Some internet discussion on the CAHWT and the Property Tax

The Irish political blog Cedarlounge has seen a discussion on the CAHWT following the large degree of compliance with the Property Tax – http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/after-the-cahwt/

I have participated in that discussion and I repost below some of the key comments so far:

revolutionaryprogramme – June 6, 2013
Short of a massive rank-and-file revolt in the public sector trade unions against Haddington Road which results in significant industrial action that spills over into anti-PT collection the campaign against the PT is effectively over.

What should therefore be concentrating minds is how to combat the water charges and particularly the installation of water meters. But instead we have a significant section of the campaign focussing their attention on next year’s elections.

It is hard to see how the CAHWT groups who are standing candidates are going to have the resources, both human and financial, to fully participate in fighting the water charges so those CAHWT groups who aren’t standing candidates are going to have to discuss how we can work together on this – which is already beginning in Cork.

This is compounded by the political problems resulting from some groups deciding to stand candidates.

Candidates running in the name of the CAHWT are going to be seen as defacto spokespeople for the whole campaign when they have no democratic mandate, outside of their own local group, to do so.

The political platform any such CAHWT candidates run on will be decided by just the specific local group and raises the question of how any of us who disagree with elements of that platform, or comments made by the candidates on any issue, will be able to disassociate ourselves from it?

It seems we are all being faced with a choice over which path to take and it is hard to see how the CAHWT can continue as a unitary entity.

Jolly Red Giant (SP internet activist) – June 6, 2013
Candidates running under the CAHWT umbrella certainly do have a democratic mandate – it was decided at the national steeriing committee by delegates from all over the country. The fact that some groups may have opposed this move does not negate the democratic mandate that groups do have to run candidates as part of the CAHWT.

Standing candidates in an election next year is a tactic that can potentially undermine the governments austerity campaign. If CAHWT candidates win sufficient votes it can scare the living bejaysus out of government representatives. Furthermore – standing candidates does not in any way negate any campaign against water charges or opposing the installation of meters (and by the way a large percentage of homes already have meters installed – it has been part of the planning process for more than a decade).

RP – You have never been shy about expressing your own political views and I am sure you will have little difficulty in doing so during the election.

Finally – the only people talking about splitting the CAHWT or that it cannot continue as a unitary entity – are those within the campaign who refuse to accept the democratic decision of the national steering committee to support candidates and are willing to split the campaign as a result. No one is forcing any group to run candidates – however, no group should hold a de-facto veto over the CAHWT because they don’t agree with a decision. The responsibility for any such antics do not rest with the CAHWT as a whole or the Socialist Party.

revolutionaryprogramme – June 6, 2013

How about answering my substantive points?

These candidates will, at best, only be accountable to their local group and yet they will appear in the media as de-facto spokespeople for the whole campaign.

How is it democratic for an election candidate to speak in the name of the CAHWT when only one local group will have had any input to their election platform?

How exactly is any activist who disagrees with any element of a “CAHWT” election platform or with comments made by a “CAHWT” candidate supposed to be able to disassociate themselves from that platform or comments?

Any comments I make about the elections will be done in my own name, or in the name of any political party I am associated with at the time. They will NOT be made in the name of the CAHWT.

revolutionaryprogramme – June 6, 2013
Your comment “and by the way a large percentage of homes already have meters installed” is factually incorrect – or at least the Irish state seems to think so and I think they might know – http://www.thejournal.ie/irish-water-931917-May2013/, http://www.clarecoco.ie/water-waste-environment/water-and-wastewater/domestic-water-metering/, http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/400-water-meter-jobs-set-aside-to-help-cut-dole-queues-29091632.html etc…

Newer houses have been fitted with the right kind of stopcock chamber to allow easy installation of the meter whereas some older houses will need more work to allow the installation of the meter. But that is quite a different thing from saying that the meters are already installed.

We should have built a campaign that really was organised as “a grassroots campaign in every estate and community across the country” and which could have been ready to physically oppose the installation of the meters. While the SP is not to blame for the failure to create such a campaign in most places you clearly did not help with your repeated “the time is not right to build local groups” mantra at national meetings throughout 2012.


revolutionaryprogramme – June 7, 2013
So is it time to start thinking about calling off the boycott of the property tax?

