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

Agree with us? Help us build a movement for bold Socialist policies! Fill in the form below

A tale of two events – Gordon Brown and Jeremy Corbyn

A tale of two events – Gordon Brown and Jeremy Corbyn 

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stands in front of a Jump Jet Harrier fighter plane as he addresses Labour supporters at a rally in the Engineering Building of Coventry University

Gordon Brown

Former New Labour Prime Minister and Chancellor Gordon Brown spoke in Coventry today at an event organised by West Midlands Labour Party. The event stood in stark contrast to the 500 strong public street rally where Jeremy Corbyn spoke in Leamington Spa earlier in the week.

Brown spoke to a closed meeting of Labour Party members and media only audience that required ID to attend! In Leamington police had to close roads in the town to allow people to hear Jeremy speak due to the huge numbers gathering, while police and security surrounded the building where Brown spoke, was this to keep people out?

Brown was here to speak about protecting manufacturing jobs in Coventry and the UK. While Thatcher and the Tories began the slow destruction of car manufacturing in Coventry, New Labour under Blair and Brown continued it. There was no mention of the closures of Jaguar, Ryton or Massey Fergusons among many other closures under New Labour – or these interesting figures from Coventry and Warwickshire councils:

“Manufacturing: significant decline of 42,360 jobs in total over the ten period (1998-2008). The largest element of this decline was in the manufacturing of motor vehicles (-14,400 jobs, mostly in Coventry and Solihull); manufacturing of fabricated metals (-6,900, mostly in Warwickshire); and the manufacturing of machinery & equipment (- 5,030, mostly in Coventry).”

In speeches that lasted around an hour neither Brown nor Geoffrey Robinson even managed to mention Jeremy Corbyn, his policies, or winning a Labour government. Instead the focus was on electing local MPs to “stand up” to Theresa May and get her to “change her policies”. This is yet another demonstration of the failure of the Labour right which could harm the prospects of Jeremy being elected. Wherever Jeremy speaks, hundreds or even thousands come out to hear him often at very short notice.

The anti-austerity policies that he is putting forward inspire and enthuse people. This is the way to win support, not the tired methods of the Labour right which paved the way for the defeat in the recent mayoral election.

 

 

A message to Jeremy Corbyn supporters in Coventry

A message to Jeremy Corbyn supporters in Coventry

Labour leadership contest

Jeremy Corbyn

We are pleased to carry this message from Coventry Socialist Party to supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in Coventry and everyone who wants to see the end of the Tories at the forthcoming general election in June.  We are holding a public meeting on Weds 10th May, 7.30pm at the Methodist Hall in the city centre where we will be discussing how we can get rid of the Tories and elect Jeremy on socialist policies. One of the main speakers will be Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party and former member of the Labour NEC.


Dear brothers and sisters,

Theresa May has called this election with the expectation of a Tory landslide. Her mantra of “strong and stable” leadership, which appears as her answer to every question, hides the fact that her leadership and the Conservative Party are anything but “strong and stable”.

For the first time in recent memory, the Tories will be faced not by “New Labour” but by a Labour Party leader in Jeremy Corbyn who is committed to putting forward an alternative to the Tories, unlike the Blair and Brown leadership which essentially proposed Tory-lite policies.

Our position

We want to see the Tories defeated, and Jeremy Corbyn elected as Prime Minister. It is for this reason that we have taken the decision not to contest the general election this time.

This is not a decision we have taken lightly. Since the expulsion of Dave Nellist from the Labour Party we have contested general elections, as well local and European elections. With the RMT trade union we have developed the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition as a contribution to rebuilding political representation for working class people.

Thousands of people regularly vote for us across the city at each election because they trust us to provide a socialist alternative to the mainstream parties.

We ensured there was a Socialist presence on Coventry City Council between 1998 and 2012 – meaning there was a consistent and principled voice for working class people against cuts being put forward by both Labour and Tory run councils.

However we think that in this situation the campaign of Jeremy Corbyn can win widespread support. Taking a bold, socialist and anti-austerity programme with mass rallies to every corner of the country could galvanise and channel the anger and discontent that exists in society in a socialist direction.

Some of the policy announcements from Jeremy are already showing the potential for being immensely popular – an end to zero-hour contracts, £10 per hour minimum wage and end to the pay cap in the NHS to name just a few.

Though there are clear differences, the campaigns of Bernie Sanders in the US and Jean-Luc Melenchon in France show the potential for radical ideas and movements to develop.

The ‘rigged economy’? Time to replace capitalism with socialism

Jeremy and John McDonnell have struck a chord with millions by talking about “fixing the rigged economy” and wanting a “fairer society”. Little wonder when thousands of people in Coventry have to resort to foodbanks to be able to eat, in the 6th richest country in the world!

The key question is how do we get that fairer society? Jeremy and John are absolutely correct – the capitalist economy is rigged. We support all the positive reforms being put forward – an increase in taxes on the rich, an increase in the minimum wage to £10 an hour, repeal of the anti-trade union laws etc. However we argue that we need to go further – and that these policies should be linked to the socialist transformation of society.

