Cork ULA leaflet – The Household Tax and the Fight Against Austerity

The following leaflet, written by me, was distributed in Cork by the ULA branch at the anti-household tax public meeting on 27 March attended by 500 activists.

The Household Tax and the Fight Against Austerity

As we enter the last week before the deadline for registration for the Household Tax it is clear that the government has severely underestimated the resolve of the Irish people to oppose this tax. Hundreds of thousands of working people from across the entire political spectrum and length and breadth of the country have refused to register and are sending a clear message to the government that they have had enough of the savage austerity being inflicted on this country to pay the gambling debts of speculators on the financial markets.

The involvement of the ULA in the campaign against household taxes is 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. We see this as part of the wider fight against all aspects of the austerity programme and that there are some important lessons to be learnt as part of that fight.

The campaign against household taxes is organised on the basis of local activist groups with strong roots in their communities which feed delegates into wider regional and national structures. This is important because it makes the campaign really representative of the thousands of activists across the country. It also provides a way for those new layers of activists to develop politically and thereby reinvigorate the Irish workers’ movement. Perhaps most importantly this type of organisation also points towards how the democratic socialist transformation of society would be organised.

For mass civil disobedience

Another important aspect is the campaign’s approach to the issue of legality. The government is making all sorts of threats about fines and the use of the courts, no doubt backed up by the gardai if necessary, as they use scare tactics in a desperate attempt to increase the numbers of households that have registered.

Environment minister Phil Hogan’s commented 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,”

“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 household taxes is quite openly saying that it is calling on people to break the law – because this is an unjust law that can, and should, be overturned through mass civil disobedience. The ULA stands 100% behind this campaign of mass civil disobedience.

All the austerity cuts and “legal” basis behind them can only be imposed on us because the Irish workers’ movement has been lulled to sleep by twenty years of betrayal by the leaders of the workers’ movement under the banner of “social partnership”.  The ULA believes it is vital to bring the fight against the household taxes into the unions and workplaces. Moving motions in trade union branches to support non-registration and non-payment and calling on all the unions to do the same nationally.

The alternative to austerity

The capitalist market in Ireland and Europe means the economy is run for the profits of the “1%” that own and control the economy. The underlying reality is that like everything else the laws in capitalist countries are built on the fundamental basis of maximising profit making. This becomes increasingly clear in times of economic crisis. 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 being driven down. We can be sure that the US and British multinationals who dominate the economy are taking full advantage of the crisis to increase their profit margins. These references to Ireland’s “competitive” wage costs were echoed by Enda Kenny on his junket to the USA for St. Patrick’s Day.

Ireland is not broke and austerity is not inevitable. The richest 5% have a combined wealth of €219 billion and in 2010 non-financial companies based in Ireland made profits of €38 billion. A significant increase in corporation tax alongside a wealth tax on these resources combined with a refusal to pay the bad gambling debts of the billionaire bondholders could generate billions of euro that could be used for public investment in a programme of job creation.

Of course whenever these suggestions are made we are told that it is unrealistic because the multinationals will take their factories elsewhere and the Irish rich would move their money to offshore tax havens. The ULA does not accept this blackmail. If their system is unable to meet our needs as working people and the “only” solution is more and more attacks on our living standards then it is time to start thinking about fundamental alternatives in the way society is run.

A new kind of politics

The campaign against household taxes is important not just for defeating these particular taxes but in how 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. When working people start to do that then the way is opened to the possibility 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 different kind of politics where working people are directly involved in the decision making processes. Instead of the passivity that is engendered by only having any direct input every 4 or 5 years by voting in the elections we need a system of direct participatory workers’ democracy. The delegated structure of the campaign against the household taxes can be an important first step in that direction.

The ULA stands for the creation of a new party for working people committed to fight for the democratic socialist transformation into a society with public ownership of the resources of the economy that can guarantee a decent standard of living for all.

 Join us today.


4 Responses to “Cork ULA leaflet – The Household Tax and the Fight Against Austerity”

  1. 1 pat
    April 10, 2012 at 22:00

    A bit long for a leaflet but good. I wonder would you describe that as a reformist leaflet?

    • April 11, 2012 at 06:44

      Well I guess that would depend on what the word “reformist” means to you.

