Pyotr Kropotkin on Tax Resistance During the French Revolution

, I reproduced some of Hippolyte Taine’s observations about tax resistance during the French Revolution. Anarchist Pyotr Kropotkin also wrote a book about this revolution. His research on the tax resistance angle doesn’t add much to what Taine uncovered, but the following brief excerpt shows what conclusions he drew:

…The taxes, the town-dues, the levies and excise were no longer paid. “The collectors of the taille are at their last shift,” said Necker, in his report of . “The price of salt has been compulsorily reduced one-half in two of the revolted localities,” the collection of taxes “is no longer made,” and so forth. “An infinity of places” was in revolt against the treasury clerks. The people would no longer pay the indirect tax; as to the direct taxes, they are not refused, but conditions were laid down for their payment. In Alsace, for instance, “the people generally refused to pay anything until the exempts and privileged persons had been added to the lists of taxpayers.”

In this way the people, long before the Assembly, were making the Revolution on the spot; they gave themselves, by revolutionary means, a new municipal administration, they made a distinction between the taxes that they accepted and those which they refused to pay, and they prescribed the mode of equal division of the taxes that they agreed to pay to the State or to the Commune.

It is chiefly by studying this method of action among the people, and not by devoting oneself to the study of the Assembly’s legislative work, that one grasps the genius of the Great Revolution — the Genius, in the main, of all revolutions, past and to come.

I’ve been trying to ignore the primaries and the gargoyles preening themselves for the voting public. But I’d be remiss if I failed to pass along the following excerpt from a recent Newsweek interview with Ron Paul:

Newsweek: You don’t criticize tax resisters. Why?

RP: Civil disobedience is a legitimate tool in a free society, but you have to suffer the consequences. I don’t go and preach that that is what we should be doing … If they are defending the Constitution, they know what they’re doing. This money is supporting evil in the world, through pre-emptive war. I mean, that’s pretty evil as far as I’m concerned: so much waste in a system of government that has just overrun our liberties. In many ways it’s heroic that people are willing to risk their freedom to defend what they think is freedom. It’s just, I do not promote it and do not participate in it.

Paul’s sympathy for tax resisters is usually mentioned in the context of the Constitutionalist “show me the law” tax protester set, but as this answer shows, he also has a soft spot for the conscientious tax resister who is acting because “[tax] money is supporting evil in the world, [for instance] through pre-emptive war.”

Paul is also a co-sponsor of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act (as is his fellow-contender Dennis Kucinich).