​The election battle lines are drawn – the view from Nuneaton

​The election battle lines are drawn – the view from Nuneaton


We have received this article from a Socialist Party member in Nuneaton regarding the forthcoming general election. Readers may remember that Nuneaton was seen as a key marginal in the 2015 election.

The Labour and Conservative manifestos are hot off the printing press and for the first time in a number of years, there is a difference.

Both the Labour and Conservative manifesto offer a vision for Britain, one of society ran for the many and not the few, or one of continued austerity and misery for working class people but tax breaks for the rich.

This was clearly seen on The Andrew Marr Show recently, during a debate between John McDonnell and Damian Green. When discussing Labour’s proposed programme of what is in reality modest nationalisation, Green accused McDonnell of not understanding capitalism, McDonnell quipped back that clearly Green does as he had profited from the rip off that is our privatised water industry. Dead right John!

Whereas the Tories look at essential industries and just see avenues for profit and potential cash cows, Jeremy Corbyn sees essential services that should benefit everybody, be publicly ran, and not used to make a handful of people rich at the expense of the many.

However, the Labour manifesto, despite offering a change from the austerity politics of the Tories, and the austerity-lite policies of the Blair-Brown-Miliband years, falls short of providing a decisive break with capitalism, which we believe is the root of all our problems.

Labour’s plan to renationalise the railways, bringing back into public ownership rail services as current contracts expire, will still leave railways in the hands of private-profiteers for over a decade. The ‘nationalisation’ of the energy industry is a modest plan of setting up a publicly ran company to compete with the others, much like the plans for buss services. Although these are good steps, they fall short of the immediate, democratic nationalisation of key industries and still leave working class people to be exploited and forced to pay rip of prices for train tickets or choose between eating or heating.

Despite these plans being by historical standards very modest, they have been received by the right-wing press with mass hysteria. This is because the capitalist elite fear these modest gains for working people and fear the hopes that a Corbyn led government could give working class people. Whereas they have enjoyed 7 years of growth, with the wealth of the richest 1% of people increasing year on year- with a 14% increase last year alone according to the Sunday Times rich list the rest of us have faced falling living standards due to the cruel austerity politics of both the Tory-Lib Dem coalition and the current government. A Corbyn led government threatens to undermine this.

If given a taste of modest reforms under Corbyn, the ruling elites fear this could cause working class people to want more, which would threaten the vast amounts of wealth they have acquired while the rest of us have suffered. As the saying goes, “appetite grows with eating.”

Although Corbyn’s manifesto is modest, it offers an alternative way of doing things. Although the Socialist Party argues that Corbyn should be bolder, like Melenchon was during the French Presidential election, we back Corbyn and the change in direction he represents and are campaigning for a Corbyn victory.

Although we argue that Corbyn could be bolder with his policies and offer a break with capitalism, the battle lines of this election have been drawn and on election day we will have to choose which side we are on. Are you on the side of Corbyn and for a society that looks after the elderly, gives young people a chance at life with free education, ensures that more people are paid a wage they can live on with a £10hr minimum wage and seeks to change society to be run for the many and not the few? Or are you on the side of Tories and the wealthy elite, for continued austerity for us but tax cuts for wealthiest, for taking the food out of children’s mouths as free school meals are scrapped, or for the continued privatisation of the NHS?

However, whatever the result of the election, the battle for a fairer society and for socialism will still need to be fought. The Labour Party machine is still in the hands of the Blairites who seek to undermine Corbyn and the alternative he represents, especially in the West Midlands. There can be no more talk of ‘unity’ with these professional ‘Red Tories’ who have sought to take Labour back to the Blair-Mandelson days.

If you want to join this fight then stand with us, join the Socialist Party and get involved in the day to day campaigning we do. We support Corbyn and will be making the argument for a Corbyn-led government based on socialist policies.

Dave Nellist sets out support for Jeremy Corbyn in TUSC election broadcast

Dave Nellist sets out support for Jeremy Corbyn in TUSC election broadcast

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, National Chair of TUSC

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition election broadcast was released today, featuring former Coventry Labour MP and Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist. The video explains why TUSC is supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity programme in this election, and is not standing any candidates.

Please watch and share the video!

Want to support Corbyn and fight to change society? Join the Socialists!

