Mass Tax Strike Shakes French Wine Region

Today, some dispatches concerning a mass tax strike in the south of France in :

French Wine Growers’ Plan

General Refusal to Pay Taxes If Relief Is Not Soon Granted

Copyright, , by The New York Times Co.

Marcélin Albert, the leader of the winegrowers’ agitation in Southern France, does not place much reliance in the Governmental promises of relief.

He continues to organize his forces with a view to a general refusal to pay taxes after , if the promises are not put in action by that date.

Strike of a French City

All Governments to be Dissolved in Wine Districts

A monster demonstration by wine growers to-day marked the climax of the situation which has arisen because of a demand by the growers that the Government stop the wholesale adulteration of wine.

At the gigantic meeting held at Perpignan a resolution was passed that if the Government did not give full satisfaction to the demands of the growers a civil strike would be started . At a meeting held after the parade to-day Marceline Albert referred to this resolution and announced that the time had come for action. He invited the multitude to swear solidarity of action, and immediately every hand was raised and cries of “We will stand or fall together” and “We will not pay taxes” were everywhere heard.

The Mayor of Narbonne will open the strike. He and the entire Municipal Council will resign to-morrow, after having previously dismissed all municipal employes. Officers of other cities will follow suit in the course of a few days.

The “ragged army” has been arriving in the city the last two days and nights. It slept in the public buildings, in churches placed at its disposal by the Bishop, in the parks and squares. The railroad provided more than 400 special trains to bring the people here, a feat unprecedented in the history of French railroads.

At the time fixed for the parade the people lined up at appointed places without the slightest disorder. All observers were struck by the extraordinary perfection of the organization. It was not necessary once for the troops or police to interfere with the multitude which was variously estimated was made up of from 400,000 to 600,000 persons.

A feature of the parade was the large proportion of women participating. Groups from various cities bore banners with various inscriptions and carried coffins, guillotines, &c.

After the meeting the people dispersed and began their return homeward in the same perfect order.

650,000 in a Procession

French Wine-Growers’ Revolt.

Crowds Sleep in the Open.

The population of Montpellier rose from 80,000 to-day to 730,000, when 650,000 demonstrators had arrived in more than 400 special trains from all parts of the south of France to warn the Government that, unless it yields by to the wine-growers’ demands to raise the price of wine and stop adulteration, they will revolt — or at least adopt passive resistance.

The street scenes were of an astonishing character. By 150,000 had arrived, and all night long trains entered the station every quarter of an hour with crowds, many of whom had been travelling fifteen and twenty hours. Looking worn and dishevelled, they formed in serried battalions, and, headed by bands and trumpets and drums, young and old, men, women, and children, marched to their quarters in some warehouse, still, stable, or cartshed. But there was not sufficient room for the countless thousands; pavements, public squares, and roadways were strewn with prostrate sleepers.

How they slept was a marvel, for all night long brass bands blared and drums boomed. It was pandemonium. About there was a sudden wave of cold, which caused thousands to rise and stamp about for warmth. Then came the welcome news that the Bishop had ordered the cathedral and all the churches to be thrown open as night shelters. Soon every church was crammed with people eating or sleeping.

This morning five huge columns, approaching from various quarters, welded at the Arch Peyrou into one procession nine miles long, and the march through the streets began at . Placards threatened, “The day of reckoning is at hand,” “We will take up arms,” “Down with the deputies.” Here were 200 handsome Norbannese women in mourning, there 500 young girls robed in white muslin, with tricolor robes.

“Pay No More Taxes.”

As M. Marcelin Albert, who has been christened the “Messiah” of the movement, appeared, there was a roar of welcome. He was hailed as the “Savior of the South,” and scores of thousands wore postcards in their hats representing him as their “Napoleon.” He made a speech as follows:

“Our patience is exhausted. We have shown that we are orderly and law-abiding people. No riots or disorders have disgraced these splendid demonstrations. But now the time for action has come. From we pay no more taxes.

the town councils of 12,000 cities, towns, boroughs, and villages in the south of France will have resigned office. Parliament has deceived us. When it was proposed to increase the deputies’ salary, six hundred members attended and unanimously and immediately voted an increase of from £300 to £600 per annum. The other day to discuss the wine crisis only twenty-seven of them attended; yet two million people are starving.

