GST Protest

Great Stealer Tax

Capitalism, despite all its democratic pretensions and high sounding words, is inherently a system of CONS, by CONS and for CONS. Capitalists and their political representatives, have perfected the vocabulary of deceit to perpetuate their system of profit which only benefits a tiny few, i.e. 1% or 2% of the population, by forcing a transfer of resources from the Poor to the Rich, and that is what they call as DEMOCRACY.

Though it is just little over a week (as we write this) since the GST was promulgated, noticeably even the well-off sections, and salaried middle classes are increasingly getting worried about their financial future. Even as India’s big businesses’ poster boy #Modi gloats over bringing in GST, in his own home state Gujarat, and in the city of Surat known for Textile trade and Diamond Polishing, there is a near revolt of the Traders against #GST. It is not just our Class, i.e., the economically disadvantaged who are worried about this robbery through Indirect Taxes, even the well-off sections, the traditional supporters of #BJP are up in arms. There is a TOTAL AND INDEFINITE STRIKE declared by the Textile Traders in Gujarat. Of course the devotees of BJP taking a “holier-than-thou” attitude, will argue that these Surat businessmen, were chronic evaders of taxes both in the category of trade and their incomes, as they were engaged only in Cash Transactions, which is hidden outside the official accounting books. But what these “milk-bathed” BJP’ers forget is the fact that, it is this corrupt trader class, that forms the foundation of their party from time immemorial. As one Surat’s agitating trader’s leader spoke to a rally of the Textile Traders at Millennium Market, Surat, said “ Hum ne Modi ko banaaya, Modi ne hum ko nahi banaaya” (We made Modi, Modi did not make us).

In Jammu and Kashmir the Traders are continuously showing their opposition to the imposition of GST by holding Black Flag demonstrations near the legislative assembly. The state government of Tamil Nadu has officially made its dissent known to the GST, from the very beginning, it is a matter of time when the spark will ignite there. Though in other states their is a relative calm, but the storm is in the horizon, as many big Traders are whining, saying “even before we recovered from demonetisation, and the businesses could return to normal, there is yet another blow, which will have long term implications”.

Tax Terror by Modi regime

Even from a capitalist point of view, hiking of indirect taxes, in the name of streamlining Taxes and Uniformity in taxation is bound to strangle the economy through high inflation. In a similar whimsical initiative in 2014, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe strangled the growth of the economy, by introducing shockingly high Sales Tax, which resulted in pushing Japan, further into deep recession, consumer spending nose dived even in an advanced capitalist country like Japan.When 80% of all consumer goods is bound to attract up to 18% GST (Most seeing a sudden jump from 5%+), it will have a debilitating and cascading effect on the economy, and the common people on the street, who are our class will be further pushed to cut their weekly and monthly budgets, which will have a telling effect on the calorie intake and the quality of life in general.
In a country like India where majority of the population are still struggling to make ends meet, in US Dollar terms majority of Indians are living on less than half-a-dollar a day, this draconian taxation will further push the masses into penury and starvation.

A new database, Global Consumption and Income Project (GCIP), suggests that India’s official figures might be understating the extent of poverty. Even if one adopts a slightly more charitable poverty line of around Rs.38 per day for 2011-12 (i.e. $2.5 per day in purchasing power parity terms), the poverty rate would be 47%, more than double the official statistics.

According to Goldman Sachs, by 2025 India will have per capita income of $3,005 (at 2006 levels of the dollar). By comparison, per capita GDP in Brazil and China is likely to touch $13,000, about four times India’s.

Is India a Federal Country?

One of the big ironies of the current scenario is, there is hardly any opposition to the GST from any quarters. Be it Left, Right or Center of the political establishment, unfortunately there is absolute unanimity on the issue. Except on the technique, methodology or the timing of the new Tax Regime, even the Left and its parliamentarians have not raised any objections on GST. The discussion and the debate from the left spectrum is on the “federal structure” and its weakening. To place New Socialist Alternative’s Marxist point of view on the misnomer of India’s “federalism”, it’s a big bunkum to address India as a federal country, by no stretch of imagination it has a polity that is federal in nature. Just because of the fact that, in spite of the complete failure of the ruling classes to develop society, India has survived as one administrative unit by the sheer divide and rule policy, the legacy of the British Raj, but it is a far cry from being a unified country in all respects. Look at the issue of this so called One Nation…. blah.. blah policy of Modi & Co., it is just an imposition from the top. The present batch of rulers are artificially and aggressively creating a mirage of a majoritarian nation based on the repeated lie of India as Hindu Nation, this make believe policy of Goebbels speak is full of holes. Apart from India being a “prison house of nations” waiting to explode, this landmass houses a staggering 4.6 million castes and sub-castes according to the latest 2011 census. The introduction of GST, which took 17 year stint to arrive at “consensus” on the tax structures is indeed the first major bourgeois initiative to realise the dream of a Unified Common Market. Hence the champions of sloganeering the BJP, has coined a new misleading phrase called “cooperative federalism”, which indicates the torturous route of unifying India on a capitalist basis.

