Writers and Editors War Tax Protest

While doing some book research today I stumbled on a bunch of documents concerning the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” tax resistance pledge of . I found the documents at The Harold Weisberg Archive:

Item 01 (four pages)
A three-page letter from David Welsh on Ramparts letterhead dated “enclosing a copy of the statement signed, so far, by 220 writers and editors…” and saying that they hoped to run the ad in the New York Times (the Times would turn them down). The letter asks Weisberg to sign on, and includes a couple of Thoreau quotes. It also says that Welsh sees this as a first step towards organizing the American “intelligentsia” to be an organized and articulate political force. The final page lists the signers to that point. Also included is Weisberg’s response in which he complements the Thoreau quote, notes that he signed the pledge and sent it in with a donation, and then goes on for four paragraphs about Kennedy assassination conspiracy research, which was his specialty.
Item 02 (eight pages)
An undated letter from the Protest to “Fellow Signers” noting that “We now have over 350 names” and “hope to achieve, or surpass, 500 by ” so they can put the ad in the Times.” The letter notes that the anticipated 10% Vietnam War tax surcharge has run into snags in Congress, but still expects a modified version to pass. It also solicits funds, noting that they’re only about half way to the budget they need to place a full-page Times ad.
A second page includes the text of a Thoreau quote and of the tax resistance pledge.
A third page includes a “coupon” that signers can fill out to register their pledge with the Protest office, and begins the partial list of signers. The next two pages continue the list, and then the following page includes “Additional Signers” (including Weisberg).
The last two pages are a “Fact Sheet” explaining the reasoning behind the protest, the process that resisters can go through to make their resistance effective, a summary of the possible legal consequences, the possibility of filing a legal challenge, and the Protest’s willingness to reach out to other groups interested in taking a similar stand.
Item 03 (four pages)
Only the first page is interesting. It’s a hand-drawn invitation to a “Deficit Party” fundraiser “to help pay for our newspaper ad” to be held on “at Betty Friedan’s apartment [at] The Dakota”: “Eric Bentley, Betty Friedan, Paul Goodman, James Leo Herlihy, Larry Josephson, Dwight Macdonald, Gloria Steinem, [&] Gerald Walker invite you to join them, and all the other signers of the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest…”
Item 04 (two pages)
The first page is the last of a three-page list of pledge signers (the first two pages are missing); the second page is a list of “Additional Signers” with marginal notes indicating that the number had risen to 309, and then to 324.
Item 05 (four pages)
A letter from Lawrence M. Bensky & Gerald Walker of the Protest to “Fellow Signers” dated . It notes that Congress did not institute the expected 10% income tax surcharge by tax filing season, and so if people want to resist, they’ll have to choose the other option, which was to refuse to pay some portion of their ordinary income tax: “we urge you to do so. Obviously, the effectiveness of our action hinges on the number of participants.” It notes that 50 more people have signed the pledge since the ads appeared “in Ramparts, The New York Review of Books of , and The New York Post of ” which brings the total signers up to that desired 500 threshold.

Hundreds of people have written us to request tax-refusal information; many of these were non-writers and non-editors who were sufficiently impressed to follow our lead, and these information requests continue to come in without any sign of tapering off.

The letter notes that contributions have been coming in as well, but proposes not to spend any more money on advertising, but to keep the funds in reserve in case the government retaliates against any signer, so as “to focus publicity on such cases; and where a case offers the opportunity to press a legal test of the government’s right to ‘draft’ our money for Vietnam, we will contribute to the costs of legal defense.” The letter then recommends that people look into the newly formed “Tax Resistance Project of the War Resisters League.”
The next page lists some sympathetic organizations, discusses the possible government retaliation actions against signers, and includes a coupon resisters could send to the War Resisters League if they want to be included in their coordinated tax resistance action.
The next page gives “some facts about tax refusal and its consequences” including a how-to guide giving several options for how to resist.
The final page announces a protest to be held at the IRS headquarters in Washington on :

Join us in an act of collective tax resistance. Bring your completed tax return, form 1040, or a statement explaining why you’re not filing, and together we will return forms and statements accompanied by either no money or an insufficient amount of money. The action at IRS will be preceded by a public meeting nearby. Dr. Arthur Waskow of the Institute for Policy Studies and Dave Dellinger, Chairman of the National Mobilization Committee, will be among the speakers.