,” said the Mayor of Narbonne, “at 8 o’clock at night let the tocsin be sounded throughout the south of France, and from that moment let no man pay any taxes.” Roars of applause greeted these words.

Hundreds predicted that within a month France would be on the verge of a great civil war in the south — a civil war caused by purely economic reasons with which politics has nothing to do, for Republicans, Monarchists, Socialists, and Catholics will stand shoulder to shoulder in the cause of the vineyard. There is, however, no probability of such a war. It was noticed that there was a widespread demand on the part of the demonstrators that the Government should put an extra heavy duty on sugar, the assumption being that if the price of sugar was increased, it would put a stop to fraud in the manufacture of wine.

At Perpignan on night youths attempted to force their way into the railway station, which was guarded by troops. The crowd were repulsed, but stoned the soldiers. A general then stepped forward, and addressing the crowd, said, “You can stone me if you like, but do not injure my men, who are only doing as they are ordered.” The result was further to infuriate the crowd, and a bayonet charge was necessary to restore order.

…The first stage of the threatened strike, the refusal to pay taxes, has already matured, and the demonstrators have made it clear that they meant what they said. Thus far they have “made good.”…

The French Winegrowers

M. Marcelin Albert is at present the Government of France throughout the whole winegrowing district of the South. A month ago he was conferring with M. Clemenceau quite on equal terms. Rather later he admitted to a reporter of The Matin that his ultimatum was, so to speak, placed with too short a fuse; that it was not reasonable to expect that the French Legislature could prepare and pass the body of laws demanded by the wine-growers in a fortnight; that the date of the first stage of the strike, the refusal of the winegrowers to pay their taxes, fixed for , in the evening, had been fixed too soon and without due consideration. “I regret it,” manfully avowed M. Albert.

The viticulturist leader evidently meant that his hand had been forced. The normal population of Montpellier is about 75,000. There were half a million angry viticulturalists there , insisting on immediate action. The leader can no longer guarantee absence of disorder, as he did to the Prime Minister a month ago, when he expostulated upon the sending of troops against a law-abiding population.

“Do not give the Government a day more” than , exclaimed the fiery M. Ferroul on . He has been “brusquing things” ever since. For, after the first stage of the strike, the refusal to pay taxes, it was resolved, in the original programme, that a week’s delay should be accorded to the Government before the second stage, that of paralyzing the Government by the cessation of all official life and the vacating of all the offices, was to take place.

The fiery Ferroul has hauled down the flag from his “mairie,” and replaced it with a streamer of crêpe within forty-eight hours after the first stage arrived. He has been followed by the whole municipal “outfits” of Perpignan, Montpellier, and Florensac. In truth, the whole wine growing district is given over to anarchy.

One cannot acquit the French Government of responsibility. The voters of the South take their Socialism seriously, and call, after election, for the fulfillment of electioneering pledges.

French Mayors Must Stay.

Premier Warns Them They Are Still Responsible for Local Affairs.


The Government is determined to refuse to accept the resignations of the municipal officers, so long as their resignations are not accepted by the Prefects. As no representatives of the central Government can be appointed to carry on the duties of the officials who have resigned, a deadlock in municipal affairs has been created.

In a letter to the Mayors, Premier Clemenceau to-day warns them of the serious results to the people they represent if the officials carry out their determination not to perform their functions. He points out that the law of 1884 gives him a month in which to decide whether he will accept their resignations.

Until the expiration of that time under the law the municipalities are responsible for properly carrying on the duties of their offices. Should they refuse to, the public services will be completely suspended, marriages cannot be celebrated, nor can permits for burials be issued.

M. Clemenceau further reminds the Mayors that the local treasuries will be bankrupted by their refusal to pay taxes, the Communes will lose their share of the taxes, and in the event of the taxes not being collected the Government will refuse to make the advances necessary to meet local expenses.

