Tax Resisters Can Play the Good Cop Bad Cop Game

Tax resistance campaigns can sometimes get some mileage out of contrasting themselves with more fearsome or objectionable opposition groups.

For example, union leader Hardie Gibson, in recommending the strategy of nonviolent tax resistance in Australia’s Northern Territory in , warned the government against trying to crack down on the resisters: “He did not want trouble like they had last year, he could not see the necessity for it, but unless the Government adopted different methods they would spread the seeds of Bolshevism faster than by any other method.”

The Women’s Tax Resistance League in Great Britain won a lot more sympathy than they might otherwise have because they were able to contrast their “passive resistance” tactics with those of the “militant” wing of the movement, whose members resorted to arson, assault, and other violent tactics.

Mary Russell, when she began resisting her property tax, said: “I am very strongly opposed to the militant tactics adopted by a portion of those who are in favour of women’s franchise, and I have therefore taken this, the only course open to me, which appears justifiable, of protesting against the way in which the question of woman suffrage has been treated by the Government.”

In the United States, where the suffrage movement was considerably more restrained, there was no substantial “militant” wing to act as the bad cop to the tax resisters’ good cop, and this may have contributed to the slower adoption of the topic in the U.S.. One American suffragist, commenting on Russell’s resistance, noted that “this was [her] manner of protesting against militancy, though I fancy we should have considered it rather militant here.”