Tax Resisters Get Support from the General Public

Often in tax resistance campaigns, not everybody is able to be a tax resister, for instance because not everybody is responsible for the tax being resisted, or because the point of the resistance is that some of the people being taxed ought not to be (and so only that class of people is resisting).

In such cases it can be useful to inspire those who cannot themselves resist the tax to show solidarity for the movement in other ways, and it can also help to provide or suggest roles that non-resisting sympathizers can play in the campaign.

Today I’ll mention some examples.

  • The Rebecca Rioters knew how to make their tollgate destruction popular among people who couldn’t (or even wouldn’t) participate directly. For example:
    • One night, Rebeccaites destroyed the Rhos Gate, the Rhydyfuwch Gate, and the gate on the Llangoedmore road near Cardigan. “ was market day in Cardigan, and every one who drove in was exempted from paying the usual toll, except those who came over the coach-road. The people, looking at things from that point of view, were filled with Rebeccaite enthusiasm. On that day nothing was heard at public-houses but proposals of good health and long life to Rebecca.”
    • On another occasion, they pointedly left intact the gates on “the Queen’s high road” but destroyed those on roads that the various parishes were required to maintain. “This rendered Rebecca not unpopular amongst some farmers and others, many of whom paid the fine, rather than be sworn in as special constables.”
  • The Rebeccaites also sometimes resorted to threats to induce reluctant people to participate. In one example:

    All male inhabitants being householders of the hundred, were to meet , at the “Plough and Harrow,” Newchurch parish, to march in procession to Carmarthen — to defy the Mayor and magistrates, and to destroy the gate on their return. Rich and poor were to be compelled to attend, and in case of illness a substitute must be found. All owners of horses were to ride. All persons absent without a sufficient excuse or substitute were to have their houses and barns destroyed by fire.

    and in another:

    [I]n order to ensure a full attendance of her followers, the church doors in the neighbourhood of Elvet were covered with notices in the dead of night, signed by “’Becca,” commanding all males above the age of sixteen and under seventy to appear at the “Plough and Harrow” on under pain of having their houses burnt and their lives sacrificed. The time and place of meeting were also published by word of mouth at most of the Dissenting meeting-houses throughout the hundred, and wherever a disinclination was known to exist on the part of any person to join in the procession and to take part in the intended proceedings, he was privately admonished if he wished to protect his property from the firebrand of the midnight incendiary, and to excuse himself from personal injury, that he had better join the procession — “or else.” This species of intimidation had the effect of drawing together immense numbers to the place of rendezvous.

    despite the threats:

    [Their cheers] were lustily responded to by groups of spectators who had by this time completely filled Guildhall Square, so that the Rebeccaites could hardly pass through.

    At one point they explicitly threatened an attorney to make him join them on one of their destructive sprees, “so that if any proceedings were subsequently taken, he as local solicitor might be made a party to them.” They sometimes also forced the toll house operators to take part in the destruction of their own toll houses.
  • When Palestinian Jews practiced tax resistance against the British occupation government in the at least one Jew back in London stopped paying his income tax as well.
  • In , in support of Palestinian doctors who were refusing to pay an Israeli income tax, shopkeepers in Gaza City launched multiple two-day strikes.
  • Some men who were sympathetic to the tax resistance of the Women’s Tax Resistance League found that they could participate in the campaign by exploiting a legal technicality that made them responsible for paying their wives’ income taxes. If their wives refused to pay, and they were unable to pay and had no property to seize, they might be imprisoned for tax refusal — and some were.
  • American revolutionaries who were using boycotts and other means to try to cut off the support of taxed and British-monopoly products found allies back in the home country in the form of manufacturers and exporters who begged Parliament to rescind the taxes so as to bring the boycotts to an end.
  • War tax resister Vickie Aldrich recently got some pro bono legal assistance from law students in her battle with the IRS.
  • When residents of Beit Sahour launched a tax strike against the Israeli occupation, Israel put the town under seige. Christian groups around the world attempted to bring humanitarian aid to the city, or even to visit (including the heads of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches), but were turned away by the Israeli military.
  • The success of the anti-Poll Tax movement in Thatcher’s Britain relied on mass popular support. The Anti-Poll Tax Unions “had to make people feel wanted and included and give everyone a sense that they had a role,” said movement chronicler Danny Burns. “In order to sustain a long and protracted struggle, it was necessary for as many people as possible to feel responsible for some aspect of the movement, however small. In the fight against the bailiffs and sheriff officers, the kids hanging around the streets passed on the word as soon as they saw a suspicious-looking character. Parents and pensioners who were not out at work organised telephone trees and were ready to be at each others’ houses at short notice.”