National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement
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October 2002. HEADLINES IN THIS ISSUE:

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Happy Birthday, NWTRCC: Fall Meeting Scheduled for Columbus, GA

War tax resisters in the southeastern United States are helping to organize our next national Coordinating Committee meeting, to be held November 15-17. Our biannual meeting will be held in conjunction with the demonstration at the gates of Ft. Benning, where the US Army School of the Americas is located. SOA Watch has held a demonstration there every year since the early 1980's. Most of the thousands who gather for this rally pay their taxes! It's an excellent place for us to do outreach about war tax resistance.

We have reserved bed space in a motel close to the gates for 60 people who will attend our meeting and the SOA rally. The NWTRCC Coordinating Committee meeting will be held Friday afternoon, November 15. After that, our plan is to plug into the SOA Watch event for Saturday and Sunday. We hope to have a very visible presence, such as all wearing the same T-shirt, and maybe offering on the spot wtr counseling. We will also have a NWTRCC 20th anniversary celebration on Saturday evening. Think about coming!

Columbus is about 100 miles southwest of Atlanta. It is accessible by bus, car, or plane. Cost will be between $10 and $20 per person per night, depending on filling the beds. (We plan to pack the rooms!) Breakfast will be provided by the motel. For other meals, folks will be on their own.

If you would like to reserve bed space, or want more information, contact the NWTRCC office.

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Happy Birthday NWTRCC!

NWTRCC's first meeting was held on September 18, 1982, in Washington, DC. In this issue, we celebrate our birthday with photos from over the years and an article by Marion Bromley, a longtime war tax resister, who was at that initial meeting. Join us at our birthday party in Columbus, Georgia, on Saturday, November 16. Thanks to the many many people over the years who have given of their time, energy and enthusiasm to make NWTRCC what it is.

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MANY THANKS

Many thanks to the following groups that have given since our last newsletter. Your support makes a difference!

New York City People's Life Fund
New York City People's Life Fund
Louisville Fellowship of Reconciliation
Northern California People's Life Fund
Maine War Tax Funds for Life/ROSC
Sonoma County Taxes for Peace
Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia (Seattle)
Ann Arbor War Tax Dissidents
Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation
War Resisters League
Chicago War Tax Resisters

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Network List Updates

This is the time of year when NWTRCC updates the complete Network List. Those of you on the list should have just received a new one for your region. If for some reason you didn't receive it, or if you are not a person on the list and wish a copy, please contact the office. Changes in the list over the next year can be found in this column.

Each year a few people retire from the list, and some new folks sign on. Thanks to everyone, retirees, on-going folks, and newbies, for helping the war tax resistance movement in this way!

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War, Money and Conscience

By Susan Balzer

The ninth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns, held September 5-8, 2001, brought together 102 people from 16 European, African, Asian and American countries who object in conscience to paying taxes for the military. The conference was hosted by Netzwerk Friedenssteuer (Peace Tax Network.)

The group met at the Hirschluch Protestant Youth Center, a one and one-half hour drive southeast of Berlin. Many of the group returned to Berlin on September 9 to lobby with German Members of Parliament and to visit the Federal Foreign (affairs) Office.

Canon Paul Oestreicher, Coventry, U.K., spoke Thursday evening. He was the first of many conference participants to call on conscientious objectors to do more -- particularly in view of the United States and Iraq.

"Today, war is waged with money. Not many soldiers are needed, so the draft may soon be eliminated," he said. "In Germany, the right not to fight is a human right. The same right should be allowed for those conscientiously opposed to paying for war."

Opportunities to hear from each other were scheduled into the conference program. Three "personal witnesses" Ursula Windsor, of Great Britain; Gunther Lott, Germany; and Rosa Packard, Greenwich, Connecticut shared their stories with the whole group. All conference members were scheduled to take part in small "getting to know each other" groups as well.

Pantomimist Gunther Richter, of Berlin, led the group in creative actions to portray the triumph of love and cooperation over the entanglements and evils of greed and power.

Delegates from each country represented reported to the group. Some form of peace tax legislation has been proposed (and in most cases introduced) in Canada, the United States, and a dozen European countries. Arya Bhushan Bhardwaj has led the opposition to a "Security Surcharge" hidden in the 2002 budget for India. Representatives from Bangladesh, Nepal, and Ghana said they came to learn about this important part of the peace witness. Representatives from Columbia, El Salvador, Palestine, Russia and Sierra Leone were unable to attend. Elias Rishmawi, Beit Sahour, West Bank, sent greetings and reported that life in the Occupied Territories is "terribly bad. Nothing hopeful is seen on the horizon."

