The Socialist Party leaflet at the We Won't Pay Campaign rally, Belfast City Hall, 1st April 2006

No to water charges - No to privatisation

Today’s protest marks an important moment in the fight against water charges and privatisation of the water service.

It was today that the Government originally had intended to introduce water charges and to switch the water service into a new ‘GoCo’. The fact that the Government were forced to postpone the introduction of charges by 12 months is an indication of the weakness of the Governments position and of the strenght of opposition to their plans. This small victory has saved hundreds of pounds in water charges for most people. However, the Government has not given up the ghost, but has made some minor changes to it’s original proposals. The claim by Peter Hain and his gang of direct-rule bandits, that the poorest will be protected by an Affordability Tariff is typical New Labour spin, or to put it simply, a lie. Nobody will be exempt from water charges - everybody will be sent bills. The Affordability Tariff will mean that the poorest households will see their income cut by 3% as a result of water charges. It was disgraceful that organisations like Help the Aged and the Northern Ireland General Consumers Council welcomed this attack on the poor.

Mass non-payment
One of the reasons, and a key one, for the 12-month postponement was the support which has grown for mass non-payment of water charges. The We Won’t Pay Campaign has succeeded in defeating the Governments case for water charges. Nobody supports water charges. The debate has moved to whether people should pay the charges or not. But this question has been partially answered by the failure of those who oppose mass non-payment to have any impact on the Government’s ‘water reform’ agenda. It is becoming more and more clear to people that mass non-payment offers the most effective way of defeating water charges and therefore privatisation. This was confirmed by the decision of NIPSA’s last conference to support ‘a campaign of mass non-payment as the only way to defeat water charges’.

Build the We Won’t Pay Campaign
The Socialist Party plays a central role in building the We Won’t Pay Campaign. We intiated the campaign together with trade union activists, in order to build an independent broad-based mass non-payment organisation. Unlike any other political party, the Socialist Party has fully-backed the We Won’t Pay Campaign and we will continue to put our energies into building the campaign.

Our approach differs completely with that of the main sectarian political parties. In fact, it was these same politicians who agreed to introduce water charges in the first place when they sat in the Assembly Executive before it collapsed and direct-rule Ministers were handed the baton. Today, the right-wing politicians refuse to support people who won’t pay this unjust double-tax. They offer no realistic alternative to how water charges can be defeated. But what they despise most is the sight of working class communites, Catholic & Protestant, uniting across the sectarian divide against water charges. Only on the basis of communities uniting, can water charges and privatisation be defeated. But this does not only apply to defeating water charges. Only on the basis of working class people uniting can we successfully defend our jobs, conditions and services which are being attacked by a vicious New Labour Government. The magnificent strike by local government workers to defend their pensions during the week and the victorious 3-week postal workers’ strike showed unity in action.

Socialist Alternative needed
The Socialist Party is campaigning for a working class political alternative in Northern Ireland which fights against the attacks on living conditions from the Government and the bosses. New Labour is representing it’s backers very well - big business and the super-rich. What we need is a party which fights with even more determination for workers and youth. That is why we call on the trade unions to break the link with Labour and support the Campaign for a New Party. In the North, the Socialist Party is in favour of the unions, together with genuine community groups, taking steps towards creating a new party for working class people and youth. Such a party should fight for a socialist society, where the resources of society are publicly-owned and democratically run to cater for people and the envoironments needs, and not the greed of the super-rich, like the private companies who want to take over our water service.

If you agree with the need for a genuine socialist alternative, then join the Socialist Party today!

More articles on the water charges campaign can be found here.