Ammon Hennacy on Tax Resistance

Ammon Hennacy was a rare bird — a “One Man Revolution.” He wrote: “Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual. Therefore one who has love, courage and wisdom is one in a million who moves the world, as with Jesus, Buddha and Gandhi.”

Hennacy aspired to be this one-in-a-million. The challenge Ammon Hennacy makes is not to “the system” or “the government” or to any particular politicians or evildoers, but to those of us who read his words and who haven’t yet turned our backs on evil.

Today I’ll share some of his writings on tax resistance.

Christian Anarchism

Christian Anarchism is based upon the answer of Jesus to the Pharisees when He said that he without sin was to cast the first stone; and upon the Sermon on the Mount which advises the return of good for evil and the turning of the other cheek. Therefore when we take any part in government by voting for legislative, judicial and executive officials we make these men our arm by which we cast a stone and deny the Sermon on the Mount.

The dictionary definition of a Christian is: one who follows Christ; kind, kindly, Christ-like. Anarchism is voluntary cooperation for good, with the right of secession. A Christian Anarchist is therefore one who turns the other cheek; overturns the tables of the money-changers, and who does not need a cop to tell him how to behave. A Christian Anarchist does not depend upon bullets or ballots to achieve his ideal; he achieves that ideal daily by the One Man Revolution with which he faces a decadent, confused and dying world.

(In [The Book of Ammon] this message is repeated many times. It is worthwhile repeating and studying. At the Catholic Worker in New York City in I met a Columbia graduate holding prospects of a fine job; and doing post graduate work. He praised my anti-tax articles. In conversation a few minutes later he said, “why everybody pays taxes; they are withheld; you pay taxes; Dorothy [Day] pays taxes.” He had read my non-taxpaying articles for years and still didn’t know what I was doing. Likewise in Phoenix an educated woman had read my leaflets and articles for years and did not know that I really paid no taxes. So, if I repeat myself time after time please remember that I think it is necessary. I have never paid a federal income tax.)

There are indirect taxes that everyone pays. As the saying goes I live in this man’s world and if I am going to travel and do propaganda I have to pay tax on the bus. I do not use tobacco or liquor so pay no taxes. I buy Indian articles from the Indians rather than from stores and thus need not pay a tax. To not pay taxes is not my whole message but it is a part of the life of a rebel which I choose to act upon. For despite all talk you either pay taxes or you don’t.

My First Fast and Picketing

Before the Korean War I had told my tax man, a Catholic who thought the Catholic Worker was a Communist paper, that I was going to picket his office on Aug. 6th — the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.…

According to the Gandhian technique of goodwill and frankness I wrote to the City Manager and to my tax man, telling them of my extended plans; also to the chief of police asking for a permit and telling him if he did not give me one I would picket anyway.…

Rik and Ginny and I had spent hours getting a leaflet out which was headed:

The One Man Revolution

Why do you, a sensible person, now believe that war and the A Bomb are necessary?

Why are poor Oriental peasants who have seldom eaten a square meal in their lives choosing to fight us?

Why does Communism appeal to so many people? Is it because we have failed as Christians?

Why are we in this mess? Because you have sought security outside of yourself instead of accepting responsibility. Because you left matters to the politicians, took their bribes of pensions and subsidies, and their impossible promises of prosperity.

My guilt — For seven years I have refused to pay income taxes for war and bombs. I am fasting for these five days as a penance for not having awakened more people to the fact that the way of Jesus and Gandhi is not the way of the atom bomb. This war, like the last two will not bring peace and freedom.

What can you do now? We made a revolution against England and are not free yet. The Russians made a revolution against the Czar and now have an even stronger dictatorship. It is not too late to make a revolution that will mean something — one that will stick: your own one-man revolution. It is not too late to be a man instead of a pipsqueak, who is blinded by the love of money.

Are you a producer or a parasite? Why not cease voting for all politicians? Why not refuse to make munitions or to go to war? Why pay income taxes for your own destruction?

After Mr. Schumacher, my tax man, came up and handed me a card which read:

Seized for the account of the United States on by virtue of warrant for distraint issued by the collector of internal revenue, district of Arizona. Deputy Collector.… One poster for picket line.

Actually there were three posters but I handed them over saying that I would get some new ones made and picket . I continued handing out leaflets and Catholic Workers without my signs until Rik met me at

Rik made new signs that night and marked them “This sign is the personal property of Joseph Craigmyle” but the tax man did not try to take them. The Arizona Republic had a good picture of myself and signs on the page opposite the editorial page. The picture showed my large sign which read:

75% Of Your Income Tax Goes for War And the Bomb.