A discussion Saturday morning on "Alternatives to military peace keeping" brought out the following comments:

The international NGO (nongovernmental organization) Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI), located in Belgium, held its board meetings and a General Assembly. Marian Franz, Washington DC, was re-elected to the board to serve the next four years with members from Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Italy. The international conference agreed to give increased financial support for CPTI's work for human rights especially the right of conscientious objection to military taxation -- at the United Nations.

A variety of topics were addressed in two workshop sessions. Clemens Ronnefeldt, from the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, led a workshop on "Terrorism and Non-violence." He began by presenting facts that show progress in solving problems non-violently. Of 134 international conflicts last year, 100 of them were solved nonviolently. Campaigns such as those to abolish land mines; to stop nuclear testing: to support alternative jobs for those involved in weapons production and to form an international court have been successful despite the United States' refusal to sign many of them.

On the other hand, Ronnefeldt said, the gap between the world's richest and poorest people has accelerated from a ratio of 1:30 in 1960 to 1:74 in 1999. This is due largely to speculative trading which accounts for 97.5% of the $1.5 trillion traded per day.

Ronnefeldt showed a cartoon from a German newspaper that portrayed President Bush as a puppet of the oil industry. He felt that the bombing of Afghanistan was about oil. "For several years the U.S. financed the Taliban against the Northern Alliance to stabilize Afghanistan so it could start building the pipeline," he said.

"Using solar energy and bicycle transportation, banning nuclear weapons and weapons trading, and offering debt relief for poor countries are some ways to work for peace," he said.

Only one workshop dealt specifically with war tax resistance. Although "Forms of Tax Refusal and Actions" was well attended, it faltered for lack of decisive leadership, problems with non-simultaneous translation, and disagreements about goals and effectiveness-- particularly regarding symbolic war tax resistance.

Hanne Norup Carlsen reported that WTRs in Denmark refuse to pay 2.6% of their radio and TV tax as a symbolic resistance. The radio and TV tax is the only one that most individuals can control, she said, since they pay that separately from income taxes which are withheld from their paychecks. 2.6% is the percent of the national budget that goes to the military.

Another workshop member reported borrowing, from a bookstore, peace and justice books "important to politicians" equal in value to the amount of taxes owed and delivering them to a government official in lieu of war tax money. The books weren't accepted, and so the person returned them to the bookstore.

Several others saw bartering (even though barter income is legally taxable) as a way to practice WTR.

Many at the conference indicated they believed they could not keep money from their paychecks from supporting the military and found it hard to believe one could live on a below-taxable income. Unlike the U.S.A., many of their governments' budgets do not separate such things as social security trust funds. Also, most have socialized health care and their national governments contribute much higher percentages of money to education.

Each morning and evening, participants led prayer services in the chapel. Leaders included a Ghanaian Mennonite pastor, a Pax Christi lay person, and a Quaker.

Saturday evening the group participated in square dancing, singing, poetry readings and storytelling. Belgian delegates portrayed the story of war tax resisters in Ghent who opposed paying taxes for Charles V's war against France in the early 16th century.

In the plenary session on Sunday, the conference delegates approved a statement that expressed deep concern "about war preparations by the US Government against Iraq" and called upon governments not to participate in the increasing escalation and to reject any request for the use of their military facilities.

A statement was circulated for German peacemakers to sign, committing themselves to protest and to do civil disobedience at military installations in their country to prevent war planes from flying if the United States invaded Iraq.

Individuals were asked to support Peace Brigades International's work in their countries and to contribute to CPTI. Americans were also asked to contribute to a project for legal protection of women in Nicaragua that was proposed by Brunhilde Stotzner.

During the opening greetings, Klausmartin Voigt expressed regret that "a group of our Jewish friends" were unable to attend. "When we chose the date for the conference we missed the fact that this is the Jewish New Year. We regret that it was so late (that it was) impossible to change the date."

The Belgian organization, Peace Action, will host the tenth international conference in Belgium, July 9-11, 2004. They were asked to check to see if there will be any religious holidays conflicting with those dates.

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Local Group Reports

New England

New England war tax resisters will hold their annual fall meeting December 6,7 and 8 at Woolman Hill. For more information, email Alan Clemence at: verse@gwi.net.

Milwaukee

Six Milwaukee war tax resisters went on trial July 30th and were found guilty for their tax day action in which they sang, leafleted and held signs protesting the war on terrorism and their tax dollars going towards the military. All six were given the option of either $120 fine or three days in jail. When one of the anti-war activists asked if community service was an option, the judge told them to get a job to pay their fine.

The six were part of a larger action on tax day with about 30 other peace activists at noon, and about 50 other peace activists later that night during the annual Milwaukee mad rush to turn in tax forms at the post office. The six were either volunteers at Casa Maria Catholic Worker, or members of the Milwaukee War Tax Resistance.

