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 gain.

At our local event, for instance, it looks like the master of ceremonies is going to be the chair of the local Republican Party, who will be introducing as speakers Melanie Morgan (a pro-war activist and right-wing partisan who co-authored a book slamming Cindy Sheehan and who chairs the pro-war group Move America Forward) and Dana Walsh (who ran as the Republican candidate for Nancy Pelosi’s House seat in the last election).

Morgan has gone so far as to urge her followers to try to run people with anti-war signs out of the Tea Party rally. If we don’t disapprove of the same spending the Republicans disapprove of, I guess, they’ll call the cops to have us removed.

All this is making my hopes of some cross-pollination 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 bullhorns .

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 tsunami.

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 step.

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 :

The Canberra Times


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 82lbs). In 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 revenue.

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.