The leaders of the winegrowers’ movement do not appear the least daunted by Premier Clemenceau’s action. The Central Committee met to-night at Argeliers and adopted resolutions of serious import. Circulars will be sent to all communes where the municipality has resigned, giving instructions to refuse to permit any persons sent to replace the Mayor or to enter the Mayor’s office, to close all municipal offices and to discharge all officials. All Government correspondence is to be returned unopened.

Out of 1,000 odd communes in the four departments involved, more than 120 already are in a state of municipal anarchy, and fresh resignations poured into the prefectures all day long. The quitting of municipal officers is usually attended with much ceremony. Generally a crape streamer is hoisted at the flagstaff, and the Mayor burns his official sash in public.

The Mayor of Capestang, a Socialist, harangued a crowd of 10,000 persons who, with uplifted hands, swore blind obedience to the Argeliers committee and pledged themselves to go in a body and coerce the communes where the municipalities show a lack of inclination to join the movement.

Meanwhile the municipalities continue to join the anti-tax strike, and altogether some fifty local bodies in the four departments most concerned have handed in their resignations.

In some of the towns the outgoing Mayors and town councils are taking the precaution to wall up the doors of the town halls, in order to keep out any temporary Administrative Commissioners whom the Prefects might appoint, and committees have been nominated to see individuals who have not undertaken not to pay taxes.

Except in isolated instances the strike is merely a form of passive resistance. No disturbances of any moment have been reported among the civilian population, though the attitude of some of the regiments recruited in the south occasions anxiety.

The annual garrison manoeuvres at Narbonne, Department of Aude, which ought to commence , have been abandoned. General Bailloud, in issuing the order, added significantly:

“Regiments must not even be permitted to enter the town. All drills and exercises must be carried out in the barracks.”

The object of the order is to keep the troops from fraternizing with the discontented wine growers.

To Peal of Dread Tocsin, Millions of Ruined French Wine Growers Rise in Rebellion

The whole south of France, from the Atlantic and the Spanish frontier to the River Rhone, is in a state of half anarchy and rebellion, through the strike of all civic officials, department, city, town and commune, as a paralyzing emphasis of the demand for government aid.

The tocsin, the dread French signal for civil war, has sounded from steeple to steeple in one long peal from city to town to village. The revolt in all this wide territory is unanimous.

Thousands of French regulars — an army — are beginning to penetrate the beautiful country of the Rhone to prevent or put down the formidable uprising that is momentarily expected.

Narbonne is the center of the disturbance. A half million grapegrowers gathered there in one day and with uplifted hands swore to refuse to pay taxes until parliament furnished relief. Scores of mayors have resigned and closed up municipal buildings.…

A telegram from the Paris correspondent of the London “Daily Telegraph” states:— “The proportions assumed by the agitation among the wine growers in the south are attracting general attention. The small peasant proprietors are desperate, and their committee has decided that if nothing is done for them by the Government and Parliament during the next few weeks they will refuse to pay their taxes. A collector in the department of the Aude met with a very sorry adventure. Visiting a town in his district, he proceeded to the mairie, and was setting to work when the alarm was given by a peal of bells, and in a few minutes quite 1000 persons had assembled in front of the building, crying, ‘Down with taxation! Down with the collector! Throw him into the water!’ Some of the bolder men broke into the town hall, possessed themselves of the books, and flung them into the street. But for the timely interference of two members of the wine-growers’ committee, who put the poor man into a carriage, which left at full speed amid the jeers of the crowd, he would have been roughly handled. Now there is talk of a wholesale strike of the municipal councils in the Aude and the Herault if Parliament does not give the wine-growers satisfaction by . ‘Le Journal’s’ special correspondent gives an account of a conversation with the Mayor of Narbonne, who told him that he would himself set the example. It would be followed by all the other municipalities in the two departments.”

The French Wine Bill

The Disturbed Provinces.

Incitements to Revolt.

