Defeating the Household Tax

We are in a battle for the hearts and minds of people up and down the country. It is clear that a huge majority of people are opposed to the Household Tax and Septic Tank rip-offs. Can we beat the intimidation and threats from the Government who are trying to force people into registering and paying? Can the campaign trump the fear factor and help give people the confidence to make a stand on this issue and fight back?

Maintaining mass non-registration and non-payment

The campaign and everyone involved in it has a vital role to play in making sure that the numbers registering is kept to a minimum. People power and word of mouth are more powerful than the threats and propaganda of the Government and the media.

People can be consolidated in the need to make a stand if they are clear that this tax will lead to taxes of more than €1,000 per house per year and will encourage the Government to impose even deeper austerity.

There cannot be an economic recovery based on the policy of austerity or putting the profits of bondholders and speculators before ordinary people. The latest figures show that the economy is now officially back in recession because of the  government’s austerity policies.

We must make a stand

A stand must be made against this economic madness and the Household Tax campaign is the best opportunity to make that stand because people have the power to say no, and we already have established a broad opposition to it.

The establishment parties here may try to diminish the  significance of this campaign, but even the New York Times recognises its importance. Four days ago it had a major article entitled: “Growing Anti Tax Movement Shows Irish Stoicism Wearing Thin”. There has been little since the revolt of the pensioners years ago as the bulk of the trade union movement ran for cover. This campaign represents a new rising from below.

If a majority of households or a very big percentage of them refuse to register, that will strike a heavy blow against the tax and we must do whatever is necessary in the next days. But this is a struggle that will develop over the next months and the next year.

Mass non-registration of the tax needs to be turned into intense political pressure on Labour and Fine Gael. We must demand that the tax is axed and we must show them that if they attempt to use the law or courts against non-payers that they will be met with fierce resistance.

They must not be allowed to hide behind the nonsense argument that people are breaking the law, when it is the Government that imposed this unjust tax and the Government that drafted the legislation.

The official confirmation by the Mahon Tribunal that the establishment political parties were involved in corruption which directly contributed to profiteering and economic collapse should be used to magnify the pressure on Fine Gael and Labour that it is not acceptable that ordinary working   people pay the price for a crisis they didn’t create.

Resist and frustrate – civil disobedience

Every measure they take to help create the basis for this new tier of taxation should be challenged and frustrated. That includes their attempts to get data about people from the likes of the ESB. The campaign should discuss how their attempts to implement an infrastructure for a new water tax, including metering, and a new property tax should be dealt with.

However, in particular the campaign has to be prepared for court cases. Some may think that if mass non-registration / payment is established that they will not be able to bring people to court. What’s at stake for the government is a target to squeeze another €1.5 to €2 billion out of ordinary people per annum. They are also under serious pressure to do so from the EU/IMF.

In fact if mass non-registration/payment is established and if the Government doesn’t try to attack or impose sanctions against people, they would find it impossible to successfully launch their new water and property taxes. So we have to be prepared that court cases and such attacks are a serious possibility in the Autumn time.

In Britain the Poll Tax was defeated, resulting in the demise of Thatcher, on the basis that 18 million people refused to pay it and because  many thousands actively protested and defied decisions of the courts. We need to build a similar campaign in the months ahead.

The basis for a strong campaign that can resist the Government’s attacks

It is correct to point out that they can’t bring everyone to court. But it’s likely that some people and possibly significant numbers could be brought to court. The campaign should try to  defend people as much as possible legally and if any technicality or loophole is found, they must be used to the maximum.

But this tax will not be defeated legally. The law is biased and generally facilitates the establishment to impose its policies. If they get the necessary information, the courts will find against the people, but that’s not the decisive issue.

The basis of this campaign and the tactics that it needs to use can be summed up as follows:

1) Non-payment: Mass non-payment must be maintained. This tax can only be resisted if it is boycotted. Protesting but paying up is meaningless, once the Government have your money, they’re happy.

2) Civil disobedience: Hold mass non-payment even if there are court decisions against non-payers. To simply obey the law and the courts would mean that this tax and more austerity will be imposed. That’s why this campaign, like the Poll Tax, this needs to be a campaign of organised civil disobedience.

3) A mass campaign: The strength of the campaign lies in the justice of its cause, the correctness of its tactics and crucially, the more ordinary working class people that are active in organising and running the movement, the stronger it is.

