Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/701/13532
Irish 'poll tax' battle has begun
Cian Prendiville, Socialist Party (CWI, Ireland)
A massive campaign against a new 'Household Charge' has begun in Ireland. The new flat tax affects 1.6 million households across the country, including the overwhelming majority of ordinary workers.
However, a mass campaign of non-payment, launched by the Socialist Party and others, is getting a huge response.
The new tax came in on 1 January, and requires people to self-register and set up payment before 31 March.
However, following a call from the Campaign Against the Household and Water Taxes, a wide layer of TDs (MPs), celebrities, and ordinary people have come out and declared that they will not pay it.
Over 100 public meetings have been organised across Ireland, launching local branches of the campaign.
Opinion polls have shown the vast majority are opposed to this tax, and say they will refuse to pay.
Despite government propaganda about it being a 'charge' for community services, everybody knows where the money is really going: to the bankers and speculators the state is bailing out.
This will be made even clearer on 25 January when the Irish government plans to hand over €1.25 billion, eight years' worth of the new tax, in repaying someone who gambled on one of Ireland's most reckless banks.
This new tax will rise and rise if they get it in. While it is starting at €100, it is meant to pave the way for a full home tax and water charges in the next years, taking another €1,000+ a year out of the pockets of ordinary people who already pay the vast bulk of taxes.
Over the next weeks and months a momentous battle will develop across Ireland, bigger than anything in recent history.
The campaign will take the fight around the country; organising mass rallies, mass distributing leaflets, car stickers and window posters calling for non payment and non-registration, and knocking on doors to sign people up to the campaign.
We aim to have organised and established mass non-payment by the middle of March and then be in a position to break the government 'deadline' of 31 March.
Such mass non-registration, and an organised and sustained campaign of non-payment, can make the tax unworkable and force the government, and their bosses in the EU/IMF into retreat.
The Poll Tax: Thatcher's downfall
The hated Poll Tax (or Community Charge) was the Tory Thatcher government's replacement for household domestic rates.
Introduced first in Scotland in 1989 and then a year later in England and Wales, it was a socially incendiary piece of legislation.
Instead of a household charge every individual over 18 years was liable to pay it. It meant that a millionaire living in a mansion would pay less than two adults living in a council flat.
Effectively the Poll Tax was a massive shift in wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest.
Militant supporters, the forerunners of the Socialist Party, played a key role in organising opposition to the tax.
Militant's tactic was based on defying the law through a mass non-payment campaign with the slogan: 'Can't pay, won't pay'.
Anti-poll tax meetings were held in every city, town and even in villages. Streets and neighbourhoods organised anti-poll tax unions and, through the work of Militant socialists, were combined into town, borough, and regional federations, and an all-Britain anti-Poll Tax Federation.
These federations gelled together the non-payment campaigns into a massive 17 million strong movement.
Despite the extensive use of the courts by local authorities to sequester payments from individuals and the jailing of non-payers (many of whom were Militant supporters), the tax became largely uncollectable and thereby unworkable.
Moreover, the anti-Poll Tax movement galvanised political opposition to the anti-working class Thatcher government.
The 'Iron Lady', who had hailed the Poll Tax as her flagship legislation, was now badly corroded. So much so that the Tory Party grandees were forced to remove her as party leader.
Thatcher resigned in November 1990 after failing to secure sufficient backing from Tory MPs in a leadership contest and the Poll Tax was replaced by the council tax.
For further reading on Militant and the Poll Tax battle, see The Rise of Militant by Peter Taaffe, available here online and from Socialist Books, £9.99
In The Socialist 18 January 2012:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis