James E. Bistor
James Eugene Bistor was a tax resistance
Tax resistance
Tax resistance is the refusal to pay tax because of opposition to the government that is imposing the tax or to government policy.Tax resistance is a form of civil disobedience and direct action...

 leader, and real estate operator and broker. Along with John M. Pratt
John M. Pratt
John Morgan Pratt was a tax resistance leader, activist in the Old Right, publicist and newspaper man. Along with James E. Bistor, he led the probably the largest tax strike since the Era of the American Revolution.Pratt was born into a background of wealth...

, he led the probably the largest tax strike since the Era of the American Revolution.


Bistor's parents died during his childhood and he supported the surviving family members, six brothers, by lighting streelights in Macomb. He moved to Chicago as a teenager and worked as bicycling collector for a local real estate firm. In 1917, he was a founder of the firm Hedberg and Bistor. The two enjoyed a booming business in the 1920s and acquired some prime property, including a fifteen-story skyscrapper in the Loop and a massive apartment complex on Lake Shore Drive. The went heavily into debt to finance this expansion and found it difficult to adapt when real estate values dipped in the late 1920s.
In 1930, Bistor became the president of the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers
Association of Real Estate Taxpayers
The Association of Real Estate Taxpayers was an organization of real-estate taxpayers in Chicago and Cook County, Illinois. Between 1931 and 1933, it organized one of the largest tax strikes in American history...

 (ARET), an organization of real-estate taxpayers in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 and Cook County
Cook County, Illinois
Cook County is a county in the U.S. state of Illinois, with its county seat in Chicago. It is the second most populous county in the United States after Los Angeles County. The county has 5,194,675 residents, which is 40.5 percent of all Illinois residents. Cook County's population is larger than...

. Between 1931 and 1933, it organized one of the largest tax strikes in American history. The chief demand of ARET was that local and state governments obey a long-ignored provision of the Illinois Constitution of 1870 requiring uniform taxation for all forms of property, Pratt charged that the failure to assess such personal property as furniture, cars, and stocks and bonds was not only illegal but left owners of real estate with excessive burdens. ARET's program also included support for sweeping rate reductions in the general property tax and retrenchment in local governmental spending.

ARET functioned primarily as a cooperative legal service. Each member paid annual dues of $15 to fund lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of real-estate assessments. The radical side of the movement became apparent by early 1931 when ARET called for taxpayers to withhold real-estate taxes (or "strike") pending a final ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, and later the U.S. Supreme Court. Mayor Anton Cermak
Anton Cermak
Anton Joseph Cermak was the mayor of Chicago, Illinois, from 1931 until his assassination by Giuseppe Zangara in 1933.-Early life and career:...

and other politicians desperately tried to break the strike by threatening criminal prosecution of Bistor and other ARET leaders and revocation of city services.

ARET's influence peaked in late 1932, with a membership approaching 30,000 (largely skilled workers and small-business owners.) By this time, it had a budget of over $600,000 and a radio show in Chicago. But it suffered a demoralizing blow in October 1932 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case it had brought. Buffeted by political coercion and legal defeats, and torn by internal factionalism, the strike collapsed in early 1933.

In the years after the collapse of ARET, Bistor continued to be heavily involved in Chicago real estate became the trustee of Honest Money Founders.
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