Invitation to Join the Writers & Editors War Tax Protest

Penn State University has shared on-line a letter from Ronald Gross to Irving Horowitz from inviting him to join the writers & editors war tax protest — giving us a behind-the-scenes look at how that protest’s impressive list of names was recruited, and at an early draft of the ad text.

Writers and Editors War Tax Protest
Attention: Gerald Walker
145 West 86th Street
Apt. 7D
New York, N.Y. 10024

Fellow Writers and Editors:

Join us in signing the enclosed statement proclaiming our refusal to let our tax dollars support the war in Vietnam. Tell us in writing that we may list your name with ours in ads and statements. Send us your check for $10.00 or more (payable to Writers and Editors War Tax Protest) to pay for advertising and other expenses. Ask other writers and editors to join. Mail copies of this letter and the enclosed statement, “We Won’t Pay” (which will comprise the substance of ads we plan to run), to your own list of colleagues. Extra copies available at $1.00 per hundred, plus 25¢ for mailing.

How we will go about tax refusal

  1. Should President Johnson’s surcharge be adopted by Congress, we will refuse payment. We will not add this extra war tax to our current tax when preparing our return and we will enclose a letter with our return explaining why.
  2. Many of us will also deduct from our tax the 23% which represents the amount currently being spent on Vietnam.

Possible consequences

It is a violation (up to one year in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines) of Sec. 7203 of the Internal Revenue Code willfully to refuse to pay federal income taxes. However, of the 421 signers of a similar no-payment ad in , not one has been prosecuted and sentenced; of the estimated 1500 additional protest non-payers, none has been prosecuted since the war began. The IRS, so far, has chosen to exercise the power to collect unpaid tax money by placing a lien on refusers’ income or attaching their bank accounts or other assets, when these can be traced. In addition, a penalty of 6% interest is charged annually on the unpaid tax balance, a rate estimated to be less than the collection expense.

Join us.

Initial Signers of the Enclosed Statement

We Won’t Pay

Vietnam drags on. Casualties rise, $28 billion are wasted yearly, U.S. prestige and moral fabric rot away. No solution, political or military, is in view. The President’s prescription is more of the same — 45,000 new men (for a total of 525,000) and a proposed 10% income tax increase specifically for this undeclared, unconstitutional, unprofitable, and unjust war.

“The needs of this country’s riot-shaken cities are being neglected to pay the war bill,” The New York Times has editorialized. It is time for escalation by those who want peace in order to focus on our critical domestic dilemma. Peace marches have not worked; nor have pickets, protest ads, teach-ins, or pleas to the President’s conscience by public figures here and abroad. We are not consoled by reports of atrocities committed by the other side; we want to stop those committed by our side. So we must now go beyond mere expressions of dissent to strong, affirmative, and dramatic action by responsible citizens.

We, the undersigned writers and editors for publications and publishing houses large and small, have not had to give our lives in Vietnam — that has fallen on younger Americans. But we have lent our passive support in the form of our tax dollars. From now on, we are willing to lay our middle-class lives on the line in pledging:

  1. That none of us voluntarily will pay the proposed 10% income tax surcharge, or any war-designated tax increase.
  2. That many of us will also refuse to pay that part of our current income tax (23%) being used to finance the war.

Many of us, too, will give an equivalent sum to humanitarian organizations. Even so, this was not an easy decision to make. We have been law-abiding, tax-paying citizens all our lives, and we are now subjecting ourselves to possible legal penalties of up to one year in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines for willful non-payment of taxes. But we believe our taxes should not be used to support a war that violates not only our own Constitution but the Charter of the United Nations.

By this act, we aim to awaken the Administration to the fact that a significant number of responsible citizens are so fundamentally opposed to this war that they are willing to go to this extreme. And we wish to show other Vietnam-haunted Americans that there is a simple, swift, effective way to vote no-confidence in the Administration’s policy. It can be done individually or in groups. It cannot wait until the 1968 presidential election. Your ballot is your next tax return, and other ads such as this placed in every newspaper in the land.

There are not enough prisons to hold the millions in this country who, according to Gallup and other recent polls, strongly oppose this ugly war. Time now to end our tacit acceptance of what is being done in Vietnam in our name.

