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Alternative to austerity parties – political challenge must be built

At a book launch in early March Minister Pat Rabbitte apparently joked that he had spent another heavy day reducing the living standards of the Irish people! Despite being drenched in cynicism, for once he spoke the truth.

The sense of disgust and bitterness towards the government, and Labour’s betrayal in particular, is palpable. Two years ago they both specifically ruled out they would implement a Property Tax. Now not only are they imposing one but are promising a Water Tax in 2014 as well.

They don’t care if they have no mandate. They are afraid to put their tax to the test of public credibility and see if people will pay it or not. Instead, they also took for themselves and the Revenue Commissioners, the power to take this austerity tax directly from wages and benefits.

This is a rotten abuse of political power. Bit by bit this country is being turned into a financial and legislative dictatorship.

Deduction of the Property Tax at source means we need to exert intense political pressure on Labour and Fine Gael to try to knock them back from this policy and on the Property Tax itself.

In the next weeks and months if the anti-Property Tax campaign groups around the country decided to field hundreds of candidates in next years local elections that would wipe the cynical smile off Pat Rabbitte’s mush and would really put them all under pressure.

This idea gets resounding support from working class people and it should be discussed at all the public meetings that the campaign organises. The details of how this should be organised should be debated fully, but the benefits for working class people and the campaign are clear.

If over the next months we are able to knock back the government on the Property Tax, or on deduction at source, then the basis to stand against the parties of austerity will be given a huge boost on the back of such a victory. Then the election campaign can be about pushing back the plans for a Water Tax and the avalanche of austerity.

If, despite our best efforts, we don’t knock them back over the next months, then the local elections are fully live with potential and represent a weapon to hit back at the imperious tactic of deduction at source and against the Property and Water Taxes.

As the campaign is entering a time when there will be lots of public meetings and activities involving ordinary working class people, this is the best time to discuss and decide on an electoral challenge.

Austerity is not only destroying people’s lives and economic potential; thankfully it can also destroy the parties who impose it. Labour and Fine Gael can get a hammering in the local elections. But such is the disgust at their sell-out that many may not bother to vote and some will feel compelled to vote for Sinn Fein.

An anti-Property Tax and anti-Austerity slate could really give people something to vote for and could result in the election of many working class and left activists, which would be an important step forward.

In this way a defeat for Labour and Fine Gael next year would not only undermine the government and austerity, but could be a start in the struggle to build a new mass party for working class people.

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