Protest against school funding cuts in Coventry

Protest against school funding cuts in Coventry

Jane Nellist, Coventry NUT

Protesters gathered in Coventry today for the “Big School Assembly” demonstration organised by trade unions to protest against education cuts.

Jane Nellist from the National Union of Teachers spoke, as well as speakers from the University and Colleges Union, UNISON and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Parents also spoke and expressed concerns about the impact of funding cuts on their children.

The School Cuts website highlights the effect of education cuts across the country at primary and secondary level. It lists the cuts being made to almost all schools – the picture below shows just how badly these cuts will impact on Coventry.

educuts in cov.JPG

Education cuts and academisation represent a huge threat to children’s futures, and it’s important for school staff, parents and pupils to keep building the campaign against them.

Nakba Day – solidarity with Palestinian hunger strike

Palestinian hunger strikes

Demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners, East Jerusalem. Photo from Activestills

Today, 15th May, is known as Nakba Day. The Nakba, or catastrophe, refers to the forced displacement and exile of the Palestinian people in 1948 from their land following the creation of the state of Israel.  We are pleased to carry the article below written by a member of the Socialist Struggle Movement, the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in Israel-Palestine regarding the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners taking place currently. We would also direct readers to a previous post on this site which has further background information.


Palestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

By Shahar Ben-Horin, Socialist Struggle Movement (Israel-Palestine)

The “Strike of Freedom and Honour” is the name given to a mass hunger strike of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which started indefinitely on the Palestinian Prisoner Day, 17 April. The prisoners are demanding the ending of discrimination on national grounds in prison and arbitrary detention without charge or trial (‘administrative arrests’). Among other things, the prisoners protest against medical neglect, incarceration in isolation, violation of rights to visits, prohibition of telephone calls and denial of the right to academic studies.

Every week sees dozens of military raids on homes of residents throughout the West Bank. Residents are removed from their beds in the middle of the night as a matter of routine. According to Israeli Prison Service (IPS) figures, at the end of April more than 6,100 Palestinian prisoners classified as ‘security prisoners’, including nearly 500 administrative detainees, were held in Israeli jails. Three hundred of the prisoners are minors, according to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights association A-Dameer (‘The Conscience’). Aside from the Security Prisoners held by IPS, further hundreds of Palestinians are held after being criminalised by the occupation authorities as ‘illegal stayers’, usually after seeking work in Israel, and a further dozens of Palestinians are held in facilities of the military and police before being transferred to the hands of the IPS.

In a special statement issued prior to Prisoner’s Day on behalf of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoners Association and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, it was noted that since 1948, about a million Palestinians have been incarcerated in Israeli detention facilities. Since October 2015, at the beginning of the  ‘eruption’ of protest and escalation in violence, some 10,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel, about a third of them teenagers under 18.

Discrimination in incarceration conditions

Israeli regime propaganda, generously assisted by enlisted media, seeks to systematically mark all Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ as murderers. Even if this was true, and it is not, criminal murderers get definitely better incarceration conditions. However, the sweeping incitement is intended to silence public criticism and torpedo discussion on the reality of the occupation. Many of the prisoners were imprisoned for the sole fact of their involvement in a political struggle against the occupation and the national oppression of the Palestinians.

In this context, the State of Israel does not differentiate between those who were imprisoned after taking part in demonstrations or military activity against the military occupation forces in the territories of 1967, and those convicted of killing innocent civilians out of motives connected with the national conflict. In any case, the Palestinian ‘security prisoners’, whether Israeli citizens or residents of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are sweepingly discriminated against in legal procedures and conditions of imprisonment.

Ami Popper, a Jewish ‘security prisoner’, who slaughtered seven Palestinian workers on nationalist grounds, is entitled to holidays from prison, regular phone calls with relatives and even a place of work outside the prison. However, Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ are not entitled to any of these. Since 2011, they have been deprived of the right to study at the Open University, because they are not Jewish, and that is following a cynical measure of collective punishment that was implemented with the pretext of serving as a means of exerting pressure on Hamas to release the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The policy remained in place even after the prisoner exchange deal that was eventually conducted in the same year.

