Anarchist News

12 December 1996

The Water Charges: Our Victory Their Defeat
You can beat them or join them

Our Victory Their Defeat

The Water Charges are uncollectable

On Wednesday 20 November, as a couple of hundred activists were picketing the Dublin South estimates council meeting, word filtered through, that in the face of the mass non-payment of the Water Charges, the councillors had lost their nerve and postponed setting a charge. This news was followed up last weekend by government leaks suggesting that the charges were to be abolished in the forthcoming budget. Forced to eat their sneering words of three years ago, (when they sought to dismiss the campaign as irrelevant) the politicians of all parties have been forced to accept the inevitable fact that they have been beaten by the ordinary people of Dublin, who stood up to them, their threats, and their hired bullies.

Nearly three years ago when the three councils were created we knew that the water charge was due to make it's appearance in Dublin. Despite all the political parties being opposed to these 'local charges' we saw them introduced by all the councils as they struck a local rate.

Two years ago, at this very time of the year in the run up to Christmas the South County Dublin council decided to lead the way in dealing with the people who had failed to pay the charge; they attempted to cut the water supply to those houses. The Federation of Anti Water Charges Campaigns sprung into action. Each area organised patrols and there was no peace for those who attempted to cut people's water off. For defending people's water supplies we were called the "anti-water charge bandits" by the Evening Herald and "political pygmies" by a South County Dublin councillor but only twelve houses were disconnected and even they were all re-connected within hours.

The Government changed in early 1995 and we now had Fine Geal, Labour and Democratic Left in power. But little changed for those of us who opposed this charge. Now instead of defending our water supply against cut off's we had people being summoned to appear in court. In November 1995 over 500 people joined forces outside Rathfarnam courthouse to sing while the judge pushed through orders for disconnection's. These we appealed.

Now after 3 years we are seeing the benefits of the hard work put into this campaign by you the activists. The above brief history is just a way of reminding ourselves just how long and hard the politicians have tried to impose this water charge and how we've resisted. The councils have gone down every avenue open to them in order to entice, intimidate or grab the money from people. They have failed because they met with resistance at every turn. We have stood together outside courts, outside houses, outside council offices (as the councillors have scurried like rats from a sinking ship) and in the face of this mass resistance the politicians will to force this charge on us has pathetically failed.

Over the next few weeks all the political parties will appear like a rash all over the press claiming that they've ended the water charge. These claims will be oblivious to the facts that every council consisting of members of all political parties have set these charges and this charge has survived two governments consisting of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour (twice) and Democratic left. All the politicians have tried to impose these charges and the working class people of Dublin have brought about their end.

We must remember that this will be our victory and the politicians loss. We must remember this victory because it will make us strong for the next struggle, because if they tried to charge us for the water, what's next?

Beat them Or Join them!

The water charges may almost be beaten but many of us involved in fighting them do not want to stop with this. We live in a world where poverty and unemployment are widely accepted as 'facts of life' and our TV's are regularly filled with horrific images of starvation, war and genocide. Yet if the money spent on arms and armaments were diverted into food and health care, starvation and hunger could be eliminated tomorrow from the world.

Millions of ordinary people all over the world are fighting back. The now inevitable victory of the tens of thousands of people who have refused to pay water charges in Dublin is one example of this. The strike by lorry drivers in France for earlier pensions and better pay (something we all want) is yet another. In South Eastern Mexico, landless labourers have seized land in an armed rebellion. In Liverpool the dockers are fighting casualisation. There are many, many current examples of people saying "enough!".

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.

More issues of Anarchist News