4) Genuinely democratic: Everyone who wants to fight on the issue and on austerity and supports the tactics of mass non-payment and civil disobedience should be encouraged to get fully involved. The campaign must be genuinely democratic and controlled by ordinary activists.

This was the agreed basis for the campaign when in was established at a conference/forum against the plans for a water tax held on Saturday 13 February 2010. This forum was initiated by the Socialist Party through Joe Higgins who was an MEP for Dublin at the time.

That campaign evolved into the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT) which launched its main activity last autumn in preparation for the launch of the Household Tax on January 1st.

This year the CAHWT has had a huge impact. Thousands and thousands of people have attended hundreds of public meetings up and down the country. That nine TDs came out in total opposition to registration and the tax had a very important  impact. Combined with activities in localities everywhere, it gave people confidence that this tax could and would be fought. On February 18th there was a national day of action and on February 25th forty significant protests took place around the country.

The Socialist Party argued that those who are fearful of the consequences of not registering should start by becoming part of the campaign to establish mass non-registration by St Patrick’s Day and if we are successful in that then decide to  become definite non-payers and united we can go through the Government’s deadline.  It looks like we can hold firm till March 31st and then we will go on to the next phase.

Target the parties and the politicians

In April campaigners should consider how we can really   intensify the political pressure on this Government. The start will be the demonstration on the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Dublin on the 31st itself and then at the Labour Conference in Galway on 14th of April.

Locally, public meetings, where the TDs etc are invited to a portion of the meeting to explain their position on the tax, assemblies of accountability, should be organised and could get particularly large attendances. These can lead to local lobbies or pickets of TDs offices or clinics.

People could be encouraged to put up campaign or homemade window posters or stickers to demonstrate the public demand that the tax be axed.

Reclaim May Day

The Socialist Party believes that campaigns should mobilise for major demonstrations against the Household Tax and austerity around May Day. Where appropriate, campaigns could jointly organise demonstrations with trade union bodies that are fighting austerity. In other areas, the campaign could take the initiative and invite everyone along with their banners and placards, particularly workers and trade union members.

Building a base within the trade unions is crucial for this campaign and campaigns should be active in campaigning against the government’s austerity treaty.

Build the membership and active base in each locality

People should join the campaign for the €5 fee but they should also be encouraged to become active members.

There should be regular local meetings, publicly advertised and open to all. Thousands of leafleters are necessary so every area can be systematically leafleted when necessary. Fundraising and social events need to be organised as this struggle can cost a lot of money.

All of this can only happen if people step into activity and it should be a hallmark of the campaign and of all the organisers that they try to encourage people to get active and organised for themselves as much as possible.

Democratic structures on a local, county, regional & national level

When a campaign is at the relatively early phase in its formation, structures shouldn’t be rigid but instead should be interim and open to change by ordinary activists who get involved.

A number of leftwing parties and groups, including the Socialist Party, as well as prominent political figures, have played important roles in the initiation of the campaign. This is entirely correct and appropriate. This is a political issue and anyone who is active in the campaign should have the right to appropriately raise their proposals and ideas in the campaign.

However, no one or no group should have any automatic right to influence or positions in the campaign locally or nationally. Any positions should be earned by hard work, commitment and an ability to organise.

If this campaign and movement is to grow and develop, it is the ordinary working class people who have attended the public meetings and the protests who should become the majority part of the local, county, regional and national structures.

There is a proposal for a national conference of the campaign in May. There is a responsibility on those who at the moment hold positions of influence in the campaign to make sure that the way in which the conference is organised is designed to ensure that ordinary activists have the decisive say in the campaign.

The campaign is about the fight against the Household Tax and austerity. Some people are concerned about whether the campaign will be abused. If it is established that individuals or groups are operating inappropriately or are trying to use the campaign to gain some inappropriate advantage, that should not be accepted.

The Socialist Party and the CAHWT

What has been achieved so far has been phenomenal. As mentioned, many, many individual activists and groups have played very important roles and should be saluted for their efforts.

Within that we think the Socialist Party, its public representatives and members have played a very important role in initiating the campaign; in coming up with many of its strategic initiatives and the spreading of the campaign on a national basis.

We will go to the end on this issue as we have in the past on the Water Charges in the 1990s and the Bin Tax in the 2000s and want to work with anyone who wants to do the same. This can also be the start of a struggle against austerity and the bailouts and for putting the needs of people before the profits of the few.