We beat the Poll Tax

Militant pamphlet 1991


“We have therefore decided that from the earliest possible moment the Community Charge will be replaced by a new system of local taxation”.

With these words on 21 March 1991, cabinet minister Michael Heseltine announced the biggest political retreat in twentieth century British history. The poll tax, almost universally hated, was going. ‘This week has served to demonstrate …the depth of the (government’s) panic’, said the Financial Times (23.3.91). The anti-poll tax movement caused this panic.

Thatcher herself was dethroned because of the poll tax; but she did not abdicate voluntarily — she was pushed. The report of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs of 5 December 1990 records; ‘mention (was made) of Liverpool (city Council) over the past four years and the anti-poll tax demonstrators that forced the Tories to rethink and elect a new leader’.

This report is only a pale reflection of what was actually acknowledged at the meeting; that Thatcher had been removed because of struggles like that of the Liverpool City council and the Anti-Poll Tax Federation.

And on 20 March 1991 it agreed a motion from Tony Benn; ‘That the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs congratulates all those who have campaigned against the poll tax, including the Anti-Poll Tax Federation, on their success; notes the Prime Minister’s statement to Tory MPs that the poll tax is unworkable because of the level of non-payment and the inability of the courts to pursue non-payers; welcomes the decision to abolish the poll tax which represents a complete capitulation by the government; calls for a complete halt for those who face or have faced prosecution and compensation for those who have suffered.’

The removal of Thatcher (one of the great moments of the decade), the most well known capitalist leader in the world, and now her ‘flagship’, the poll tax, was the result of a mass movement, a campaign of mass non-payment. The victory belongs to those thousands who organised the millions who did not pay.

This was however a mass campaign with a difference. Unfortunately, being organised with no support from the Labour party or trade union leaders. In fact, with the notable exception of Beta (the BBC TV technicians’ union which is affiliated to the Fed), most of them opposed such a campaign.

Thatcher and the Tories had carried out many vicious measures that attacked working class people. But she had never been worried about unpopularity in the opinion polls. What she could not cope with was organised opposition. It was this movement that was decisive. Undoubtedly she was encouraged by the Labour leaders’ commitment not to break the law. ‘Weakness invites aggression.’ However, she seriously underestimated the determination of ordinary people to resist and their capacity to organise themselves and she certainly didn’t count on Militant’s intervention!

The full history of the anti-poll tax movement has yet to be fully written up but that story has been recorded in the weekly columns of the Militant newspaper; the only paper to give any extensive coverage to what was happening. In fact our pages were thrown open to the poll tax movement. Militant’s masthead proudly proclaimed each week, The paper that fights the poll tax.

Issues regularly carried interviews with the leaders of the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation along with unique local coverage of local activities. In the edition of 2 March 1990, for instance, reports were printed from the Lothians, Oldham, Failsworth, Barnet, West Oxfordshire, Market Harborough, Chelmsford, Telford, Grimsby, Chichester, the Forest of Dean, Bracknell, Coventry, Manchester, Derby, Westminster, Strathclyde and Gloucester.

This unequalled coverage had another important facet — it was written by the campaigners themselves lending more authority to the coverage. Militant’s role was unparalleled throughout the struggle.

Militant published several pamphlets on the demand for a campaign of mass non-payment. Another first was chalked up with the publication of a special pamphlet in May 1989 on the poll tax in four languages (English, Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali) selling thousands.

The Tories falsely attacked the Fed as a ‘Militant front’ when hundreds of thousands with wide-ranging views actually participated. This pamphlet has been produced to put the truth clearly forward, to cut across Tory lies and to win new supporters for Marxism.

The Tories and their press attacked Militant precisely because of the success of the anti-poll tax movement. Rarely a day went by without Baker (then Tory Party chairman) attacking us. The Sunday Times’ so-called Insight team, astounded at the ability of the Fed to mobilise hundreds of thousands of people, tried to make trouble by dragging in muck about where the money for the campaign came from. Referring to the Derek Hatton affair in Liverpool they ‘reported’, ‘the possibility that Militant has this source of funding is the most disturbing aspect of the whole story. For the police it would transform what started as a localised, if large scale, fraud inquiry into a matter of national importance — possibly even affecting national security (my emphasis). It would also provide the answer to the question that nobody outside Militant has ever been able to answer; where the organisation gets the resources to run its operations, estimated to cost millions of pounds a year. Could this be how the organisation is able to appear from nowhere to orchestrate large movements such as the Anti-Poll Tax Federation?’. The question was asked but no evidence was offered because none existed.

