Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

When is a tax not a tax?

(February 1959)

From The Newsletter, 7 February 1959.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

Khrushchev says that all taxes are to be abolished in Russia in the next few years. But what does he mean?

He goes on to make the familiar claim that ‘even today taxes on the population form a quite insignificant part of the total revenue in the State budget’. This gives the game away.

The most important single source of revenue in Russia is the turnover tax. This is similar to our own purchase tax. It is included in advance in the price of products on which it is charged, and is responsible for the comparatively high prices of many consumer goods.

Down to 1935 the turnover tax was frankly acknowledged as a tax in Soviet publications. From then on, however, it was excluded from the category of taxes and treated, as a ‘payment by the national economy’, and this is still done.

It is one of the many mystifications whereby the monstrous overheads of ‘socialism in one country’ are concealed from, the innocent foreign observer – if not from the Soviet taxpayer.

Sawing through the bough

I mentioned last week the initiative taken by the British Communist Party in protesting against the arrest of Egyptian communists by a ‘nationalist’ government in Cairo in 1924.

It is worth recalling what the consequences were for Egypt of this attack on the country’s working-class movement.

A tremendous struggle by the whole Egyptian people had forced the British imperialists, after long resistance, to allow a general election in January 1924.

The result was that the nationalist party called the Wafd, headed by Zaghlul Pasha, won an overwhelming majority and formed a government.

‘From the moment that the Wafd secured even a limited measure of actual: control of the State apparatus, the fact that it was rooted in the Egyptian capitalist class became more and more evident,’ wrote Elinor Burns (wife of Emile) in her British Imperialism in Egypt (1928).

Attempts by the workers to form trade unions were met with fierce repression and in July the leaders of the Communist Party were arrested.

Dismayed and embittered

Their chief, Anton Maroun, secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions, was sentenced to three years, and died in prison. The workers were dismayed and embittered.

The imperialists rapidly took advantage of this situation. An ultimatum in November, putting demands incompatible with Egypt’s independence, forced the self-weakened Zaghlul to resign.

A pro-British puppet Ministry took over, and four years passed before the Wafd was able again to get control.

A national bourgeois leadership which attacks the working-class movement thereby undermines the struggle for independence. The history of Egypt, like that of China and many other countries, gives clear proof of this.

Last updated on 12.10.2011