Mass Tax Resistance to Begin in French Wine Region

From a magazine called The Outlook:

The Wine Crisis in France

The vine-clad hills of France figure poetically in history, song, and romance, but the news from that region lately has not been in harmony with its traditions. For years there has been a growing difficulty among the peasants in disposing of their vintage at rates that will permit living on the modest scale to which they have been accustomed. They now seem to have come unanimously to the decision that their grievance has reached a stage that calls for immediate redress and remedy; and as Frenchmen, much like Americans and Englishmen, are inclined to hold the Government responsible when things go wrong, the vine-growers of southern France in the region of the Hérault, the Aude, and the eastern Pyrenees have demanded in no uncertain language that the Government take legislative and administrative measures for repressing adulteration of wines as the first step toward securing a reasonable price for the natural product. The peasants probably are aware that there are already a number of laws on the statute-book against adulteration and “blending” of wines, but they also probably know that these laws have not been rigidly enforced. They now demand the application of “the red-hot iron to the ulcer” and “absolute suppression of all vinous beverages other than perfectly natural wine.” Moreover — and this is the most serious phase of the matter — they have not been content merely with formulating radical demands. They went further, and threatened that unless the Government granted these measures before they would refuse to pay taxes. In some cases the peasants did not even wait for , but refused to pay taxes to a Government which they hold has not protected them, and talk of resistance against collection by force is not uncommon. The mottoes on the banners at the great meeting at Perpignan, when one hundred and thirty thousand men, women, and children were in line, bore such inscriptions as, “Bread or a Rifle,” “Bread for Our Little Ones,” “Le cri du ventre,etc. The situation evidently is a serious one for the Government as well as the wine-growers. The fact seems to be that the various “blendings” and adulterations of wine which have for years been practiced in France, and which have gravely threatened the wine industry, are not the only causes which have tended to diminish the income of the honest producers of natural vintage. The French workman, for instance, especially in Paris, no longer drinks vin ordinaire solely or exclusively with his meals. Beer has become a rival to the national drink of France, and this fact, in connection with a similar state of affairs in other countries formerly good customers for French wines, has led to a diminished demand for wine, both for home consumption and export. Pure food legislation, particularly in England and the United States, has also tended to decrease the export of French wines; while, in addition to these causes, Algeria, formerly an importer of the French product, has now become a competitor, and produces annually two hundred millions of gallons of wine which are admitted free of duty in France. It is, perhaps, not without significance in this disturbed condition of the wine industry of France that the past week has witnessed a consultation between Ambassador Jusserand and Secretary Root at Washington in regard to an agreement between France and America regulating tariff duties. The French Government is evidently bestirring itself to meet as promptly and as best it can the demands of the situation which has become acute in southern France.

This agitation did indeed turn into a tax strike, and the government felt compelled to send in the military to restore control. See the 23 February 2010 Picket Line entry for more details.

This is also roughly the same region where Pierre Poujade’s tax rebellion took hold fifty years later.