Renounce Government Privileges and Offices

I made note of people and groups that had deliberately exposed themselves to extraordinary taxes, or had flouted the conditions of tax-exemption, in order to be subject to a tax that they could then resist.

That reminded me of the draft resisters during the Vietnam War who deliberately refused to invoke exemptions from the draft for which they were qualified (such as the draft exemption granted to ministers) so that they could resist in solidarity with draft resisters who did not qualify for any such exemptions.

Some of the examples I mentioned are a variety of tactic that has occasionally accompanied tax resistance campaigns: renouncing of government privileges and titles. Here are some additional examples from this category:

  • When Gandhi was commander-in-chief of the Indian independence movement, his campaign of non-cooperation included tax resistance and other forms of civil disobedience, but he not only instructed his nonviolent army to resist taxes, wear untaxed domestic cloth, break the British salt monopoly by harvesting salt, and so forth — he also told them to resign their government posts, renounce any government-awarded titles or authority, take their children out of government schools, not ask for protection from the government’s law or courts, and stop voting or running for office. He explained why:

    This is the way of non-co-operation, or peaceful severing of relations. That is, that we should neither seek help from the Government nor offer it any help. How can we part company with it? First we should renounce titles. For us now to hold titles is a sin. Next we should give up the courts. The dispensing of justice should lie in our own hands. The courts strengthen the roots of the Government. Lawyers should give up their practice. If it is possible for them they should, after giving up legal practice, serve the country. Even if they cannot serve the country the giving up of legal practice would be by itself sufficient service. They should take up other trades. Parents should withdraw their children from schools and universities. Boys who have reached the age of 16 should be treated as friends and advised to withdraw. They should be told not to continue their studies in these institutions. They should be told to go to school at institutions where they can remain free. We should not go for education to a place where the Government’s flag flies.

    The Congress has also said that we should not go into the Councils. The election to the Councils will take place on . It is the day when we shall be tested. First we should persuade the candidates to withdraw. If they do not give in, it will be the duty of voters to remain at home and not to cast their votes. We should go on pleading with the candidates till the night of . We should fall at their feet and beseech them not to stand for the Councils. If they do not come round but persist in going into the Councils it will be your duty to refuse all help and do no work for them. Again, soldiering is a sin. You should not get recruited as soldiers, but it is your duty to become soldiers of freedom.

    …With great humility I ask you: What have you done? Have you withdrawn your boys from schools and colleges? If your boy is grown up have you made him aware of his duty? Have you given him your blessing in this matter? If you have not done this, why are you gathered here? It is the duty of boys to leave schools and to convince their elders. Have you decided not to vote? Have you taken the swadeshi vow? These questions concern everyone. Government recruitment should stop. We should take our litigation to our elders and seek justice. This will put an end to the “prestige” of the Government. The Government will at the same time realize that its hundred thousand whites can no longer rule over three hundred million people. So long the Government has carried on its rule over us by making us quarrel among ourselves, by offering us enticements and by giving and taking help.…

    The British occupation government responded by asking its Indian employees, who were normally forbidden to engage with political questions, to explicitly oppose Gandhi’s movement. This instead triggered even more resignations from those who were not active in the independence movement but who felt they could not explicitly oppose it.
  • During the Bardoli satyagraha, for example, many members of the Bombay Legislative Council resigned in protest, some of the first resigners co-signing a letter in which they wrote that “when a Government forgetful of its own obligations commits grave breaches of law, and ruthlessly attempts to trample under foot such noble and law-abiding people, it is but fair and proper for us, as a protest against the high-handed policy of Government in that taluka [district], to resign our seats on the Bombay Legislative Council, and so we request your Excellency to accept our resignations of the same.” Many local officials also resigned their posts, which meant a great deal of sacrifice for them and their families. Gandhi said of them: “More purifying than this suffering imposed by godless and insolent authority is the suffering which the people are imposing upon themselves.” By resigning, these officials, who were often part of the indigenous elite who had been bought off by the Raj with titles and state-guaranteed privilege, were risking all of that. Resistance spokesman Sailendra Ghose noted that “the government in some provinces has refused to allow village officers to resign, dismissing those who refuse to carry out their duties and thus depriving their heirs of their hereditary rights as village chiefs.”
  • Quaker Meetings would frequently not only require that members adhere to their peace testimony by refusing to participate in military service or pay war taxes, but also that those members who had been in the military prior to becoming Quakers renounce their claim to military pensions. Here is how the New England Yearly Meeting put it in their “rules of discipline” of 1808:

    It is our sense and judgment, that it will not be consistent with our testimony against war, for any of our members to receive pensions from government, for military services performed before they became members, though reduced to necessitous circumstances; but that this necessity should be relieved by monthly and quarterly meetings, and thereby preserve our religious testimony against the anti-christian practice of war, and manifest their sympathy for their brethren, by contributing to their comfortable support.

  • Ghislaine “Ghis” Lanctôt embarked on a project of absolute individual independence from the governments of the world, something she termed “personocratia,” in . She refused to cooperate with the government in any way, but also took a careful inventory of the benefits and privileges of the citizenship granted her by the government, and was careful to refuse those too. She started by giving up her state health insurance card, later tossed her driver’s license and stopped paying traffic fines, gave up her claim to a family trust, and eventually let her passport expire. She made a list of various state privileges that she was turning her back on: social security, professional licensing, insurance, legally protected property, certifications, intellectual property rights, the courts, access to banks, and so forth.
  • In Beit Sahour, during the first intifada, one of the ways the Israeli military occupation authorities would retaliate against tax resisters was to seize their identity cards, which would make it difficult for them to travel, get medical care, be employed, avoid arbitrary arrest, or “to pursue anything resembling a normal life under occupation.” But the residents fought back in a creative and daring fashion: Hundreds of them voluntarily turned in their identity cards.
  • During the French wine-growers tax strike of , the municipal governments of the region resigned en masse.

    The Mayor of Narbonne will open the strike. He and the entire Municipal Council will resign , after having previously dismissed all municipal employes. Officers of other cities will follow suit in the course of a few days.

    Tax strike leader Marcelin Albert claimed that “12,000 cities, towns, boroughs, and villages in the south of France” were left without municipal governments as a result of the resignation.

    The quitting of municipal officers is usually attended with much ceremony. Generally a crape streamer is hoisted at the flagstaff, and the Mayor burns his official sash in public.

  • War tax resisters Beatrice and Cornelis Boeke felt that in order for their tax resistance to be consistent, they must also refuse to use state-run monopolies like the postal service and railways, relinquish their passports, stop contributing to retirement accounts, and renounce any claim to the protection of the police, courts, and military. When the government started providing funding even for private schools, they withdrew and homeschooled their children. They even stopped handling government-issued currency. They took this to the point of abandoning their home rather than calling the police when vagrants moved in.
  • In Tasmania, in , 26 magistrates resigned their offices rather than try to enforce a widely-resisted tax.

    Such an expressive demonstration on the part of gentlemen holding the commission of the peace incited the people to stronger resistance; for it appeared to them that a law which could not be conscientiously administered by the retiring justices was unworthy of obedience.