Taxation and the workers


An article under the above heading in our issue of June last has called forth a letter from Mr. A. Mortmain, of Sydney, N.S.W.

The gist of the article was that taxation, is a part of the machinery of government, exists only to provide means for maintaining the privileges of the property-owning class; that the workers’ wages leave them no margin out of which to pay taxes and that consequently it is a matter of indifference to their interest how or what taxes are levied. As Socialists, we are concerned with Socialism and not with any scheme of taxation. Hence we oppose all other parties which endeavour to maintain in the workers’ minds the illusion that taxes are a political issue for them.

Mr. Mortmain’s contention is that while this is correct in the main “insufficient taxation . . . does prejudice labour” and concludes that “taxation alone is sufficient to socialise Great Britain.”

Our correspondent appears to consider that the “rentier class” forms the chief burden upon the backs of the workers and suggests that we should concentrate upon “the abolition of the socialised debt, the pooling of rent,” and State loans “at a low rate of interest.” It is evident from these suggestions that he does not look upon the matter from the standpoint of the wage-slave but of the small proprietor and his “Socialism” is not a system based upon common ownership and democratic control of the means of life but a petty bourgeois Utopia in which, as he puts it, “the individuals are each in pawn to society as a whole.”

In any well-developed capitalist country interest is only one of the means by which certain capitalists appropriate part of the surplus produced by the labour of the workers. Mr. Mortmain ignores the exploitation which proceeds in the factory and makes no effort to show how the workers therein would benefit from his proposals, even if they were sufficiently practicable to get adopted by any political party with a chance of success. On this last point he appears doubtful himself for he says, “the Labour party are not likely to suggest this except vaguely in the form of a capital levy.” May we point out that where, as in France, the “rentier class” is possessed of relatively great power and the small proprietors exist in considerable numbers, it is the latter rather than the former who will be hit by a capital levy.

When the working-class have become conscious of their position as disinherited slaves and have determined to end capitalism and substitute Socialism—when they have organised as a class and become politically supreme, they are hardly likely to waste their time in piecemeal measures of the nature suggested by our correspondent. Instead of indulging in financial tricks in order to enable their wages to “buy back the whole of the wealth” they produce, they will organise a system of production and distribution in which wages and interest, along with the whole financial camouflage, will find no place. They will cease to produce commodities and will commence to produce use-values only. Money therefore will cease to have any function to perform and the problems connected with money will cease to trouble them.


(Socialist Standard, February 1926)

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