The prisoners’ main demand is for public telephones to be installed in their prison wings so that they can talk to their relatives. Not only does such an arrangement exist in the criminal wings, but also the most famous Jewish security prisoner, Yigal Amir (who assassinated Israeli prime minister Rabin in 1995), is allowed to talk to his family by telephone. Palestinians are forbidden from doing so. The prisoners are dependent on the smuggling of mobile phones. For allegedly assisting in such smuggling, former Palestinian MK (member of the Israeli parliament, Knesset) Bassel Ghattas (National Democratic Alliance party) was sentenced earlier this year to two years in prison.

Hunger strikes threaten Establishment

During half a century of occupation in the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian prisoners succeeded in improving their conditions of imprisonment through collective and individual hunger strikes, and obtained recognition by the prison authorities of their elected representatives. The current action is the largest hunger strike since 2012, when about 1,500 prisoners went on hunger strike for nearly a month and achieved some improvement in conditions, including partial renewal of family visits from the Gaza Strip. A series of hunger strikes by administrative detainees managed to bring about the release of detainees without an indictment, which only proved the claim that they were arbitrarily detained and refuted the claim of their alleged danger.

In 2014, an extended hunger strike, which at its height involved around 250 administrative detainees, was isolated and eventually collapsed against the background of the military offensive in the West Bank (operation Shuvu Ahim – ‘Come Back Brothers’) and the mass arrests that accompanied it. But the Israeli establishment continues to view hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners as a threat. In addition to international criticism of Israel, the hunger strikes could ignite military confrontations – Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has already threatened to take action if the demands of the prisoners are not met – and much more significantly also mass protests on the ground, the more so as the lives of the prisoners and strike leaders become endangered.

The forced-feeding law approved by the Knesset in 2015 is designed to help the state to subdue hunger strikes by restoring the practice of de-facto torture conducted in Israel in the past, and which ironically has led to the only deaths of hunger strikers, so far.

The Israeli Medical Association (doctors’ trade union), as part of the policy of the World Medical Association, issued a vocal criticism against the law and ordered doctors not to cooperate with it. Doctors in hospitals in Ashkelon and Beersheba, for example, refused in 2015 to forcibly feed administrative detainee Muhammad ‘Allan, and last year, doctors in a hospital in `Afula refused to forcibly feed the journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who was also held as an administrative detainee. The lack of collaborationist doctors who would agree to break the hunger strike has now led Netanyahu’s officials to consider flying doctors from abroad to do so. In the meantime, the Health Ministry is briefing hospital managers to prepare for the possibility of forced feeding, and at the same time, IPS, MDA (emergency medical service) and the military are preparing to set up designated clinics in the prisons.

The IPS claims that the number of hunger strikers has dropped to 850 within the first two weeks of the strike, but prisoners’ rights organisations estimate that the number actually climbed to 1,500. In any case, the prison authorities do not hide their concern that the strike will expand, especially if the movement of solidarity with it accelerates. So far, most of the hunger strikers are identified with Fatah. About 3,000 prisoners support Fatah, and despite political divisions between them, there is a possibility that many of them will be convinced to join the protest later on. Additionally, hundreds more prisoners identified with Hamas and PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) are taking part, and the hunger strike may expand among the supporters of these political movements, as well. On 4 May, a number of prisoners who had served as senior commanders in the Hamas militia joined in, and additionally the secretary-general of the PFLP, Ahmad Sa`adat, joined the hunger strike, as well.

“Israel transformed basic rights into privileges”

The most prominent leader of the current strike is Marwan Barghouti, one of 13 Palestinian MPs (members of the Palestinian Legislative Council) imprisoned by Israel, and considered the most popular Palestinian leader today, who is sometimes called the ‘Palestinian Nelson Mandela’. In all the polls, he consistently appears to be the candidate who can draw the most support if in the future he runs – as he plans – for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority.

In an article he succeeded in getting to the New York Times at the start of the strike, Barghouti wrote that the State of Israel has “turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.” He added that “Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalising Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation”. He concluded, “Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace”.

Barghouti, who was one of the leaders of the militias affiliated with Fatah – the Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – survived an assassination attempt in 2001 (“targeted prevention”) by the Israeli military. He was arrested during a military raid on Ramallah the following year and convicted in a civil court for responsibility for approving terrorist actions against civilians on both sides of the Green Line, in which five people were murdered. Barghouti denied the allegations, gave up legal defence as a protest against the trial and claimed he was opposed to harming innocent people.

