On Wednesday last, 19th September, the United Left Alliance held a press conference at which it announced “plans to launch a public campaign of resistance to property tax and austerity”. For those of us who have been working alongside ULA members for over 12 months now to build the broad-based Campaign Against Household & Water Taxes (CAHWT), this announcement came as something of a surprise. CAHWT already is a ‘public campaign of resistance to property tax’ so why do the ULA (who are part of CAHWT) feel the need to ‘launch’ something that already exists?
Even more strangely, however, the statement from the ULA TDs says “The ULA will be supporting with [sic] the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT) in organising public meetings across the country focused on mobilising resistance and protests against the property charge and austerity prior to December’s budget.”
Defence of Campaign’s grassroots democracy must be paramount
What’s to be made of this statement? At first reading it seems as if the ULA are proposing to hold a series of public meetings jointly organised by the ULA and CAHWT (of which, as I said, ULA are a major constituent part). That would, to my mind seem like a bizarre idea. What is even more bizarre however, if one has even the most basic respect for democratic principles, is that no-one from the ULA either proposed this idea or even mentioned it at any meeting of CAHWT.
Mind you this contempt for basic democracy should hardly come as a surprise when it seems as if the component political organisations which make up the ULA did not even see fit to confer with non-aligned members of the ULA before announcing their ‘launch’. (see https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/ula-initiative-not-in-my-name/)
And how, one might ask, does the ULA propose to both be part of CAHWT and work alongside it?
Over the past 12 months a huge campaign of resistance to austerity in the form of people boycotting and organising against the household tax has been painstakingly built across the country. ULA members and their leadership have of course been prominent in building this campaign. But its strength lies in the fact that the campaign is much wider and bigger than the ULA or than the established left in its entirety.
Huge numbers of people who have never been involved in political activity or organising before have got involved in building this campaign. It has already been hugely successful, bringing together the biggest boycott campaign since the time of the Land League in the late 19th century. It faces unprecedented challenges over the coming months as the government will begin to take non-payers before the courts in order to attempt to break the boycott, and as the December budget will announce plans for the introduction of a property tax (which should properly be referred to as a home tax).
The work being put into building this campaign by people who are not members of any political party or organisation and by those of us who are members of organisations which are not part of the ULA deserves more respect than to be treated in this cavalier and anti-democratic fashion by the ULA.
The campaign was established on principles of democratic grassroots-led structures. It is important that these structures are defended and that attempts by political organisations to ‘control’ the Campaign or claim ownership of it are resisted.
In late August/ early September – in the lead up to the last meeting of the Campaign’s national steering committee – a statement signed by just under 50 campaign activists from across the country was launched. The signatories to this statement and a number of other people active in the campaign have come together as the ‘Grassroots Network’ and are determined to defend the democratic structures and the role of local activists as the true ‘leadership’ of the Campaign.
The statement and the signatories are re-produced below. If you are involved in the Campaign and agree with what it says, please contact the email address given and get involved in the ongoing discussion and work, and let’s build a campaign that is truly open, democratic and membership-led.
WORDS: Gregor Kerr
Statement from Grassroots Network
We are a group of people who have been active in the CAHWT both
locally and nationally since its foundation.
We are proud of the fact that the CAHWT has been built to become the
biggest campaign of mass civil disobedience ever in the history of the
state. The Campaign is also hugely important in terms of challenging
Government attempts to implement further attacks on the living
standards of ordinary people rather than force the wealthy to pay
their fair share of the tax burden.
We believe that the strength of the campaign is its grass roots nature
and that the more democratic the campaign is the more the likelihood
Recent difficulties in the Campaign have highlighted the need to
ensure that democratic, grassroots-led structures become a reality.
We believe that the working group model of organisation as agreed at
the Campaign’s Conference and endorsed at the steering committee
meeting in July is the best way to guarantee this.
We reject the implication or suggestion that the Interim Decisions
Committee is any type of ‘officer board’ and re-affirm that decision
making powers rest with the steering committee made up of delegates
mandated by local groups and county/constituency committees.
It is important that delegates to steering committee meetings are
‘delegates’ (i.e. taking instructions from local and
county/constituency groups) rather than ‘representatives’ (i.e. making
decisions based on their own opinions).
