(en)Water Charges Victory

Dr Groove (dr_groove@geocities.com)
Wed, 22 Jan 1997 13:56:28 +0000


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A HTML version of this report can be found at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/2724/an13.html

Water Charges Victory

[WSM Dublin, Ireland, Jan 13]

On the 19th of December 1996 the minister for the =

environment made a low key announcement that he had =

abolished water and sewage charges throughout the country. =

This was a historic victory for the groups and campaigns =

which have been fighting for years through out the country =

on this issue. It was especially so for the campaign in Dublin. =

Here the Dublin Federation of Anti-Water Charges =

Campaigns has fought tooth and nail against the charges since =

their introduction about 3 years ago. After a mass campaign =

of non-payment and popular protest we have won.

It is important to realise just exactly how this came about. =

This campaign now stands at about 17,000 members (all of =

whom have paid =A32 each to join). The rate of non-payment =

has been massive with over 50% in Dublin South and Fingal, =

Courts have ground to a halt as hundreds of non-payers =

turned up to fight charges against them. =

The strength of the Federation lay in those who organised =

meetings, delivered leaflets, raised funds, organised pickets =

and demonstrations. The victory belongs to ordinary heroes =

and heroines, to householders, workers and pensioners like =

Jimmy Campbell and Larry Doran.

How we won

This campaign has succeeded because it has been committed =

to the idea of people organising on their own behalf. It was =

built without any media attention and in a time of deafening =

silence by the politicians (while their constituents were =

dragged before the courts.) The campaign has always been =

open and democratic, giving full say to all the activists =

involved and, where strong enough, building well organised =

local groups.

Anarchists argued throughout for self reliance, encouraging =

the campaign to place no trust in judges and politicians and =

indeed to hound and press the latter at every opportunity. =

The two key decisions made by the Federation were, firstly, =

the idea of the =A32 membership. This meant that we had to go =

house to house to build the campaign. This is by far the best =

way to discuss issues and win people over if you have the =

time and numbers to do it. The second was to emphasise the =

importance of local groups meeting, drawing up their own =

leaflets, visiting their councillors doing their own fund raisers =

and so on.

We cannot deny that Joe Higgins coming within a hair's =

breadth of a seat in Dublin West did put the frighteners on =

the politicians. However what really scared them was the =

sight of 10,000s of thousands of people standing shoulder to =

shoulder and refusing to pay. What we now need is to =

continue this pressure for a full amnesty for the courageous =

non-payers.

Power in a Union?

The anti service charges campaign included thousands of =

worker's in Dublin, so what about their unions? If we can =

win in the communities why not make gains in the work =

place? What happens when you concede the cards to 'leaders' =

instead of relying on your own efforts becomes clear when =

you look at the lamentable state of the unions in this country. =

Right now they are pushing yet another deal with the bosses =

and government the 'Partnership 2000' agreement.

The last nine years of 'partnership' have been ones of =

massive unemployment and no net wage growth some =

deal=8A=8A=8A for the bosses! The new deal, excluding tax changes =

which the government promised before anyway, amounts to =

7.4% over 39 months. Inflation is now running at 1.9% which =

is 6.2% over this time period. This means a net wage increase =

of 1.2% over inflation for the 39 months or a lousy 0.4% per =

year! Meantime the government has pushed through the =

Industrial Relations Act massively limiting workers 'ability to =

organise. In 1995, for example, the courts awarded =A31.3 =

million against SIPTU for holding an official strike at Nolan's =

Transport in Wexford.

Fight back

Meantime union membership (as a percentage of those in =

work) declined by 11% between 1987 and 1993. Those who =

remain feel demoralised and shop floor organisation has =

collapsed in many jobs. Members see little point in being =

involved when all the deals are done over their heads with =

their only function being to "OK" the new deal every three =

years. In the context of a booming economy, when one would =

expect the workers to be pushing for more of the cake, =

militancy has stagnated.

Of course this latest stitch up should be given the boot but =

that's not all. Just as we created a successful and democratic =

water charges campaign we must now try to do the same on =

the industrial front. A first step would be a basic set of =

demands. These should include a much shorter paid working =

week, a national minimum wage of =A36.50 per hour, =

recruitment of young workers and a fight to save every job. =

We have to take control of our unions, push them as far as =

they can go and then push further for full control over how =

things are produced and over our own lives.

