Tax Resistance Anthems and Fight Stongs

Some tax resistance campaigns have had their own anthems or fight songs.

  • Mahadev Desai, in The Story of Bardoli, mentions such songs on a few occasions:

    I paid a visit along with Sjt. Vallabhbhai to one of these [Raniparaj] villages. … The young women, who had taken the Khadi pledge three years ago in the presence of Gandhiji and shed their trinkets and heavy brass ornaments, were all there in spotlessly white Khadi, brimming over with joy and lustily singing Satyagraha songs.

    The mention of the Satyagraha songs reminds me of one or two things that happened during the month. … Phulchandbhai had already some songs ready, and the atmosphere in the taluka gave him the inspiration for many more. These friends were posted at Valod, and thanks to their bhajans they were in great demand everywhere. The plain and homely songs spread the message of Satyagraha in a most effective manner, and men, women, and children had them on their lips. One cannot speak too highly of the part played in the movement by Phulchandbhai and his songs.

    I shall describe one of the scenes. We visited Nani Phalod, a small village, at about 9 p.m. There was a huge procession of men and women, the former singing Satyagraha songs, and the latter singing a song from an old saint of which the refrain was: “All our sorrows have ended, now that the Master has come.”

    There were huge meetings everywhere, attended by hundreds of women, laying heaps of [homespun] yarn before Sjt. Vallabhbhai, as in , and lustily singing bhajans. The invincible spirit of the people evidenced everywhere was bound to exasperate the officials even more.

    The women of Varad… had their own songs, some of them being old songs of the saints and some composed by themselves to suit the fight in which they were engaged, and tacked on to the originals. One of these songs sung soulfully by them ran:

    With full knowledge take up your arms even like a Gnani (seer). Let Purity and Contentment be your armour and Courage your shield. The valiant shall rush to the forefront, the laggards will be beaten and will take to their heels. With full knowledge, therefore, take up the fight like the Gnani.

    The path of fight is not strewn with roses. It is sharp as the edge of the sword, for it is the fight for Truth. Let us therefore be wide awake like the Gnani. With full knowledge etc.

    The tyrant has run amok and crushed the ryot under his heels. We slumbered so long, we have now found our Guru and are blessed with knowledge. With full knowledge etc.

    He has taught us to pit righteousness and truth against oppression and injustice. God is sure to run to the rescue of right and vanquish the wrong. With full knowledge etc.

    Vallabhbhai our leader assures us that ultimately victory is ours. Let us therefore keep our pledge. With full knowledge etc.

  • The boycotts and tax strikes of the American Revolution also had their songs. When patriots gathered to spin home-spun yarn, the work would be accompanied by “many stirring tunes, anthems, and liberty songs,” such as the following:

    Young ladies in town, and those that live round,
      Let a friend at this season advise you;
    Since money’s so scarce, and times growing worse,
      Strange things may soon hap and surprise you.

    First, then, throw aside your topknots of pride;
      Wear none but your own country linen;
    Of economy boast, let your pride be the most
      To show clothes of your own make and spinning.

    What if homespun they say is not quite so gay
      As brocades, yet be not in a passion,
    For when once it is known this is much worn in town,
      One and all will cry out— ’Tis the fashion!

    And, as one, all agree, that you’ll not married be
      To such as will wear London factory,
    But at first sight refuse, tell ’em such you will choose
      As encourage our own manufactory.

    No more ribbons wear, nor in rich silks appear;
      Love your country much better than fine things;
    Begin without passion, ’twill soon be the fashion
      To grace your smooth locks with a twine string.

    Throw aside your Bohea, and your Green Hyson tea,
      And all things with a new-fashion duty;
    Procure a good store of the choice Labrador,
      For there’ll soon be enough here to suit you.

    These do without fear, and to all you’ll appear,
      Fair, charming, true, lovely and clever;
    Though the times remain darkish, young men may be sparkish,
      And love you much stronger than ever.

    Then make yourselves easy, for no one will teaze ye,
      Nor tax you, if chancing to sneer
    At the sense-ridden tools, who think us all fools;
      But they’ll find the reverse far and near.

