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Search words: Workers Solidarity
Bin Tax Interview
Welcome to Working Class Resistance. The appearance of this publication marks the coming together of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, Anarchist Federation, Anarchist Prisoner Support and a number of individuals to create a more effective and better resourced class struggle anarchist organisation across Ireland. Together we have created a new organisation, Organise! - Working Class Resistance, with local groups and individual members across Ireland.
INTERVIEW: AN ANTI-BIN TAX ACTIVIST
Terry from 'Working Class Resistance' talks to Dermot Sreenan, Anti-Bin Tax Activist, Anarchist and Workers Solidarity Movement member, about recent activity and the state of the campaign against bin charges in Dublin. The interview took place on the 18th of October.
So Dermot, what did you spend the start of the week doing?
There were a couple of meetings and then there was two blockades on Tuesday and Wednesday. I was involved in the Grangegorman one, in the North inner city, there were simultaneously blockades in the three other depots in the city area, and also on others in the south county Dublin area. So effectively there were seven depots blockaded.
So you are blockading the bin trucks as they come out of the depots now, not as they a going around the estates?
Yeah, we decided to go directly to the source. This was to escalate the campaign and to show Solidarity around the different areas, it effectively shut down the city for two whole days. The reason it was successful, to a large extent, was because of the level of co-operation from the Workers. The argument has been won within the depots that this is ultimately leading to privatisation and job losses.
There are 15 people now in prison - what’s the popular reaction to that been, and what’s the reaction to it been within the campaign?
The actual anti-bin charges campaign itself has been pushed into the situation where people have been forced to break the law, because they have changed the laws so often around this specific issue. People got injuncted specifically ‘cause they didn’t want people to be stopping the bin trucks. This follows three years of them changing the law, like them bringing in the ‘protection of the environment’ bill which meant they could start implementing non-collection. It’s a very difficult, complicated situation, but those people knew exactly what they were getting into before they went to court. They were ordinary peaceful protestors the state has gone out of its way to criminalise. They were quite prepared to pay the price - which in most cases is two weeks in prison.
Has the movement grown because of the arrests and imprisonment's - is there a sympathetic popular reaction?
Yeah I think there is, its very difficult to assess that through the media who have been on a witch-hunt against us for the last two weeks at least - and maybe longer. On the ground people are still quite prepared to continue with the campaign. Imprisonment hasn’t succeeded from the states point of view because it hasn’t frightened people back into their houses and made people start writing big cheques for the money that they ‘owe’ in back taxes.
In fact we’ve seen bigger attendance at meetings, in a couple of areas I’d be involved in, like Cabra, there have been meetings with several hundred people in the local GAA club and in Stoneybatter, which isn’t a big area, there have been meetings of 50 to 75 people at different times. People are still prepared to get involved, and I think an air of confidence is building around the movement. The state has gone out to get this movement and it hasn’t succeeded - so people have actually became more confident.
But what about the environmental issue - there's a massive amount of landfill out there, and a massive amount of waste being produced, should people not be made to pay for their rubbish collection so as to act as an encouragement to produce less rubbish?
OK, the age old argument that the polluter pays. It’s constantly churned out in the media that we don’t have a position on this but in fact in the last two years at both our annual conferences we’ve had discussions and debates on the environment and people are actually quite concerned about the environment. We are keen to see landfill being used less, but that is not the governments perspective.
What they are trying to do is to get us to pay for a public service so they can generate profits and then ultimately privatise it. Private industry and big business has no interest in protection of the environment just as they have no interest in collecting the bins of a pensioner who can’t afford to pay whatever the new charge would be.
What do you say to those who feel that the proper way of going about changing this would be the democratic way - like all of youse in the campaign have the vote?
When the parties came ‘round looking for a vote this wasn’t on the agenda - it wasn’t like they were actually goin’ around sayin’ “oh yeah, we’re gonna start privatising public services and we’re askin’ you to pay more money for it”. When it did come up the campaign was quite successfully involved in lobbying and trying to change the minds of a lot of the political parties and councillors on the issue. We actually had the city council split straight down the middle with 23 opposing charges and 23 in favour. Y’know the usual suspects were in favour, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the PDs, needless to say the parties in power were in favour of it. We pushed the Labour Party to be against it, and some of the independents and Sinn Fein. The then Lord Mayor, Dermot Lacey, who was actually in the Labour Party, and should have been against it, had the casting vote and voted for the charge. So we’ve been down the road of trying to influence and trying to change the minds of our great leaders, but it hasn’t worked. The campaign has been pushed into a situation where we have to take matters into our own hands and take some power back in this dispute and prevent the council picking off each individual area. Which is what they are trying to do, they are going to areas like Ballsbridge where 153 Euro a year to the average person who lives there isn’t really that much money, whereas to someone who lives in Finglas it can be quite a considerable amount. So they are going to the rich areas and doing non-collection there ‘cause they realise most of the people there have paid, but what we are doing is that we are refusing to let them go in and pick off individual areas, because eventually they are going to come to our areas where we are strong and implement non-collection there. So ours is a tactic of “one bin all bins”, that’s the motto, our catch phrase of the moment.
So do you believe you can really take on the authorities and win?
Yeah, ‘cause it’s been done before. It’s not an easy task but it’s something which can be done and I hope it will encourage other people around the country to start up campaigns. I think Cork is bringing a campaign together again. So I hope that even in areas where services are privatised that people would be encouraged by what is happening in Dublin and start considering not cutting a cheque the next time a bill arrives in.
Why I’m confident that we can actually take on the authorities and win is ‘cause we’ve done it before. We did it with the water charges and we can do it again. We are getting a lot of people involved and once you have serious numbers and people prepared to put up with the constant harassment of the state, even to the extent that they are prepared to go to prison and serve time, then you are talking about a very strong, determined, wilful campaign and you can’t defeat that very easily, despite all the power that resides within the authorities.
BIN WARS = CLASS WAR
The campaign against the bin-tax in Dublin has seen, despite a hostile media and arrests, an upsurge of community resistance to the government. Direct democracy and direct action are the order of the day as a mixture of meetings, protests and blockades are co-ordinated to bring about successful city-wide disruption.
This has got the government on the run, shock horror stories about ‘Anarchists’ in the campaign, and non-payment as the road to ‘Anarchy’ have appeared in the media. Anarchists should be proud of their involvement in this campaign, as to non-payment setting us on the road to ‘Anarchy’ lets take them up on that!
Meanwhile, on the 4th November 6 more Bin Tax protesters were jailed and fined up to 1500 Euro each. On top of that the previous day a number of other people were fined 250 Euro even though they were not in contempt of court.
The majority of people in Dublin are against this double-tax and the harder they try to crush it the more the resistance will grow. The Government have asked their friends in the media to conduct a witch-hunt against the campaign. This is because there is a genuine fear by the authorities that they could lose. Lets remember that and ensure that we continue to take the fight to them by maintaining non-payment and preventing non-collection.
BIN TAX PRISONERS - SET THEM FREE
From the pages of Working Class Resistance #3 (WCR!), bulletin of Organise!
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