Fifth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Hondarribia, Spain 1994

Workshop 10: Analysis of Different Cases of Civil Disobedience

In Different Parts of the World

The preparatory document

Civil Disobedience, by Arya B. Bhardwaj

Civil Disobedience is an act of expressing one's voice of conscience, thereby, creating public awareness against the anti-people acts, laws and legislations of the Institutions of the State, in a non-violent way. Civil Disobedience is one of the tools that have been devised to build a non-violent social order.

WTR and Peace Tax Campaigns have to be viewed in the wider perspective of working towards a non-violent social order to combat the danger of self-destruction by which humanity is threatened through breath-taking technical developments, as the great scientist Dr. Albert Einstein put it.

It is heartening to know that the WTR and PTC has taken off very smoothly and many thousands of people all over the world have been involved in this act of civil disobedience. Much public awareness has been created through this campaign by ordinary people, who have been facing legal and police actions for their commitment to oppose immoral and anti-people act of the State Institutions of their respective countries. It is indeed a very hard and difficult task. It needs total commitment to a non-violent way of life.

Therefore, Civil Disobedience has to be taken in the true sense of the science and technology of Satyagraha as had been evolved by Mahatma Gandhi. Prof. Gene Sharp says, it is important to see this method of fighting evil in the perspective of Gandhi's whole philosophy. For this weapon is an expression of a way of looking at life and a way of living. Gandhi's whole philosophy of life and his method of opposing evil are both called Satyagraha.

I am sure that the devoted and dedicated young people actively involved in the WTR are drawing inspiration from the great souls that have shown us the path for non-violent struggle to establish new social order based on human values .

Most of the countries in the world today, are governed by democratically formed governments. Unfortunately, real democratic values like peaceful coexistence, respect for life, social justice and tolerance, have not yet been fully imbibed in our policy. Modern Welfare States draw their power from the people through the democratic system. But after acquiring political power these Welfare States get involved in uncivic acts of militarisation and wars.

The argument that is advanced by the Institutions of the State in favour of militarisation is the safety and security of the people. But the fact is that the ordinary people all over the world are peace loving and are not in favour of wars and militarization. Moreover, no Government whatsoever, much less a democratically elected one, has moral and social support from the people to wage a war against other nations. It is just a game of vested interests who takes such decisions. So the tool of Civil disobedience has to be used to create public opinion among common people to pressure their Governments not to play into the hands of such vested interests.

After the end of the Cold War, there should have been a process of reduction of arms and militarisation, which in fact was initiated in the beginning, but it seems that moral pressure from the public has not been enough. This is what I feel is the most important task of WTR, to build moral pressure on governments by creating awareness among people all over the world. We cannot totally rely on the mere governmental initiatives. What has been going on in former Yugoslavia for the last two years or more? I have myself travelled around this war torn area for about one a month and a half and I have seen the pathetic plight of the people and the cold and inhumane attitude of the governments that are involved in that ugly game.

I would like to share my experiences of MIR, SADA, the efforts made by peace activist groups, in my workshop on Civil Disobedience.

I would also like to dwell upon some of the other action programmes of Satayagraha like : Hartals, Gheracs, Faating, Social Boycotts, Non-cooperation ...

Klaus Hecker has very rightly raised the question of tax-payers in under developed countries and the non-involvement of the huge population of these countries in the WTR movement. I would like to state some facts about Indian masses that do suffer because of the huge expenditures on the military budget. The WTR should not be kept confined to the Tax payer only.

I agree with the USA NWTRCC that the Peace Tax Legislation is an independent issue dealing with the Legislature of a Government while WTR is directly concerned with the individual conscience against militarism.

The report

This workshop was not developed.

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