The Campaign Against Household & Water Taxes (CAHWT) meets on 19 May for its first conference. This follows a period of hectic activity, public meetings, postering and protests in order to establish a campaign and the highest possible boycott level of the household tax.
To bring one million households with the campaign of non-registration was a historic achievement. That tens of thousands paid out of fear in the last days only shows that they will very likely support a boycott of much costlier water and property taxes.
Already, the Sunday Business Post is forecasting a water charge of €570, with a property tax of €500 for most. People will simply be unable to pay as incomes further decline. If the government struggled to get €100 from 50% of households, what chance of getting €500 or €1,000?
In addition, CAHWT is the most substantial, active campaign against the austerity agenda in the country. It has brought thousands to meetings and protests and into activity on an issue for the first time. It has a huge base to work from in fighting home and water taxes and the austerity agenda behind the introduction of these taxes.
The government is unlikely to wield the big stick against non-payers until the Treaty Referendum is safely out of their way. This immediately poses the Campaign with the question of what stance to take on this. It has become obvious that activists are overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, against the Treaty, correctly seeing it as linked to billions more in taxes and cuts for ordinary people. Defeat of the Treaty would weaken the government in imposing home and water taxes as well and clearly demonstrate that working class people are in revolt, rather than in fear.
If the CAHWT decides to advocate and campaign for a No vote, this would be seen as very significant and could be a factor in helping its defeat.
The summer is not a time for the campaign to rest. Important work needs to be done consolidating local groups and raising funds to fight likely court cases in the Autumn. The line needs to be held regarding non-payment levels, which can only be done by visible active campaigns on the ground.
The building of vibrant, active and highly efficient campaigns with the maximum involvement of activists is our biggest task. Things like organised leaflet networks, proper databases, web texts etc should be a basic for all groups. Regular meetings which discuss the key issues in the campaign and which inform and involve the community are vital.
Councils have been asked to send threatening letters to non-payers as soon as registration is complete. This should spark a series of public meetings to allay people's fears and bring additional numbers into the CAHWT.
Massive political pressure on the parties - particularly Labour - should be applied by meetings, protests and motions at Councils.
A week of action in June demanding the axing of the tax with nationwide protests would be a great assist to the profile of the campaign and to the pressure on the government.
If summonses are issued, the CAHWT must be ready to act, with legal advice, defence of test cases and the mobilisation of thousands in protest, as has been successfully done in Dublin and Galway.
Local groups and the national steering committee need to discuss the legal tasks, as well as the whole issue of water metering, expected to begin in October. The conservation arguments for metering are weak with very little impact on national water usage. These should be publicised. Groups should begin to discuss how they can work with the community to prevent installation of meters.
CAHWT activists can rightly congratulate ourselves on huge successes in establishing the campaign. Now, we need to build to take on the battles ahead to defend non payers and fight water and property taxes.
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