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50 Years Ago: On Whom do Taxes Fall?

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)