Building Democracy: All Cork Delegate Meeting Against the Household Tax

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The Campaign Against the Household and Water Tax (CAHWT) is on the cusp of a very significant victory – as indicated by the recent announcement that less than 20% of households in the Republic had registered with the Government to pay the new unjust tax.  This low level of compliance with Government orders is clear evidence that the Campaign has managed to tap into a rich seam of discontent.  Admittedly these are early days and the struggle has a while to go yet, but nonetheless it is an important and notable success.

There are a number of reasons why this has happened.   The obvious aspects are that the tax itself is blatantly unjust.  It is being levied at a time when billions of euros are pouring out of the country to fill the coffers of the wealthy and greedy bondholders; many people can see this now and are angered by it.  Also of course, many people simply do not have the money.  Given the range of cuts and levies already imposed on us all, many are in dire straits.

But there is another important ingredient that is also at play and it should not be overlooked even at this early stage.  This is the democratic basis of the Campaign and it was clearly visible last Saturday in Cork when a county-wide delegate meeting was held at the Metropole Hotel.

Delegates

The meeting itself was called to bring greater coherence and structure to the Campaign as it now exists in the city and county.  This is necessary given that it comes on foot of a round of 21 community-based meetings that have been held over the previous three weeks throughout the city and county.  These public meetings were aimed at getting local groups established and for the most part they have been successful.  The Campaign now has a considerable presence throughout the area of Cork.  These local groups are active within their areas and are doing the vital work of spreading information about the campaign and how it proposes to defeat the Tax.  Naturally enough though these local groups now need to coordinate more and also they need to have more input into the how the Campaign is run – not just regionally but nationally too.

For the Cork wide meeting all local groups were encouraged to send delegates.  They arrived from areas as diverse as Blarney, Passage West, Ballyvolane, Ballyphehane, Fermoy, Macroom, Mallow, Carrigaline, Gurranabraher, Bishopstown, Blackpool, St Lukes, Farranree, Ballinspittle, South Parish, Ballincollig, Cobh, Skibbereen and Midelton.  Reports from local area areas were given and then delegates heard back vital information about how the Campaign was faring in other areas across the country.  A discussion followed on issues to do with legal matters, with finance and to do with local action versus national action.  Among other items discussed was the plan drawn up by the national steering group for a national rally; some felt it should’ve been a march rather than just an indoor event.

Rally

In the second half, the meeting of delegates heard about the different proposals now in circulation to do with how the democratic framework of the Campaign should be organised. As well as this the Cobh Campaign put forward their proposal on campaign structure.  There was discussion on these and then finally we elected three delegates to attend at the National Delegate Meeting scheduled to take place after the national rally on Saturday, March 24th.

From the beginning it was recognised that real democracy was vital to success in this struggle with the Government.  In other words we must mobilise locally and involve people.  Gregor Kerr (WSM and Dun Laoghaire Campaign Branch), put it as follows at the founding conference:

People who never discussed politics with their neighbours before – we want to support and encourage them to knock on their neighbours’ doors and encourage them to join the non-payment campaign.  There’s an onus on us to build this campaign in a way that’s inclusive and supports people getting involved who have no experience of doing anything like this before.

Right now there is good evidence that this is actually happening.  Broadly speaking the Campaign has managed to get out there and to appeal to people to stand up and get involved.  It has also gone a good bit of the way to convincing people – many sceptical of traditional party electioneering – that this is a campaign that they can be involved in and take control off.

Success

The Cork delegate meeting was an important stepping stone in this process.   Delegates came with information about their groups but also heard vital information about what is happening elsewhere.  Important proposals were also put to the delegates about matters to do with how we set up a more viable national structure that is both democratic and effective.  The idea here is that delegates will take these ideas back to their groups and have these issues discussed locally.

In the St Lukes/ Collins Barracks area group, this happened last evening and we had a discussion on what sort of national decision making structures would work.  Questions that came up were as follows.  Should there be a national committee in place that would sit in office for a few months or more?  Or should there be a more fluid, ongoing decision making arrangement that is elected regularly by delegates or branches?  Should decisions be taken by monthly national delegate meetings and if so what sort of mandates should such delegates hold – very tightly controlled mandates or ones with a wider latitude?  What would work and would it be effective?  What about the rotation of those key roles at the moment being done by the steering group locally in Cork.

In the next while, with the Campaign in the ascendency, it will be vital to focus on the key aim to defeat this Government and its IMF imposed tax.  But central also will be the work to develop and strengthened the Campaign’s democratic basis at all levels.  If this is done the Campaign will grow even stronger and, when the time comes, it will be more able to deliver the solidarity that is central to final success.

WORDS: Kevin Doyle