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Actual Class Warfare

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Actual Class Warfare"

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With talk of class warfare in the air, it’s perhaps useful for the sake of context to re-examine the 1929 platform of the Communist Party of Great Britain, titled “Class Against Class” and representing an avowedly class warfare approach to an economic crisis. Here’s what they had to say on tax policy:

(1) Abolition of all indirect taxes.

(2) Exemption from all kinds of taxation for all wage-earners.

(3) Tax exemption for all working farmers.

(4) Graduated income tax starting with the incomes of £500 per annum, increasing gradually so that all personal incomes over £5,000 per year are confiscated.

(5) Abolition of the right of transfer and inheritance by confiscation of all individual fortunes over £1,000.

(6) Repudiation of the National Debt (special consideration to be given to the position of small investors, the Cooperatives, and trade unions).

This is strikingly different from a modern progressive agenda. In the CPGB’s framework, the source of income is all-important. Gilbert Arenas is a “wage-earner” and thus should be exempt from all taxation, but a successful small businessman would see his income capped at about £200,000 in today’s money. The point of the graduated income tax is to confiscate capital income and rents of various kinds. In the modern day, we’d worry that punitive taxation of capital income would lead to inadequate levels of business investment. This wasn’t a big concern for the CPGB because they were also proposing to “nationalise the banks, the land, the mines, the railways, land and sea transport, electrical industries, broadcasting stations, engineering and shipbuilding industries, post and telegraph, chemical, cotton and woollen textile industries, flour milling, boot and shoe industries and building materials, all of which are ripe for running as national industries, unitedly owned and controlled by the workers.”

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