This is just one more variation of an old theme about the ability of Militant to raise money, all of which comes from supporters throughout the movement; people who value Militant’s socialist ideals and the information it provides (see page 13). The anti-poll tax members themselves raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to finance its activities through its own supporters, many of whom also donated to Militant. Only the cynical cannot marvel at the ability of the working class to raise funds for a cause it supports.

But we did more than just report; we discussed the strategy and the tactics, we issued legal advice (Oxford APTUs, for instance, reprinted articles on the law from Militant as leaflets). How to build the movement and how to proceed were constantly discussed. We provided a perspective for the battle — the way forward and how victory could be achieved. More than anything, Militant and its supporters were the foremost advocates of a campaign of mass non-payment.

Numerous leaders and spokespeople locally and nationally were themselves supporters of Militant, most prominent being Tommy Sheridan, Steve Nally and Maureen Reynolds, the elected national officers of the Fed. Tommy Sheridan was expelled from the Labour Party for his association with Militant, a move the leaders of the Party will come to regret. In the week the poll tax was abolished and the TV carried footage of Steve Nally celebrating outside parliament, the right wing NEC decided it was time to reward Steve …by moving to expel him from the party!

This pamphlet has been rushed out for discussion in the movement about Militant and the poll tax, its record and its programme; but its central purpose is to win new supporters for Marxism. Virtually all the material contained in it comes from the weekly Militant and our other publications because they are the most complete record and because we should allow the record to speak for itself.

Peter Taaffe, Militant’s editor, wrote in March this year, ‘The Marxists around Militant have supplied the vital ingredient of the leadership to ensure this campaign’s success, which is now within our grasp. Join with us in building an invincible mass force of Marxism. Together we can transform the mighty British labour movement which then, under Marxist ideas and policies, can mobilise the working people of Britain to transform society”.

A Victory: ‘Killed By A Citizens’ Revolt’

‘Introduced two years ago in Scotland and last April in England and Wales, the Community Charge has been the most expensive mistake in modern political history. It has cost the Conservatives hundreds of thousands, if not millions of votes. It has cost the Treasury …billions of pounds. It cost Mrs Thatcher her premiership. It could cost Mr Major the general election …One cabinet minister is fond of musing that if Mrs Thatcher had asked the best brains in the country for a precision weapon to devastate her most important supporters they would never have devised anything as lethal as the poll tax’.

Thus did the Tory Financial Times (21.2.91) describe ‘one of the most spectacular U-turns for any government this century.’

This was achieved by the mass determination of working people throughout the country organised in the anti-poll tax unions (APTUs). As was said in Militant, ‘It was the local APTUs, with Militant supporters playing the critical role, who mobilised the mass resistance to this tax and made it an electoral albatross around the government’s neck.’ The workers and youth of Scotland take pride of place. The campaign began there and the Scottish ‘non-payment army’ led the rest of the country.

The Tories had embraced the poll tax with enthusiasm. Barely rating 82 words in their 1987 manifesto, Thatcher soon declared the poll tax the ‘flagship’ of her third term.

The aim was to reduce tax for the rich at the expense of everybody else. The government actually admitted before the tax was abolished that if they had provided the same amount of central grant as they did in 1979 the poll tax would be £205 less. But even that would not make it acceptable as the Tories are discovering now despite the .£140 reduction.

In April 1990, Chris Patten (now chairman of the Tory Party) said;

 “As I have travelled the country I have found widespread acceptance of the principle of the Community Charge”.

The Sunday Times (23 March 1991) reminding Patten of this said,

“Tens of thousands demonstrated; millions broke the law by refusing to pay; the courts were swamped. All this was predicted.”

 Yes, but by who?

Ian Bell writing in The Observer (on the same day) was much more explicit;

‘If the poll tax is dead it was killed by non-payment, a tactic which each of the three main parties insisted was pointless and wrong. Extra-parliamentary action, that nightmare of Westminster politicians, proved itself and in the process exposed the hollowness of our claims to democracy …

This weekend each and everyone of those non-payers should feel proud of themselves …The SNP can claim more credit from the affair than most, but their non-payment campaign was never the true engine of the revolt. The much trumpeted ‘list of 100,000 non-payers’ was never convincing and some of the party’s own councillors buckled when faced with hard choices

 …Labour councillors …shed tears which would have shamed a Nile crocodile while inviting non-payers to take a close look at the law’s teeth …Few of Scotland’s politicians have much to be proud of at the end of this episode. When most needed they were found wanting and it was left to a rag-tag army of ordinary people to destroy a bad law’.

