1. It is now clear that the boycott of the property tax has collapsed and with it, any chance of defeating it in the coming period. The tactic of boycott was enough to defeat the household tax, but with draconian powers handed over to revenue to collect the property tax, much more was required.
2. The tactics pursued by the Campaign against Home and Water Taxes (CAHWT), to build a boycott, mobilise to protest on the streets and to argue for a campaign of industrial action by workers implementing the tax, was the only approach that had any chance of success. But for that to happen, mass participation was necessary.
3. The principal reason that the campaign was not successful was that not enough people got involved. If protests were to have an impact, tens of thousands were needed on the streets. Occupations of government buildings needed to be more than the tokenistic acts of a few dedicated activists with the ability to cause a real and sustained disruption to the business of the state.
4. Participation at local level never took on a mass character. In some areas campaigns were organised on a local basis. In most cases, however, only regional campaigns existed with activists working hard for the campaign, but burning themselves out due to the high level of activity required to cover large areas. Even where campaigns existed in a locality, the numbers were not sufficient to sustain a struggle of that duration.
5. We live in an era where clientelism dominates the political landscape. For many reasons - pressure of long commutes, no real extant sense of community/trade union solidarity, no tradition of self-organisation etc etc - most people's sense of getting involved in politics amounts to supporting 'someone else' to do it. Not enough people felt that they needed to get involved to make a difference. Instead they held off on registering but when the hoped-for response from 'someone else' didn't emerge they were easily intimidated into paying by government propaganda.
6. Talk of posing an electoral challenge to put the frighteners on Labour could only increase the hope for many people that ‘someone else’ would defeat the property tax. It should be obvious that Labour is not afraid of electoral oblivion. Even from an electoral perspective, a focus on elections to local councils that have no power to revoke the tax, elections that, at the time were over a year away, made no sense. Very quickly the argument for electoral participation turned from the idea that running candidates would defeat the property tax to the elections being an opportunity to punish Labour for their ‘betrayal’. But revenge is not a political tactic ever likely to win. While it might give lots of people pleasure to see the Labour party wiped out, the property tax would still remain in place. We are not saying that the stampede towards electoralism was the cause of the campaign’s defeat but perhaps the reason why political parties adopt the electoralist position is that it's so much easier to ask people to 'support me' or even 'support' a particular idea than it is to challenge people along the lines of 'If you don't get involved we can't win.'
7. Even after it became clear that at least half of the CAHWT campaigns were vehemently opposed to this tactic, the Socialist Party insisted on continuing to pursue it. The effect was to cause a major rift in the campaign at a crucial time in the battle. Some local campaigns, mainly ones dominated by the Socialist Party, are continuing to pursue this tactic.
8. Other political parties involved in the Campaign e.g. the SWP/People before Profit Alliance did not support the SP’s push to turn the CAHWT into an electoral platform but made it clear that nearer the election their candidates would be seeking ‘endorsement’ from the Campaign – which in effect amounts to another, if softer, version of acquiescing to the clientelist approach to politics.
9. All of this raises questions over the viability of CAHWT as a united national campaign in the future, particularly in the battle against the water charge. It is impossible to imagine a situation where a few candidates and politicians will be accepted by the majority of activists as spokespeople and representatives for the campaign. It will also be impossible for local campaign groups who are not pursuing an electoral path to disassociate themselves from the politicians and candidates who will be presumed by the media and others to be speaking on behalf of the entire campaign when in fact no democratic controls of candidates are possible. We feel, therefore, it is crucial for those activists and local groups who are serious about building a campaign based on direct action, participatory democracy and autonomy from political institutions to regroup for the next fight.
10. The water charge will only be defeated if a campaign of mass participation can be built. More people will need to be involved than even at the high points of the campaign against the household tax. People will need to be prepared to, not only boycott the charge, but obstruct the installation of water meters and to sabotage ones that have already been installed.
11. For the reasons outlined above, we no longer feel that CAHWT, is the appropriate vehicle for this purpose. The divisions between those who advocate a representative approach and those who advocate direct action have grown too wide. We hope to work with many of the activists that were part of CAHWT in this campaign and to help mobilise our communities in resistance.
12. We are not suggesting that there are any easy answers. The failure of the CAHWT to mobilise large numbers on protests against the property tax, plus the success of the majority of the public sector trade union leadership in frightening members into voting for the slightly modified version of Croke Park 2, suggests that the task of prompting, encouraging and motivating mass participation in actions designed to prevent the installation of water meters and defeat the imposition of the water tax will not be easy. The task of moving a significant section of the working class from the clientelist approach of wanting ‘someone else’ to do politics for them to a participatory approach where they see a role for themselves in bringing about change is what faces us.