Northwest

The Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia (NACC) is organizing a meeting at which it is hoped a Regional War Tax Resistance Campaign will be initiated. The meeting, to take place in Portland on Saturday October 19th from 10:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., will be hosted by the Oregon Community for WTR. You are hereby invited to attend! The Portlanders will try to provide housing for Friday and/or Saturday nights for any that need it.

For more information, contact NACC at (206) 547-0952, or cmtc@igc.org.

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Levies and Purple Hearts

Discussions on our wtr list serve are usually relevant to the lives of wtrs, and often offer good ideas and rich food for thought. We excerpt below from one such exchange.

From Larry Rosenwald, of Massachusetts: I've been levied at my place of work (Wellesley College) twice this summer, once for taxes refused in 1998 and 1999, and yesterday for taxes refused in 2000. These levies happen from time to time; they're pretty much inevitable, given the very public nature of our tax resistance ("our" because my wife, Cynthia Schwan, and I do our tax resistance jointly) and the easy locatability of our bank accounts and my paycheck.

The levies are also pretty depressing; they make me feel powerless, and they make me feel isolated. These feelings are not going to make me stop doing war tax resistance; the current talk of war against Iraq only strengthens my sense that paying war taxes willingly is against my conscience. But they have some bad effects, and lately I've found myself wondering whether some of their bad effects are connected with how we as a movement deal with people who've been levied or otherwise penalized for their war tax resistance.

The conversations I've had with fellow WTRs about being levied, either because I've been levied or because they have, follow a certain pattern. The tone is commiserative: "Can we do anything to help? Are you okay?" There's often a technical element: "How is the levy being collected, might there be a way to avoid having it collected in this way in the future?" There's also an ethic of stoicism that governs the levied person's response: "Sure, I'm okay, I can manage; plenty of people are in worse situations etc." That's certainly been my response, and it's largely a true response - there are plenty of people in worse situations, we're in good health, our jobs aren't jeopardized by this, etc. And I appreciate the commiseration and sympathy.

But being levied is in some crucial ways not like being sick or having a car accident. In some ways it's like being wounded in battle - a nonviolent battle, surely, but a vital struggle for a good cause. And it strikes me that in the military world, people wounded in battle are not just commiserated with, and given medical attention; they're also feted and commended. I quote, with profoundly mixed feelings, from a site maintained by Order of the Purple Heart: "The ORDER of the PURPLE HEART is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is definitely a combat decoration."

So what I'm wondering, I guess, is whether we in the WTR movement couldn't find some way to celebrate those of us who've been - again, to use with mixed feelings a profoundly military metaphor - wounded in combat. I'm not thinking of a medal! I'd be perfectly happy with an ice cream cone, or an honorific list with smiling photographs in More Than a Paycheck, or . . .who knows?

I'm being a bit facetious here, obviously. But I'm not being facetious in saying that I think we as a community could do a better job making those among us who have been "wounded" feel valued and celebrated. How do we make our community more vital and vibrant?

From Larry Bassett, Maryland: Feelings of isolation and powerlessness have to be significant factors working against the growth and "success" of WTR as a mass movement. Our search for celebrities to join and support us is a part of our effort to make it feel better, I think.

In my somewhat dated experience, support groups that include both war tax resisters and non-war tax resisters can be wonderfully supportive and spirit lifting.

Since Larry and his wife Cynthia are relatively exposed WTRs, they need a group of people who are able to give them some personal, emotional support -- some hugs. People who have earned WTR purple hearts need support. I was lucky to be a NWTRCC staff member during the time I was most in need of support; in that staff position, I was well supported from near and far. And even at that time, I felt isolated and afraid at times.

Larry Rosenwald replies: The issue for me isn't only having or not having "support" - it's rather what the nature of support is. I think what I miss is some aspect of "support" that would be joyous and exhilarating in addition to being helpful - though of course "helpful" isn't anything to sneeze at!

Clare Hanrahan, NC: We do need to find more ways to celebrate one another, hold each other up, and bear the burden of witness and resistance together.

I support the idea of an honor roll of some sort for meritorious service to the movement for justice and peace that has resulted in personal risk and cost.

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Sharing Our Stories of War Tax Refusal

By Marion Bromley

Marion and Ernest Bromley were there at the beginning of war tax resistance as we know it, both with the Peacemakers Community, and at the first NWTRCC meeting. Marion was asked to write a fundraising letter for NWTRCC in 1985, from which the following is excerpted.

Refusing war taxes is a unique, individual decision, and each of us can tell an interesting personal story about that moment of decision. Sharing our stories with other refusers seems to follow naturally, and when a support group develops, a new dimension is added to the experience...