It should be emphasised that the socialist left opposes the use of terrorist methods in struggles. As opposed to the propaganda of the Israeli establishment, not every person who wages an armed struggle against the occupation is a terrorist. The militias of Fatah, for example, have conducted military actions against the military occupation. Nevertheless, they did not refrain over the years from killing civilians – which has, in fact, not harmed at all the occupation regime and even played into its hands politically, with more brutal attacks being carried out against Palestinian civilians. It is reasonable to assume that as one of the militia commanders, Barghouti has also been responsible for the killing of civilians. But what about former Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin, who as the commander of the Irgun, was directly responsible, among other things, for the massive terrorist attack on the King David Hotel in 1946, in which 91 Britons, Arabs and Jews were killed? And is not present Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu responsible for issuing instructions for actions, such as the bombing of highly populated areas in the Gaza Strip, in which many Palestinian civilians died? In the war in 2014 alone, the number of Palestinians killed was twice that of Israelis killed in all the years of the second intifada.

Barghouti’s popularity is a cause for concern for the Israeli establishment. While Palestinian Authority President Abbas hastened to lavish praise on Trump and met with him on 3 May, and continues to work to maintain full arrangements with the occupation regime, Barghouti corresponds with the public rage against the Palestinian president who is reaching the end of his road. As he explained in an article he leaked to the Palestinian daily al-Quds last year, Barghouti attacks Abbas’s authoritarian rule, explains that the negotiations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic campaign on the international level have failed, and demands that the PA ends the “security coordination”.  In recent years he has called for a new popular intifada. His challenge to Abbas’ leadership is also the reason why, despite coming first in the election in December to the Fatah Central Committee, Abbas refused to appoint him to the position of deputy chairman of the Fatah movement. Abbas has paid lip service in support of the hunger strike, but has no interest in it. He does not want Barghouti to profit politically from the hunger strike or the development of a popular protest movement around it – at the time when he puts his trust in Trump and wants to show he has control on the ground in the Palestinian Authority enclaves.

Barghouti was sent to solitary confinement at the start of the strike. The IPS, using secret video camera surveillance, claims that Barghouti ate on two occasions since the beginning of the hunger strike. In 2004, during another hunger strike involving around 2,200 prisoners, in which Barghouti was amongst the leaders, the IPS also claimed Barghouti was secretly filmed eating a meal in solitary confinement. These claims are angrily denied by Palestinian prisoners’ campaigners, who say the IPS are deliberately spreading black propaganda by using old video footage that was made when there was no prisoners’ hunger strike and that the face of the man eating food in the latest footage is obscured.

If Barghouti is evacuated for medical treatment or forced feeding, or if his life becomes in danger, an escalation in the solidarity protests outside the prisons can be expected. It is not inconceivable that if one of the hunger strikers – and certainly one of the leaders of the hunger strike – pays with his life over the next few weeks, it will ignite a mass protest similar to the response to the deaths of hunger strikers in Northern Ireland in 1981, led by republican prisoner, Bobby Sands, who was elected to Westminster during his protest. Already, now, the hunger strike serves as a mobilising and uniting factor for significant layers among the Palestinian public, on both sides of the Green Line.

Solidarity protests

Many thousands took part in protest marches held on Prisoner Day throughout the West Bank, particularly in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem. In towns and villages, solidarity protest tents were set up in solidarity with the hunger strike. On 27 April, a protest shut-down of public services and small businesses was held in the Palestinian Authority territories and in East Jerusalem. On the following day there were demonstrations and confrontations with the military and the Border Police in at least 15 locations in the West Bank as part of a ‘Day of Rage’ called for by the Fatah.

The protests in the West Bank are facing military repression, which could worsen later. During the first two weeks of the hunger strike, the highest number of Palestinians injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank was recorded since the beginning of 2017, with 191 injured, including 45 minors (OCHA figures). The vast majority of them were injured during solidarity protests with the hunger strike, and about a tenth were injured from live bullets.