Statement by the Premier.

Agitation Against Adulteration.

Extraordinary Scenes.

Rioters Dispersed by the Troops.

Exciting Scenes.

Women Armed with Pitchforks.

The Origin of the Trouble.

Hasty Legislation.

Wine Adulteration Prohibited.

An Amazing Interview.

M. Sarrant (Under-secretary of the Interior), who is deputy for Narbonne and the wine-growing district, has resigned owing to the refusal of the Government to meet the wishes of the peasants on the question of wine adulteration. His withdrawal is likely to weaken the Ministry.

Owing to the number of untrustworthy regiments in the four provinces disturbed by the agitation of the peasants over the Wine Bill the Government is replacing them with better-disciplined troops.

In connection with the trouble in the wine districts many attempts have been made to incite to revolt, and there have been threats to burn the property of those mayors failing to resign and of those taxpayers who satisfy the taxgatherers’ demand.

The Chamber of Deputies recognises the gravity of the situation, and heartily supported M. Clemenceau’s declaration that orders had been given for legal action to pursue its course. The Premier added that the State must be supreme, and the normal and regular working of the administrative and judicial machinery must be restored. He had put the national force at the disposal of the law. He would avoid bloodshed as far as possible, but when there was an insurrection against the law in three departments, when local Separatist committees professed to take the Government’s place and set up a sort of provincial government, when resignations were enforced by intimidation, the law must be applied.

M. Sarrant remarked: “When conciliation failed, as M. Clemenceau said, the law must prevail. As a Frenchman I acknowledge that he is right, but my resignation will promote pacification. The offenders are old comrades of mine, brothers in arms, whom I advised to trust the Republic and revert to legal methods.” — (Cheers.)

Extraordinary scenes are reported from Narbonne in connection with the agitation in the disturbed provinces against wine adulteration. Late the tocsin sounded at the Town Hall, and the people poured into the street and began to erect barricades.

M. Ferroul, an ex-mayor, whose arrest had been ordered, stopped them, saying: “We want no barricades; I will surrender myself to justice. I want no bloodshed.” He then summoned the townspeople to destroy the barricades, and himself set the example. The people obeyed, and the barricades were removed.

The troops subsequently occupied Narbonne, and M. Ferroul was arrested without disturbance.

The detectives, with a military escort, went to Angellicas to arrest M. Albert and five others. They arrested three, but failed to find M. Albert.

There are indications that committees in the disaffected departments sought to establish a confederation with M. Albert as president, hoping to obtain an auto-constitution.

Trains full of troops were moved about changing garrisons and removing to a distance troops recruited from among the southern population.

Serious rioting has occurred at Narbonne. At night the crowd, which consisted of a party of peasants, emptied a can of paraffin over the door of a wine manufacturer’s establishment and attempted to ignite it, but were repulsed by the soldiers stationed in the courtyard.

The demonstrators then tried to enter through the gardens. The troops charged repeatedly, but it was an hour and a half before they succeeded in dispersing the rioters. Some of the gendarmes were wounded.

The troops at Montpellier scattered a crowd which collected outside the prison, cheering M. Ferroul.

M. Clemenceau’s latest despatches show that tranquility has been restored in the south.

The crowd at Narbonne, surrounding M. Ferroul’s carriage, hissed the troops escorting him to the station. Thereupon the infantry fixed bayonets, and the cavalry dispersed the demonstrators, who later on threw stones at the troops, injuring the colonel.

M. Albert, the organizer of the peasants’ protest against wine adulteration, escaped, disguised as a women.

A fresh wine-growers’ committee will take the place of the arrested men.

When M. Ferroul was arrested at Narbonne the military were obstructed by a large body of women armed with pitchforks, their leader wearing a red cap and carrying a big pistol.

M. Ferroul appeared at his window in a nightcap and pyjamas. He urged his bodyguard to remain calm, declaring: “I will surrender. This is the proudest day of my life. It needed 10,000 soldiers to arrest me.”