In our case, Ernest began a list of people interested in his first tax refusal, that of refusing to buy and display a windshield sticker, a federal law hastily enacted in 1941, to raise money for the coming war. These costs escalated so fast that for the first time income tax rates reached ordinary working people. The withholding system was then devised to make these sums collectible.

We were both at the originating Peacemakers gathering in Chicago in 1948, and Marion was at the follow-up meeting in Yellow Springs. At that time the name Peacemakers was chosen, and people took assignments for working at various aspects of the Peacemakers' program. There had been support expressed at the conference for tax refusal. Marion had just been forced off the staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation to avoid having taxes withheld from her pay; the staff and National council were divided about putting the organization at risk by an act of civil disobedience. While we were fully in support of the entire Peacemakers program, we focused on tax refusal. For several years we collected the names of people who were refusing to pay part or all of their federal income tax, and in 1949 we published this list. We had 39 signers.

This is a story we haven't told very often about the early days of a collective effort to publicize the idea of tax refusal. At tax deadline in 1950 we lived in Wilmington, Ohio, in a two room apartment above a grocery store, with an outside stairway entrance. A remarkable feature of this apartment was the neon sign outside our front windows. This kept our living room brightly lighted until 10 p.m., flashing green and then red, to announce the store's location.

Tax deadline at that time (until the Tax Code of 1954 changed the due date to April 15th) was March 15th. To all the equipment and furnishings for two adults and our 11 month old baby we had added a hand crank A.B. Dick mimeograph machine on which we did mailings to the Peacemakers WTR group, in addition to some work for Wilmington College for income. As before, we mailed a press release and the list of those who had signed the statement of civil disobedience with regard to taxes for war to all those on the list, to be used in their own locality, as well as copies to daily papers and movement publications, all timed for release on tax day.

On the evening of March 16th we were delighted to have Jim Otsuka appear and relate to us his demonstration at Oak Ridge on the 15th at noon. He had walked into this secret atomic installation, with his Japanese face, when other workers were entering. Soon picked up by security, he was held for interrogation. When noon time approached, he pulled out a match and a dollar bill, and burned 2/3 of it to illustrate the portion of tax dollars consumed by war. He described the scene to us late that night, and we were having a great time, laughing and congratulating Jim on his exploit. Then he left for home.

The next day we were evicted from the apartment... Separating our kitchen from another tenant's kitchen was only a door locked with a skeleton. We learned later that the other kitchen was occupied that night by Jaycees from the town, who believed Jim was a spy and that our old wood encased radio was a short wave set directed at Japan. There were other reasons some elements in town would like to be rid of us (we worked with a local group to integrate the grammar schools), but that's another story.

In 1958, ... the house and two acres, owned collectively by Gano Peacemakers, Inc., gradually became a sort of "movement motel" for young people of draft age who were hitch-hiking around the country, linking up with others of like mind. The Peacemaker carried names of those arrested and details of trials, helping build the support community which was ... a moral and financial help. They also informed the wider community, through public demonstration, that some people were not accepting the role of warrior, or as Wally Nelson used to say, "You don't gotta."

As tax resistance began to impress pacifists and other anti-war people with the simple fact that warfare could not continue without money, The Peacemaker carried reports of the occasional auction of a tax refuser's car, accompanied with a support rally, Tax Day demonstrations, some legal action that resulted, or a legal case attempted.

...On Tax Day we never missed picketing and passing out flyers to the dilatory taxpayers whose cars formed solid lines in the blocks surrounding the downtown Post Office in the hours approaching midnight...

The War Resisters League became the source of excellent materials... Ernest and I continued to collect statements of refusers, then published a 64 page mimeographed handbook on nonpayment of war taxes, with the first edition in 1963. Arthur Harvey continued to publish revised editions in large quantities in his corn crib in New Hampshire. By 1981 he had printed 18,850 copies of this useful publication. The WRL followed with the Guide to War Tax Resistance, edited by Ed Hedemann.

The purpose of our letter is not so much to relate history as to point to the future, to a way to "carry it on." For that we look to NWTRCC. On September 18, 1982, in Washington, DC, a couple dozen people from around the country came together for a one day meeting at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. We were at this remarkable gathering. Aims were agreed upon and a plan of operation was set up. A coordinator was chosen, an address established.

Two recent, well publicized instances serve as examples of a coming together which could happen only because of support groups: the house at Gano which was seized by IRS and returned after a long, lively campaign, and the fantastic experience of the support community at Colrain.

We seem to be witnessing a fear driven frenzy of much of the public. To point to another way for future generations seems a responsibility which is ours. Help keep war tax refusal alive and well. [Return to List of Headlines]     [Return to NWTRCC home ]     [Previous Newsletter]

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National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

PO Box 6512
Ithaca, NY 14851
(800) 269-7464
E-mail: nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org

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