Five examples of civil disobedience to remember


Mahatma Ghandi
Mahatma Ghandi

by: Richard Seymour | Comment is free
published: 20 August 2012

When Spanish mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo recently led farmers on a supermarket sweep, raiding the local shops for food as part of a campaign against austerity, his political immunity as an elected assembly member protected him from arrest.

He now asks other local mayors to ignore central government demands for budget cuts and refuse to implement evictions and lay-offs. In this era of austerity, such flagrant disrespect for the law ought to be encouraged. Sometimes, the greatest strength of popular movements is their capacity to disrupt. So here, for the benefit of imaginative indignados, are five examples of civil disobedience.

Gandhi’s defiance of British colonial laws over the empire’s salt monopoly, beginning in March 1930, sparked a wave of civil disobedience that contributed to expelling the British empire. Salt lawstaxed the production of Indian salt so that the country had to import British salt.

Gandhi and his supporters began a long, expanding march to produce salt and transport it without paying the tax. It did not stop the practice: the British suppressed the march fiercely, arresting tens of thousands, and refused to make any concessions. It was also limited by its failure to win Muslim support.

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