This is all very good but the article fails to mention the main organisers of the ‘rag-tag army of ordinary people’ — The All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation. All the non-payers can indeed feel proud of themselves for their achievements, especially those who organised themselves into unions and took this campaign to the streets, the estates and the workplaces.

The Glasgow Evening Times (21.3.91) under a headline ‘They killed the poll tax’ wrote;

‘Using tactics modelled on the South African townships many areas have become no-go areas for sheriff officers with literally hundreds of pairs of eyes on the lookout …While it is certain that Militant have been involved in the campaign’s organisation, go to any one of the dozens of meetings which take place in the city every week and it is not loony lefties and raving radicals you’ll find, but housewives and kids …

They’re the backbone of a campaign which has undoubtedly put the uncollectable into the poll tax …

The Federation has succeeded where most political parties have failed. By biting the bullet and advocating non-payment it has been able to channel genuine grievance at the poll tax into effective, if illegal, action.’

The All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation (the Fed) was launched on 25 November 1989 (following the establishment of the Scottish Fed in 1988 where the poll tax had been implemented one year earlier). The movement had a democratic structure from the beginning, a democracy essential for the creation of a mass movement.

The founding conference adopted the strategy of non-payment as advocated principally by Militant and its supporters.

Militant pamphlet published in Scotland in April 1988 said,

“A mighty protest movement involving millions of people in Scotland would rapidly transform the landscape of British politics…

the Tories could be forced to retreat. The wavering of a section of the Tory Party betrays a glimmering of an understanding within the ranks of the ruling class that the poll tax may prove to be the most serious blunder that any post-war British government has committed. Defeat for the Tories on this issue could even prepare for the downfall of the Thatcher regime…”.

Militant on 29 July 1988 published its ideas for a non-payment campaign.

“For a mass campaign against the poll tax; For mass organised non-payment and non-compliance by local authorities and council trade unions; build anti-poll tax unions and prepare for industrial action to defend those victimised for non-payment or non-implementation”.

The article went on:

“With clear leadership the labour movement can sink the Tory flagship without trace. And when the flagship goes down, the Admiral either goes down with it or is sacked”.

The article reminded the movement of the struggle of Liverpool City Council who had successfully fought for the return of money previously cut by the government to fund a council house-building programme. Militant supporters played a prominent part in this battle on the council and amongst the workforce. The government had retreated and Patrick Jenkin, the cabinet minister then responsible, was eventually sacked. Smarting from the Liverpool victory, Nicholas Ridley commending the poll tax said

“Above all, the new system will remove from Liverpool that poisonous power base on which extremism thrives — the power base of spending power without local accountability”.

Militant called for a labour movement fight back, however the article (29 July 1988) went on,

‘The opposition of the official leadership of the labour movement is a combination of parliamentary phrasemongering, posturing and impotence to prevent implementation. Labour’s NEC in its recent statement Local Services, Local Choices, correctly say; ‘Some will face stark choices. They will have to decide whether to pay their poll tax or buy essential food or clothing’.

Yet disgracefully they conclude that any effective campaign to prevent the introduction of the poll tax should be opposed: ‘Even if non-collection were a viable legal option, we would not advocate it …If such a mass campaign (of non-payment) were to succeed what would be the result? Local authorities would lose a vital part of their income’ “.

Yet Liverpool City Council — one socialist council acting alone — had shown what could be achieved when a campaign involving the mass of working people is fought. Militant wanted a campaign against the poll tax and for the government to be forced to return the £57 billion taken from local councils since 1979. Capping adds to the cuts which the Labour leaders are allowing to go through effectively unopposed. The Labour leadership decided to abdicate the struggle. ‘Wait for a general election’ was at bottom the only advice offered. Even here the right wing leaders failed to realise that the route to a general election lay through the extra-parliamentary battle on the poll tax. Later Labour’s NEC proclaimed a spiteful but ineffective ban on the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation and over the coming months three times refused to call a national demonstration against the tax on the grounds that it would be taken over ‘by the Militant Tendency’!

Other arguments were deployed against the idea of mass non-payment. The record is worth looking at to see who was right and who wasn’t!

