ula cork branch public meeting

The Cork branch of the ULA held a public meeting on fighting austerity last night (Monday 12 March). The speakers were Joe Higgins (SP/ULA TD), Deirdre (La Sensa worker), and me (as a ULA activist in the anti-household tax campaign).

Attendance was just over 50 and there was a good militant mood at the meeting with quite a bit of interest in the ULA, shown by people staying to talk after the meeting.

Below are the notes for my presentation. I didn’t read them so they were a guide and the order got shuffled a bit and I added in some detail about the upcoming activities of the anti-household tax campaign at the beginning but this still gives a good flavour of what I argued. Comments welcomed.


I am secretary of the Cobh campaign against the household tax and treasurer of the Cork regional campaign. I am also a member of the steering committee of the Cork branch of the ULA.

As a ULA activist involved in the campaign against the household taxes I am guided by more than just the immediate targets of the campaign – forcing the government to withdraw the household and septic tank charges and not to go ahead with the property tax and water charges.

So I am going to talk about what I think are the key elements of the campaign against the household taxes which point to that wider perspective I bring to the campaign as a revolutionary socialist member of the ULA.

One important aspect of the campaign is how it is organised. This is on the basis of campaign groups with strong roots in local communities which feed into wider regional and national structures through a delegated federal structure. This is important in that it makes the campaign really representative of the thousands of activists across the country that goes much further than the existing left groups who initiated the campaign. It also provides a conduit for those new layers of political activists to develop politically and in the course of the struggle be open to being convinced of the wider political perspectives of groups like the ULA. Perhaps most importantly this also points to the way working people could run the whole of society in the future.

Another important aspect is the campaigns approach to the issue of legality.

We are going to hear all sorts of threats over the coming weeks about fines and the use of the courts, backed up by the gardai if necessary, as the government use every tactic possible to increase the currently very low numbers of households that have registered.

For instance people might have seen Environment minister Phil Hogan’s comments on 28 February:

“The Household Charge is the law of the land, and people should understand that the law will be applied, and if people don’t pay, there’ll be penalties and fees that will accumulate,” he said.

“And people that are advocating that if you don’t register and don’t pay that you’ll actually not have to pay, are misleading people to the extent that they’re putting them in a position of being in breach of the law.”

Actually the campaign against the household tax is quite openly saying to people that it is calling on people to break the law. But it is an unjust law and should be overturned.

All law is a question of relative strength in society. The laws in this, and every other capitalist country, are built on the fundamental issue of maximising profit making. This becomes increasingly clear in times of economic crisis. It may surprise people to know that in the middle of this international “economic crisis” US corporations are making 50-year high profits.

Back in 2009 as the crisis started to hit home in Ireland the head of the US Chamber of Commerce in Ireland talked about a “silver lining” to the storm clouds of the crisis being Ireland becoming “more competitive” – that is wage costs going down. We can all be sure that the US and British multinationals who dominate this economy are taking full advantage of the crisis to increase their profit margins.

All the austerity cuts and “legal” basis behind them can only be imposed on us because the Irish workers’ movement hasn’t re-learnt how to fight back after being lulled to sleep by twenty years of “social partnership”. The campaign against the household taxes is important not just for defeating these particular taxes but in that it lays the basis for a movement of working people organised across the length and breadth of the country committed to opposing all austerity – and defying the laws that austerity is based on, including where necessary through organised physical defence against the forces of the capitalist state when they try to impose their unjust laws. And when we can do that then we can start to think of running society in a completely new way by overthrowing this rotten system that puts profits for the few before the wants and needs of the many.

That new system will be based on a new kind of politics where working people are directly involved in the decision making processes. Instead of the passivity that is engendered by the capitalist political system of 4 or 5 yearly elections we need a system of direct participatory workers’ democracy based on workers councils. The delegated structure of the campaign against the household taxes can be a tentative step in the direction of those workers’ councils and it will be important to deepen and strengthen moves in that direction and taking all opportunities to popularise that idea. This should be at the very heart of the ULA involvement in the campaign against the household taxes and any movement towards a wider fight back against all the austerity.

The household taxes must be defeated and I urge everyone here to get involved in their local group. But as I have outlined we also need to see that campaign as just the start of a fight for something much bigger than defeating the household taxes. If you share that vision of creating a movement that can fight back against all the austerity and go on to pose the issue of overthrowing this whole rotten system then I also urge you to give serious consideration to joining the ULA.


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