GST: for whose benefit?

GST’s infamous “anti-profiteering clause”, at its face value sounds and looks seemingly a stern step against tax evaders, and “promises” that taxes will be streamlined and the benefits will be willingly passed on to the end consumers by the retail traders, In effect, the new law insists that all benefits from the GST be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices.

But by their very nature and in the economics that the believe in, the trading classes are eternally profit by hook or crook, but their are traders and their traders. The vast majority of retail traders in all most all daily consumables such as food items, groceries, vegetables, meat and poultry, in a every nook and corner of the country be it city, town or villages are small businesses, either manned and managed by themselves are one or of two of their kins. For this section the GST will surely dampen the demand, at least in the short term of next to quarter or two. The very initial stage of GST has revealed the class bias of this new tax regime, while top end cars attract lesser taxes, making them cheaper, the Bicycles will become costlier. Nirmala Sitaraman, the Commerce minister in Modi’s cabinet laid bare the arrogant class nature of the government, commenting on the complaint, that eating out will come prohibitively costlier under GST, she said “ those who can not afford restaurants, should stay home and cook their own meals” Much is being made out about the proposed “anti-profiteering authority”, that is constituted to punish those businesses who dodge from passing on the benefits accruing from the GST to the end consumers, but again it is yet another bureaucratic authority that would further corruption and nepotism. Keeping in view of the crucial state elections, especially in Gujarat, as last minute face saving, Arun Jaitely, finace minister just hours before the promulgation of the GST, took a decision to reduce fertiliser taxes from 12% to 5%. It is very evident now that this was done after protests from BJP ruled states where farmers are under the grip of draught and committing suicides.

Intermediary Industries and Middle Classes will be ruined

Worst hit are the self -employed with small business enterprises, employing themselves, their relatives and friends. One, the streets are empty, no walk-ins, no cash coming in, yet the financial commitments are piling up. Nagarathna; a Desktop Publishing Operator, running pre-printing facility, quipped “since July 1st the cash transaction is near ZERO, sometimes Rs.40 or 50 comes to kitty, and she further said, since demonetisation the small businesses are sliding south, some even closing down, as it is not worth it any more.

Many small scale industries in the category of Micro Chips, Refrigeration, Electronics, Lathe & Machining Jobs employing 20 or 30 workers have already been facing a crunch and are closing down shutters, which is directly affecting the underpaid workers who are loosing jobs. Given the uncertainty surrounding GST and the extra burdening of taxes, it is bound to push lakhs of workers to be put off, from their already underpaid low income jobs, there by imposing penury on their families and the dependent.

GST – How to fight it?

There is a lot of confusion among the activists within India, especially with those on the “left spectrum” to take a fighting stand against Indirect Taxation, particularly the newly introduced Official Robbery called #GST. Many to our dismay who claim or brand themselves as “Marxists” fail to understand the fundamental principles of Marxism and its historic responsibility, is to expose thoroughly the rotten nature of this exploitative system of Capitalism, and in the final analysis build the forces to OVERTHROW it.

When our “friends” who practice one variety or the other brand of Marxism because of their illusions and stakes in Bourgeois Democracy, highlight their so called “pragmatic” approach and fall into the trap of trying to manage Capitalism better than Capitalists. For example, the court ideologue of CPI(M) Prabhat Patnaik, in his so called opposition stance against GST, writes in People’s Democracy with the grand conclusion “Had the GST arrangement simply provided for a minimum GST rate above which the states were free to tax as they liked, matters might have been different. That would not have taken away the powers of states.”

By that “simple minded” conclusion, you are scoring a self-goal, a “hara-kiri”, you are deep rooting the illusions amongst those layers who are beginning to question the very inequities of the system of Taxes, where the rich get away with paying less taxes and the poor are burdened with the imposition of Indirect Taxes.

This is exactly how the left missed yet another opportunity to expose and bring down #Modi’s regime during the #Demonetisation fiasco. Sitaram Yechury, the current General Secretary of CPI(M). also a member of Rajya Sabha, lectured Modi with these words “Modi Antoinette as he is saying ‘if you don’t have paper money, use plastic money” when 98 per cent of Indian economy is cash economy. Unfortunately, this was not the time to show-off ones’ hold on English Literature, especially coming from the leadership of the Communist Parties, but to exhibit and put to use its hold on the organised battalions of the working class. That is precisely the reason for the existence of the “Communist Parties”.

