The first three months of 2012 could turn out to be an historic period in the modern political and social life of this State. It could be when the quiet majority of the population takes a decisive stand against shouldering any more burdens to bail out the major bankers, speculators and bondholders of Europe at the behest of the unholy trinity of the EU/IMF/ECB with the Fine Gael/Labour government as its agent. And the potent weapon they can wield is a boycott of the registration and payment of the newly imposed Household Tax.
The government has targeted 1.6 million householders to pay this tax. They are supposed to volunteer registration of their homes and pay at least part of the €100 demanded by March 31. Responding to a very strong mood to resist this new imposition, the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes has outlined clearly how an unstoppable movement of opposition can be built.
The Campaign is calling for the most effective strategy to be deployed which is mass non registration and non payment. The Campaign is pointing out how those who might be a little apprehensive that they would be isolated if they take a stand, can approach the issue step by step.
The first deadline for registration is March 31. In the month of January no one among the huge majority that oppose the tax should register or pay. During the month of February likewise, and also the first three weeks of March. That would mean arriving at the last week of March with well over a million householders, or more than three million people, having refused to register or pay. That would demonstrate their enormous power and give confidence that a permanent boycott is the way to win and can win. Any government would set itself against such a demonstration of people power at its peril. For three years now ordinary people have been callously targeted to pay for the crisis brought about by the greed of the players in the financial markets who gambled on Irish property in pursuit of mega profits and lost, but then demanded that society at large make up their bad gambling debts. Public sector workers have had their wages slashed. Likewise, private sector workers in many cases, while many have lost their jobs. The Universal Social Charge has decimated people’s take home pay. Homeowners in negative equity and unsustainable monthly mortgage payments suffer.
All of this was imposed on them without a choice. Money was taken directly from their pay packets or in some other way which they had no possibility to stop. In the case of the Household Tax, for the first time, people have a choice to refuse to pay.
The next key issue is to organise active campaigns in every county. Already public meetings have been held by Campaign activists from Donegal to Wexford. In many rural areas they have blended with the protest against a new septic tank registration tax which is being levied on those who were not in a location to be tied into the public drainage systems constructed by local authorities.
Five United Left Alliance Dáil deputies are taking a very strong stand against the new tax. A number of independent deputies are also standing very firm. This is very important but the tax will only be defeated and a blow struck for taxation justice if ordinary people become actively involved themselves and make it into a real vibrant campaign. That means people helping to organise meetings in their communities. It means distributing campaign leaflets door to door so that everybody is kept informed. It means raising finance so that resources are available to publish campaign material but also to have a legal defence fund to fight in the courts and defend householders if there was an attempt to bring them to court.
A template for this campaign is the successful Anti Water Charges Campaign which culminated in the dramatic abolition of the hated water tax in December of 1996. This followed a long struggle beginning after the then Labour Leader Dick Spring brought in local charges in 1983.The campaign intensified massively in 1994 when three Dublin Councils reintroduced the water charges and were greeted with organised resistance in the form of a boycott by tens of thousands of householders.
Intimidation of protesting householders by water disconnection or court action was strongly resisted. The then Fine/Labour government recognised reality and abolished a tax that would otherwise have risen to a €1,000 or more by now. The campaign against the Household Tax will be far greater in its scope, national in scale and massively significant as a blow against the ruinous policy of austerity and the crazed workings of the financial markets. People can become part of this by accessing www.nohouseholdtax.org