Preface

This book is written as a tribute to a mass movement which defied the state and won. It is the story of ordinary people coming together in local communities to defeat injustice. It is not a tale of the heroic deeds of hardened political activists, for compared to the action and courage of ordinary people these pale into insignificance. The aim of this book is to tell the story, as much as possible, in the voices of those who were involved.

I have also tried to bring together some of the best photographs and graphics, which I hope convey something of the spirit of the movement. In the end, however, the book represents my view of events and takes a non-aligned position, as I did in the campaign. Because I have felt it important to describe what happened in detail, a good proportion of the material is drawn from my experience of the South West of England. But I have also drawn heavily on detailed interviews and re-search which I carried out in Scotland and London, as well as material which has been sent to me from across Britain.

The book analyses what happened in the campaign, and speculates on the future of the left - because there are important lessons to be learnt. But I hope it will also be read as a story. The story of how the Anti-Poll Tax Unions were built; how the demonstrations grew into riots; how the court cases and the bailiffs were resisted; and ultimately how the tax was defeated by the sheer weight of non-payment.

There has never been a campaign of resistance in Britain which involved so many people in direct confrontation with the law. It was a historic event which gave hope to me and many others after the desolation of the Thatcher years. Such mass-resistance is surely the route to creating a just society.

Danny Burns, January 1992.