A message from Narbonne, dated , delayed in transmission, reports that a patrol of cuirassiers, being hissed, charged the mob in the Boulevard Gambetta with drawn swords. The rioters hurled chains at the soldiers’ horses, and one horse was killed. The cuirassiers then fired a carbine volley, the rioters replying with revolvers.

Fifteen of the demonstrators were women, and one was killed. Barricades were erected, which the infantry demolished.

Two of the wounded have since died. Many soldiers were wounded.

Martial law was proclaimed on .

In reply to an interpolation in the Chamber of Deputies, M. Clemenceau declared that the troops had defended, and would continue to defend, the public buildings when attacked. His orders to the troops were not to load their rifles until the last minute, and only to fire in the event of extreme danger. Though his heart bled, his duty was clear, for the unity of the country was at stake. The troops defending the sub-prefecture of Narbonne were assailed with revolver shots.

M. Mulas (interrupting): “They did not reply. They are heroes.” — (Prolonged and unanimous cheers.)

M. Clemenceau went on to say that the firing was continued and the men were seen to fall. The mob was twice summoned to disperse, and the what might be expected happened. One of the rioters was killed and 15 wounded, but it was feared that the number of troops wounded was still greater. The officials at Narbonne were unable to do their work. Similar events had occurred at Montpellier, ex-convicts being included among the rioters, several of whom had been arrested. Nearly all of those arrested at Montpellier were youths, belonging to the Anti-Republican party.

This statement led to uproar amongst the members of the Right and cheers from the Left, with cries: “They are hooligans, not wine-growers, who attacked the public buildings at night.”

The Premier (M. Clemenceau) stated this evening that since he had been unable to communicate with the Narbonne authorities.

According to the newspaper Intransigeant, in the first conflict at Narbonne, when the crowd attacked the door of the sub-prefecture, the gendarmes in the courtyard drove them off with a volley, using only blank cartridge. The mob, discovering this, renewed the struggle, and were subjected to another volley, this time with ball cartridge. Shortly afterwards the Boulevard Gambetta incident occurred.

There was further rioting at Narbonne yesterday. The populace, using revolvers, attacked the police at the station. A party of soldiers emerging were compelled to fire, killing four and wounding 11.

A large body of rioters at Perpignan set fire to the prefecture in four places. The fires were extinguished.

The Wine-growers’ Committee urges the populace to remain quiet and appeal to the authorities.

Unless there are further disturbances the cavalry will be withdrawn and the infantry left to maintain order.

The mob at Perpignan attacked the prefecture with paving stones, set fire to the coachhouse, and flung the furniture into the flames. The gendarmes finally dispersed them.

M. Albert, one of the leaders of the agitation, has been arrested.

A hundred thousand peasants attended the funeral of one of the leaders shot at Narbonne.

Further details of the mutinous outbreak at Agde show that the mutineers numbered 607. They first plundered the magazine, and afterwards asked to be allowed to return free from disciplinary measures. M. Clemenceau, however, refused to negotiate with the rebellious soldiers, who thereupon declined to surrender. These men had at the commencement of the wine trouble been withdrawn from Beziers because of their sympathy with the wine-growers.

Upon learning of the outbreak General Lancroissade, the officer commanding at Beziers, tried to turn the mutineers back peaceably, but declined to take the responsibility of ordering his own men to attack them.

Speaking in the Chamber of Deputies M. Clemenceau heartily endorsed General Lancroissade’s decision, and announced that General Baillard went unaccompanied and induced the mutineers to return to the barracks.

Great uproar prevailed among the deputies for some hours, and the Chamber was a regular pandemonium.

A vote of confidence in the Government was finally carried by 326 to 223.

The arrest of M. Albert, one of the leaders in the wine revolt, is unconfirmed.

The Wine-growers’ Defence Committee has issued a placard to cease all demonstrations.

Owing to the disturbances, the Republican Committee of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture has postponed the banquet that was to be given on in honour of Sir W. Laurier.

All public engagements of the French Ministers, either in Paris or in the provinces, have been canceled.