As long as the economy remains in the hands of the 1 per cent, i.e. remains a capitalist economy, it will always be rigged. That is why we think we need to break the power of the capitalists and their political establishment by nationalising not only the banks, financial institutions etc., 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%. (for more information about how the question of Brexit should be approached please visit here )

Time to fight and win the civil war in the Labour Party

What is becoming crystal clear is that sections of the right-wing in the Labour Party are continuing to do everything in their power to undermine the campaign. Every few days Tony Blair or Peter Mandelson are appearing in the media to try and demoralise Corbyn supporters. We even have John Woodcock MP stating that he could not support Jeremy as PM! How is that people like these can act with impunity with no action taken against them, yet expelled Socialists like Dave Nellist are not allowed to rejoin Labour?

As we have argued, the case for mandatory reselection has not gone away. In fact with every passing day it shows itself to even more critical. We need MPs who will support Jeremy Corbyn, not undermine him, MPs who will reflect the aspirations of the hundreds of thousands of new members who have supported Jeremy. We need MPs who, like Dave Nellist, would only take the average workers wage.

Lessons of the West Mids mayoral campaign

We have written a detailed article on our website about the Tory victory – we believe it is confirmation that the Labour right have not got the ideas to win this election. The election material did not even mention Jeremy Corbyn or any of his popular policies!

All to play for

We in the Socialist Party look forward to the period between now and the election. We will be throwing ourselves in to doing everything we can to get rid of this Tory government, making the arguments in favour of electing Jeremy Corbyn with socialist policies, and strengthening the fight to build a mass socialist movement that can provide an alternative to crisis ridden capitalism.

Yours in solidarity

Coventry Socialist Party

If you agree with what we are saying, are interested in more information or want to join the Socialists, please get in touch. Fill in the form below!

Get the Tories out – fight for socialism!

Get the Tories out – fight for socialism!

Labour leadership contest

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally in Newcastle 

After Theresa May’s surprise announcement today of a snap election on June 8th, the Socialist Party has produced the following statement. Please read and share – this election is a chance to fight the Tories and fight for socialism!

Theresa May has called a general election for one reason – not the reason she gave – but because of the government’s weakness in face of a rising tide of anger in British society.

Workers are suffering the most prolonged squeeze on wages since the start of the nineteenth century. Benefits cuts are leaving millions without enough money to feed themselves and their families. Last year a record 200,000 people were admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition. Education and the NHS are facing life-threatening cuts. The housing crisis is acute. The new ultra-draconian anti-trade union laws are creating bitterness and frustration among trade unionists.

Far from being a strong government, May fears that, given the Tories’ wafer-thin majority in parliament, she could be overwhelmed by forced u-turns. In the first year of the government alone there were eleven, now – in order to try to prevent more – May has made the biggest u-turn yet. Having pledged not to call a snap election she has gone ahead and done so. This shows how capitalist politicians change the rules whenever it suits them.

Cameron and Clegg introduced the Fixed Term Parliament Act in order to try to shore up the Coalition government for five years, now May is over-riding it to try to strengthen a weak Tory government. She is gambling, based on current opinion polls, that she will win the general election with an increased majority and will then be more able to carry out her real programme – not the warm words about helping the ‘just managing’, but vicious austerity.

High risk for Tories

Her gamble is high-risk. The real poll will take place on 8 June, and a lot can happen between now and then. She is partly posing the election as a referendum on Brexit, hoping that the third of Tory voters who supported ‘remain’ will reluctantly continue to support her government. This is not guaranteed however – some may well switch to the pro-remain Liberal Democrats.

Moreover, the hated Tories are very unlikely to make significant inroads in Scotland. The Scottish National Party is not yet fully exposed and is likely to largely maintain its electoral base. Winning the Copeland byelection has probably given May hope that theTories can improve their position in the North of England. However, in both the Copeland and Stoke byelections the Tory vote actually fell in absolute terms. The Tories only scraped victory in Copeland because the Tory vote held up better than the Labour vote.

Globally the lesson of recent elections – from the US, to France, to the Netherlands – is that voters want to punish the capitalist establishment; and those parties and candidates that claim to be anti-establishment can have a mass appeal. Look at Melenchon in France, who by standing on a left programme, has soared to 19% in the opinion polls with a possibility that he will even go through to the second round. Jeremy Corbyn has already stated that Labour will not oppose the general election going ahead. Now he needs to launch an election campaign based on socialist policies that are relevant to working class people’s lives.

Policies for socialist change

It is clear that much of the pro-capitalist cabal at the top of the Labour Party will be secretly welcoming this election because they think Corbyn will be defeated and they can then replace him with some pro-capitalist pro-austerity leader. However, they could rue the day this election was called. If Corbyn fights on a clear socialist programme – for a Brexit in the interests of the working and middle-class – he could win the general election.

The policies that first thrust him into the leadership of the Labour Party would be a good beginning – an immediate introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage, free education for all, mass council house building and nationalisation of the rail and energy companies. These should be combined with policies such as an immediate end to all cuts in public services and a pledge to immediately renationalise Royal Mail.

Jeremy should make clear that he would kick the privateers out of public services and education. He should pledge to introduce a real socialist NHS – a well-funded, comprehensive, high quality NHS, under democratic control, with care free at the point of use. These demands should be linked to the need for fundamental socialist change – for a society run in the interests of the majority instead of for the profits of a few.

Such an election campaign should not be limited to speeches and election broadcasts. The campaign to defend the NHS should be linked to the mass movement which began with the national demonstration on 4 March. Jeremy Corbyn spoke at that demonstration. Now he, together with the trade union movement and health campaigners, should call a second demonstration, during the election campaign, mobilising millions onto the streets against the Tories and in defence of the NHS.