We act because for many verbal opposition to the war in Vietnam is no longer enough. Resistance has become necessary. Our consciences dictate it. The young men resisting the draft have shown a way and we who are not subject to the draft must develop creative parallels. Tax resistance is such a parallel act because it confronts the administration directly and challenges it at a vital point. It liberates the tax resister by showing him that he does have choices.

Item 06 (two pages)
A Washington Post clipping dated  — “Marchers Protest War Taxes” concerning a protest of about 40 people at the IRS Building. Protesters included Barbara Deming, Dave Dellinger, William C. Davidon, Arthur Waskow. The article includes a photo of Waskow and of protesters marching with “Don’t Pay War Taxes” signs, but the copy quality is low.
Item 07 (one page)
A letter dated from Eric Bentley, John Leonard, Peter Spackman, Gloria Steinem, and Gerald Walker to “Fellow Signers” about “how best to wind up the group’s affairs.” They plan to donate the group’s remaining funds to the Civil Liberties Legal Defense Fund, which has made a reciprocal agreement to give legal assistance to any Protest signers who run into trouble in the coming year. “The Writers and Editors War Tax Protest was always a temporary organization, and its limited goals have now been achieved. We remain pledged as individuals, however, to the moral and financial support of any of our number who is prosecuted or harassed because of non-payment or simple membership.”

WEWTP certainly added its bit to the anti-war clamor which produced the current atmosphere and the many swift changes that have taken place in it. We ended up with 528 signers. And if there were that many strongly anti-war people from one small area of American Life, surely the political computers in Washington were capable of extrapolating that figure to the population as a whole. So [President] Johnson got the message. Thanks for lending your voice and your name to ours.

The “current atmosphere” of changes since the start of the Protest project included the abandonment of the 10% income tax surcharge plan, the Tet Offensive, the resignation of Secretary of Defense McNamara, Johnson’s decision not to run for another term, and the opening of peace negotiations.
Item 09 (one page)
A press release from the Protest dated . At this time, the Protest had attracted 437 signers, and “at least one-third” of these had pledged not only to refuse to pay any war surcharge, but also “not to pay the 23 per cent of their current income tax which is being used to finance the war in Vietnam.”

The protest was announced today at a press conference in New York’s Algonquin Hotel, traditionally a gathering place for New York’s literary world. Three writers and three editors spoke for the group: Eric Bentley, drama critic, professor of Columbia, and author of several books on the theater; James Leo Herlihy, well-known novelist and short story writer; and Sally Belfrage, author of “Freedom Summer.” Publishers included Richard Grossman of Grossman Publishers; Aaron Asher of Viking Press; and Arthur A. Cohen of Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

One of the group’s organizers announced that today’s advertisement had been rejected for publication by seven major newspapers before being printed by the New York Post. The New York Times, where ten of the advertisement’s signers are employed, twice rejected it, the second time after the advertisement had been changed to meet their earlier objection. Other newspapers which refused to accept the prepaid full-page advertisement were The Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Christian Science Monitor, the National Observer, and the Chicago Tribune. A spokesman for the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest expressed regret that the nation’s press, “which is so quick to condemn violent demonstrations, actually encourages them by frustrating conscientious expression of dissent from our actions in Vietnam.”

Item 10 (one page)
A newspaper clipping dated that, in the form of an article about the ad, essentially reproduces it, including the complete list of signers. It is unclear what newspaper the clipping is taken from.
Item 11 (one page)
“Writers Vow Tax Revolt Over War” — a news clipping from the Washington Post. It gives the number of signers as 448, and explains that the Post refused to print the ad “on the grounds that it was an implicit exhortation to violate the law.”
Item 12 (one page)
A letter from Lawrence M. Bensky & Gerald Walker to “Fellow Signers” dated . It gives the number of signers as 450. “Two months have been spent dickering with the NY Times (where 11 of the signers work), which has just refused an ad revised to meet earlier Times objections.” (Harding Bancroft of the Times eventually said: “the advertisement was turned down by the Times in accordance with our general policy that we do not accept advertising urging readers to perform an illegal action.”) The letter notes that some signers have wondered why the Protest continues to stress the 10% surcharge which by now is looking less politically viable. Finally, the letter announces the above-mentioned “Deficit Party.”