The politics of the anti-poll tax movement : a study of local activity.
Non-payment of the poll tax amounted to the largest campaign of civil disobedience in postwar
Britain. Despite this, there has been scant academic investigation of either the basis or
organisation of protest. This thesis attempts an original contribution to
exploring the role of anti-poll tax organisations in promoting dissent against the charge. .
Specifically, the piece examines the applicability and inadequacy of existing theories of
pressure groups and social movements in accounting for the development and organisational
tendencies of such groups.
Using a case study approach based in three localities, the thesis examines the size, structure
. and motivations of the anti-poll tax movement. Beginning with an examination of the poll tax
itself, the thesis explores how weaknesses in the recovery legislation provided a valuable
resource for a campaign of opposition based upon a fusion of economic circumstance and
moralism. In assessing the nature of 'outsider' movement politics, the failure of
parliamentary opposition to the charge and the subsequent refusal of opposition political
parties to countenance non-payment are explored.
The thesis argues that the anti-poll tax movement highlighted the growing redundancy of
distinctions between pressure groups and social movements. Modem protest groups are
frequently based upon informal networks with loose membership, based around collective
action: - Within the anti-poll tax movement, the thesis highlights important differences
between a largely class-based, sustained Scottish movement and a more transient, diverse
campaign elsewhere. However, commonalities existed throughout the movement, based
around a rejection of central control and a favouring of decentralised, localised opposition.