  • The modern American war tax resistance movement has in recent years managed to collect its own funk anthem (“What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?” by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings):

    I was talking to a friend of mine
    Said he don’t want no wars no more
    They’re building bombs while our schools are falling
    Tell me what in the hell we’re paying taxes for

    What if we all stopped paying taxes?
    Now, what if we all stopped paying taxes?
    Stop paying taxes y’all

    Now tell me who’s gonna buy their bombs
    Their tanks, their planes and all their guns
    Well, tell me who’s gonna pay for their wars
    If we all get together and cut their funds

    Hey, listen people, listen to what I’ve got to say
    What if we all stopped paying taxes?

    folk song (“Don’t Be Afraid of the Neo-Cons” by Norman Blake):

    Don’t send your money to Washington
    To fight a war that’s never done
    Don’t play their games don’t be their pawns
    And don’t be afraid of the neo-cons

    and rap (“Uncle Sam Goddamn” by Brother Ali):

    You don’t give money to the bums
    On the corner with a sign, bleeding from their gums.
    Talking about you don’t support a crackhead —
    What you think happens to the money from yo taxes?

    Shit, the government’s an addict
    With a billion dollar a week kill-brown-people habit
    And even if you ain’t on the front line
    When the master yell crunch time you right back at it

    You ain’t look at how you hustling backwards
    And the end of the year add up what they subtracted:
    3 outta twelve months your salary
    Paid for that madness… man that’s sadness

  • War tax resister Joan Baez was fond of including the Whiskey Rebellion celebration tune “Copper Kettle” in her concerts.

    Get you a copper kettle
    Get you a copper coil
    Cover with new made corn mash
    And never more you’ll toil

    You just lay there by the juniper
    While the moon is bright
    Watch them jugs a-fillin’
    In the pale moonlight

    Build your fires of hickory
    Hickory or ash or oak
    Don’t use no green or rotten wood
    They’ll catch you by the smoke

    My daddy he made whiskey
    My granddaddy did to
    We ain’t paid no whiskey tax
    Since !

  • When a youth activist group joined war tax resisters at a recent Tax Day demonstration at the Oakland federal building, they brought their lyrical skills along:

    People, People, People, can’t you see?
    They kill around the world with tax money.
    Stealing from workers how there money’s made,
    I guess that’s why we’re broke and they’re so paid!

    People, People, People, can’t you see?
    They tax the poor more, the rich stay greedy.
    No money for health or to educate,
    I guess that’s why we’re broke and they’re so paid!

    On-line, you can see some of the rehearsal video showing how they combined the lyrics with pantomime to drive the point home.
  • At another American “Tax Day” protest, this one in St. Louis in , war tax resisters at the federal building sang a protest song with lyrics like these:

    For the cost of cluster bombs
    that maim and leave to bleed
    our kids could have more teachers
    helping them to read

  • Tax resisters against the British colonial government in Ghana had a fight song for the occasion:

    Cannon they have loaded, but couldn’t fire,
    Cannon they have loaded, but couldn’t fire.
    Whitemen dishonestly imposed poll-tax on the blacks.
    The poll-tax we will never pay, the grandees never deliver up,
    Go tell the white man to come out!

  • Luzerne County, Pennsylvania is home to an unusually corrupt government culture (or maybe it’s just that they got caught). Federal authorities charged 23 county residents with various corruption charges, including three judges and a county commissioner. But then the county government decided to hike taxes by 10%. Fred Heller said no. Why fund a nest of crooks? He recorded a protest song titled “Take This Tax and Shove It” and started a campaign to get county residents to refuse to pay their taxes, at least until the government stables have had all their manure shoveled out. Excerpts:

    Take this tax and shove it
    We ain’t paying you crooks no more
    The good ol’ boys stole all our cash
    And ran out the courthouse door

  • Residents in Castine, Maine, upset at their local taxes being siphoned off by state politicians, started a tax resistance campaign and accompanied it by protest songs:

    Write me a song of the Revolution,
    ’cause that’s what it’s gonna be.
    Write me a song of the Revolution,
    ’cause that’s what’s in store for me!
    I can’t sit by and watch this country
    go right down the drain.
    I gotta stand firm on the Constitution
    and stay aboard the freedom train.

    “In I Just Found Out (Who the ‘They’ Is), [songwriter] Linscott derides the notion of some anonymous outside government force, commonly called ‘They.’ ‘I’ve heard so many people talk about what “they” are doing. This is my attempt to show that the “they” are those who let government operate by default.’ ”
  • When Meo farmers killed a tax collector during a tax strike aimed at the British-backed Maharaja in , they commemorated the occasion with a song:

    Rebels in the open the Meos did then rejoice
    They conferred among themselves and spoke in a single voice
    Your názim’s dead and ever since
      we aren’t ruled by any prince
    To London by now you should’ve fled,
      and do take along your dead.