****

Amnesty for non-payers =

demonstration Four Courts Jan 27, 10:00

*****

Now Change the World!

The defeat of the water charges proves the power ordinary =

people have when we organise together. It proves there is an =

alternative to the present system where a tiny wealthy =

minority order us around. This alternative is anarchism!

Anarchism is the idea that the mass of people, the working =

class, can change the world for the better replacing the =

exploitation, inequality and injustice that are all around today =

with a new world based on socialism and freedom.

Anarchism is the idea of a world where there are no classes - =

the rich having been sent packing. Where society is run and =

controlled through councils by those who produce the wealth =

in society, the working class. Where there is absolute freedom =

of ideas, of movement and of the individual. Anarchism is a =

society built on the abolition of all tyranny, in society and in =

the workplace. In the everyday class struggle its aim is to =

build as much working class unity as possible. It argues for =

workers to strengthen their organisations and their capacity to =

take control from the bosses. This starts with taking control of =

our unions and community organisations at local level. =

The inequality and authoritarianism of capitalism is neither =

acceptable nor necessary. Workers and the poor are constantly =

being asked to make sacrifices and to tighten their belts for the =

'good of the country'. The things we most depend on like =

housing, health care and education are the very things that =

are being 'cutback' by the Government while all the time the =

huge wealth and profit of private industry remains relatively =

untouched by taxes. We are no strangers to this in Ireland. =

Anarchists argue that this doesn't happen because we have =

'bad' politicians but because it is the way that capitalism =

works. In a society where a small rich class controls things, it =

is inevitable that they will exploit and make the poor pay for =

as much as possible.

Anarchism is a practical way to bring about a society of =

socialism and freedom. The traditional 'way', in countries =

like ours, is through the ballot box. It is here that we are told =

that changes can be brought about if we want to make them. =

Anarchists don't agree with this and oppose involvement in =

the parliament for two reasons. Firstly, real power in society =

doesn't reside there. It is mainly a talking shop. Even if you =

did get a socialist party elected to Government that stood for =

the abolition of capitalism (instead of the normal situation =

where they stand for simply an increase in dole payments or a =

cut of two pence in the tax rate) they wouldn't be allowed to =

do it. =

In Chile in 1973 when the elected Allende Government =

proposed minor land reforms it was drowned in blood after =

the Army moved in to "save Chile from socialism". More =

recently the army in Haiti rejected the election of the reformer =

President Aristide and imposed a reign of terror. As long as =

parliament confines itself to minuscule or meaningless =

change it will be allowed to function. But to challenge the =

basis of capitalism - wage labour and private property - is just =

not on.

But there is also another reason why socialism can't be =

brought about by electing a socialist government. Anarchists =

argue that socialism is about the working class running =

society through workplace and community councils - in other =

words democracy in all parts of human activity. It is through =

this that a real equal distribution of wealth can take place. But =

most socialist parties don't believe in this idea at all. Rather =

they see socialism as something else. For them it is the idea of =

their Party which 'represents' the workers interests taking =

control of the State and 'making it work for the people'. Thus =

they put a lot of energy into promoting individual =

personalities as 'good politicians' who will sort out your =

problems unlike the 'bad politicians' currently in power. Anarchists say that no one can actually 'represent' workers =

interests but workers themselves. Anarchists argue that only =

all those who suffer inequality and injustice can and will at =

the end of the day see the fight to end it through to the finish. =

Governments of socialists on the other hand soon get bogged =

down "in the national interest" and other compromises once =

in power. Far from changing anything, things can often get =

worse for many workers. Anarchists argue that the means =

used to build socialism and ends achieved are connected. =

Thus a Party which achieves power believing itself to =

represent the working class cannot but end up creating a rigid =

hierarchical society all over again.

Finally then, anarchism is the idea of a free socialist society =

and how it can be achieved by the direct action and strength of =

the working class. Anarchists stand uncompromisingly for a =

new world. It will be organised from the bottom up and =

production will be to meet peoples' needs, not for the private =

profit of a few. Every individual will enjoy complete control =

of her/his life with no limition their freedom as long as they =

do not encroach on the freedom of anyone else. That is what =

the Workers Solidarity Movement is fighting for. We want =

you to join with us in this fight.

Anarchist News No 13 Jan. 1997

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