Exaggerated Perceptions of the Danger of War Tax Resistance

The Fresno Community Alliance hosts an op-ed from Steve Ratzlaff on how many people against war suffer from an irrationally exaggerated form of risk aversion that keeps them from taking steps to align their lives with their values and adopting war tax resistance. Excerpts:

Many of us are conscientiously opposed to supporting this military idol but continue to pay for it. Why? Because we are not willing to risk withholding our taxes that pay for war. And so we continue to feed the War Machine with cold cash by the billions.

…[R]isk is not new to us. So why then are we so reluctant to take minimal risk by refusing to pay for war, which we adamantly oppose? I would venture to say that it is because the refusal to pay for war is illegal — an act of civil disobedience.

We are more stigmatized by breaking the law through the withholding of taxes for war than we are by the sheer horror and violence created by our complicity in supporting it. We, who would vomit at the sight of burning flesh and blood on our hands, have no qualms paying taxes for somebody else to kill and burn. All because we are so averse to risk-taking.

But times have changed. Bold actions are needed in order to bring about change. The military idol in this nation must be confronted. We need to stand tall in the face of this sinister military idol that demands our money, our allegiance. There is a new effort to speak to this issue emerging in religious circles that is welcoming people of all religious and secular persuasions to join them. It is called the 1040 For Peace Campaign. It involves withholding $10.40 from your taxes each year to protest the growing stranglehold that military spending has on our budget. If you are interested, visit http://1040forpeace.org.

I’m not so sure withholding $10.40 counts as a “bold” action of the sort that will bring about change, but it’s a start.

From the edition of New Zealand’s Evening Post:

Suffragette’s Unpaid Income Tax

Husband Sent to Prison

As he refused to pay “duty and costs,” amounting to over £37, due as tax on his wife’s income, Mr. Mark Wilks, assistant schoolmaster at a Stepney school, was arrested and taken to Brixton prison.

His wife, Dr. Elizabeth Wilks, has a much larger income than he, but she is a suffragist and a member of the committee of the Women’s Tax Resistance League. Her husband agrees with her contention that tax resistance is the best way of protesting against the voteless condition of women, and therefore he has refused to pay her income tax. Several times distraints have been levied, but when bailiffs recently called for this purpose they were informed that the furniture belonged to Mrs. Wilks.

A curious point is that although according to the Married Women’s Property Act a woman’s property is entirely out of the control of the husband, he is still liable for her income tax.

Mrs. Parkes, of the Women’s Tax Resistance League, said, on being interviewed, that the law provides that the person in prison has to remain in custody till the debt is paid. As Mr. Wilks would never pay, he would have to remain in custody for ever.

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote:

Tax Resistance.

Members of the Women’s Tax Resistance League attended the dinner of welcome held at the Hotel Cecil to the Men’s International Alliance for Women’s Suffrage, and the League was represented at the Congress by Mr. Laurence Housman.

Reception to Dr. and Mr. Mark Wilks.

The Women’s Tax Resistance League wish to announce that they have decided to hold a public reception to Dr. and Mr. Wilks on . They trust that all Suffrage Societies will support this effort, because not only do they wish to do honour to those who have made such a brave stand for tax resistance, but to use the occasion, as one of many others, to keep before the public mind the necessity for the alteration of the laws which affect the taxation of married women until the reform promised by Mr. Lloyd George is debated in the House of Commons.

Amongst the speakers will be Mrs. [Charlotte] Despard, Dr. Elizabeth Wilks, Mr. George Lansbury, M.P., Mr. F. Pethick Lawrence, and Mr. Mark Wilks. Tickets, 2s. each, including refreshments, may be had from all Suffrage Societies and from the office of the League, 10, Talbot House, St. Martin’s-lane.

The Case of the W.F.L. Hon. Treasurer.

On the hon. treasurer of the Women’s Freedom League was summoned to appear before the Hampstead Petty Sessions Court, at the instance of the London County Council, for refusing to contribute to taxation in the form of dog license. Dr. Knight did not appear in person, and was represented by Miss Nina Boyle, of the Political and Militant Department, who was supported by Miss Andrews (National Executive Committee), Miss Hunt (assistant secretary to the League), Mrs. Spiller (hon. secretary of the Hampstead Branch), Miss Hicks, Mrs. Garrod, and other friends and supporters.

Mr. Dashwood Carter put the case for the London County Council, and Miss Boyle, invited by the chairman, Mr. Henry Clarke, to state Dr. Knight’s case, asserted that Dr. Knight was “not guilty,” as it was manifestly improper that she should be called upon to contribute to the upkeep of the Government when women were denied representation. The chairman declared that those were considerations into which they could not go, as they were there to administer the law; whereupon Miss Boyle, expressing her desire to put her case “with the utmost courtesy,” contended that as women not only had to pay for the upkeep of the Government, but also for the upkeep of police-courts, they considered themselves fully entitled to make use of them for the ventilation of their grievance.

The Bench, after a period of indecision, suddenly remembered that the Council had not proved its case; and a witness was hurriedly summoned. The prosecution incautiously admitted that since calling on Dr. Knight, a license had been taken out in respect of a dog, “but whether it was in respect of the dog at Hampstead, or another at Woodbridge (Suffolk), the prosecution could not say.”

Miss Boyle pointed out that if that were so, there was no proper case for the prosecution; and she would call attention to the grossly improper and slovenly fashion in which the case had been brought into court.

After much consultation, and on Miss Boyle stating that they were not there to contest the case, the Bench fined Dr. Knight £2, with 5s. costs, which, with extraordinary lack of understanding, the court then asked Miss Boyle to produce. On the assurance that Dr. Knight had not the least intention of paying fines to the Government, the sentence was altered, after more deliberation, to “seven days.”

The prosecuting counsel then greatly improved his case by saying that more witnesses could have been brought from Suffolk, but he had not brought them “because of the expense.” (Any law and any evidence, apparently, is good enough on which to convict voteless women.) Dr. Knight’s friends were thereby enabled to leave the court with another emphatic protest against the slovenly and slip-shod procedure in bringing a case.

Dr. Knight has heard nothing further from the Arm of the Law, and is now awaiting developments with her well-known composure.

In Glasgow.

According to The Manchester Guardian, a Sheriff’s officer in Glasgow on , acting on behalf of the Crown, exposed to public sale a number of articles belonging to three women suffragists who as a protest had refused to pay their Imperial taxes. Two are members of the Women’s Social and Political Union, and one is a member of the Women’s Freedom League. A solid silver tea service, a gold watch and brooch, and a table and clock were sold. They were bought on behalf of the parties concerned. The women addressed the large crowd that assembled. Miss Janet Bunten is, no doubt, our member referred to, and next week we hope to publish particulars.