Writers and Editors War Tax Protest

Additional Signers of the Enclosed Statement

  1. Joseph M. Fox
  2. Isabel W. Fox
  3. Andre Schiffrin
  4. Dianne Harris
  5. Janet Schulman
  6. Anne Reit
  7. Hunter Thompson
  8. Erika Munk
  9. Saul Gottlieb
  10. Kelly Morris
  11. John Speicher
  12. Caroline Trager
  13. Eric Lasher
  14. John Hopper
  15. Merle Miller
  16. Howard Zinn
  17. Charles Lam Markham
  18. Hal Scharlatt
  19. Elizabeth Bartelme
  20. John McDermott
  21. Sally Belfrage
  22. John Simon
  23. Selma Shapiro
  24. Ralph Ginzburg
  25. Elinor Langer
  26. Richard Kostelanetz
  27. Thomas R. Brooks
  28. John J. Simon
  29. Walter Arnold
  30. Richard Marek
  31. Tod Gitlin
  32. Frances Fox Piven
  33. Ned O’Gorman
  34. Berenice Hoffman
  35. Bennett Sims
  36. Carl Morse
  37. Jackson MacLow
  38. Dwight Macdonald
  39. Noam Chomsky
  40. James Leo Herlihy
  41. Paul Jacobs
  42. Iris Lezak MacLow
  43. Aaron Asher
  44. Peter Kemeny
  45. David Segal
  46. Thomas D. Barry
  47. Alan Rinzler
  48. Robert Markel

Much of the text of the above declaration didn’t make it in to the final advertisement (I’m guessing it was cut down to make room for the many names of signers, but maybe there was more to it than that). Horowitz himself did not make the list.

, David Welsh of Ramparts sent Horowitz a follow-up letter:

Dear Mr. Horowitz:

I am enclosing a copy of the statement signed, so far, by 220 writers and editors who pledge to refuse payment of the proposed 10 per cent income tax surcharge or any tax increase earmarked for the Vietnam War. At this writing, seven New York Times writers and editors have signed. We plan to run a full-page advertisement in the Times in , giving the quote from Thoreau, the pledge and the list of names. The placing of the ad will coincide with Congressional debate on the tax surcharge. By that time we hope to have 500 persons pledged to refuse payment.

If you would be interested in signing the statement, please fill in the blank and mail it in as soon as possible. And please tell your writer and editor friends about it and urge them to do the same. As Thoreau said, “If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.” During his incarceration for refusal to pay his war tax, Thoreau was paid a visit by Emerson, who asked, “What are you doing in here?” To which Thoreau replied, “What are you doing out there?”

I feel strongly that the collective involvement of writers and editors in the nation’s politics should not stop with the War Tax Protest. Many of our colleagues share this view, and are preparing this fall to organize local chapters of what can become a national writers and journalists association. An organized and articulate “intelligentsia” can be a political force in America as it is in France. And it must become a political force if the increasingly oppressive policies of the present United States government — in Vietnam, in Southern Africa, in Latin America, and here at home — are to be permanently reversed. Not to organize, not to amplify our voices so that an ill-informed America may hear alternatives, is to accede, in effect, to the policies of the present government. For more information, please write me immediately at 377 Green Street, San Francisco, California 94133.

Included with this letter is a somewhat different version of the proposed ad:

How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer that he can­not without disgrace be associated with it.In other words, when … a whole country is overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army… There are thousands who are in opinion opposed … the war … who, esteeming themselves children of Washington and Franklin, sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say that they know not what to do, and do nothing… They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret… What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn… If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.

— Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, commenting upon American involvement in the Mexican War.

We the undersigned writers and editors, believing that American involvement in Vietnam is morally wrong, pledge:

  1. None of us voluntarily will pay the proposed 10% income tax surcharge or any war-designated tax increase.
  2. Many of us will not pay that 23% of our current income tax which is being used to finance the war in Vietnam.

Following this was a sign-up sheet, asking signers to agree with the statement “I believe American involvement in the war in Vietnam is morally wrong,” and giving three further options:

  • “As a writer/editor, I wish to add my name to the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest. I dissociate myself from my government’s actions in Vietnam and I am willing to use my next tax return to vote no-confidence in the present Administration. I enclose a check (payable to Writers and Editors War Tax Protest) for $10.00 or more to help pay for running this statement as a newspaper advertisement and for other expenses.”
  • “I am in sympathy with what you are doing. Enclosed is my check for $____.”
  • “I would like more information. Please send me your fact-sheet on tax refusal.”

A number of additional signers had been added to the list by this time:

(Spock was listed out-of-order and in a different typeface in the original.)