The successful implementation of the property tax is a Pyrrhic victory for the government. It comes at enormous political expense, particularly for Labour.
There is no doubt that Labour will get a drubbing in the next elections. But the question is – who will benefit? Should the campaign which has done the most to struggle and resist home taxes and austerity simply stand aside and give a free run to Sinn Fein (and even Fianna Fail) and a host of other independents and groups who have not seriously fought austerity.
Since the introduction of the Property tax in January 2013, the Socialist Party has argued that alongside a boycott and protests, the campaign should build sustained political pressure on the politicians who support the tax. As part of that strategy we argued that local campaigns should begin a serious discussion about standing a slate of candidates in the next local elections to punish Labour and Fine Gael for their betrayals, but to also use its authority to offer a political alternative to all the austerity parties.
Where this has been raised, at public meetings across the country, it has been met with enormous enthusiasm from ordinary working class people. So far, campaigns in Dublin West, Balbriggan, Lucan and Palmerstown, Dublin South West, Galway, Limerick, parts of Cork, Kilkenny and Laois have agreed to stand in the local elections, possibly fielding up to 70 candidates. Other areas are discussing joining the challenge to which could see anti-home tax, anti-austerity candidates challenge for 10% of all the seats in the country.
This issue has been a contentious issue inside the CAHWT. Unfortunately some, like the People Before Profit Alliance, have sought to consciously distort the discussion and provoke animosity and a fractious atmosphere. They have done this, not out of any genuine concern for the campaign, but because they want a free run for their own candidates. They say that the issue is divisive, that potential candidates views on a range of issues would make it unworkable.
They argue that the campaign should simply decide to “endorse” candidates as opposed to fielding its own slate of candidates. But this simply turns dedicated campaign activists, people who have struggled over the last year and a half to build the campaign, into passive supporters as opposed to active campaigners who should participate in the discussions and debates about mounting a serious political challenge.
Despite the knock back of the boycott, the impressive numbers of campaign activists have taken part in the discussions about standing. In Limerick 60 activists voted unanimously in favour of the challenge. In Tallaght, 43 activists took part in the first formal meeting, with 25 in Kilkenny.
This is a small but significant step forward in the struggle for political representation for working class people and can help begin to fill the political vacuum that exists.