Within the Green Line, as well, a number of protest vigils were organised locally and a solidarity tent was set up in Umm al-Fahm. Solidarity demonstrations have been held in several countries around the world, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), of which the Histadrut (Israeli trade union organisation) is affiliated, published a solidarity statement.

As usual, the Israeli government and the tops of IPS declare that they allegedly are not moved by the protests and have no intention to negotiate with the prisoners. In a number of cases in recent years, the state, under the Netanyahu governments, was prepared to bring hunger striking prisoners to the brink of death before reaching an agreement. In the meantime, the IPS is working to punish the prisoners by psychological pressure, isolation, transfers between prisons, confiscation of clothing and personal equipment, and even the confiscation of salt used by the hunger strikers to improve their physical condition during the strike.

According to reports, negotiations between the prisoners and the IPS, nevertheless, took place during the weeks leading up to the strike, and if the strike intensifies, they will probably be renewed. It is possible that the Netanyahu government may be willing to try to push the line a bit further this time to demonstrate toughness against the demands of the prisoners, but they are playing with fire and may lose control over developments.

More protest actions, of Palestinians and Israelis, to support the hunger strike, represent a potential threat to Netanyahu’s fanatical right-wing government. Israeli demonstrators must stand alongside Palestinian demonstrators. And the Israel Medical Association is, on this issue, an example to other trade unions: it is necessary to rebel against draconian legislation and attacks by the right-wing government. The protests against forced feeding, discrimination in incarceration conditions and administrative detentions should help to build a stronger movement against the occupation and perpetuation of the national conflict, against the war on workers and poor, and for peace, equality and a socialist change.

Socialist Struggle Movement says:

  • Support solidarity protests with the prisoners’ hunger strike. The Histadrut should back the solidarity statement of the ITUC, of which it is a member.
  • No to torture of hunger strikers – no to forced-feeding! Repeal the Forced-Feeding Law. Workers’ organisations should back the Israeli Medical Association’s opposition to force feeding.
  • End discrimination on the basis of nationality in conditions of imprisonment! Yes to supporting the basic demands of the prisoners to improve their conditions, including the right to telephone calls.
  • End administrative detention! End arbitrary arrests and incarceration without trial. Protect the right of every prisoner to know the charges against him/her, to be represented by a lawyer and to have a fair trial.
  • Get the military out of the territories! Abolish the military courts in the West Bank and end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the settlements.
  • Release all Palestinian political prisoners. Conduct fair trials, through a designated procedure, under the supervision of workers’ and independent human rights organisations, from both sides of the conflict, for Israelis and Palestinians suspected of responsibility for atrocities related to the conflict.
  • For an independent, democratic and socialist Palestinian state alongside a democratic and socialist Israel, as part of the struggle for a socialist Middle East and regional peace.

If you agree with us, want more information or want to discuss the situation in Israel-Palestine please fill in the form below

Hundreds march for the NHS in Leamington

5a7c0dce-b50f-400f-b35e-2951450e4663.jpgHundreds march for the NHS in Leamington

Hundreds of people staged a lively and spirited march through Leamington on Sunday in defence of the NHS.

They reflect a growing alarm amongst ever wider parts of British society that their NHS is under threat from under staffing and under funding and is under attack from this government.

Local services face cutbacks from the so-called ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ (STP’s) that guest speaker Dr Youssef el Gingihy rightly called the ‘Slash Trash and Privatise’ plans.

The march was organised by South Warwickshire Keep our NHS Public and was supported by parents campaigning against cuts to their school budgets.

As the crowd gathered by the park bandstand, they heard organiser Anna Pollert say that the march had been a follow up to the huge national demonstration in defence of the NHS that took place on March 4th, but that now, the recent calling of the general election  had made the issue of defending the NHS as a public service even more urgent.

Other speakers included health workers, Councillor Matt Western, school staff and a 12 year old school student.

Dr El Gingihy, author of the book “How to dismantle the NHS in 10 easy steps”, explained that in legal terms the NHS had already been abolished. There are still GP’s and hospitals but underneath it has been changed. In the ‘dark days’ of the 90’s the creation of markets and introduction of private finance was preparation to end the NHS as we know it.

They now plan to reduce 7,500 GP surgeries to only 1500 and reduce the number of A&E hospitals to between only 40-70.  The last parliament removed government responsibility to provide health care and now ever greater parts of the NHS were being sold off to corporations to make profits from illness. This he explained was paving the way for a private insurance system on the US model.

