It is clear that hundreds of thousands of households will refuse to register or to pay the household tax. The only issue is whether this number will be more than half a million, more than three-quarters of a million or more than a million itself. With big numbers deciding it is better to break the law than to break the poor, this is a key first step in a major campaign of civil disobedience.
Mass civil disobedience, the breaking of unjust laws, can be a very effective tactic. It won trade union rights for workers in Ireland and worldwide, votes for women and civil rights for African Americans in the USA.
But what happens after 31 March? This depends in large measure on the attitude adopted by the state to non-payers.
The Socialist Party does not believe that the government will abolish the tax at this stage even in the face of high levels of non-registration and non-payment. There is too much at stake for them with the tax paving the way for property tax on the family home (2013) and water tax (2014). Added to this is the fact that the Troika will stand behind them and provide steel for their backbones.
Most likely the state will take the option of pursuing non-payers through the court system. Court cases could start before the summer recess (August) or, given that the Government will have a referendum campaign to fight in May/June, after, in the autumn period.
The Campaign is unlikely to win court cases through legal argument. The household tax is unjust but it is the law. The Campaign will however use its legal defence fund to fight the initial tranche of cases and to establish the best lines of legal argument to use in front of the judges.
The way in which the tables can be turned against the government via the court cases is through politics. No one must go to court on their own. Communities must be mobilised to go to court with non-payers. The message must ring out from protests outside the courthouses and from the court cases themselves that this is an unjust tax and that the government deserves the sack for taking ordinary citizens to court for refusing to pay an unjust tax to fund an unjust bailout while the bankers and developers go scot-free. In this way, the court cases will burn the government and put them under real pressure.
The UNITE trade union has pledged its support for the Campaign and we will try to get other unions to do likewise. Trade unions, workplaces and communities would have the potential power to mobilise massive protests against court proceedings and the penalising of ordinary citizens.
Actions of this kind would have the potential to clog up an already overburdened court system. With austerity policies failing and a new wave of opposition appearing as a property tax on the family home draws nearer next year, the government could find themselves being drawn into a long war – a war that it would ultimately find unwinnable.