TEA Party: Grassroots Rebellion or Republican Base-Rallying
Organizers and promoters of the coming “Tea Party”
protests are caught up in a
messaging tug-of-war. On the one hand, there’s been an attempt to cast the
protests as non-partisan, populist, grass-roots affairs. On the other hand,
the Republican Party and right-wing activists are trying vigorously to put
themselves at the head of the parade so as to channel the outrage for partisan
All this is making my hopes of some cross-pollenation between this group and
our left-leaning group of local war tax resisters seem ridiculous. I’m not
much looking forward to being harangued by a bunch of Republican jingos with
On the other hand, I saw something encouraging last night on the left /
libertarian synthesis front.
It was a documentary called Garbage
Warrior, about an architect who is experimenting with using recycled,
unconventional building materials and innovative design and
construction methods to make homes that use passive
temperature-control, solar electricity, rainwater capture,
and other techniques in order to be self-reliant and off-the-grid.
He’s taken his techniques to other countries to help people recover quickly
and inexpensively from disasters like the
He sees himself as an experimenter in new forms of building and architecture
of a sort that will become more necessary as global warming accelerates. His
apocalyptic global warming rhetoric and his
environmentally-friendly solutions would make him a
welcome guest at any environmentalist gathering.
But the middle of the movie shows the Garbage Warrior, Michael Reynolds,
locking horns with the government — first as they take away his license,
outlaw his buildings, and force him to pay tens of thousands of dollars and
countless hours of pointless paperwork to the bureaucracy; then, as he tries
to navigate the byzantine state legislature to get the law changed so that he
can continue to work: not asking for taxpayer handouts or special favors, but
just asking for permission to have some space in which to innovate and
experiment without having to bow to convention-shackled bureaucrats at every
It’s like The Fountainhead for the Whole Earth set.
Instead of a pontificating suit-and-tie übermensch building skyscrapers for
capitalists, it’s a scraggly desert rat making “earthships” out of pressed
earth, bald tires, and aluminum cans.
Environmentalists: show it to your libertarian
friends. Libertarians: show it to your green buddies.
Here’s another example of how the mainstream media in the British Empire
belittled and misunderstood Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaigns. From
WHAT threatened to be a thunderbolt against the Government in India by the
campaign of civil disobedience by the Hindu, leader, Mr. Gandhi, has failed
so far to prove in practice more than a weakly supported protest. The
campaign to date has failed to advance the cause of the Nationalists and has
rather strengthened respect for the administration of India.
On the basis of the old proverb, “Forewarned is forearmed,” the authorities
have had ample time to take appropriate steps to meet any danger which may
have been apprehended, and its vigilance and patience have been the keynotes
of its attitude to the whole movement. There is no doubt that the delay in
launching the campaign has lost a good deal of the dramatic effect intended.
Although sufficient details of the programme of civil disobedience were
given by Gandhi some weeks ago the movement has resolved itself so far into
an attack on the salt duties.
There was a time when the salt duties in India contributed the second largest
share of the revenue to the Indian Government, coming next to the land tax.
The policy of the Indian Government since ,
however, has been to effect gradual reductions.
the duty was brought
down from 2½ rupees to 1 rupee per maund (a little over
the gross yield of the duty was
£3,339,000 more than one-fourth of this being derived from imported salt. In
it amounted to nearly £5,000,000, but only occupied third place among the
principal heads of revenue. Customs duties have come to represent far the
largest individual source of Indian revenue in these days, and in
they accounted for considerably more than
half the total of the tax receipts, opium coming fourth, while land revenue
only occupied fifth place so far as the Central Government is concerned,
though the provincial Governments depend largely on this latter source of
There are, roughly speaking; four ways in which the Indian salt supply is
obtained. The old-fashioned method of allowing sea water to collect in
shallow pans along the sea coast and evaporate under the rays of the sun,
leaving a salt sediment is still largely resorted to. The salt lakes in
Rajputana, leased by the Government from rulers of native States and salt
mines, especially in the Northern Punjab, also furnish much of this necessary
commodity, and a good deal is, in addition, imported from Britain and from
the Red Sea.
The idea of Mr. Gandhi and his confederates appears to be that everyone who
can do so should set to work to manufacture salt by evaporation all along the
coast line, and pay no duty to the authorities. As has already been seen,
however, this method of obtaining salt cannot be resorted to in secret from
its very nature and the Government is thus able to take steps to make the
process of evading the attention of the Revenue officials by no means a safe
or easy one.
As for the other proposals of the “civil disobedience” party, it is probable
that they will not be found in practice to work out very smoothly. That
Indians who are serving the Government in any capacity will resign their
posts and emoluments at a moment’s notice, en masse, seems an incredible
supposition, and it will be a matter of surprise if Indian lawyers desert the
courts at the command of the ascetic leader from the seclusion of his ashram.
An additional fact which must be stressed in connection with the aspirations
of Gandhi is that the Indian “separation” movement has no support from the
native princes whose territory forms one-third of all India. In the remaining
two-thirds the separatists do not in the least represent the unanimous
feeling of the people. They do not, in fact, represent the opinion of a very
large majority there if we consider the Moslems, the “untouchables,” and
other large sections of the population who have nothing to gain and a good
deal to lose by the domination of the men who are now aiming at supremacy
over all India.
The success of revolutionary movements such as Mr. Gandhi has inaugurated in
India depends partly on the unanimity of the support received from all
classes of the people and partly upon the hope of a failure of the
Government to cope with the situation. It does not appear in the least
likely that the first condition can be attained, and as regards the second,
the attitude of the Government so far affords satisfactory evidence that no
step of an aggravating character will be taken, and there is no reason for
believing the Government will be found wanting when the crisis comes.