Fiscal Oppression

Fiscal Oppression

Arshia Shoaib Khawaja and Ali Bahram Khan Gadhi

Oppression of subjects in a state takes various forms but the one which carries the greatest magnitude and brutality is fiscal or financial oppression. This is so done by allocating state resources in such a manner that the proletariat is even denied basic necessities needed to survive, and the bourgeoisie benefit from every way imaginable.

The political and economic elite of the state in closed, opulent buildings decide how to pillage and rob their subjects – although they were innocently elected by the proletariat to give them a better life; they exclude the electorate from this progress and by presenting a false picture of economic progression and deceive the masses that there is a better tomorrow. This is done by presenting inaccurate figures to the people that indicate economic growth through agents and media outlets.

The ruling elite engenders and exploits class antagonism amongst the masses which they nefariously manipulate to establish their hegemonic regime over subjects by instilling in them fear and hostility of the unknown and the unfamiliar. After doing this successfully, they impose their autocracy upon them and usurp the means of production from the masses by portraying them as ignorant, inept and incompetent.

As they control the means of production, they now also take charge of resource allocation. Since the interests of the bourgeoisie and the masses are inherently contradictory – the former wants to repress, exploit and oppress and the latter yearns for a better life; however, since it is the elite which subjugates, they craftily and conscientiously enforce systems which only fulfils their Machiavellian, cruel agendas.

The ruling elite has an international order of its own that which transcends every perceivable border. The advent of this international order began post World War II when new liberated states emerged from previous colonial empires. In order to retain their power over these states, the then colonizers of the world fashioned organs and international bodies which would help them retain their oppression over the subjects of these liberated states; this phenomena is known as neo-colonialism or imperialism. Therefore, the national bourgeoisie is a tool by virtue of which the international bourgeoisie is able to execute its interests. Another tool which is used by the international bourgeoisie is of international organs and agencies such as the United Nations and its sister organs, namely IMF, World Bank and WTO – these bodies control global economies and impose economic policies on the neo-colonised states which are there to benefit both the national and international bourgeoisie.

Ours is a capitalist economy: as a result, we are a capitalist state which in order to maintain its existence heavily taxes its subjects so as to politically and economically survive. In the Marxist tradition, taxation is greatly criticised as it produces inequalities and deepens the class divide. Pakistan’s taxation system is premised on the archaic developmental European economic model of the 18th and the 19th centuries where indirect taxation was the focal point of fiscal policies and direct taxation was largely ignored as direct taxation effects profitability and accumulation of capital, and since we have a peripheral capitalist economic model, the state avoids direct taxation and favours indirect taxation which adversely affects the masses and benefits the ruling elite. Taxation engenders inequalities as indirect taxation is generally levied on consumption products and since we follow a regressive taxation model, the peasant farmer and the capitalist bourgeoisie end up paying the same amount of tax which is oppressive for one and supportive for the other.

Another argument presented in favour of taxation is that of progressive taxation; such as taxes on capital, inheritance and limitation of private property- this gives a semblance of wealth redistribution whereby capital is extracted from the elite and aimed to provide to the masses, moreover as Marx in his later economic models explains, the reality is far from being so. He labels this idea as Bourgeoisie Socialism that keeps structures well intact and the bourgeoisie rule well established. Moreover, the idea of progressive taxation is a radical bourgeoisie political demand which inherently weakens the existing economic structure and becomes the potential harbinger of economic crises.

It is a universally agreed principle that education is the most crucial aspect of sociopolitical development and progression, that is why fascist state models attempt and oft successfully massively slash the budget or economic resources allocated to the education sector. Such is also the story of Pakistan. The impetus for resource allocation in neoliberal capitalism is focused more on capital accumulation and very little resources are invested in welfare and the wellbeing of subjects, the brunt of all being borne by the healthcare and education sector.

The annual economic budget was presented and approved by the government yesterday for the fiscal monetary year of 2020-2021. In this hegemonic scheme of oppression, the education sector and the healthcare sector faced an all-time low budget allocation of Rs 4 billion and Rs 2 billion respectively.

Up till the 1980s, education in Pakistan was a public entity. However, the second half of the 1980s saw privatization of the educational sector which, like every industry, is operative upon the aims of capital accumulation and revenue maximization. The state is responsible towards its citizens and their wellbeing. It cannot absolve its foremost responsibility by delegating its liabilities towards the private sector; in private sectors such as Pakistan education sector, the capitalists are largely unregulated where they can oppress and subjugate the masses in whichever manner they please. An absence of effective state participation leads to the capitalists monopolizing over the industry, seizing the means of production and as a result, manipulating the political rule elite to fulfil their agendas. The state then minimizes its resources that are to be invested in the education sector and the private sector further gets avenues to legitimize, monopolize and extend its hegemonic control and oppression of the masses. As the private education sector makes education exorbitantly unaffordable and the public education sector becomes decrepit, downtrodden and incapacitated to cater to modern educational needs, the masses are either forced to become illiterate or gain a “meaningless” education which has no “utility” in the pervasive capitalist system.

Conclusively, the state must invest and make its utmost priority to efficiently allocate the maximum of its resources towards education and healthcare for the true progression, welfare and liberation of the masses. It is most likely, given the current situation that the state would fail to do so; despite any false promises and great expectations, the public will not be allowed to participate in this exercise of resource allocation, thus this system must be replaced by a new system which is premised on the welfare and rights emancipation of the masses.

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