okay so the poll tax Rebellion what can you tell us about it yes well the poll tax campaign is often actually I think an overlooked part of British history a British movement history yet it’s one of the most effective campaigns I think ever in the history of this country and it’s particularly relevant in an era that we’re going to be going into of fuel and energy shortages of gouging and profiteering from major corporations and from an age where we’re starting to look at campaigns like don’t pay and seeing whether we can make them reality so let me give you a little history of what happened during the poll tax movement and then we can get into some chat about it so the anti-poll tax campaign started in 1987 from the very humble beginnings of a few people sitting in a room so always bear that in mind and it takes a few people sometimes by 1992 it toppled the most notorious possible prime minister organized the largest demonstration ever seen to that point and ultimately reversed the hated law there were riots in prison measurement and a lot of organizing along the way yet when it started no one could have seen it coming so what was the poll tax the poll tax or Community charge as Thatcher dubbed it was an attempt by the Tory government to impose an equal rate of council tax for everyone everywhere the the ill thought out slogan for the policy was why should a Duke pay more than a dustman so the conservative government decided to try and roll this out in Scotland first which as you’ll know is always a bad idea the Scottish people did not react well to it so despite the labor party and the trades Union Council opposing the anti-poll tax movement so supporting the conservative government and supporting the government to punish any action that broke the law there was an organization called the militant they were a faction of the labor party there were trotskyists who later went on once kicked out the labor party by Tony Blair they formed what is now known as the Socialist Party and they were one of the key actors in forming what was called the Federation of poll tax unions in 1988 by 1989 they had created a non-payment Army of a million people a million people said we are not going to pay the poll tax in Scotland marches and rallies involved tens of thousands council chambers were occupied sheriffs offices were barred entry to non-payers homes and often returned to find their own offices Under Siege the tax was fatally wounded by that point already and then when the the campaign spread to England and Wales there was another 13 million new recruits to the non-payment Army and it basically rendered the poll tax at dead duck because when you’ve got 14 million people in the UK refusing to pay their this tax that is going to absolutely devastate the government at first communities tried a tactic of filling up courts and I think this is really interesting because it shows how campaigns can change and also how you don’t always get it right to begin with because the idea was we’ll just refuse to pay and then what we’ll do is we’ll overwhelm the courts which are already flooded and just basically overwhelm the bureaucracy’s capacity to like enforce this law but what it turned out is that some people did end up getting sentences by repeatedly going to court and what they realized is an actually easier and more effective thing is just not to turn up to court at all then bailiffs are sent out to people’s houses people on the Estates and in the communities where the poll tax Federation had organized would look out for bailiffs and then people would simply hide from them after being told by other people on the estate that the bailiffs were coming there would be um I’ve met many actors who talked about this phone trees each person would have three numbers to call when they saw bailiffs and then each person would call three people and so everyone in the states or in a community would know when Baylor’s returning up and they just couldn’t find people to bring them to court and if they did try to if they did find them and actually tried to take them off in a state they were often surrounded and forced to let go of the people so by 1990 the anti-poll tax Federation decided to call the demonstration it was clear that the campaign was winning but the chance to come together and feel the power the United movement was seen as important as with many days that get out of hand the police made several statements uh about being up for it in quotes and slapped that all over the front page of the Sun for the demonstration basically saying that they’re ready to kick off the peaceful demonstration turned into a right after the police charged the front of the demonstration with horses and cars severely injuring several people there was a lot of arrests made and the protesters were blamed originally by the media but as it turns out all the arrests for violence got overturned thanks to the new technology of handheld video cameras something that we’re a lot more familiar with now those handheld video cameras caught the true culprits that started to ride the police so there was a lot of property damage done not only in London but all over the country and the riots went on all over the country so we’re nearly there now a few months after this Thatcher was deposed by the conservative party and John Major her successor tried to enforce the policy for another few months and until he gave up in early 1991. though there were other demonstrations which again became riots the main activity during that period was Prisoner support and court support for those refusing to pay the mass refusal of payment the direct action against courts and bailiffs the community organizing to bring people together and the demonstrations and active resistance of protesters as well as the mutual Aid of supporting people through the courts and prisons all combined to make this one of the most successful political movements in British history so something I think we can learn a lot from there I don’t know what you guys think what’s on my mind at least is how we may take what they learn and you know be inspired by their actions and even apply it to our modern day circumstances because I think we’re finding ourselves like you said earlier in similar precarious situations yeah I think there are some examples and uh there of actions that did work in the actions that didn’t work that we can learn from in terms of filling up the court still does end with people getting arrested and going to prison which included by the way some labor councilors in in places like Liverpool which had like a very radical Council and that actually with enough people and with the right organization you can just completely stop a bureaucracy by not engaging with it Leon what do you think yeah I was I was just reflecting because I signed up to the don’t pay UK Campaign which is obviously very live in fact today is the day that they issued information about starting to strike I know that they’ve referenced the poll tax a lot in the campaign as being something that’s as you described it sort of successfully pushed back against a really unjust policy or set of policies so now today with don’t pay UK in case you’re not familiar the idea is that to build a rent strike or a bill stroke so people refusing to pay their bills and it would be a mixture of people who can’t afford to pay their bills because energy bills have gone up so high have gone up so high and the cost of living has gone up so much for people and that’s unmanageable if you’re on a lower income but also people such as myself who probably could afford the bill rise but who in solidarity with those who can’t are being caught on to also join the strike I mean their target number when they start to campaign over the summer I think was they wanted either one or two million people to sign up I think there’s about 250 000 plus people who have pledged to strike to not pay bills the the start of the whole campaign had been delayed from the beginning of September or October when the initial price hike was going to go up partly because there was a success in terms of the government backing down on price hikes so there was a I guess a small win not