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

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

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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!

Successful day of campaigning for Save Coventry Libraries

Successful day of campaigning for Save Coventry Libraries

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Outside Coundon Library – photo by Tara Rutledge

Saturday saw a successful day of action for the Save Coventry Libraries campaign. The “Big Library Sell Off Tour” visited the five libraries that Coventry City Council are planning to close. The Council say that unless volunteers/community groups come forward to run these vital public facilities then they will have no choice but to close them. Campaigners categorically reject this false choice put forward by the Labour Council – particularly when they have £84 million in reserves, and have increased these reserves. In fact they have doubled over the last 5 years!

The Socialist Party asks why don’t councillors use some of the reserves to offset these cuts and work with the people of Coventry to mount a campaign to force the Tory government to properly fund essential local services?

Labour should be opposing these cuts here in Coventry – not voting them through in the Council Chamber. Jeremy Corbyn opposes austerity but the majority of local Labour cllrs spend more time fighting him than they do the Tories!

The campaign visited the following libraries – Coundon, Earlsdon, Finham, Cheylesmore and Caludon Castle.

At each of the five libraries library users were angry and upset that their library could close. We collected many more signatures for our petition and handed out nearly a 1000 leaflets encouraging people to get involved in the campaign. It sent a clear message to Coventry City Council – keep all the libraries council run and fully staffed, with no job losses!

To see more pictures from the “Big Library Sell Off Tour” and to get more information about the campaign visit the Facebook page of Save Coventry Libraries

Coventry Labour MP Fletcher joins anti-Corbyn coup

Coventry Labour MP Fletcher joins anti-Corbyn coup

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Colleen Fletcher MP

Colleen Fletcher, Labour MP for Coventry North East, resigned from her secretarial position today as part of the attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn. Fletcher, who was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Kerry McCarthy MP, shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, has also called for Jeremy to resign as Labour leader.

Fletcher’s resignation will have come as a shock to many, not because she was seen as a Corbyn supporter but because they did not realise she had a PPS position to resign from. Despite this, she has resigned in an attempt by the right-wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party to force Jeremy to resign as Labour leader. Like many MPs she is completely out of touch with the daily struggles of the ordinary working people she claims to represent. When heroic junior doctors went on strike in Coventry, with a picket line at Walsgrave Hospital in the heart of her constituency, Fletcher was nowhere to be seen – but when there’s a chance to attack the elected leader of the Labour Party she grabs it with both hands!

Jeremy is rightly resisting these attacks, and his supporters inside and outside the party are building a movement to defend him, including a petition which now has over 200,000 signatures and a demonstration outside Parliament. The Blairite coup has been on the cards since Jeremy became leader, and is now in full voice – we need to come out fighting to defend him.

Nicky Downes, who stood as a Socialist candidate against Fletcher in the 2015 elections, said “There is clear support for Jeremy from the public, with 10,000 people on the streets tonight at a protest in favour of his leadership. Colleen Fletcher has shown her true colours by resigning from the shadow cabinet along with the Blairites. It’s time to deselect her. Coventry needs an MP that will share Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to austerity and fight for this city.”

A crucial weapon for those who want to defend the leadership of Corbyn and John McDonnell is to demand the reintroduction of mandatory reselection of MPs, meaning that local Labour Party members can hold them to account for their actions. Jeremy could even go further and remove the Labour whip from the plotters who are attempting to remove him!

Labour members and Corbyn supporters in Coventry North East who are angered by Fletcher’s actions should mobilise and pass a motion in their constituency party condemning her actions and demanding she faces reselection before a general election is held.

Jeremy is absolute right to stand up to the plotters and should continue to do so, and fight to defend his leadership in a fresh contest if necessary. We will continue to support his leadership as part of the fight for an anti-austerity party that will represent ordinary people.

Academies and Free Schools cause chaos in Coventry – local Academy to close

Academies and Free Schools cause chaos in Coventry – local Academy to close

woodlands

Save our School banner

We are pleased to carry the article below by Jane Nellist, joint secretary of Coventry National Union of Teachers (NUT) and a member of the national executive of the NUT. She writes in a personal capacity.


Coventry is witnessing the catastrophic consequences of the government’s programme of Academies and Free Schools. This comes at a time when the government is planning for the academisation of all schools!

The day before Year 6 children learnt which secondary school they were to be allocated, it was announced that, in effect, Woodlands Academy would be closing. The ‘consultation’ paper sent to all parents is for the  neighbouring Tile Hill Wood Academy, a girl’s school, to be renamed and designated a co-ed Academy, opening in September 2017, taking the boys from Woodlands in stages, starting with the Y7 in September.

