Sunday, October 17, 2010

Robbing Who?

On Saturday, members of Edinburgh branch attended and leafleted a meeting of the Edinburgh World Justice Festival . The following is one of the leaflets that they distributed.


People are right to protest against the deal capitalism is meting out to the poor in the underdeveloped parts of the world, but the Robin Hood Tax - a tax on financial transactions-is not going to help them.

The idea originates from Keynes who suggested a national tax on internal financial speculation as one of his reforms to get out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The idea was to encourage money-capital to be invested productively instead of being used for unproductive speculation. Essentially, speculation is the use of money-capital, not to invest in the production of new wealth and new surplus value, but unproductively to try and swindle other capitalists' out of their past profits. It's a zero-sum game in which the total amount of profits remains the same but merely gets redistributed differently amongst capitalists depending on their speculative skills. Even if speculation was made less profitable by, for instance, the imposition of a Robin Hood Tax this would not increase productive investment. To do that you would have to increase the rate of profit or expand markets, but that's not something that can be done by any tax. Capitalists have been speculating rather than investing productively, not because the gains to be had from speculation are too high but because the gains to be had from productive investment are too low.

NGOs such as Oxfam or Christain Aid want to retain the world market economy but to try to control it for the benefit of humanity, to humanise it. Their hearts may be in the right place but this is to display a lack of vision as well as an appalling ignorance of the way capitalism works. Like all reformers, they limit themselves to attacking features which they do not like and fail to realise that those features are integral to capitalism. What they are for is a more regulated capitalism. They merely want governments to intervene to try to control capitalism, to suppress its worst excesses. Not only does such a reformist approach lead to compromise with capitalism but the reforms proposed are piddling compared with what is needed to end world poverty, protect the biosphere and stop the waste of armaments.

Capitalism operates according to the rules of "no profit, no production" and "can't pay, can't have" and, as the world market system, is what is responsible for the desperate plight of most of the world's population. Before anything lasting and constructive can be done about this, capitalism has to go. The productive resources of the Earth have to become the common heritage of all humanity, so that production can be directed to meeting people's needs instead of to making profits. It is this profit system that stands in the way of satisfying human needs.

Eliminating poverty is not impossible and the millions of people who go to bed hungry every night or who lack clean water or who have no health care or education should not be happy with their lot in life . They should be bloody angry about it and get together with the rest of us to work for a better world, here and now. It is not a question of dreaming up a "perfect" or an "ideal" world.

What is at issue is establishing a better world, where those problems that people face because of the way society is currently organised can be tackled with some hope of success. This is the practical solution to the practical problems facing humanity. It is no utopian fantasy – but a practical, revolutionary proposition – to suggest we can live in a world in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. We have the science, the technology and the know-how. All that is missing is the will and the desire for change that can to make ourselves masters of our own destiny and re-fashion the world in our own interests.

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