      The leaflet does refer to the reform of increased taxation for corporations and the rich but directly links that to the need for more than that in terms of the socialist transformation of society.

      It also directly counterposes the idea that real change will come through the capitalist parliamentary process to the need for a new kind of politics based on our own specifically working class organisations which will form the basis for a new way to rule.

      It also rejects any acceptance of capitalist laws and calls for breaking them through mass civil disobedience by these working class organisations.

      It repeatedly refers to the need for a fundamental transformation of society to one that is run in our interests.

      I think it is pretty clear that anyone reading this leaflet would take the message that it is arguing that it is necessary to make that transformation to a socialist society and that cannot be done through the existing social structures.

      It is true that it doesn’t use the word “revolution” but I think the content is clear nonetheless.

      This is quite different from other ULA leaflets I have seen which do not link their calls for reforms, like taxing the rich, directly to the need to go further to socialism and in no way challenge the lie that fundamental positive change for the working class can come through the existing capitalist structures – and therefore are unfortunately presenting a reformist message in my opinion.

      • 3 pat
        April 11, 2012 at 10:34

        I don’t think the leaflet is reformist, it’s quite clearly arguing for socialism. I was curious as to how you would characterise it, given that in you’ve described Socialist Party material which say more or less the same as what’s in this leaflet, as being in your view “reformist”.

        This being the text of Socialist Party leaflets that have been distributed at the recent national household tax events:

        “The political structure and the legal system are geared to ensure bosses and financial speculators can exploit and rob regardless of consequences – that’s capitalism.

        It’s a class system – THEM versus US. And now that people are beginning to fight back, they try to stop us by intimidation, attacking democratic rights and by repressing protests.

        At the behest of the financial markets the Prime Ministers of Greece and Italy were removed and replaced with guess who…Bankers of course!

        The Capitalists in Ireland have huge wealth but they are refusing to invest in the productive economy – precisely when it is needed – because the economy is not profitable enough!

        Capitalism is only interested in immediate profits, we want a society which isn’t dependent on the whims of the super-rich but which provides for everyone on a planned, sustainable basis.

        If we organise, in campaigns, in the workplaces, in trade unions, in movements and in parties, we have the power to take ownership of wealth and resources away from the 1% and use them for peoples needs not profit – that is to implement socialist policies.

        The task of the Socialist Party is to help organise workers and young people to achieve such a change – join us today.

        – Beat the Household tax and all measures demanded in the name of ‘Austerity’

        – Build democratic campaigns in every community to build a national movement to fight the Household Tax, Water charges and cuts in our services

        – Kick out Trade Union leaders who aren’t willing to join the fightback! – for a democratic fighting Trade Union movement

        – Build a new mass party to represent the majority and fight for a working class government that implements socialist policies

        – Reject the the Austerity Treaty, build a resounding ‘NO’ vote – for a common struggle of workers across.”

        Would you describe this as “refromism”?

  2. April 11, 2012 at 11:09

    Thanks for that.

    I had heard there was a new SP leaflet but hadn’t seen it as I’ve been ill and didn’t make the two trips to Dublin where it had been distributed.

    That is more left wing than other SP material I’ve seen in recent times and by itself I’d say it stands somewhere in the middle between reform and revolution.

    I say that because it doesn’t have anything to say about state power and the need to oppose that through our own working class institutions which will replace that capitalist state with one of our own. This is a central difference I have with the SP as they consistently criticise me for raising anything which points in this direction at all. I sometimes have them tell me informally that it is a question of timing, that they will start to raise it after workers start taking this kind of action themselves.

    It also doesn’t take a position on the issue of the change to socialism taking place through the capitalist parliamentary process or through the new organs of working class power. Though I do accept that is strongly implied in the paragraph:

    “If we organise, in campaigns, in the workplaces, in trade unions, in movements and in parties, we have the power to take ownership of wealth and resources away from the 1% and use them for peoples needs not profit – that is to implement socialist policies.”

    But this is overwhelmed by the bulk of their material which implies a reformist road to socialism through the structures of bourgeois democracy and taking over the existing state power rather than putting the emphasis on creating structures of proletarian democracy to be the basis of a new state power.

    So I guess I’d call this leaflet “centrist” but by itself it doesn’t alter my assessment of the programme of the SP as being reformist.

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