The ink on the Household Tax legislation is not yet dry and already we have firm indications that this could be the issue that marks the real beginning of an active fightback by ordinary people up and down the country.
From the moment this new unjust tax was announced by Minister Hogan in July steps were quickly taken by activists from the left, many of whom like myself were veterans of the previous campaigns against the water and refuse tax, to raise the banner of the Campaign Against the Household and Water Taxes.
Unlike the previous campaigns which were fought mainly in the major cities the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes has begun to sink roots far and wide. Initial public meetings have already taken place in almost every county in the state. From Skibereen to Sligo and from Gweedore to Newtownmountkennedy an extensive network of activists throughout the country, has been assembled ready to hit the ground in next month to build a mass campaign of non-registration and non-payment of the Household tax, septic tank charge as well as the future site valuation and water taxes.
If anybody thinks I am exaggerating the potential scale of this campaign or that it is a front for the radical left in the cities as opposed to a real grassroots campaign uniting ordinary people from urban and rural areas let me cite Donegal as a good example. Over that last two months 200 people came to a public meeting in the aforementioned Gweedore, 130 in Downings, 180 in Ardara, 100 in Glencolumbcille, 120 in Falcarragh, 350 in Donegal town, 150 in Lifford, 80 in Letterkenny and 500 in Malin!
That is over 2,000 people who have been armed with the political and economic arguments against these taxes which they can take to their neighbours, workmates and friends. A recent addition to the armoury of arguments has come from the United Left Alliance’s pre budget statement which referenced from the Central Statistics Office and Credit Suisse the up to date available figures on the total net financial assets in this country and it grotesquely unfair distribution. If a 5% wealth and assets tax was imposed on the €219.3 billion held by the top 5% wealthiest in this country that would bring in over €10 billion alone.
We have made a promising start in the fight against these taxes but the interim national steering committee of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes is under no illusion about the size of the task we face. This government aims to get 1.6 million households to register and begin paying this tax by the end of March.
A campaign of publicly funded government propaganda will be unleashed in the new year. Their campaign will be one of intimidation, highlighting a fine of up to €2,500 for those who refuse to register.
Therefore the task the campaign has set itself is to build on the instinctual decision that has already been made by hundreds of thousands of working people and the unemployed up and down the country not the pay the charge come what may. Through a fresh round of meetings in every community in the New Year the campaign will facilitate tens of thousands of householders becoming activists in the campaign. Being an activist in the campaign can involve many different tasks. It can mean distributing the regular newsletters that the campaign produces to people in your street or estate. Likewise with window posters and car stickers which will all serve to build the profile of the campaign. As the campaign develops it will build up financial resources through a membership drive to fund more literature but also to ensure the tiny minority of residents who will be selected for court action will be defended by the campaign.
Anybody opposed to these taxes but nervous of taking the next step of not paying are far more likely to make that decision if they see someone from their own street or estate championing the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes. If they see their neighbour’s houses bearing window posters boldly saying “I’m not paying the Household and/or Septic Tank Charge” they are far more likely to be influenced into making a similar declaration themselves. That is way the active involvement of people in this campaign will count a hundred times more than a few TDs like myself when it comes to achieving our target of a million households not registering or paying by March 2012.
Such an achievement would leave these taxes dead in the water and force the government to go elsewhere when looking for people to pay for the crisis. Our campaign, I hope will also represent a turning of the tide against the one sided austerity war that has been waged by the political establishment on ordinary people since the crisis began so that the likes of the Anglo bondholders can continue getting bailouts to the tune of €1.2 billion as will be the case next month.