The Labour MP John Maxton writing two years ago said; ‘No-one now realistically believes that a mass campaign of non-payment can stop the poll tax’. Neil Kinnock added his voice. It was, he said; “a complete distraction to fight the poll tax with an illegal campaign of non-payment”. In May 1990 the day after the Sun had attacked the non-payment movement Kinnock denounced; ‘toy town revolutionaries who pretend the tax can be stopped and the government toppled by non-payment’.

The ex-left David Blunkett MP, attacking a resolution calling for non-payment at the 1989 Labour Party Conference said;

“Does anyone really believe in their heart of hearts that the government under this prime minister is going to abandon the poll tax, return to the rates because people don’t pay and public services are under threat. If you believe it, you are naive and if you don’t, you are dishonest in arguing for a non-payment campaign”.

Looking at the record now, who was right and who was wrong? Who had a clearer way forward? Who had confidence that the poll tax could be beaten? Anyone reading these quotations can see that it was Militant that had a clear strategy, in total contrast to the position of Neil Kinnock and the labour leaders.

Of course the right wing were not alone. The sectarians in the Socialist Workers Party added their voice to the pessimism about how ineffective the non-payment campaign could be, dismissing non-payment by likening the tactic to not paying your bus fare and being thrown off!

A bulletin given out at the SWP conference said;

‘In January Glasgow comrades were told ‘that it did not matter whether comrades. paid their poll tax or not, since non-payment was an irrelevance and a diversion… consequently many of our own comrades have paid their poll tax and now feel guilty.’ Amazingly they also said; ‘with council officers being given draconian powers to collect the tax, non-payment will be impossible anyway’! (Socialist Worker, 17 December 1988).

The Scottish Nationalist Party have now called off their ‘non-payment campaign’ and their leading spokesmen are paying up. They claimed a lot of credit but never really backed mass non-payment, originally calling for 100,000 non-payers, whilst advising the poorest to pay. The fact that they are now paying up will undermine them in the eyes of the people who are unable to pay.

While many rank-and-file SNP members supported the Fed on the ground, their official leadership largely remained distant. It was no surprise to Militant that the SNP leaders succumbed to the pressure of the journalists and other professionals who surround that party. We appeal to those workers and youth who were initially attracted to the apparent radicalism of the SNP to channel their support and energies to the real radicalism of Militant.

The Federation took all the opposition in its stride and resting on the opposition that existed to the tax in the areas confidently took to the streets.

The establishment of a national network of organisations, in almost every town was a fact of great significance. The demonstrations were the biggest organised for some time.

18 March 1989 – Glasgow – 20,000

1 April 1989 – Edinburgh (STUC) – 30,000

24 June 1989 – Glasgow – 15,000

November 1989 – Glasgow (STUC) – 10,000

31 March 1990 – Glasgow – 50,000

31 March 1990 – London – 200,000

20 October 1990 – London – 40,000

9 March 1991 – Glasgow – 15,000

23 March 1991 – London – 50,000

A combined 250,000 marched in Glasgow and London on 31 March 1990. The demo in London was the biggest for more than 100 years. Fittingly Radu Stepanesku from Romania spoke at the demo in London. ‘People Power’ was on the march! The Fed wrote to Neil Kinnock offering a joint demo against the poll tax, believing a million could be mobilised. No reply was received.

Most of the publicity about the demo in London was on the ‘riot’. But most people blamed the Tories. As Robert Harris put it in the Sunday Times; ‘I doubt whether the ordinary voter watching the violence on television says, look at all those horrible communists Mabel. We must vote for Mrs Thatcher as the only person who can deliver us from these ruffians’. The voter is more likely to say ‘Look at the latest bloody mess that woman has landed us in. Everyone told her this was going to happen, but she thought she knew better, as usual’.

Roy Hattersley called for prosecutions and ‘exemplary punishment’ against convicted ‘rioters’. Militant that week in 1990 commented; ‘In the light of the frame up of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six and many others and the gross anti-working class bias of the capitalist courts, we do not share Hattersley’s touching faith in ‘capitalist justice’. It is impermissible to collaborate with the capitalist state, even against those whose methods and actions we implacably disagree with’. We also added; ‘to advocate individual violence, looting or to cheer on a layer of the youth who mistakenly take to this road as some cowardly sects have done, is entirely false. Throwing a brick through a town hall window, unprovoked attacks on the police, and setting out on a demonstration for a punch up or violent confrontation with the police will not defeat the poll tax’.

The Metropolitan Police have subsequently admitted that they lost control on 31 March and then over-reacted. This substantially confirms the view that was printed in Militant at the time.

