from outside the union.

Cooking the Books: Fareless Transport

Under the headline ‘German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution,’ the Guardian (14 February) reported on a letter from German ministers to the EU Environment Commissioner. Their idea was to encourage people to use public transport rather than carbon-burning individual cars (and avoid Germany being fined for not meeting EU antipollution targets).

Free transport will be a feature of socialist society as part of general production to directly meet people’s needs. So, there would not just be free transport, but also free health care, education, communications, restaurants and laundries. There would be no charge to enter museums, parks, libraries, theatres and other places of entertainment and recreation. Houses and flats would be rent-free, with heating, lighting, water, telephone and broadband supplied free of charge.

Cooking the Books: Greed or Need?

In the last week of January the media reported ‘riots’, really little more than pushing and shoving,  at some supermarkets in France after the Intermarché chain reduced the price of Nutella, the nut-based spread, from €4.50 to €1.40 for a limited period. Similar scenes were reported in Wrexham in 2014 when the 99p Store there decided to temporarily sell their wares at 50p instead.

According to opponents of socialism, such behaviour confirms their view that it is human nature to be greedy and that this is what would happen in socialism where everything on the shelves of  the distribution centres would be available for people to take for free. However, there is a great difference between the situation under capitalism and that is socialism.

Cooking the Books: What the Poor Law Pays

We know what determines the level of income of those in employment – it’s the cost of recreating their working skills in conjunction with the class struggle and the play of supply and demand – but what about those not in work? What determines the income they get as a handout from the state?

Some light on this was shed by some top secret documents found at the end of January in a filing cabinet in a junk shop in Australia. One of the files concerned the work of a cabinet sub-committee, known as the ‘razor gang’ (down under they call a spade a spade), whose remit was to slash payments to the unemployed as a way of relieving the burden of taxation on profits which had fallen in the slump that followed the financial crash of 2008.

Normally such documents only become available after 30 or so years, but the files related to a much more recent period:

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