And on the reverse side—

I Have Refused to Pay Income Taxes For the Last Seven Years

In the afternoon the tax man came along and good naturedly said that he had a bid of $5 for my signs from someone who wanted them as a souvenir. (I did not ask him if he was the bidder) I had given him Catholic Workers before and had shown him Dorothy [Day]’s telegram. Now he was friendly and asked about my life, my daughters, my ideas, and said that he understood my opposition to the status quo. Like the tax man before him he was a Catholic. He felt, as I did, that there was nothing personal. He had his duty to do. He had tried to garnishee my wages, and had taken away my signs so he could report some activity on his part. He said I had a right to peacefully picket and departed in a friendly spirit. We met several times later as I picketed. He did not like my reference to himself as a servant of Caesar in a letter I had written to him. I told him this was perhaps a poetic way of saying it, but I meant it.

How do I get by with it?

I don’t know for sure.

I have picketed thirteen days in the last three years here in Phoenix against war, the draft, and paying taxes for all this. I have been detained by the police and released four times, and been called to the tax office often.

I was a conscientious objector in both World Wars. In I refused to register for the draft and resigned from a civil service job in Milwaukee where I had been a social worker for eleven years. As I do not believe in shooting I have since then worked on farms where no withholding tax is taken from my pay, so I do not buy a gun for others to shoot. The tax man has tried to garnishee my wages; now I work by the day for different farmers and if necessary am paid in advance in order that no garnishee is effective.

I believe in the idea of voluntary poverty somewhat after the pattern of St. Francis, Thoreau, Tolstoy and Gandhi. I have no car or anything the tax man can get. I make a true report of my income but openly refuse to pay a cent of tax.

I am a non-church Christian. I believe in the Sermon on the Mount, especially because it is more revolutionary than opportunistic Communist tactics. I do not put my trust in money or bombs, but in God.

I am an Anarchist who believes that all government exists not to help people but to continue in power exploiters, bureaucrats and politicians who keep us on the run with their continual depressions and wars.

If you believe in capitalism and war and think you get your money’s worth in paying taxes that is your business. My message is to those who are beginning to question the idea that preparing for war brings peace. It is also to those who believe somewhat as I do but who are afraid to stand up and say so.…

If you are ready for my message here is a starter:
REFUSE to become a soldier
 REFUSE to make munitions
  REFUSE to buy war bonds
   REFUSE to pay income taxes
    STUDY the Sermon on the Mount
     STUDY Gandhi’s non-violent methods
      STUDY Jefferson’s idea of life on the land
       “STUDY war no more.”

“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” A Christian Anarchist does both.

Not Interested

It is and I have sent in my tax report. I did not work Sundays this year. I worked for nineteen different farmers and made $1,569. With free rent and often free meals where I work and with simple one dish vegetarian food my actual living cost has been less than $200. I filled out my report accurately, not wishing to have my non-payment of taxes confused by any other issue. In the space listed “Amount of Tax Due” I wrote “not interested.” The tax man told me six weeks ago he would have me arrested for continual non-payment of taxes, but would wait until the last minute as he disliked to cause trouble. I told him that he should do his duty; that there was no hard feelings on my part, for he had always treated me courteously. Now with Truman calling for universal conscription and the U.S. winking at Dutch imperialism in Indonesia there is less reason than ever for paying an income tax. If I am arrested I am doing time for a good cause, for, paraphrasing Thoreau, a prison is the only house in a war mad world where a Christian pacifist can abide with honor. If I am left free I will continue to be a non-tax payer, sell Catholic Workers, and aid my daughters. I win either way.

What Could a Fellow Do About It?

When I was working a man asked me “Why does a fellow like you, with an education, and who has been all over the country, end up in this out-of-the-way place working for very little on a farm?” I explained that all people who had good jobs in factories, etc. had a withholding tax for war taken from their pay, and that people who worked on farms had no tax taken from their pay. I told him that I refused to pay taxes. He was a returned soldier and said that he did not like war either, but what could a fellow do about it? I replied that we each did what we really wanted to.

Why Am I Picketing?

Well, why aren’t you? Do the A-Bomb and the H-Bomb make you sleep any better at night? Do you trust our politicians to protect us from destruction in an atomic war? Does it make good sense to foot the bill by paying income taxes?

I am not paying my income tax this year, and I haven’t done so for the last seven years. I don’t expect to stop World War Ⅲ by my refusal to pay, but I don’t believe in paying for something I don’t believe in — do you?

Do you believe that anyone ever “won” a war? Or that any good can come from returning evil for evil? I don’t believe it! And I don’t believe I need preachers or policemen to make me behave, either.

I do believe in personal responsibility, and that’s why I am picketing. Why aren’t you?

Why Did You Pay Your Income Tax?

Is it because you think that taxes, like death, are inevitable? I know the decision to pay taxes is a voluntary one, because I have openly refused to pay my tax for the past nine years. This year alone I owe $192.

Is it because you feel that you are protecting yourself against war with Russia? Certainly there is a definite connection between war and taxes, for from 80% to 90% of your income tax goes to pay for war, past, present and future. As a conscientious objector to both World Wars I believe that war is destroying us, and has actually created the Russian Communist threat. The poverty and misery of the Czarist Empire culminated in the First World War (with Russia on the side of the Allies), and brought the Communist state into being. The world wide destruction, poverty and totalitarianism of the Second World War (with Russia on the side of the Allies) made the Soviet Union a world power and a real threat to our military machine and our capitalist aspirations.

