Tax Dodgers: Why should Anarchists care?

5 11 2010

On Saturday October 30th over 21 Vodafone stores across the UK were shut down via occupations and pickets to highlight corporate tax evasion and avoidance. Vodafone is alleged to have been let off a multi billion pound tax bill going back some years after it routed money through an off shore subsidiary. It also owes over £1.5bn in tax to India.

Although the use of occupations in protest and the internet in communication is far from new, some have heralded how one lone action and a callout put out via social networking sites Facebook and Twitter leading to a mass simultaneous action just three days later as a new tactic in the activists arsenal. At this point I should be quick to coin a right on and groovy name for this um…FaceMob? WebProtest? FlashTwit? Nah I can’t be arsed, there’s probably a think tank of media studies interns on it right now anyway.

I digress. In Bristol people enjoyed it so much they are repeating the action. This time the callout has been much more public to get a wider range of people involved. Though the action is non sectarian, anarchist groups were involved and their name linked to the second callout.

This has resulted in people posing the question “What the hell are anarchists doing campaigning to get a multinational corporation to pay its tax to the state so it can fund wars and the like?” This is a perfectly valid question. On the surface this action couldn’t be less anarchist if it tried, Malatesta must be turning in his grave!

However these people seem to have missed a vital point. This is not a pro taxation action, it is an anti-cuts action. It points out that while corporations are allowed to get off paying their tax bills we the workers are still expected to pay ours while the government cuts funding to services and slashes welfare budgets. These cuts don’t affect the CEOs or the corporations they affect us!

Recently HMRC announced that it had undercharged 1.4million Britons a total of £2bn. Will HMRC be claiming in back? Yes, every last penny.

Each year an estimated £95bn is lost through tax evasion and avoidance. The budget deficit the cuts will try to recoup is £155bn but it is easier for the government to target the poor than the rich.

Some say the large corporations bring in the millions and the government needs the private sector to “save” the economy but it is the workers with jobs in places such as Vodafone that fail to get paid a living wage and as such depend on benefits to keep a roof over their heads. And it is those workers who are under attack whilst the corporations are allowed to get away with this behaviour.

The aim of the protest was not to get Vodafone to pay its tax but to use the media coverage of its dirty dealings as a platform to educate that the cuts are not necessary and we are not all in this together.

Anarchism for us at least is not about tunnel vision on the anarchist utopia and everything else can go to hell. Last time I looked out of the window capitalism looked a bit uncomfortable but it certainly wasn’t even close to crumbling. Anarchy is about class struggle and these cuts are an attack on the working classes. It needs to be understood that the Vodafone demo is simply a symbolic middle finger up to the state to say “We are on to you, and we wont go away” and an attempt to build momentum for the anti cuts movement across the UK.

“Ok ok fine, I get it, But surely the Trots can sort this one out? Shouldn’t your lot be out throwing bricks through bankers windows?”

Well, yes and no. Different forms of direct action do not work in isolation, they are most effective when used together, particularly when we are stood at the beginning of what could be a long term campaign.

If anarchists only involve themselves with the clandestine then they risk becoming even more marginalised at a time where we could be making headway. We also have a role to play in catalysing direct action to be initiated by other groups.

We can not wait for others to take action, the Bristol Vodafone action was a prime example. When people arrived for the occupation (which became a picket when the staff spotted em heading towards the door) they found a Socialist Worker stall set up next to the shop. This was not a coincidence, they had received the callout too (non-sectarian remember). But where were the banners, the placards and the Vodafone related propaganda? Nowhere to be seen, just Socialist Worker Newspapers for sale. It seemed the SWP were more interested in selling their brand of state run socialism than stopping the cuts. When the picket began out came a few posters and a banner saying “Right to Work” (an SWP front group). At then end of the day there are many different groups organising against the cuts in Bristol yet it was two Anarchists and a mobile phone that initiated the action.

We can not sit on our arses and wait for a union sanctioned march six months after the spending review. We must act now, if you have any ideas, don’t sit around complaining that the people who are doing things are getting it wrong just get out there and do it yourself.




3 responses

14 11 2010
Notts Anarchist

Good article, we’ve been grappling with similar issues (albeit less effectively) in Notts:

14 11 2010

Cheers, we have noticed some other events and discussions happening in Nottingham. we are trying to get in contact with the people who have put on those Anarchists Against the cuts discussions as they link to our callout and we are going to do the same soon. e-mail us.

15 11 2010
Action Roundup 8th-14th Novermber « Anti Cuts Action Bristol & Bath

[…] 13/11/10 In haringey the pressure was kept up on vodafone. (Also see our discusion of vodafone actions). […]

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