Should the campaign really still be advising people to continue the boycott, and face extra penalties being deducted at source, now that the boycott tactic has failed?

Jolly Red Giant – June 7, 2013
In my personal opinion – no – I will not register and I will make them take the money from my wages – but I agree that the CAHWT should not be recommending that people incur penalties by continuing to boycott the charge.

Jim Monaghan (ULA non-aligned) – June 9, 2013
Yes, it should be called off. This is like Scargill saying victory os around the corner when the strike was collapsing.A leadership should be honest.
There are 100s more battles ahead. And I would add I don’t think the water charges campaign is a runner either.


Paddy Healy (Tipperary WUAG) – June 9, 2013
It appears that while there was a long discussion on the continuation of the boycott at the meeting of the National Steering Committee of CAHWT,, NO Decision WAS TaKEN to change the position
This means that the current position as set out (still to-day) on NO Household Charge blog holds:
“Keep up the Boycott
With Labour on the ropes, we can deliver the knock out blow to this government’s austerity agenda. A massive boycott of the property tax forms will put the Government under real pressure.We also need to pile the pressure on Labour TDs to force them not to issue the instruction to Revenue to deduct (read: rob) this from wages, pensions and welfare. Get involved in building that struggle today.”

On the other hand campaign Leader Ruth Coppinger speaking to her Friends on Facebook says:

“90 per cent have registered so its not a strategy that can be now advocated. Those of us on Paye will hold out and have it deducted. For self employed, like you, hold out for as long as you feel you can but ultimately the boycott is over.”

At the April 27 CAHWT Strategy Conference a motion to continue full boycott from an SP dominated branch in Cork was passed and a motion to consider ending the boycott from Kimmage/Crumlin was defeated.
That decision of the Strategy Conference still stands though the situation has changed dramatically.

The leadership of CAHWT is abdicating responsibility to give guidance to those who still follow their advice.

revolutionaryprogramme – June 10, 2013
I posed this question directly but there was no decision taken. However it was my impression that a majority of those who spoke were opposed to openly calling off the boycott although at the same time there also seemed to be agreement that we shouldn’t be highlighting it.

In an informal discussion at the end of the meeting Joe Higgins mentioned that it had been announced in the Finance Committee that the government would not be applying the fines to anyone, even those who didn’t avail of the extra amnesty. It would seem they are confident of being able to get most of the remaining 10% through deductions at source and don’t see the need to give the campaign any ammunition by applying fines on those who haven’t signed up by the extended deadline.

To the extent that is correct then I guess for the purposes of optics not having to publicly come out and renounce the boycott has a value, though for every activist in the campaign the recognition that we have been roundly defeated will be crystal clear.

Paddy Healy – June 10, 2013
Unless a person pays the household charge by July 1, it will become part of a persons Local Property Tax liability at an increased rate of 200euro, up from 140Euro. Fines are a separate matter. If one continues to refuse to pay LPT after receiving a warning fines will be imposed. All campaign supporters are not on PAYE, some are self employed. Should these continue the boycott which has collapsed? Many supporters are working in employments where there are weak trade unions or no trade unions. Should these hold out until their employer receives an instruction to deduct the charge from their pay? Could they be victimised or thought badly of particularly as they will be one of the very few holding out?
The revenue letter and statement on fines is just a lame excuse for not giving direction to supporters.

To fail to give such direction “for the purpose of the optics” or any other purpose is entirely dishonourable

revolutionaryprogramme – June 10, 2013
I have personally argued that we should openly accept the defeat on the PT and therefore end the boycott as there is no point in people making martyrs of themselves when the PT is now a social reality. If individuals choose not to comply that is of course their personal right but as a campaign strategy for fighting the PT the boycott has been defeated and that should be acknowledged.

Ghandi – June 10, 2013

Jolly Red Giant – June 10, 2013
RP – I would argue that the campaign against the Property Tax has not been defeated. At no point was it suggested that the boycott was the be-all and end-all of the campaign. Yes the returns are disappointing and while I expected the boycott rate to be higher – from my own workplace I can see how effective the government’s campaign was. However, this does not mean that the war against the tax is over – the CAHWT won the first battle against the Household Tax – the government won the second battle by threatening to sequester wages. But there are still many more battles to be fought on this issue yet.

