Victory Near on Water Charges

Dr Groove (
Tue, 19 Nov 1996 11:14:52 +0000

Dublin, Ireland Introduction

On Wednesday 13th November as anti-water charge
activists picketed the council estimate meetings
(which set the following years budgets) the
councillors finally lost there nerve and refused
to set a water charge for the following year,
referring the question instead to the government.
At the same time the courts collapsing under the
weight of the councils trying to bring hundreds of
non-payers to court rebelled and adjourned cases all
over Dublin, awarding costs to the non-payers who
were heard on the day and in one case expenses as
well to every one of the 95 who turned up defend

Anarchists from the Workers Solidarity Movement have
been involved in this campaign since its inception
three years ago, the campaign secretary and one other
member of the co-ordinating committee is an anarchist.
The campaign has grown in this time to 15,000 paid up
householders with 80% of households eligible to pay
either behind or not having paid any of the charges.
In the lead up to and at last Wednesdays pickets we
distributed a special addition of Anarchist News to
campaign activists, part of the text is below.



After almost 3 years of fighting double tax water charges,
their abolition is in our grasp. The next few weeks and
months will be crucial. If we maintain the pressure on
local politicians over the coming period, they will be left
with no alternative but to back down on this issue.
This is the largest and most successful single issue
campaign in this country since the massive tax marches
of the 1970s. Despite bribes, threats and intimidation
tens of thousands of PAYE workers have told the
Councils where to stuff their charges.

We have refused to back down in the face of threatened
disconnection's of water supply. We have frustrated the
Councils' attempts to drag non-payers through the
courts. The political establishment has been rocked to
its very core at the sight of a massive campaign of civil
disobedience involving huge numbers of working-class
people who have indeed proved that solidarity is

The heroes of this campaign are not politicians, trade
union leaders or popstars. Its heroes and heroines are
ordinary householders, workers and pensioners -
everybody indeed who has organised leaflets, collected
money, signed up members, attended protests and
pickets and - most importantly of all - refused to pay the
charges. The campaign cannot be defeated because its
strength lies at grassroots level. There are no "leaders"
in a position to sell us out.

This is the lesson we must take from the campaign. We
must remember that it is only the power of the working-
class organising itself and taking decisions by itself
which puts fear into the hearts of the misleaders of the
current political system. To them "democracy" is a
game. According to the rules of their game, our role is
to put a number on a ballot paper once every four or
five years. When they see working-class people
organising and fighting together, their fear is not simply
that they will be defeated on a single issue such as water
charges. What they really fear is that in fighting water
charges the working-class will realise the strength of its
own power and will realise the true nature of a political
system which is run in the interests of a minority at the
expense of the majority.

Previous mistakes

As we face into the final and crucial phase of our
campaign, let's not repeat the mistakes of previous big
campaigns. The massive show of strength in the tax
marches of the '70s was dissipated and diverted because
control was left in the hands of a few trade union
leaders. Anti-service charge campaigns throughout the
state over the last ten years have often been led up the
cul-de-sac of electoral politics. Eamonn Gilmore (DL),
Kathleen Lynch (DL) and Emmett Stagg (Labour) all
made opposition to and campaigning against charges a
fundamental part of their election drives. All are now
members of the government which supports Councils
implementing these charges.

Electing one or two - or even more - well-meaning
individuals will never rid us of a political system which
gives us double tax, unemployment, poverty and
exploitation. Trying to elect politicians will however
mean we have failed to learn that we can only change
things by acting ourselves and not by passively
supporting one or the other 'trustworthy' politician or
political party. This political system - capitalism - will
only be overturned when we - the working-class - seize
power for ourselves and put an end to privilege and

Only mass action in which control is maintained at
grassroots level can achieve this. The anti - water charge
campaign has taken small steps right across Dublin
towards rebuilding class confidence and community
solidarity. Our actions have laid the beginnings of
networks and contacts and has given people the
confidence to find the ability within to break the law and
take on the powers that be. Let's not throw this away by
investing that confidence in a new set of "leaders" - no
matter how well-intentioned they might be.

            Noam Chomsky on Anarchism

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