The Man in the Street.
The enemy is once again pulling the leg of the worker by raising the old gag of the “Burden of taxation on the man in the street.” This poor fellow, judging from an editorial in the Daily News (10/5/22), appears to be an infant requiring the guidance of a nursemaid, whom we can all recognise under the name of Miss Print. Through the strenuous efforts of this ubiquitous creature the Man-in-the-Street, infant that he is, is cajoled, frightened, or badgered by various bogeys which are trotted out to distract his attention lest he gain knowledge which will threaten the career of his callous nurse and those who pay her.
One of the chief bogey stunts is the Taxation Bogey, which Miss Print and politicians have used with great effect, and advantage to themselves.
The infant is led to believe by the Daily News scribe that the expenditure on the Admiralty Department comes out of his pocket, and that “the Admiralty has been able, by simple defiance, to reduce the ‘cuts’ demanded of it from 21 millions to 4 millions.”
He is told “not Parliament, nor the Government, but the Departments determine now what taxes you are to pay.”
In thrusting this bogey before the eyes of the Infant-in-the-Street, the Daily Nurse is ably seconded by Labour and unemployed leaders of all descriptions, each intent on fooling the infant into the belief that there is nothing else so important to him as the question of taxation.
Within the capitalist class there is a difference of opinion as to the amount to be expended on the upkeep of the Army, Navy, and other Departmental Services.
The section the Daily News speaks for have not in general an urgent need for armaments on an Imperialistic scale, other than those required for keeping intact the system of private property and the right of exploitation at home. Their outlook is National Defence against the working class, and they profess to trust to peaceful penetration for development of foreign trade; and possibly they consider tnemselves clearer sighted than those sections who do not judge the situation otherwise than through the spectacles of expansion of trade and exploitation of markets by conquest or a display of force.
However, the economy stunts, whether these take the shape of cutting down Government staffs of clerks and mechanics, the lowering of wages, or fewer orders to armament firms, do not improve the position of the worker whom the Daily News refers to as the Man-in-the-Street.
To suggest to such a man when he is thrown on the unemployed heap that he has been sacked so that he will not have to pay so much in taxes, is sheer humbug. When a man is employed he sells daily, weekly, or monthly his physical and mental energy at a price which on the average is merely sufficient to reproduce that labour force, which, when applied to natural materials, produces wealth, and in the sphere of organisation and distribution carries out the functions which the system of capitalism requires.
You unemployed ! You who are in very truth the Men on the Street. You believe that you pay taxes ; Well, if you do not pay them when you are employed, how can you pay them when unemployed ?
To return to the editorial:—
“Once again not the real necessities of national defence but what each Department thinks to be necessary for the efficiency of its own service, quite regardless of whether it is or is not being duplicated by others, determines the rate of taxation which you pay.”
Well, what if there is duplication? It is not the workers’ funeral; there are one and a half million unemployed who would be very pleased if there was more duplication, and, either way, duplicated jobs or no jobs, the rate of taxation need not be any cause of worry to them.
The Man-in-the-Street has yet to realise that within the capitalist ranks there are struggles between sections to gain control of the political machinery, in order, among other things, that the burden of taxation; may be made as light as possible for the section in control, and thus we find sectional differences of opinion as to the requirements of the various State Departments.
Each section contends its policy is the best, and appeals to the workers on the grounds of economy and progress.
In reference to the matter of education, we see the antagonism between two sections showing clearly, for according to the Daily News scribe, Sir Eric Geddes asserts :—
“That it is the work of a visionary with only one eye to educate children for higher positions and advancement in industry when in the very doing of it he is going to kill the industry and the commerce to which these children will have to look for a livelihood.”
Replying to the above, the Daily News writer says :—
“The answer to that is that the ultimate threat to British industry in competition with American and German is much more likely to be lack of trained brains than lack of capital or credit. It is a misfortune to be one-eyed, but it is a worse misfortune to be blind.”
Here there are two points of view clearly defined, the Daily News admitting that it is not likely there will be any lack of capital or credit, is anxious to carry on in what may be termed the peaceful competitive style; apparently forgetting that the more intense the technical and commercial education, the keener will be the competition not only between workers for jobs (this is probably what the writer had in his mind’s eye), but also between national groups of capitalists for the world’s markets, thus inevitably leading to a war more merciless even than the last.
The other view-point, that of Sir Eric Geddes quoted by the Daily News is, that taxes for education will ruin industry, and he obviously believes that there are a sufficient number of educated wage slaves for the efficient development of industry and trade, and that force is the best method for controlling and gaining markets. Expressed in other terms, this means that naval and army expenditure for the protection of capital and the acquisition of exploitable territories is justified.
Although the struggles for positions amongst the workers who have been educated at Secondary and Technical Schools has reached even now a terrible pitch, the Daily News is prepared to tell the Man-in-the-Street that technical education is a good thing for him and leads surely to good positions in industry.
Thus the minds of many in the working class are impressed with the need for advanced education; and many parents, both in the professional and manual grades of the working class, turn their attention (forced, indeed, by the very pressure of the circumstances of capitalism, though few would explain it in such terms), to the schools of engineering, commerce and commercial “art,” in the hope that in one or the other spheres of industry their children may find safe anchorage and a comfortable income.
It is probable then that taxation for education is likely to be more popular than taxation for the upkeep of armaments, for says the one side : Does not education stand for progress? Are not armaments a monument to waste?
The Socialist message to the Man-in-the-Street is that they are two phases of one thing—the system of capitalism. Capitalist progress means high productivity, profits, economy of labour to the capitalist, but ill-health and nervous tension, robbery of, and unemployment, to the worker.
He has nothing to gain by supporting taxation or anti-taxation stunts from whichever side of capitalism they come, for in any case taxes have to be raised for the upkeep of the various Departments, and they can only be paid from the accumulated wealth which has been wrung from the workers who are the victims of a system of robbery which day by day extracts surplus value from them. It is a misfortune to be blind, but the Man-in-the-Street is not aware of his affliction; nevertheless, the numbers are steadily increasing of those who have seen the light and refuse to be led up the “garden” by Miss Print, and there will be soon a vast army working consciously towards the Socialist goal— Socialism.
(Socialist Standard, November 1922)