There has been a total destabilisation of schools in the West area of the city with the opening of a Free School, Finham 2 by one of the more successful Academies which is now over-subscribed.   Even the DfE’s own impact assessment identified a detrimental impact on all three secondary schools in the area, all of which are Academies.

The opening of a girls Muslim Free School in the city and a Sikh Free School has also contributed to the fall in numbers across the city for other schools.

The introduction of competition and surplus places is not the way to raise standards.  Only a democratically accountable and planned education system can do this. Strong, well-resourced Local Authorities, working with schools, sharing good practice and supporting each other is a model that we know works.

It’s ironic that we are facing these problems in Coventry for two reasons.  Firstly, Woodlands School was built in 1954 and was one of the original Comprehensive schools built in this country.  A new future for education after the second world war, now a victim of the Tory vision of education!

The second reason is that in 2011, Coventry NUT led a fight, including strike action, to save both Woodlands and Tile Hill from being turned into Academies.

We warned of the problems that would come if they went ahead.  Governors claimed they would get new school buildings and that there would be more funding- neither of which has materialised!  Instead, Woodlands Governors have failed miserably, running up huge debts and the school is in ‘Requires Improvement’.  The school buildings are shoddy and have not benefitted from re-building as they were promised under the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme which was shelved by this government.

We are now left with a school closure, our members at risk of losing jobs, pupils who are angry about the way they are being treated and communities feeling let down. In a few years’ time, forecasts show we will be desperate for school places!

You may ask where the DfE is in all of this.  They appear to have abdicated their responsibility completely. The Regional Schools Commissioner, Pank Patel, has hardly instilled any confidence in the process, and is now leaving his role to go back to headship in an Academy! Unions have written to ask for an urgent meeting but have heard nothing.  When they showed up at consultation meetings they failed to answer any questions at all.

We cannot even get simple written answers to questions about redundancy payments for staff.

As the consultation ran over the local elections, both Tories and Labour squabbled over who was to blame. Interestingly, at least one councillor was on the governing body and part of the finance committee– why did they not see the financial crisis coming? The consequences of this delayed any decisions, a re-run of the consultation which has meant that staff, parents and most importantly, pupils were all left in limbo.

As we break up for half term, the final decision has been made, the school will close in September 2017. Tile Hill Wood Academy will be re-named and will become co-ed.

For Woodlands to have been saved it needed a huge investment in resources to pay off the debt and to enhance the school’s buildings.  More importantly, it needed more pupils.

What has been experienced in Coventry isn’t progress- it’s anarchy and it serves no-one well.  Parents are understandably very angry and concerned for their child’s education.

As teachers, we want good local schools that serve our communities.  We have to continue the battle to fight this crazy system and build for a return to the vision of a truly Comprehensive education based on co-operation rather than competition and democratic accountability rather than the anarchy of the market place.

The big question is-will it happen again?  Well of course it will- we are entering into the world of the market for our schools.  That’s why we have to fight against academisation.  We warned about the risks back in 2008 when the first Academy, Grace Academy, replaced Woodway School. The evidence is clear- academisation does not produce better schools.

We shall continue to support our members and the communities that our schools serve.  The fight against the government’s plans for more acdademisation needs to be stepped up.  Lessons need to be learned and we need to galvanise our resolve. Our education system is not for sale and it’s not for giving away!

 

Socialist expelled from Labour to speak in Coventry

Socialist expelled from Labour to speak in Coventry

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Hannah Sell

Hannah Sell, the Socialist Party deputy general secretary, who served alongside Tony Benn on the Labour Party’s ruling national executive committee (1988/89) will be speaking at the Party’s public meeting at 7.30pm Thursday 12th May at the Methodist Hall, Hertford St/New Union Street, Coventry City Centre. The meeting will look at the outcome of the local elections, the battle between Jeremy Corbyn and the Blairites, the splits in the Tories over the EU refendum, the global fight for socialism and much more.

Originally from the West Midlands, Ms Sell helped lead school student strikes in 1985  against Thatcher’s YTS Slave labour scheme, later becoming a leader of the Labour party Young Socialists. A former elected member of the labour Party National Executive Committee (1988-89), Hannah was expelled from the Labour Party along with thousands of other Militant supporters for their Socialist ideas & views in the late 80’s & early 90’s.

The Facebook event for the meeting is here