Capitalism- Pay Your Tax!
So Starbucks combined the announcement that it had agreed to look into unpaid tax with cutbacks to workers’ lunch pay and sick leave. Capital has the nasty tendency to do this kind of thing-the small benefits that made keeping the smile in ‘service with a smile’ that little bit easier were being subsidised by the non-payment of tax. The law itself forbids that any of these costs come at the expense of the shareholders, so they have to come from somewhere.
Of course, this demonstrates the limits of UKUncuts ‘Pay Your Tax!’ campaigning. But take a moment to step back and look at UKUncut’s trajectory. Many people, including myself, who already identified as anti-capitalists before UKUncut began, joined in with the campaigns. Were we stupid or deluded? No, I don’t think so, and I don’t think many UKUncutters were or are either. We’ll always be cursed with various journalists and commentators who think this really is just an issue around tax, and every movement has its idiots, but these aren’t necessarily the given agenda-setters in a single-issue campaign.
I participated in the protests and actions around tax because they weren’t simply a campaign to restore funding to central government so ‘The Cuts’ wouldn’t be made: They were a mode of showing how a class works as a class, of demonstrating the relationship that Vodafone, Starbucks, Boots, as well as the companies using workfare, have with government isn’t ‘cosy’, its business. This is how deals are done and policy is made. Tax is overlooked in exchange for job provision, ‘regeneration’ of an area, or more broadly ‘growth’. Cutbacks made in the public sector are ploughed into the pockets of the private sector. UCL’s ongoing feud with the Carpenters Estate, the demolition of the arts by local Labour councils, and hundreds of other acts of enclosure, accumulation, and class warfare, all prove the urgency of such a pedagogy.
When looked at this way, Starbucks actually paying back its tax is not so much a victory as a change in terrain. A time to alter the approach, rethink strategy. We got lucky with to some extent with tax, we caught them mid-act. They’ll be better prepared in future. Its a leftist cliche, but its time to hit them harder, and stronger, than ever before- not just on the high street, but in the workplace.