This “missing of the bus” occurred when more that 100 people had lost lives because of demonetisation, the anger was building up first time since Modi’s advent to power. CPI(M) and the CPI having large militant unions, particularly in the banking sector whose members were left in the lurch with no direction from their parties or Trade Union leaderships, thus the so called leadership of the Working Class, yet again miserably failed in leading it.

Given the backdrop of 180 million strong General Strike, on September 2nd last year, imagine the Trade Unions striking against Demonetisation/Note Ban, led by the Bank Workers who were working double shifts controlling angry crowds outside the banks. Had the left given even a customary call for a strike (which they are well versed with) given the public outcry comprising of all classes, a formidable fight back against autocratic Modi regime could have been built, which could have paved way for a final assault in the very near future.

Protest against GST
Surat: Textile traders take out a rally during the eighth day of the protest against the newly introduced Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Surat on Saturday. PTI Photo

Is the Storm Gathering?

From a class point of view, an explosive situation is developing, which means to say that the objective situation for a struggle is there, what needs is the SUBJECTIVE FACTOR of leadership to articulate the situation that can take the class forward for a struggle.

Yes, it is true that that there is extreme confusion, despondency and distrust among the vast majority of working people, who are forced to think on caste, region, language, religion, gender, urban & rural lines. But one can not put blame on them, as they are at the receiving end and are struggling against the inequalities in their own ways. It is no exaggeration to say that India today is land of “million mutinies”, every section of the population is on struggle, some progressive and many regressive even, but what one has to understand that it is dynamic and on the move and wants to change the unbearable present to a better future.

And that is called as the ripening of the OBJECTIVE SITUATION, the existence or the availability of combative human material which can be steeled into a conscious combative force. It is certainly true that the CONSCIOUSNESS of the masses is very varied and at times contradictory. There has never been an ideal situation, in relation to consciousness in any of the previous revolutions.

The challenge is to draw up a program, a Transitional one, taking into account the varied and complex conciousness levels, and guide them towards a common goal, that will successfully meet and satisfy their demands in the process of a revolutionary change that alters the very economic, social and political foundations of the present exploitative system of CAPITALISM.

The struggle against GST, offers one such potent opportunity for Socialists and Marxists, to articulate the discontent among the people, give it a clear class content, a fighting programme and advance the struggle against Capitalism to replace it with Democratic Socialism.

TAX the RICH

Indirect Taxes are in general highly REGRESSIVE. While on the outset it will look like, a civil issue that people need to pay for what they use, and hence no matter who you are you pay TAXES. But the devil is in the details, we are not living in a levelled economic field, there are gross inequalities that dictates the quality of our lives.

Rich Steal-Poor Slog

Mallya, Ambani, Adani, Premji, Tata, Narayan Murthy, Neelekani’s, Pai’s and 100’s of CEO’s who form the 1 or 2% of the population earn Crores of Rupees per hour, and claim that they are law abiding citizens paying taxes, that way contributing to the growth of the Society as a whole. Compared to the resources, what they use both at a personal level and at their corporate levels, what they give and what they take back is phenomenally iniquitous.

While THEY; the minority of 1% have enormous power through their control over resources, productive forces and through their CLASS representatives they control the Legislatures, Courts, Police & Army and the Mass media, through all this they see to it that a perfect mechanism is drawn and executed where the 99% will eternally slog to carry the burden of Capitalist System in the name of Democracy. We the working class and the oppressed sections of the society, stand for Progressive & Direct Taxation of the Rich Industrialists, Landlords and National and Multi-national Corporations.

GST is indeed a measure of DOUBLE EXPLOITATION of the poor who are already suffering poverty wages and high prices. Taxes should be on the Wealthy and the Corporations, who make millions and billions in Capitalist profits not on the ordinary people who suffer capitalism. Restore all Subsidies on food, travel, health and education. No Taxes whatsoever on essential commodities. Tax the Luxury Goods of the Rich

We oppose the GST which is nothing but an aggressive austerity programme imposed on the common people in the name of curbing tax evasion, widening the tax net, accruing financial resources for development. All of which can be done by bringing Commanding Heights of the Economy into Public Hands. Nationalise the Big National Monopolies, and Multi National companies.Reverse the Privatisation Spree of Industries and Public Services. Re-nationalise the public sector , under Democratic Workers’ Control and Management.

Jagadish G Chandra

New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India)