just for don’t pay UK lots of other organizations and and people in the movement involved campaigning and pushing back against that plus the disastrous run of of politicians leading the Tory party who couldn’t successfully manage anything it seems let alone a price hike but now today first of December as we record is the day that the strike is supposed to start so it’s really nice to hear you talk about the poll tax and kind of be reminded of what is possible in terms of a victory for for people in our movements if we do act collectively it takes a lot of organization and I guess that’s that’s the kind of if you know you don’t know if it’s going to work but you you hope it will and you try and put your efforts into the organize into supporting organizations so that it becomes effective and it works but there’s yeah clearly a really strong precedent so I’m yeah I’m interested to see those parallels between that campaign and the poll tax campaign and the the don’t pay campaign the non-payment of utilities that’s starting potentially today well it’s starting today yeah it’s that level of organization that you need for something like that that really struck me it’s like you know in order to have that kind of network you talk about phone trees like people alerting other people about Bayless maybe coming around to support is like you need really strong links in local communities and it feels like because of you know the way that like so that Council housing has been sold off the way that jobs have been centralized within City these lots of different ways that our economy has been organized that a lot of those Community tires have been destabilized and if you think about something like the don’t pay campaign like a lot of people who aren’t able to pay or might be kind of on the edge of not being able to pay will be renters and those are the people who are moved around so often like it’s really hard to kind of build those strong community links often when you’re renting and you’re like moving every year so yeah I’m not very I haven’t been very sort of close to or engaged with with the don’t pay campaign but I’d be really interested to know how they’re going about trying to like build up that kind of solidarity within communities in order to build the strength that you would need for a win on this yeah there’s some really interesting points there and I think when we’re thinking about organizing you know how does this apply today a couple of things that I think are positives are that to recognize that this was all organized in opposition to the labor party and the Trade union movement so typically when people think oh we need you know we need a mass political party t or we need the Trade union movement to do anything effective in this country actually in fact if you look back over the past 20 years and this is one of the first examples any campaign that’s been won has actually almost always been opposed by the labor party in the and the Trade union movement as useful as they can be to organizing and as useful spaces as they can be they’re not fundamentally necessary so that’s a positive but as you say also the process over the past 30 years of individualization and isolation of people and communities has made certain things more difficult you can spread information more rapidly more quickly but its impact is also vastly lessened by the way that we share information again there’s a kind of a lot of studies on this that show that people can take in way more information that they can do they get more information and they can even be moved by a lot of stuff but will it stick with them that’s something I think that’s a challenge for this period of 21st century is to combine digital communication and actual Community organizing to build to strength in exactly the areas you’re talking about you know those of us who are all precarious you know how do we organize together and actually have those stronger ties that are not just like a momentary inflaming of the emotions from from some piece of information but like a commitment to an action and feeling supported to that and by that because there was that even in the process of de-industrialization that was going on in 1990 there was a proper real communities having said all of that a lot of it went on in the major cities that were as isolated then as they are now where people were as isolated then as they are now I think it’s about reaching existing networks as well and just making sure that everyone who’s already in existing networks is signed up with that’s maybe Church Mutual Aid assist in campaigning organizations that have already got Mass lists you know it’s bringing people on in those ways we’ve already said yeah we’re interested we want to be active and getting that sort on critical mass you’ve mentioned mutually a couple of times now so could you give us a reminder of what that means I know we spoke about it in the past but just for anyone who’s listening what is mutual Aid yes that’s uh that’s my fault for using something jargon head B it’s where we help each other out basically in a very practical sense we and we do it not as a sort of charitable thing like I’m going to help out someone poorer than me because that makes me feel nice uh nothing wrong with that but it’s where we help each other out because we recognize if I help you and you help me we’re both going to be better off we’re all going to be better off if we will help each other out and that will mean in cases like this it will be it can be emotional support like going through the court system being arrested things like that very emotionally trying but having a community around that you can talk to about those things is really important but food you know like food like dropping around dinners having breakfast together Cups of Tea financial support loaning each other money you know so practical material resources real world stuff and emotional resources that’s how we can really help each other out for the sake of each other I think hopefully that gives us something cool to think about when we’re trying to organize and recognize that we can win we can win when opposed by every part of the establishment and existing power structures and we can win massive and we can bring down governments and you know refuse to pay tax by the way today the government still has hundreds of millions of pounds of uncollected taxes from that period like people just didn’t pay for two three years so that’s one of the things you say is always certain death and taxes right well it shows that not even taxes are that certain like we can win and we have and it’s not in the even too distant past and it’s during an era when we thought we lost all the time which was on the Thatcher so I think that’s a good takeaway hopefully for today’s episode wonderful well yeah thank you everyone for sharing your Reflections I’ve certainly learned a lot today and I look forward to hearing from you guys next time make sure to check out our socials especially our Tick Tock where you can hear directly from our community organizers who are doing incredible work on the ground and don’t forget to like share and subscribe to our Channel and keep up to date with future episodes Empower love and rage from the breathe Network

The Poll Tax Rebellion

Episode 3 | The Poll Tax Rebellion In this episode of our podcast, we’re diving into the Poll Tax Rebellion – a historic moment of civil disobedience in the UK that brought the country to a standstill. This regressive tax, introduced by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990, was deeply unpopular and sparked a grassroots movement of resistance. Listen and be inspired by the story of how regular citizens challenged an unfair tax system, and how their collective action changed the course of history. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel for more insightful discussions on movement histories and how we create change! #polltax #civilresistance #grassroots #activism #socialjustice #history #ukpolitics #margaretthatcher #taxreform #civildisobedience #socialchange #podcast #community #communityorganising #organising #cs #campfirestories #breathe #breathebuilds #movementhistories