Militant will continue to fight for the release of those imprisoned after the 31 March demo.

The demonstration on 23 March this year was a great success; a mass peaceful demo of 50,000, very effectively stewarded.

“It was ten past one when the head of the demonstration marched into Northumberland Avenue. From the foot of Nelson’s column you could see a human flood advancing.

It advanced very slowly, to the echo of drums, the sound of whistles, and chanting amidst a sea of red flags. Even now, when images of 31 March 1990 appear on TV, people watch in disbelief those scenes with a woman being bowled over by a police charge, as in the old days of the nineteenth century when workers’ demonstrations were broken up by mounted police.

Yesterday (23 March) that extra-parliamentary society — which makes up real British society that is working class people — once again took over Westminster, the heart of the establishment to celebrate their victory.

Not by chance, you could hear cries of ‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie’ — a reminder that the prime minister who invented the poll tax, and defended it tooth and nail, was sunk by the poll tax.

There was a festive air in the cold and cloudy London morning. An hour and a quarter after the head of the demo turned at the corner of Trafalgar Square heading for Hyde Park, those in the rear were marching along Pall Mall …

At 104 Pall Mall, the members of the exclusive Travellers Club could at last continue placidly reading their newspapers, having recovered their sacrosanct silence which had been rudely interrupted for more than an hour by what …

the members must have perceived as an ill mannered working class rumpus, conveniently forgetting that protests, demonstrations and mutinies make up the last nine hundred years of British history and that many of these upheavals have had as a common feature resistance to changes which governments have attempted to introduce, particularly new taxes”.

You would not have read that in the British press. It actually appeared in the Spanish capitalist daily El Mundo (24 March 1991).

After the big demo in 1990 Neil Kinnock pronounced again; “We have nothing to do with this organisation; we want nothing to do with it and neither should anyone else. It is quite wrong to tell people not to pay the poll tax”.

But on 6 April 1990 the Daily Telegraph published an opinion poll that showed Labour 24% ahead of the Tories! This was the greatest lead Labour have ever had and shows what could really be done if Labour had put themselves at the head of the movement. If Labour only concentrated on the nonpayment movement they could win a general election with a massive majority!

As Steve Nally, writing in Militant on 29 March this year put it; ‘We’ve done 90% of what’s needed to get the Tories out. Now all Labour’s leaders have to do is give the final shove. They should adopt our methods of mass action and bring this government down.’ Just imagine what the organised working class could achieve if it had the leadership it deserves!

The Labour leaders have played a disgraceful role throughout the battle, but we cannot leave it there.

A Militant pamphlet of June 1990 pointed out; ‘It is futile for people to turn their backs on the Labour Party in disgust because of the actions of the national and local leadership. It will simply reinforce its present position. Militant urges people to join the Labour Party and help to transform it into a fighting socialist organisation. Those leaders who are failing to protect the interest of working people should be replaced with genuine class fighters prepared to go to the end in the fight with the Tories and the system they represent’.

Where Now?

It is clear that non-payment is increasing. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities say; ‘the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. People are saying if the tax is going they are not going to pay.’ The Association of District Councils (Tory controlled) say; ‘now that the government has said the poll tax will definitely go, it is going to be extremely difficult to get people to pay.’ Standing orders and direct debits are being cancelled throughout the country. Many people don’t expect to get another bill.

The most important immediate question remains to defend the non-payers. The Scottish Fed have maintained their promise that not one warrant sale would be carried through there. The 214th attempt was defeated at the Hamilton home of non-payer Joe McEneany. Recently George Galloway MP received a notice from the sheriffs; “I did what everybody who gets one of these letters should do. I contacted the local APTU”. Around 100 people were mobilised to protect his home. The sheriffs were seen off!

In England and Wales councils are still trying to enforce the tax. The bailiffs are still being used and the threat of imprisonment still looms. John Aves in Ramsgate was recently released after serving his 14 days.

The campaign around the jailings has been mainly successful but the pressure is still on. Bryan Wright in Grantham had been the first person to be jailed in December. Patrick Westmore, a Militant supporter on the Isle of Wight, was sentenced to 10 days imprisonment in January. He was out in three days. A local Tory councillor said; “I am absolutely raving mad that this man should serve so little of his sentence …It makes an absolute mockery of justice to see this little jerk so quickly back in Ryde High Street peddling the Militant newspaper and giving radio interviews as if he was some hero.”

