Defeat the Water Tax (From Working Class Resistance Issue 8)

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Feb 13 2005 13:17
Defeat the Water Tax (From Working Class Resistance Issue 8)

Defeat the Water Tax

First the government lied to us claiming we didn’t pay for water. Pressure from anti-water reform campaigners forced them to back down on that particular lie.

Now they admit that we already pay - but less than elsewhere in the UK. If that’s a comparison to be taken seriously then the government better start taking action to close the gap in the levels of earnings in Northern Ireland and Britain.

In the north our wages are consistently lower than elsewhere in Britain and the Irish republic. A quarter of our pensioners and a third of our children live in poverty. While wages are lower poverty and unemployment are higher than anywhere else across these islands.

Yet we are unlikely to hear government ministers complaining about this. In relation to water charges and privatisation in England, Scotland and Wales the point is that these attacks on other sections of the working class, carried out by the New Labour government, do not mean that we should roll over and let them implement water charges and privatisation on us. Let there be no doubt about it, this ‘reform’ represents yet another attack on working class people and our standard of living and health.

So what can we do to stop it?

Organise! advise caution against trusting any of our local politicians. While direct rule has given them the luxury of permanent opposition we remember that when the Assembly was running all the parties in the executive accepted the need for a water reform policy that including ‘restructuring’, private sector involvement and charges. Just as they approved the future increase of our rates to pay back a Treasury loan to ‘make up’ for years of under-investment.

As for our Trade Union leaders and bureaucrats, even with the best intentions, they will negotiate a slightly better defeat rather than see this attack defeated. They are already resisting calls for a mass campaign of non-payment and while the water workers industrial action is to be applauded and supported the pressure must be maintained by the rank and file of the unions to ensure that this sort of action is maintained.

For the fulltime negotiators however knocking the ‘rough edges’ off water reform, reducing redundancies and improving the package is the sort of game they are used to playing - and this sort of game will not defeat the water charges or privatisation. We do not discount the central role that water service workers and trade union members have to the building of this campaign against cutbacks, privatisation and charges and if necessary such workers should be preparing to take the struggle directly into their own hands if it appears that the bureaucracy are preparing to strike a deal.

In reality the only method at our disposal that can stop privatisation and charging is to oppose them outright. This demands more than the empty words of politicians or reliance on Trade Union officials - the only people we can rely on are ourselves, our neighbours in working class communities and the workers who will suffer cutbacks and privatisation and be expected to pay.

This campaign must be built from the bottom up, street by street and working class community by working class community. The principle tactic of this campaign must be mass non-payment. While we need to prepare adequate funds for legal costs in the event of court action against non-payers we must remember that the Poll Tax was defeated when mass non-payment clogged the courts and made collection next to impossible. Non payment of water charges in the south led to the defeat of government attempts to impose water charges in December 1996.

Anything less than non-payment is courting defeat. We cannot afford to do that.

Help build the campaign, forget the top down approach and help build local opposition in your street and neighbouring streets. When there are enough groups then is when we should look at coming together and co-ordinating our opposition. Anything short of this is building on sand.

This article and more can be read in the Latest Issue of Working Class Resistance, the bi-monthly regular newsheet from Organise!

Read or download the latest issue online at our website