Today in Ireland took place a massive national demonstration in the national sporting arena with up to 3000 people cramming in to hear speech’s and bands all encouraging ordinary Irish folk to refuse to pay the household charge. What a reaction this got I have been following developments all day and speech’s from our own TD Joe Higgins in Ireland getting a fantastic reception too. This can be the spark that lights this campaign and allows it to really take off I feel.
What is the background to this then you may ask?
The Irish government, as part of its crippling deal with the troika will soon introduce a new “household charge”, another financial burden on working families after an onslaught of austerity attacks linked to the IMF/EU plan. The Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) pledges to organise a mass campaign of non-payment, along the lines of the mass movement which defeated water charges in the 1990s and the victorious poll tax struggle in Britain.
The government’s proposed Household Charge of €100 is the forerunner for water charges and a property tax on every home. A pensioner or low paid worker pays the same as a millionaire. How rotten! This new tax has absolutely nothing to do with improving council services – the proceeds go towards the bailout of wealthy gamblers and bankers, for which ordinary people are being bled dry.
Everyone knows the tax will start at €100 and rise relentlessly, if we let it. The Economic Social and Research Institute called for household taxes for years. Its leading economist, John Fitzgerald, has said this is only “the beginning” and that a home tax of €800 plus a water tax of €500 is needed.
Already, life is becoming intolerable with the Universal Social Charge, pay cuts, rising mortgage payments and even management fees on many home-owners.
In a remarkable U-turn on pre-election promises, Fine Gael and Labour are now fully committed to the EU/IMF/ECB package of bailing out bankers but austerity and cuts for us. By taking all of the money away from ordinary people, personal consumption has collapsed by €13 billion in 3 years, adding to unemployment. Austerity is what is causing the economic havoc throughout Europe. It will make the crisis much worse and guarantee bankruptcy.
This tax is not deducted at source and we can and must defeat it. This can only be done by building a grassroots campaign of non-payment in every area. The Socialist Party in Dublin West plan has been to work with the community to do just this. In the 1990s, the Socialist Party led the Anti Water Charges Federation which successfully defeated water charges then.
Protest in Northern Ireland
Building non-payment, challenging in the courts and political opposition forced the then FG/Labour government to abolish water charges. In particular, the by-election challenge of Joe Higgins in 1996 in Dublin West became a referendum on water tax and rocked the political establishment.
Minister Bruton has dismissed this charge as “only €100”. While this amount is of course a burden for many families, the figure will skyrocket beyond €1,000 quickly as the ‘troika’ has ordered other home taxes within two years. The government is testing the ground for heftier Property and Water Taxes. If they get this one bedded down, they will be more confident to proceed. If we build non-payment of the Household Charge from the start, it makes it very difficult to impose two new taxes.
The government will go all-out to try force people to pay. A monthly draconian fine and court has been threatened. Contrast this to the light-touch handling of the white-collar criminal millionaires who destroyed the economy! Not one banker or businessman has been brought to book. By building a powerful campaign of civil disobedience with roots in every area, solidarity can give confidence to householders to be united and maintain non-payment. Tens of thousands of people can’t be dragged through the courts.
Labour now stands with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in supporting household and water charges – despite expensive media ads opposing them before the elections. Labour should be reminded of this cynical betrayal. Labour politicians who say they oppose the tax, but remain in a party pushing it through, can only be seen as opportunist. While Sinn Fein has said it opposes the household tax, it has unfortunately ruled out putting its resources behind supporting non-payment, which is the only way this rip-off can be defeated. This will no doubt disappoint many Sinn Fein voters.
The Socialist Party / United Left Alliance is the only party clearly putting forward a boycott and actively committed to building and being part of an independent, broad-based national campaign to defeat Household and Water Taxes. Our track record is second to none on this issue.
Despite the daily media propaganda, there is considerable untapped wealth in Ireland. The country is not broke. Ireland remains 6th out of 27 EU countries in financial wealth, but of course, this wealth is concentrated in a few hands. The Central Bank reported in May that there is €120 billion in Irish bank deposits – why could a wealth tax not be imposed on this rather than taking from households, from our education and health services? Massive natural gas and oil resources could also be explored for the benefit of Irish society, rather than for one or two multinationals.