We acknowledge the significant role played by a number of political
parties and organisations in the establishment and development of the
campaign. This does not however confer any additional powers or
importance upon these parties/organisations. We have genuine concerns
about the dominance of some of the political parties within the
campaign. The dominant forces within the campaign should be the
hundreds of thousands of supporters and members. We must do everything
within our powers to involve as many of these people as possible. We
believe that there is an onus on political activists within the
Campaign to support and encourage new activists to get involved in a
real way in the work of the Campaign.
We believe that decisions made by the Campaign must be adhered to by
all sections of the Campaign. The decisions of the Campaign to
disassociate itself from the flawed Freeman ‘legal advice’ and from
Mick Wallace TD must be adhered to by all who wish to remain part of
This statement has been drawn up a small number of people. We are
interested in continuing a conversation about how the grassroots
principles of the campaign can be defended and advanced. If you agree
with what we have to say or if you would like to be involved, please
talk to one of us or contact us by email at email@example.com
Alan Gibson (ULA non-aligned, Cobh CAHWT)
Farah Mokhtareizadeh (WSM, Mahon CAHWT)
Noreen Murphy (non-party, Cork CAHWT)
Liam Hough (WSM, St. Lukes CAHWT)
Ray Hanrahan (WSM, Northside CAHWT)
Kevin Doyle (non-party, St Lukes CAHWT)
Cllr. John Campbell (non-party, Donegal CAHWT)
Micheál Cholm Mac Giolla Easbiug (non-party, Donegal CAHWT)
Francis McCafferty (non-party, Donegal CAHWT)
Cllr. Louise Minihan (éirígí, Ballyfermot CAHWT)
Daithí Ó’Riain (éirígí, Ballyfermot CAHWT),
Dean Hogan (non-party, Cabra/Dunard/Navan Road CAHWT)
Dolores Ferris (non-party, Cabra/Dunard/Navan Road CAHWT)
Cieran Perry (non-party, Cabra/Dunard/Navan Road CAHWT)
Martin Farrell (éirígí, Coolock & Santry CAHWT)
Ciaran Heaphey (éirígí, Coolock & Santry CAHWT)
Ursula Ni Shionnain (éirígí, Coolock & Santry CAHWT)
David McCarthy (éirígí, Coolock & Santry CAHWT)
Mark Hoskins (WSM, Stoneybatter CAHWT)
Mary Muldowney (non-party, Stoneybatter CAHWT)
Alan MacSimóin (non-party, Stoneybatter CAHWT)
Paul Bowman (WSM, Stoneybatter CAHWT),
Bas Ó Curraoin (éirígí, South West Inner City CAHWT)
Gregor Kerr (WSM, Dun Laoghaire CAHWT)
Donal Boushel (non-party, Dun Laoghaire CAHWT)
Eoghan Styles (non-party, Dun Laoghaire CAHWT)
Conor McLoughlin (non-party, Dun Laoghaire CAHWT)
Joe Mooney (non-party, East Wall CAHWT)
John O’Neill (Irish Socialist Network, Finglas/Ballymun CAHWT)
Alec Robertson (non-party, North Inner City CAHWT)
Joe Keegan (éirígí, Pearse St & Ringsend CAHWT)
Scot Masterson (éirígí, Tallaght CAHWT)
Mick Healy (non-party, Newbridge CAHWT)
Brian Fagan (WSM, Newbridge CAHWT)
Richard Forbes (non-party, Louth)
KL (éirígí, Clonmel CAHWT)
Kevin McLoughlin (éirígí, Clonmel CAHWT)
Mike Edwards (non-party, Roscrea CAHWT)
Mags Glennon (non-party, Westmeath CAHWT)
Alan McCabe (éirígí, Westmeath CAHWT)
John Davis (non-party, Wicklow CAHWT)
Sean Doyle (Clann éirígí, Wicklow CAHWT)
Brendan Doyle (éirígí, Wicklow CAHWT)
Adrian O’ Raghallagh (eirígí, Arklow CAHWT)
James Cullen (éirígí, Arklow CAHWT)
Tony Doyle (éirígí, Arklow CAHWT)
Tony Hughes (éirígí, Arklow CAHWT)