There is no question but that the Property Tax is the anti-austerity issue this year, writes Cllr Matthew Waine. The planned robbery of peoples’ wages, pensions & welfare payments by a government that includes the Labour Party is the final straw for many people.
The vast majority of workers are sick and tired of austerity and want to fight back on this issue. But the question many people are asking is, can a campaign be built that can defeat this hated tax?
The handing over of the collection process to the Revenue Commissioners and the power to deduct from source is a game changer. The government hope that this draconian measure will knock the wind out of the campaign and create a mood of demoralisation and resignation.
But these measures can be fought and the tax can be defeated. Householders should keep up the boycott, as to do otherwise is to give up and concede defeat. But a boycott isn’t enough.
The main challenge the campaign has is to convince people that there will be a struggle against the Property Tax and that it can be defeated. This requires a different type of campaign than last year. It needs to bring enormous political pressure to bear on the politicians, particularly Labour Party representatives and it needs to begin to activate significantly more numbers of people than last year.
Nobody suspected that Fianna Fail would have been wiped out to the extent that they were at the last election. We need to register that if the Labour Party insists on implementing this tax and deductions from source that they will meet the same fate as Fianna Fail, and worse. To assist this work, the Campaign has produced tens of thousands of postcards directed at Government TDs, especially Labour TDs, pledging that they will not get any support in this household. Getting five or 10,000 postcards from one constituency would demonstrate in no uncertain terms that Labour will be wiped out electorally if they persist.
Winning people to this strategy is also a means to develop activists locally, so that the campaign begins to sink deeper roots than last year. This in turn can actually re-create a profile and base of the campaign in local communities which will give people confidence in holding the line. When it comes to the Revenue forms dropping through the letter boxes and when the tax is deducted from peoples’ wages, we will need a vast network of activists and supporters to call on for mass protests and demonstrations. For the month of February and into March local campaigns need to be stepping up the door to door activity in their respective areas increasing the number of people who will help the campaign.
Local campaigns also need to prepare for and organise effective actions of civil disobedience. These radical actions should be more than symbolic stunts. They should be effective by disrupting the state and the government parties. Campaigns should plan for protests that go beyond white line pickets and marches. Alongside these events, campaigns should seek to occupy TD offices and even revenue offices and public buildings. This can exert further political pressure on the politicians but crucially it also shows the authorities that the campaign is willing to up the ante and fight all the way.
Obviously, serious industrial action by the trade unions could sink this property tax. But the right wing trade union leaders are wedded to the government and the Troika deal and have no intention of breaking with them. Some people in the campaign think it is enough to raise the call for a general strike and that workers should just walk out of the jobs. This is not a serious strategy for achieving strike action.
Through knocking on doors and through events like the ICTU demonstration on 9 February, the campaign should seek to make contacts with and establish lists of trade union members who are opposed to the property tax. In this way the campaign can begin to establish groups within each union who are working together to put the union leaders under pressure.
The announcement by the government that water charges will be introduced in July next year is another reason we need to take a stand against the Property Tax. But it also raises the need for an alternative to the status quo of bailouts for the rich and austerity for everyone else. We think local campaigns should begin a discussion in their areas about standing a slate of anti-austerity, anti-property tax candidates at the next local elections in June 2014.
In 1996 Joe Higgins stood in the Dublin West by election after a marvellous three year struggle against the water charges and came within a whisker of winning a seat. That campaign of civil disobedience and boycott ultimately sunk the water charges but the vote achieved by Joe Higgins frightened the establishment tremendously, speeding up the abolition of the tax the following year.
Standing candidates right across the country in 2014 could be a major blow not only against the Property Tax and water charges, but austerity too.