The 90% figure is based on the returns – we have no way of knowing how many of the returns are actually registration for the tax.

My experience in my workplace was that when people were registering online there was open anger and resentment at having to pay – far more than last year about the Household Tax. The fact that the government were threatening to take it from wages has really angered many people.

The strategy of using the elections next year is absolutely correct – it could well be possible to tap into the anger and resentment that people feel and deliver a major electoral blow to the govenrment parties. The CAHWT has adopted this strategy nationaloly and it is unfortunately that some groups locally are intent on splitting the campaign because of it.

The strategy of maintaing local pressure on government representatives is also correct. it keeps the campaign in the spotlight – it keeps pressure on local politicians and it paves the way for scaring the bejaysus out of the politicans as the elections get closer.

It was correct to campaign against the Austerity Treaty – the Property Tax is an austerity tax and the basis for imposing this tax was reinforced by the Treaty.

Last point – campaigning on the Property Tax and water charges is not mutually exclusive. In fact one is an extension of the other. The campaign is against attempts by the ruling elites to shift wealth from poor to rich. The fact that people will be billed for water from October 2014 can be used as a campaiging tool from now on and it can be clearly explained that if they get away without any further opposition to the property tax it will make it easier to impose water charges.

BB – June 10, 2013
I note that the CAHWT website still states ‘Keep up the Boycott’. I note that the Steering Committee failed to take stock and offer guidance to members. Hence, the Campaign has failed. It has effectively ceased to be. In these circumstances, it would be ridiculous not to pay the Property Tax and await the imposition of fines.

Militant individuals were simply used by the Campaign ‘leaders’ and past/present ULA leaders for their sectarian group purposes. The key leaders have each nearly forty years’ experience of angling for sectarian advantage. They can out-manoeuvre any rank-and-file. Sadly that’s the most likely outcome now of the present combination of their sectarianism and refusal to learn anything, in a time of unparalleled opportunities.

Nothing of lasting importance or scale will be built, if these people go unchallenged. Independent activists should confront this openly within our own ranks. The militant potential of the situation will be squandered unless a united party, with anti-capitalist aims, committed to leading campaigns against the system, is built.

Paddy Healy – June 11, 2013
“Nothing of lasting importance or scale will be built, if these people go unchallenged. Independent activists should confront this openly within our own ranks.”
You never said a truer word BB
Otherwise,what anti-austerity campaign will they destroy next, thus opening the way for right wing populist forces to emerge?

dilettante – June 10, 2013
“At no point was it suggested that the boycott was the be-all and end-all of the campaign”

Then why the hostility against shinners on the boycott issue?

WorldbyStorm (cedarlounge blogger and poster of the original article that sparked the discussion) – June 11, 2013
That’s a very interesting question dilettante.

It’s very very difficult to read what on the campaign site and not see the boycott as really the central element of the campaign – not denying there weren’t smaller actions here and there but that was the tactic for those who were well… boycotting registration etc. That’s what was sought, that’s why when the deadline passed we know that it failed in its single most obvious and stated goal.

BTW, as was put to me the other day, no point in complaining or blaming SF for the failure of the boycott.

People aren’t stupid, they knew that with Revenue in the picture their options were limited to zero. This too is a problem because if they know that but they’re told that somehow something is going to work and it then subsequently doesn’t, in an entirely predictable way, then they can draw certain conclusions. Raising unrealisable expectations can be as bad in its own way as damping down activity. It really is a case, not of giving up or acquiescing to the government, but of finding ways of having short medium and long term achievable goals and going all out for them. Some will be won, others lost, but at least people can feel they aren’t marched to the top of the hill and then once they’re there they’re effectively abandoned.

revolutionaryprogramme – June 11, 2013
JRG – I realise that it is still possible, at least in theory, to overturn the PT but my point is that as “a campaign strategy for fighting the PT the boycott has been defeated”. We lost – the deadline has passed and the PT is now a social reality.

