Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin on “A Black Tax Boycott”

I was recently made aware of a pamphlet written by African American civil rights activist Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin on Anarchism and the Black Revolution.

Although the title of the book gives it an anarchist perspective, the program it promotes includes non-anarchist intermediate steps designed as a platform the working class can unite behind, anarchist or not. The first mention of a tax strike in the pamphlet, for instance, takes this form:

Repressive economic legislation by conservative politicians to punish the poor and working class must be defeated; taxes on the rich and major corporations must be increased, while taxes on the workers and farmers must be abolished. If the politicians will not do it, we will organise a tax boycott to force them to do it.

Later, in a section on “revolutionary strategy and tactics,” he suggests “A Black Tax Boycott” in these words:

Black people should refuse to pay any taxes to the racist government, including federal income, estate and sales taxes, while being subjected to exploitation and brutality. The rich and their corporations pay virtually no taxes; it is the poor and workers who bear the brunt of taxation. Yet they receive nothing in return. There are still huge unemployment levels in the Black community, the unemployment and welfare benefits are paltry; the schools are dilapidated; public housing is a disgrace, while rents by absentee landlord properties are exorbitant — all these conditions and more are supposedly corrected by government taxation of income, goods, and services. Wrong! It goes to the Pentagon, defence contractors, and greedy consultants who, like vultures, prey on business with the government.

The Black Liberation movement should establish a mass tax resistance movement to lead a Black tax boycott as a means of protest and also as a method to create a fund to finance black community projects and organisations. Why should we continue to voluntarily support our own slavery? A Black tax boycott is just another means of struggle that the Black movement should examine and adopt, which is similar to the peace movement’s “war tax resistance.” Blacks should be exempted from all taxation on personal property, income taxes, stocks and bonds (the latter of which would be a new type of community development issuance). Tax the Rich!

The edition of the Cambrian includes an exchange of letters between Thomas Penrice and the office of the Secretary of State in which he complains that the cost of what he calls a burdensome, unnecessary, and disruptive police presence, designed to protect two tollgates (Kilvrough & Cartersford) has fallen on the parishes in which the gates are located. He suggests that the cost ought to be borne, if at all, by a larger political unit, or by the turnpike trustees themselves, who are the ones who stand to benefit from the protection.

In the course of this correspondence (which began on ), he drops in a few details about the progress of the Rebeccaite movement:

…There was a gate pulled down about five miles from the Kilvrough gate, on another line of road, in the Welsh [district?], and it appears from the report of the Committee of [illegible] such gate is now to be removed entirely. [Illegible] at the same time with the Kilvrough and Cartersford [illegible] and was chiefly supported by poor bare-footed women, [who?] went with donkeys and panniers with cockles to Swansea market, and had to pay 1½d. to that gate, and again at Swansea gate for each donkey, little more than six miles distant, and it would appear that no gates but such as of this description have been attempted to be destroyed.

Perhaps, sir, you are not aware, that the person who rented the gates all over the country, after taking them at the tolls always before paid for them, which was only three-fourths of what the Act allowed, has raised the tolls to the full extent in some cases, which has most probably been the cause of some of these disturbances. There have been some foolish alerts, I should say, caused by some boys firing off fowling-pieces, and I really think only to annoy the Rural Police-force, who have made a great fuss about it, because I know the people to be so well-disposed and quiet.