The Marshall Plan and our attempt to arm the non-Communist world has directed the hate and distrust of our allies towards us. By trusting in our own armed power instead of trusting in God we have created the very conditions which are helping promote Communist Russia: the conditions of insecurity, fear and hate. The poor of Europe are tired of fighting. The wealthy classes there have used our money to retain their Asiatic possessions and to fill their own pockets. The “Voice of America” tells those behind the Iron Curtain to revolt, and boasts of the freedom in capitalist America. But with our loyalty oaths and with the building of new concentration camps (two of them in Arizona), we are rapidly becoming a Police State like Russia. Here in Arizona even druggists must now sign loyalty oaths… next it’ll be undertakers and corpses!

This nation was settled by many folks from Europe who sacrificed everything to escape religious despotism and the tyranny of military conscription. While we have achieved separation of church and state, we are more in danger of a military despotism than ever. The early Christians refused to be soldiers, and some of them are official saints of the Catholic church for this reason. When they were thrown to the lions in the Roman arena they died singing. Truly “the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church.” Today most Christians join the Lions Club, or Rotary, sing “for he’s a jolly good fellow,” and die respectably of ulcers. They bless war, and their churches are built out of the profits of an unjust economic system. If we continue in this manner, war and income taxes will be the death of us yet.

Do you pay your income tax because you are afraid of the sacrifice that trust in God and opposition to the state may involve? I decided long ago that, while all of us must die, I could choose something worthwhile to live and die for. You might as well die for what you do believe as for what you don’t believe. Remember that Johnson said to Boswell, “Courage is the greatest virtue, for without it you cannot practice the other virtues.”

If you want a better world you will not get it by trying to make men out of Congressmen through writing them letters, by voting for any politician since they all believe in war, or by expecting very much of a World Government composed of these same ignoble politicians. Neither will the mocking of God by saying prayers for peace while making munitions and paying taxes for war be of much avail. That kind of prayer bounces back!

If you want to think a little further about this, here are the first steps (you will know in your heart what is right for you); Study the Sermon on the Mount, and the lives of such dedicated men as St. Francis, George Fox, Tolstoy and Gandhi. Try to make whatever you do coincide with Christ’s teachings. Ask yourself whether returning evil for evil in courts, legislatures, prisons and war is not denying Christ. If your answer is yes, then stop doing it. But be honest with yourself. Don’t alibi by saying you have to do this evil for your family’s sake, or, blasphemously, for Christ’s sake. Ask yourself whether you are a producer or a parasite. A third of us lead parasitical lives as salesmen, lawyers, bankers, politicians, policemen or soldiers, or else make a living out of the weaknesses and vices of our fellows. Most of the clergy give a very counterfeit return for their money. In a society based on a return of evil for evil, these jobs may be necessary, but they wouldn’t exist in the society envisioned by Jesus where evil is repaid with good.

Do you give your children an example of honesty and Christian conduct? Aren’t you really coercing your children into un-Christian practices when you boast of your “within the law” business deals, and when you indoctrinate them into giving their first allegiance to the state in such militaristically motivated organizations as the Boy Scouts, and by banning any textbook that doesn’t praise capitalism and war? If you teach your children to conform at any price, how can you ever expect them to stand upright and self-reliant before men or God?

To sum up:
REFUSE to register for the draft or military training!
 REFUSE to buy war bonds!
  REFUSE to make munitions for war!
   And when you get around to it,
    REFUSE to pay taxes for war!

“Anarchists” Picket In City Against Taxes, Killing (newspaper clipping)

Here’s another, similar leaflet Hennacy passed out in but that wasn’t included in The Book of Ammon:

What’s All the Shooting About?

It’s about men who put money ahead of God. It’s about young men on both sides misled into dying and killing each other.

It’s about rationing, inefficiency, dictatorship, inflation, and politicians stealing a little more than usual.

War is what happens when one nation prepares to defend itself against another nation that prepares to defend itself.

World War Ⅰ and World War Ⅱ did not end war nor make the world safe for democracy. Neither will this one.

There just isn’t any sense to war!

What can we do about it? If the politicians think one person is important enough to become a soldier, a munition maker, a bond buyer, or an income tax payer, then one person is important enough to:
REFUSE to become a soldier,
REFUSE to make munitions,
REFUSE to buy bonds, and
REFUSE to pay income taxes.

War does not protect you — it will destroy you!

You cannot overcome communism with bullets. It can be overcome by each person doing what he knows in his heart to be right. The way of Jesus, of St. Francis, of Tolstoy, and of Gandhi teaches us to love our enemy, to establish justice, to abolish exploitation, and to rely upon God rather than on politicians and governments.

If you are a Christian why not follow Christ? You might as well die for what you believe as for what you don’t believe. If you must fight, fight war itself. Don’t be a traitor to humanity! Wars will cease when men refuse to fight!