As regards what the numbers represent I am basing myself on what Joe Higgins reported at the NSC. According to him the 90% refers to registrations and he was also able to provide the breakdown of the methods by which people had paid or agreed to pay. It seems you might need to catch up on your reading of SP internal memos…

In terms of how the PT might still theoretically be defeated I would counterpose a militant class struggle perspective to the SP’s version of SF’s electoralism. This is encapsulated in the Cobh motion:

Cobh CAHWT recognises that workers taking industrial action will be a necessary component of any successful civil disobedience campaign against the Property Tax.

Cobh CAHWT therefore calls on Cork CAHWT to produce, as a matter of the highest urgency, a leaflet aimed specifically at workers in the Revenue and Abtran workplaces calling on them to take industrial action against collection and administration of the Property Tax. The leaflet to include a confidential phone number for any worker interested in taking such action to discuss how to take the project forward. This leaflet to be distributed at the work sites concerned at the earliest opportunity.

I was amazed at the NSC when the SP voted against this motion (thankfully it was passed anyway) – their “reasoning” being, to the extent I understood it correctly, that it was the wrong time to be proposing taking industrial action directly to workers as that would implicitly mean a struggle against the union leadership and there wasn’t a strong enough organised opposition in the unions for that.

With the boycott now defeated the main strategy the SP are promoting is standing candidates in the elections but who are people going to vote for even if they believe in this kind of electoralist strategy? Surely it would be Sinn Fein who at least have a realistic potential of being part of the next government and therefore have the theoretical possibility of putting their promise to repeal the PT into practice – assuming of course that you believe they will really follow through on this promise and won’t drop it, in the name of the “national interest”, as part of the many compromises they will have to make as a junior partner in a pro-capitalist coalition.

I also note that you have still not answered my questions about political accountability that are posed by CAHWT running candidates so I will repeat them:

These candidates will, at best, only be accountable to their local group and yet they will appear in the media as de-facto spokespeople for the whole campaign.

How is it democratic for an election candidate to speak in the name of the CAHWT when only one local group will have had any input to their election platform?

How exactly is any activist who disagrees with any element of a “CAHWT” election platform or with comments made by a “CAHWT” candidate supposed to be able to disassociate themselves from that platform or comments?

I asked these questions when I spoke at the NSC and was also ignored by the SP members there. But repeatedly ignoring these quite reasonable questions will not make them go away.

By unilaterally announcing they were going ahead with the electoral strategy the SP began a process that is going to split the campaign – the history of the workers’ movement will not judge you kindly about this. Just as it will not judge you kindly on your refusal to build on the strength of the campaign at the time of the Household Charge deadline last year by deepening and extending the growth of CAHWT groups in local communities (in my opinion Dublin constituencies and the Northside of Cork city do not qualify as local communities).


2 Responses to “Some internet discussion on the CAHWT and the Property Tax”

  1. 1 littlemicky2012
    June 13, 2013 at 09:53

    That discussion was quite informative and useful. the disappointing element as always was the dogmatism of the SP contributor, it is a source of continuing disappointment to me that no member of that party ever allows themselves to dissent even slightly from the party line. Especially on an anonymous online forum. In any case we can see the emergence of a distinct layer of people and organisations that are highly critical of the SP line on the campaign and the prospect that this will help insure that the campaign against the water tax does not end up in a similar cul de sac. It is a bit annoying also that though the national steering committee could not call off the boycott, effectively Ruth Coppinger SP and campaign spokeperson has done so on her own facebook page (source paddy healy) and Ciaran Perry (IDC) is also proceeding on that basis. There is a definite argument for an emergency national steering committee meeting to call off the boycott immediately so there is a semblance of unity in action.

    • June 13, 2013 at 14:48

      I agree but also think there is no chance of that happening. The SP were adamant at the NSC that the boycott had been the correct tactic and it seems they are opposed to telling the truth about the boycott as it might open them up to criticism over continuing with it as the main tactic even after it was announced the Revenue were going to deduct at source.

      It seems likely that there will be a separate campaign about water – hopefully it will be built on a better basis than the CAHWT with a real commitment to a democratic structure in place from the beginning.

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