Andy Walsh and Gordon Ross in Manchester and Jimmy Haddow in Ramsgate have also been sentenced but have yet to be taken there.

Ian Thompson, a. Militant supporter in Jarrow, was sentenced to two months imprisonment in Durham jail for non-payment, the longest sentence to date. This was the first time a Labour council had jailed a non-payer. A vigorous campaign was launched over the Easter weekend. He was out in four days!

We are demanding that all enforcement action stops and a full amnesty is given to all non-payers.

The government have spent £14 billion in the last two years on their poll tax experiment! Just imagine what could be done if that had gone to the benefit of working people. A 50% increase in all benefits and pensions would cost around £18 billion. It will cost another £50 million just to re-bill all the people in Britain.

There is great distrust of the government’s new tax and it is unclear exactly what they are going to propose. 70% of people believe the government are trying to keep a version of the poll tax while claiming to abolish it.

Former chancellor Nigel Lawson has dubbed the new tax ‘son of poll tax’. It is clear the Tories are in turmoil. Unemployment continues to soar. Youth and women are particularly hit. The conditions exist for the Tories to be driven out of office, if the Labour leaders launch a mass campaign of meetings, rallies and demonstrations. The poll tax struggle has shown the way forward. The Fed has wounded the government. Now the government should be finished off!

Become a Militant supporter

“The campaign is brilliant with what it has achieved. Militant should get all the praise. If it wasn’t for them, other people would not have got organised” — Trish and Irene from Southampton on becoming supporters of Militant.

Many agree but not all have become Militants.

Sally Brown was one of the People’s Marchers against the poll tax. On her six week walk she kept a diary (which was subsequently published). She was not a supporter of Militant.

‘Friday October 19: There’s a reception and meal for us all at the Militant Centre (headquarters) this afternoon. Acknowledging the crucial role the Militant plays in the anti-poll tax campaign we should all be honoured to accept the invitation.

I’m glad to go and curious to see what the centre’s like. The paper has done brilliant coverage of the march all the way down and its like I heard Wendy in Hucknall say: “There wouldn’t be an anti-poll tax campaign if there wasn’t a Militant.” It’s not just that though.

I’ve met Militant supporters all the way down the country and got this sort of picture; lots of active women; impressive preparedness to debate (you feel ok saying ‘daft’ things); lots of education going on — loads of discussions, book swappings (‘difficult’ books too!); wide age range, with apparently good easy relationships between them; plenty of people with families ie. not just all your stereotype young single (and white) activist; commitment, hard work and good humour across the board.

I’ve come to feel that its ‘oh good’ if you’re staying with a Militant supporter. It’s partly because you’ll definitely get fed (let’s be honest), but also because you can count on being in good company; and if they say something’s going to happen, it almost certainly will”. (‘Diary Of A People’s Marcher’, Sally Brown, pages 98 and 99.)

We have had a victory but the struggle to completely finish off the poll tax continues. In a sense we have had a laboratory experiment in Marxism at the Tories’ expense: it was not just talked about — it has been done.

Militant has demonstrated how in practice a movement can be built and how it can be victorious.

These pages will hopefully have demonstrated that point to you. Militant, however, is about more than the poll tax.

Thatcher, Major and co. all support the capitalist system. It is in its name that they attack the living standards of working people; not just through cuts (3,250 beds in the NHS have been ‘lost’ this year alone ) but also through the system of exploitation that capitalism represents.

According to a survey for London Weekend Television (7 April 1991), the number of people ‘below the breadline’ has doubled in the last 7 years to more than 11 million. 10 million cannot afford adequate housing and live in unheated homes. 5 million do not eat properly, 7 million lack essential clothing and 6.5 million cannot afford essential goods like a fridge. This exists in a basically wealthy country like Britain. Millions are kept in poverty by an economic system that must attack the living standards and scar the lives of working class people.

The poll tax was just one of those attacks, but we cannot solve the problems of capitalism one at a time. Militant is fighting for a socialist society where democratic planning replaces the ‘market’ anarchy of capitalism with a harmonious socialist society which would provide for the full development of the human race.

We take our inspiration from many struggles over the years — and the poll tax has now been added to that experience. The Glasgow Evening Times (21 March 1991) referred to the Fed being ‘in the mould of the Red Cydesiders of old.’ The socialist pioneers set out on the road for a new society; we appeal to you to join us on that road in the fight for socialism!

Become a Militant supporter!

Militant, April 1991.