It is officially announced that the disaffected areas are calmer.

The Chamber of Deputies hurriedly passed a bill preventing the adulteration of wines, which is at the root of the trouble.

The Agde mutineers have resumed work, and appear heartily sorry for their escapade.

Several thousand peasants met and urged the municipalities of Var, which M. Clemenceau represents in the Senate, to resign.

Amazement is expressed in Paris at M. Albert’s action in calling at the Ministry of the Interior and obtaining a short interview with M. Clemenceau, who spoke very severely and harshly, whereupon M. Albert expressed contrition, and urged the release of M. Ferroul and others and the withdrawal of troops, adding that quiet would then be restored. M. Clemenceau replied: “There’s only one thing to do, and that is to submit to the law.” He added: “Go away and surrender yourself as a prisoner.” M. Albert has started for the south.

M. Yves Guyot, in a letter to The Times, states that four departments are concerned in the wine crisis. They represent three and three-fifths per cent. of the population of France; their vineyards are only one-fifth of the surface of the four departments; and their output is 30 per cent. of France’s total quantity and 15 per cent. of the total value. The cause of the crisis was manifest after the phylloxera scare. Italian wines were prohibited and the Spanish heavily taxed. The wine-growers in the four departments, imagining they commanded the home market, planted a vine called the Aramon, which yielded much fruit juice but very little alcohol, the result being that the wine will not keep and cannot be transported. Then the wine-growers, wishing to strengthen their wine, added sugar to the vintage, as it changes into alcohol. They next added water. They previously had too much wine that was too feeble in quality, and then they made more wine of worse quality. The wine trade refused to purchase it, and the wine-growers tried to conduct the trade themselves, but were compelled to seek isolated customers, and incurred losses.

Reuter states that 300 infantry left the barracks at Agde with arms and ammunition, marched to Beziers, and there joined the rioters.

The colonel of the 139th Regiment at Narbonne, disgusted with the slaughter, tore up his cap before his men, and then resigned.

According to a Reuter message, M. Clemenceau accepted M. Albert’s pledge to persuade the peasants to revert to legal methods, and justified his clemency by remarking at an interview with journalists, “If disasters occur I wish at least to have done all possible to avert them.”

Man Who Has Aroused Southern France

Marcelin Albert Has a Million of Peasants Under His Command but Promises to Preserve Order.


“It has not been easy,” said the agitator. “There is an abyss between conceiving an idea and putting it into practice. I have seen the misery, and patiently I waited for comrades to join me. The authorities all laughed and said I was a fool, but I said nothing and worked, going from village to village talking only to the peasants. I am an enemy of all societies, for a society is able to exist only by dependence upon those who compose it. I have been insulted, vilified, and every one gave me a kick. This went on for years. But I remained tranquil, knowing that the time had not come. The newspapers refused to print my communications and I said, ‘Bon, Bon! Ca va-bien!’ But as the misery and hunger grew the peasants began to listen.”

Disorders in French Wine Districts.

Legislature Supports the Premier.

Demand for Reduction of Taxes.

The Chamber of Deputies, by 324 votes to 233, has approved M. Clemenceau’s measures to enforce the law in the southern districts, where there is serious disaffection in consequence of evils in connection with the wine industry. The majority are confident that the Premier will be able to effect a settlement by conciliation.

In the meantime the Winegrowers’ Conference at Argeliers has demanded a reduction of taxes, and has resolved to continue the municipal strike (non-payment of present taxes) even if the Government should send bayonets.…

In negotiating for a French translation of Ellis Parker Butler’s classic masterpiece, “Pigs is Pigs” (The McClure company), the author learned that the following amusing parallel to his famous guinea pig controversy had actually taken place in France. It was in the south where the wine growers refuse to pay taxes to the government. A farmer had had half a dozen rabbits sent him by a friend; he refused to pay duty on them, whereupon they control or local customs tried to sell the six “original” rabbits and their offspring at auction. The inhabitants have now boycotted the auction sales so that the local officials must feed the rabbits till the case is settled by the courts.