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Tag Archives: Poll Tax

Trotskyism’s rich history in Scotland

Ronnie Stevenson - Socialist Party Scotland and a supporter of Militant from 1975 The right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party, aided by their friends in the media, have tried everything to undermine Corbyn’s leadership. One of the tactics has been to ...

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How can we stop austerity?

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Hannah Sell, Socialist Party England and Wales deputy general secretary Just six weeks after the general election – on 20 June – people are flocking to London and Glasgow to show their opposition to austerity. The question in everyone’s mind ...

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Militant anniversary: 50 years of socialism and workers’ struggle

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Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary When we started publishing Militant, the Socialist’s predecessor, in October 1964, few of our political opponents expected that we would not only continue publication for 50 years, but become an important factor in subsequent ...

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The Poll Tax Rebellion

Tommy Sheridan and Ronnie Stevenson at press conference in Saughton Prison

 “Ye cannae beat her son, she’s faced doon Galtieri and beat the miners. She’s the iron lady”
 
This was a common response at the early anti-poll tax meetings organised in housing schemes across Scotland in 1988.

 

 

A battered and bruised working class had witnessed a rampant and brutal Prime Minister, in the shape of Margaret Thatcher, cruelly and callously despatch troops to recapture the tiny Falklands Islands and sink ships in retreat from the battle in 1982 and tool up the ‘polis’ in paramilitary gear and tactics to crush the aspirations of miners in 1984. Their only crime was a desire to defend their jobs and communities for future generations. 

 

by Tommy Sheridan, Chair of the Scottish and All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation

 

With less than 40% of the popular vote a deeply divided Britain returned her to office for a record third term in office at the 1987 general election.  Her victories over the Argentinean conscripts and the proud National Union of Mineworkers emboldened her to implement even more assaults on the welfare state, trade union rights and the very concept of ‘society’.  ‘There’s no such thing’ she declared at a Royal Geographical dinner to the applause of the rich and powerful throughout the land who welcomed her determination to destroy socialism, human solidarity and the collectivist spirit which renders a society worthy of the description.

This was the political background to the mighty anti-poll tax struggle.

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When Mass Campaigning Defeated the Poll Tax

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A Residential School setting in West Linton in the Scottish Borders seems a weird place to start the story of the poll Tax but given the history of it’s demise it is as good a place to start as any.

by Ronnie Stevenson, secretary Mount Florida anti-poll tax union, Glasgow

At a Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party in England and Wales and the International Socialists in Scotland.) conference in 1987, called to discuss resistance to the Poll Tax Labour Councillor Chic Stevenson moved that we begin to organise for total defiance of the Poll Tax. The strategy involved arguing for all councillors to refuse to implement the tax and for building support for a mass non-payment campaign should it be implemented. 

The decisions which were taken shaped the campaign over the next few years. The ideas of a mass campaign against the poll tax, for building anti-poll tax unions, for mass organised non-payment and non-compliance by local authorities and council trade unions, and for industrial action to defend those victimised for non-payment or non-implementation were brought together in a Militant pamphlet in April 1988. 

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Poll Tax: When a mass rebellion defeated Thatcher

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By Ronnie Stevenson, then secretary Mount Florida Anti-Poll Tax Union, Glasgow. Posted 15th April 2013

She was dubbed the Iron Lady, a description she wore with pride as she ruthlessly tried to solve the difficulties British capitalism found itself in by launching brutal attack after attack on the working class. However she was not invincible as Liverpool City Council and the All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation demonstrated. Some common themes unite these two struggles – a clear set of demands, a clear strategy to achieve them and the involvement of the mass of working class people in active defiance. The role of Militant, the forerunner of the Socialist Party, was crucial in these important victories over Thatcher.

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