A Call to Single Taxers
to Abandon Incrementalism or Moderation

Antonio Bastida

[An open letter answer to a proposal by Harry Gunnison Brown to seek tax reform. Reprinted from Land and Freedom, May-June 1930]

I regret to differ with you on the advice given in your "Open Letter to Single Taxers." I recognize that your name adds much weight to what I consider a pernicious and proved fallacy. I assume that you are just as earnest as I am to advance our principle and therefore make no excuse for calling your attention to certain pertinent facts in the history of our movement.

In 1886 we were young men, our hearts throbbed and warm blood coursed through our veins, and with the slogan of "Free Land and Free Men" we filled Opera Houses from pit to dome; we wanted to regain our heritage in the land. Yet, on the advice of our Apostle, we adopted the "current" issue the tariff and were led into the Democratic camp. Today the tariff is higher than ever and the army of active Single Taxers were greatly reduced.

In the 90's, again under the advice of Henry George, we supported Bryan; not because we were free silverites, but because under his banner were marshalled the "Have Nots" against the "House of Have." It was a motley throng, but on the enormous output of gold in the Rand the scales between creditors and debtors evened and the issue died a natural death. What became of the Single Taxers? They dwindled.

Then came the Initiative and Referendum. Again we adopted the "current" issue. Eggleston writes Barry, editor of the Star, "keep your columns free from Single Tax matter so as not to prejudice the Referendum. " Where are the friends and adherents we made then? I cannot see them.

Were we to adopt your "current" issue and oppose the efforts of landlords which "gain them a special privilege income," it would appear casually that where they made no such effort we should let them enjoy their tribute in peace. Pretty weak, that!

In 1914 I wrote an article, printed in the the Single Tax Review, and later issued as a tract, in which I made "An earnest plea to drop all fiscal differences and side issues and organize for the restoration of the land to the people." This policy was adopted by a group of Single Taxers which organized for its political advancement and is called today The Commonwealth Land Party. The members of this party believe the land question is broad enough, deep enough and just enough to appeal to all men; they see that to obtain the appropriation of rent by the State legislation for that purpose is necessary; consequently the issue must be brought into the political field.

Further, they see that extraneous issues only cloud our principle and attenuate it; consequently they logically use a one plank platform calling for the immediate appropriation of rent to the State. Having one plank only they have no differences and are held together for concerted action. Their one mistake is that they try to cover the whole political field, from President to Pound Keeper; whereas the taxation and tenure of land pertains solely to the State legislature, and Assemblymen and State Senators are the only officials who have the power to change or amend the laws relative thereto. Sound policy, in my opinion, should dictate the nomination of candidates for these offices only.

Were Josiah Wedgwood to arise in the House of Commons and introduce a bill appropriating rent to the Crown, Single Taxers throughout the world would be thrilled. For that body of men has the power. In this country we have 48 separate Parliaments having that power. What are we doing about it? Nothing.

In closing may I call attention to the fact that your advice is for fiscal argument only? You do not urge that anyone who is landless should be informed he is disinherited from his birthright. Yet that is the essence of George's doctrine.

Secretary of Labor James J. Davis says 86% of Americans are poor. Shall we adopt your "current" issue and tell the 86% that we will actively oppose the efforts of landlords to dodge the present rates on land, and that we shall leave to future and more virile exponents the duty of proving that landlordism means slavery of the masses? Must we appeal only to a smaller and more select audience, and remain really respectable ourselves?

"Current" issues are political herrings across the trail; they are phantoms which wax and wane; their followers are idolaters; the God of Justice is above their comprehension; their piety is futile; they shall be destroyed without progeny.

I advise the nomination by petition of candidates for the State Legislature who shall stand for "Free Land and Free Men" and who shall in their argument before the electorate go to the root of the land question. In the July-August issue of LAND AND FREEDOM I submitted "A new method of Propaganda;" I would appreciate it were you to read that plan and give me your opinion on it.

Regards and best wishes to you personally. Taco Taco, Cuba. ANTONIO BASTIDA.