Drop ‘Tax the Rich’ for ‘Erase the debt’….
I am sure many of my readers will have been on demonstrations where they have seen the ‘Tax the Rich’ banners that the Socialist Workers Party love to give out like candy at a fair ground. Of course, it is not just the SWP and those in the hinterland of the far-left that raise this slogan – demands for an increase in the contribution made by the richest through taxation are pretty common. However, this demand has never been the most well thought-out.
Taxation is a blunt and usually ineffective instrument when it comes to redistributing wealth. It can be avoided by those with the will and the means. Furthermore, it obviously doesn’t go into the pockets of the less well off directly – it may well fund services that make their lives marginally better but that is not the same thing. The fact that the left likes this demand so much shows how reliant it is on the notion that the state will deliver equality and solve the democratic and social inequalities of capitalism as if by magic.
In the midst of the current economic collapse it makes even less sense. Overwhelmingly the main problem facing nations and households is the mountain of debt they are buried under. Income inequality has contributed but an increase in direct taxation for the richest wont increase the incomes of the poorest (nor would it help them with the problems caused by rampant inflation). Removing the debt burden would however provide many people with a real improvement in living conditions – it would also require a radical reorganisation of society but is still possible to do within the framework of a functioning capitalist system.
‘Tax the rich’ is a good example of how the left simply doesn’t think through the slogans and demands it raises. It sounds rrrrrrrrradical but its practical impact is negligible in addressing the democratic and social deficits built into capitalism and it fails to deliver a better life for people. We should drop it – along with other demands – and start to formulate ones that deliver results but also illustrate the need for society to move beyond capitalism.