Outlining the cuts of £40 billion planned to be made by the early 2020’s, Youssef also reminded us of the one positive thing. That we can change this! That we must mobilise.

The huge demonstration in March and the energy in this protest in Leamington show that we will not let our NHS be stolen from future generations without a fight. The growing number of local protests and of local campaigning groups shows that the potential to beat the profiteers and maintain top notch health care is there.

Whatever the result on June 8, whether we will need to resist the Tory government or campaign to ensure Jeremy Corbyn can stand up to powerful financial interests, we are going to need to campaign, to mobilise and to fight to defend our NHS.

Dave Nellist on the Sunday Politics

Dave Nellist on the Sunday Politics

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, National Chair of TUSC

Dave Nellist, the national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and member of the Socialist Party today appeared on the BBC Sunday Politics show. Dave was interviewed about TUSC and our position towards the general election. Dave talked about Jeremy Corbyn’s anti austerity policies, Brexit and more.

You can watch Dave below. If you agree with Dave and want to help build support for socialist ideas, please fill in the form at the bottom

Jeremy Corbyn supports a “Robin Hood Tax” – what do Socialists say?

Jeremy Corbyn supports a “Robin Hood Tax” – what do Socialists say? 

robin hood tax

The Robin Hood Tax – Getty Images

Labour have today pledged that they will introduce a “Robin Hood Tax” on financial transactions in the City that could bring in billions of pounds that could be used for public services. The Socialist Party supports increased taxation on the rich and welcomes this move. At the same time we argue that we need to go much further if we are to create the fair society that so many want to see. We are republishing this article below which was first carried in The Socialist newspaper in 2016. To create a truly fair society, we will need to break with capitalism in order to democratically plan the vast resources that exist in the interests of the majority of people, i.e. bring about socialist change. We hope this article is a contribution to the debate about how we can get the change that so many people need.


Fighting the great tax robbery: taxes and regulation or socialist nationalisation?

Tax avoidance has been in the headlines lately, provoking renewed call to tax the rich and big business. The Socialist Party campaigns for closing loopholes and increasing wealth and corporation taxes. But you can’t control what you don’t own: only socialist nationalisation can end the great tax robbery.

It is a time of seemingly never-ending austerity. Workers across the UK and the world are being forced to pick up the tab for a crisis caused by the capitalist system.

So the news that massive corporations are engaged in massive tax avoidance is a source of understandable bitterness and anger.

As previously reported in the Socialist, huge multinationals such as drugs firm AstraZeneca and telecom company Vodafone pay zero corporation tax in the UK. After a ‘sweetheart’ deal with the Tory cabinet, internet giant Google agreed to pay £130 million – just 2.8% of its profit.

Little wonder people are up in arms when the government says there is no money for libraries, play centres, vital public services or pay rises.

HMRC

With government credibility already shot to pieces regarding its ‘all in it together’ slogan, the Tories have continued to make swingeing cuts to HM Revenue and Customs. The ability to collect tax has been weakened further.

In an illustration of how the balance has shifted towards giving big business an easy ride, the rate of corporation tax in the UK in 1981 was over 50%. It is 20% in 2016!

It is no surprise that demands for the rich to pay their share are gaining ground. People see the increase in the gap between rich and poor in their everyday experience. This has been a large part of the rise of the likes of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the United States. People are looking for answers to the crisis that they see around them.

For example, the website of the Sanders campaign states that, if elected, he would start by “demanding that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes. As president, Senator Sanders will stop corporations from shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying US income taxes.

“He will create a progressive estate tax on the top 0.3% of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million. He will also enact a tax on Wall Street speculators who caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, and life savings.”

Here in the UK, the fact that we have a Labour leader prepared even to talk about rising inequality, and say ordinary people shouldn’t foot the bill for the crisis, is an important step forward. Arch-Blairite Peter Mandelson, architect of New Labour, famously declared his party was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.”

In his campaign for the Labour leadership last year, Jeremy Corbyn set out his economic vision in the document ‘The Economy in 2020’. He sets out some laudable aims. These include collecting £120 billion of avoided and evaded tax, creating a system where the rich pay more (the rate is not specified), and creating a “level playing field” between small and big businesses.

