Home Taxes - We’re beyond elections; time for direct action - vote down electoralism on Saturday

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This article is a plea to campaign members and activists to vote down proposals that have been put in to this Saturday's CAHWT conference to endorse a slate of candidates in elections and to instead concentrate our collective energies on building the mood of political protest that is necessary to defeat the property tax in the immediate future. The WSM will be distributing this text as a leaflet on Saturday, let us know if you would like to help.

EXISTING STRATEGY

The battle to defeat the property tax is going to be difficult.  The Campaign has set out 3 strands to its strategy

  • the building of a huge boycott of the tax
  • using that boycott as a base upon which to build a campaign of political protest and civil disobedience to create an atmosphere of ‘political crisis’ that will make it extremely difficult for politicians to ok the deduction of the tax at source
  • building a campaign in public service unions to encourage them to refuse to implement deduction at source

There is now a proposal, coming principally from the Socialist Party, that we add a fourth strand – the endorsement of candidates for the local and European elections next year, with the aim of putting the frighteners on the Labour party with the threat that their seats will be in danger.

In assessing any tactic, the principal consideration must be whether it will help or hinder the achievement of our overall goal - to defeat the property tax.  

If we are to defeat the property tax we must do it now.  Our strength is our refusal to co-operate with Revenue, our refusal to be governable and our ability to convince others to join with us.

That is a responsibility that falls on the shoulders of every single non-payer.  The Campaign must encourage - demand of - every member that they do their bit to help build that mood of protest and political crisis.

CONFUSING THE CAMPAIGN’S MESSAGE OF DIRECT ACTION

Many people, when faced with a problem the size of that which confronts us, look for an easy option, they look for 'someone else' to fix the problem.  In this case there is no 'someone else' - indeed there seldom is.  The idea of voting for 'someone else', electing different politicians, electing 'ordinary people' instead of career politicians will appeal to many people for the very reason that it appears to offer an 'easy option'.  It's a hell of a lot easier to go knocking on people's doors asking them to vote for someone new, different and honest in the next election than it is to encourage people to break the law, boycott the tax and come out on protests, blockades and disruptions.

It's a lot easier for people - those who have not yet gone to a meeting, attended a protest or otherwise interacted with the campaign in any way - to offer their 'support' to the Campaign by opting to vote for its candidates in the next election.  That type of passive support will not bring about the political crisis that is needed NOW to defeat the tax.  Those people need to be challenged by the Campaign to come out on the streets in coming months and help to build confidence in the boycott and collective action.  The Campaign message to people should be that passive support is not enough but we need their active involvement.  Indeed that has been our message up to now.  If we add the electoral strand to our strategy, we will be diluting that message.

CANDIDATES CAN BE IGNORED...

If we endorse running candidates we give the message that the elections next year are somehow relevant to this fight. The 2014 elections are to local authorities and to the European parliament.  Neither local authorities nor the European parliament can abolish the property tax.  No doubt many people would love to see the government parties being annihilated, but after the elections, even if Labour has been wiped out, the tax will remain.

Whoever is in power, the government can only implement the tax if we let them.  And it is in organising to prevent them doing so rather than organising to get people elected that our strength lies.

The only body which can vote to remove the property tax is the Dáil but without massive protest in the street, the Dáil’s ability to vote this tax down is extremely limited, even if we managed to get a majority government elected that were opposed to its implementation.

The property tax and the water tax that is to follow are part of the so-called ‘deal’ with the troika and are ultimately a part of the agenda of international capitalism.  This agenda wants to transfer further taxation measures onto ordinary workers and abolish the concept of social services paid for by the state through taxation.

Even if we manage to get a majority into the Dáil that will vote against the tax, they won’t be just allowed to do that.

... YOUR RESISTANCE CAN’T

WE, the people organising in our communities, have the power to abolish the tax, if we organise the sort of on the ground campaign we’ve been talking about to ensure that the tax is unworkable.

Those who advocate the use of the electoralist tactic argue you can do both – build the political protest and stand for election.  But in reality this is not possible. Electioneering will divert time, energy and resources away from the direct action campaign.  Instead of confusing the issue, we need to tell people clearly, “You must take responsibility, you have to get involved, all of us together have the power to impose our will on how society is run.  Stop letting other people make decisions for us: let’s start making those decisions ourselves’.

  * * *

Specific Problems

A whole host of problems will arise if we do go down the route of using elections

  • Firstly – and possibly most importantly – there is no mechanism by which the Campaign can guarantee what way any of the candidates will vote on the property tax or on water tax if elected and in a position to do so.  This Dáil and previous Dáils are well populated with TDs who following their election were ‘persuaded’ that ‘economic realities’ meant that they ditched much of what they supposedly stood for.
  • What would be our ‘minimum platform’? – while we are all opposed to the property tax and the austerity agenda, many of us have very different views on what alternative strategy should be pursued
  • What do we do in areas where there are more than one candidate wanting to stand on the Campaign ‘slate’?
  • Can candidates effectively be wearing two hats? i.e. standing as candidates for a political party and also on the Campaign ‘slate’.  If so, who do they ultimately take their political line from in the event of a conflict?
  • What about candidates who have taken public positions on controversial ‘social’ issues such as a woman’s right to choose or same-sex marriage?

Any proposal to stand election candidates under the Campaign banner will ultimately be divisive.  It will divert the energies and focus of campaign activists away from the nitty-gritty of building the campaign on the ground. It will lead to political parties and individuals with electoral ambition jockeying for position in local areas (indeed as is evident in some areas this is already happening).  It will sell people the lie that there is an easy way to defeat the property tax and thus weaken the campaign in this, its most crucial phase.


WORDS: Text of WSM leaflet for national CAHWT conference, April 2013

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