A national consumers’ boycott is a method of economic non-cooperation wherein a large part of a country’s population boycotts products or services from another country. It can be a boycott of a particular product, all products or products from any foreign country. It is used both as a weapon for social justice and a tool for economic benefit.
Due to the massive base of protesters, national boycotts are an effective method of protest. The economic pressure could be used to force the target country to correct social wrongs. It can also be utilized to demonstrate a large scale indication of revolt, making it clear to the boycotted country that their actions are not sanctioned.
On the other hand, the reasoning may be simply economic. It can be used to strengthen the boycotting country’s economy or help them to work towards economic independence. Conversely it can be an offensive tool. The boycott can weaken the target country’s economy or at least slow its strengthening.
In the 19th century the Americans were prominent boycotters. Their refusal to engage in commerce with Great Britain caused the repeal of the Stamp Act and the Townshend Act. At the First Continental Congress in 1774 the colonies declared a complete national boycott of Britain. The plan was never fully implemented as boycott subsided to violent revolution.
In 1930-1931 Gandhi endorsed a boycott of foreign cloth. He did not, however, believe in a full boycott. He found the boycott’s forceful nature to be contrary to his nonviolent principles. India undertook a full economic sanction of Great Britain during Gandhi’s imprisonment, and it continued after his release. As time went, Gandhi become more open to the idea of a full boycott.
China has had an ongoing history of boycott with Japan. The first boycott came in 1915 as a response to Japan’s 21 Demands. In recent history many with anti-Japanese sentiments have been trying to organize a large scale boycott, but it has resulted in failure. Despite the views held by a large chunk of the population, the majority cites the fact that it will do more damage than good.
Historically national consumers’ boycotts have been an effective method of nonviolent action. They have paved the way to revolution in a number of instances, and caused demands to be met in an expedited manner.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.