Demands for the rich to pay their taxes, and proposals like a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on big finance institutions’ transactions, are not new. In fact, for most of Labour’s history – not including the Blair-Brown New Labour years – they were common currency. These ideas have recently made a partial comeback through the publicity work of groups like 38 Degrees and the Tax Justice Network, as well as being raised by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Socialist Party supports many of the measures he proposes, but are they enough to solve the crisis for working class people?

Recent events in France show once again that, whatever the intentions, taxing the super-rich is not a straightforward question.

François Hollande of the Parti Socialiste (equivalent of the Labour Party) promised higher taxes on the super-rich during his 2012 election campaign. He pledged to tax incomes over €1 million at 75%.

Under pressure from the capitalist class, in practice he reduced this to 50%, before dropping the policy altogether. High earners were threatening to leave the country – and take their wealth with them.

According to reports from the French finance ministry, Hollande’s increase only brought in the relatively small sums of €260 million in 2013 and €160 million in 2014. This was in relation to a budget deficit at that time of €84.7 billion!

ENFORCING

No doubt a firmer stand on the rate, closing loopholes and enforcing collection could have improved these figures. Certainly they in no way mean we oppose higher income taxes on the super-rich.

A genuine socialist government would combine such measures with taking democratic control of all imports and exports. This means enforcing a state monopoly of foreign trade and exchange, including movements of capital, with democratic control of all imports and exports. That would prevent the tiny super-rich elite from trying to flee the country with their plunder.

What about the corporations? In Britain, around 150 big companies control the majority of economic activity. Surely, you might say, we can tax them further?

Yes, is the answer. Substantially increasing both income tax for the rich and corporation tax for big business could, if actually implemented, provide enough money to reverse all cuts to public services, increase public sector workers’ pay, and a lot more. However, as long as we live in a capitalist society, where wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of the 1%, they will use all means at their disposal to avoid handing over even a penny of what they’ve got.

The experience of Syriza in Greece shows that half-measures – or more accurately, quarter-measures – can lead to a situation where a left party ends up implementing brutal capitalist austerity.

Even if such governments succeed in redistributing some of the wealth controlled by big business, that is not the end of the story. Britain’s 1945 Labour government created the welfare state and operated far greater taxation and regulation than today’s establishment parties. But over the following decades, the capitalists took every opportunity to claw those gains back.

In Chile and Venezuela in the 20th century, left governments even faced mass sabotage by capitalists. ‘Why supply goods and services,’ they reasoned, ‘for countries that won’t even let us keep most of the profits?’

The clear answer to companies that threaten closures, job losses or sabotage is to take them into public ownership.

As Karl Marx, scientific socialism’s founding thinker, put it in his ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’:

“The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of non-workers in the form of property in capital and land…. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically.

“If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one.”

Marx’s words, despite being written in 1875, are totally relevant today. You can’t plan what you don’t control, and you can’t control what you don’t own.

The mass inequality we see is a logical consequence of the capitalist system, whereby wealth production is owned and controlled by a tiny minority in its own interests. Year on year the wealth gap is widening further as the capitalists react to economic stagnation and crises by making the working class pay.

NEOLIBERAL

Neoliberal economic commentators suggest that taxes should be cut to entice more wealth into the country and encourage businesses activity. But the so-called ‘trickle down’ approach has only ever achieved the opposite, as is clearly the case today.

What is needed is a genuine, full, socialist programme. This means breaking the power of the capitalists – by nationalising not only the banks, financial institutions, plus companies threatening job losses and so on – but all the big corporations which control the majority of economic activity.

A publicly owned economy, under the democratic control and management of workers, could actually start to plan production in the interests of the 99%.

FIGHT FOR BOLD SOCIALIST POLICIES: TAKE THE WEALTH OFF THE 1%!

  • Reverse all cuts to HM Revenue and Customs – collect the uncollected tax, and increase taxes on the super-rich and big business
  • Nationalise the banks, top 150 corporations and tax avoiders under the democratic control and management of workers and service users. Compensation only to be paid on the basis of proven need
  • For a socialist, democratically planned economy to meet the needs of all, not make obscene profits for a few

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