As Tea Party protests pop up in places like Moscow, Tel Aviv and the Hague, Americans may question whether the Tea Party platform can cross international and cultural borders. For activists outside the U.S., the answer is a resounding “yes.”
“I think the message of the American Revolution is global. The message of natural, unalienable rights, the message of opposition to tyrannical government — that’s not just well-known, that’s universal,” Boris Karpa, organizer of the Israeli Tea Party, told The Daily Caller in an e-mail. “As you know well, many countries have based their founding documents on the U.S. Declaration of Independence or other American documents.”
Although several international organizers had never even heard of the Boston Tea Party until U.S. protests brought the events of 1773 back into the spotlight, they now wear the Tea Party badge proudly as an example of American exceptionalism worth emulating.
“This [Tea Party] title is ideal for Russia,” Max Kronos, organizer of the Moscow Tea Party, told The Daily Caller in an e-mail. “This event has forever gone down in history — in Russia, such events have not happened.”
That’s not to say the Tea Party moniker has always been helpful.
“The mainstream media calls the U.S. Tea Parties a bunch of gun-loving racist rednecks,” Roy Hofkamp, organizer of the Dutch Tea Party, told The Daily Caller in an e-mail. “That image in the media was not an advantage for us, but fortunately more and more Dutch people get their news from foreign media and they knew our intentions were good.”
Those intentions — laissez-faire capitalism, low taxes and fewer regulations — cross boundaries. Each Tea Party does, though, hold particular outrage for specific policies in its individual country. For Hofkamp, the burning issue is immigration reform.
“We pay 50 percent in taxes. Our social security is so high that people refuse to get back to work and stay for years in social security. More than 30 percent of all non-Western immigrants [enter] into social security and never [get] out of it,” Hofkamp said. “So they come here for economic reasons and benefit on the surplus of the working class. We think it’s about time to stand up against that.”
Karpa said reinvigorating Israel’s stagnating business climate is one of his group’s principle planks.
“I hope that we’ll be able to bring the attention of the public and the media to the fact that high taxes and regulations are strangling this country’s economy,” Karpa said. “It takes about five days on average to set up a new business in America — in Israel it’s more than a month.”
Kronos cites, “The Federal Law on Basics of State Regulations of Trade Activities in the Russian Federation # 381-FZ,” signed by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on Dec. 29 as his initial motivation for organizing. The law allows the government to put price ceilings on food products, and forbids retailers from opening new shops in areas where they have over 25 percent market share.
Kronos compared the Russian economy to the dystopia in Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”
“In the new conditions, to start a business from scratch is nearly impossible,” Kronos said.
So like the U.S. Tea Party protesters that inspired them, they organize to spread their message and promote their objectives.
The Moscow Tea Party gathered 250 people in three cities on April 25. The Dutch Tea Party protested with 80 people and five guest speakers in front of the Netherlands’ parliament building on May 29. And the Israeli group will hold its first rally, to celebrate “Tax Freedom Day,” on July 16 in front of Tel Aviv’s City Hall.
“We will arrive with protest signs and flags — both Israeli flags and Gadsden Flags,” Karpa said. “We’ve even arranged to have several Gadsden flags produced with ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ printed on them in Hebrew.”
As the movements grow, organizers hope they will coalesce into a transnational organization, especially in Europe, where much the political and decision-making power rests with the EU.
“More and more European parliamentarians want to introduce a European-wide tax system. We already gave up our immigration — the EU decides who gets into our country and who doesn’t,” Hofkamp said. “The Italian Tea Party and our party have good contact and we hope that more countries will follow. We are working on ideas to unite soon in Brussels, in front of the EU-parliament.”
It remains to be seen whether Tea Party groups, both international and domestic, will ultimately achieve their goal of halting, even temporarily, the leftward ratchet of growing government. But in the end, whether individual organizations rise or fall, the most profound influence of the Tea Party story isn’t about any specific issue, platform or policy — it’s about the process.
“People are re-learning that popular movements are not just the province [of] socialists and supporters of big-government policies,” Karpa said.