War Tax Resister Ralph DiGia

Ralph DiGia died at age 93. He was among the direct-action pacifists who forged the American anti-war movement in .

Imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War Ⅱ (he didn’t qualify for conscientious objector status because he couldn’t provide a religious reason for his objection, which was at that time a requirement), he helped to organize strikes in Danbury Federal Prison that led to that institution being the first federal prison to desegregate its dining facility. (He tells the story of his prison time in this interview.)

DiGia was a war tax resister, and led the War Resisters League to take a war tax resistance stance as an institution (a first, so far as I’m aware):

In , Ralph DiGia asked the board of the War Resisters League (WRL) not to withhold federal taxes from his paychecks. WRL agreed, and other WRL employees followed Ralph’s lead in asking WRL not to withhold from their paychecks. For a long time, the IRS ignored the situation, but in they froze WRL’s bank account and seized the entire account balance of $2,537.43, about a thousand dollars less than they said was owed for resisted employee tax dollars. A few years later, the IRS placed a levy on DiGia’s salary. Because of WRL’s policy of not honoring IRS levies, the IRS sued WRL in U.S. District Court in for amounts that WRL willfully refused to pay under the levy. In its ruling, the court did not challenge the sincerity of WRL’s professed opposition to war. The court ruled in favor of the government, however, because WRL had no constitutional right to refuse taxes based on religious or conscientious objection. In , WRL refused to cooperate with a request by the government to list its assets as an aid to collection of the judgment in the lawsuits. Two years later the U.S. Department of Justice seized $1,228.23 from WRL’s bank account. WRL resists the federal phone tax, and though the IRS continues from time to time to send levies for other employees, they have not been enforced, and there has been little interaction between the IRS and WRL in recent years.

If you search about on-line, you’ll find obits and remembrances that are being published as news spreads. This one, from David McReynolds, is a good example.

Jeff Knaebel is a tax resister of the renunciate / satyagrahi school, and he occasionally writes up his experiences and theories. Here are two pieces that he has recently made available on-line:

  • Notes of an American Exile. Excerpt:

    I made the decision to leave my own, my native land forever. I would become a man without a country, separated by a vast ocean from friends, family and my young adult children. No more would I smell the rain on high desert sagebrush, nor hear wolves howl across moonlit tundra, nor watch the Northern Lights dance in Arctic sky.

    I would owe allegiance to all of humanity and to no State. I would be the indentured servant of no gang of murderers sitting in any legislative body. By paying no tax to any State would I finally make a farewell to arms. I would seek peace and brotherhood. I would attempt Satyagraha, that strong adherence to truth which is love. I would aspire to a life of Ahimsa — nonviolence — which is the active force of love.

  • What One Can Do. Excerpt:

    Ignore the State. Don’t fight it — that only feeds its expansion. Don’t petition or plead, just quit paying for it, quit cooperating with it. Starve it of energy and cash. Simply leave it. Build your own ark, join others in forming islands of light in a sea of darkness.

    Each must work out his own destiny if he is to reclaim his conscience and personal integrity. One must never give in to power. Live by your own lights and your own wits, and face the consequences. You will enjoy the happiness of the free and the brave.

    I have chosen tax refusal and exile in a foreign land, together with radical renunciation of rules and laws — a renunciation that is escalating with time and disgust at what we have become. I have set myself against blind obedience to traditional authority and patriarchal domination, as well as bureaucratic legalistic usurpation of individual rights. I renounce the State and declare my right to ignore it. I renounce any “authority” that demands violation of my conscience.