Antonio Gala on The Tax Resister

Also in the pages of Guía Práctica de la Objeción Fiscal a los Gastos Militares (see ) was an essay by Antonio Gala that I’ll try to translate today:

The Tax Resister

Now I ask myself if he were not still talking, because otherwise how in half an hour had he time to say such valiant things? Although this was not so important, he was young, tall, handsome, and unkempt; he wore jeans and a sweater; he stepped from foot to foot while he spoke to me, fervently, from his chair; he cracked his knuckles; with something like a nervous tic he was pushing his glasses back up from where they had slipped down his nose.

“You have written that the peacemakers are not those who do not make war, but those who make peace — that peace is not an absence of confrontation, but something superior: equality, solidarity, and justice — and that all else is merely to postpone war, and such is called truce, not peace… therefore one must go against the immediate cause of war, which is to say, against militarism. As Gandhi said: non-cooperation with evil is as certain a duty as cooperation with good. It even comes first [“Incluso es un bien previo”], I think. And our way of being against militarism, what is it? the most direct: preventing the amount of our taxes that is destined for military spending. In this way, tax resistance is defined in very few words… Look, Mr. Gala: a couple of years back, while our military spending reached one and a quarter billion — and 120 billion worldwide — fourteen million children under five died of need in the third world. And how many people died or were lost in the same way right around us, in that which surrounds our cities, the marginalized, which we are told is inevitable? Nobody knows because nobody cares… There are effective remedies to avoid such disasters, but the militarists and bureaucrats shrug their shoulders: ‘we don’t have the money.’ Survival of the fittest. Life goes on. [“Los que mueren son los que no pueden sobrevivir. Sobran vidas.”] This is called the Ministry of Defense. From what do they defend? against what? how? with what do they defend? and whom? Me? no. Many like me? no. You? I think not either. And if they do not ask us what it is that in truth there is to defend… what do they fucking ask of us, or is this not a democracy? We would answer, a healthy, dignified, and cultured life; we would say human rights and the environment and international cooperation; we could say the deprived, the humiliated, the persecuted races and minorities of all kinds… Is this the ‘welfare state,’ Mr. Gala? For the welfare of whom? Don’t they go out in the street; don’t they look, or are they blind?”

The ring he had been fussing with fell to the floor. He looked under the table without stopping what he was saying. “There are walls less visible and less photogenic than the Berlin Wall, which have not fallen. Disgraceful walls, increasingly thicker, between us and those who have nothing but suffering and death. There are those who defend those walls to the death, as the Russian soldiers defended, by the orders of their superiors, the Iron Curtain. For this is what the great powers need armies and weapons for. And might we not have another possibility but to keep quiet and pay up? By no means. There is tax resistance, which advances peace because it supports disarmament. With this we deny to the Treasury, when paying the income tax, what corresponds to the Ministry of Defense [“Con ello negamos a Hacienda, al liquidar el Impuesto sobre la Renta, lo correspondiente al Ministerio de Defensa.”].

“It is a meager solution: the Ministry spends much more and our income tax is only a third of what the state takes. But even so, our objection signifies a cry of alarm, a critical and public disobedience in the face of those who propose a totalitarian power over individuals, obliging us to collaborate against ourselves. The state has the laws, and those who wield them apply them against ourselves; whereas we have no more power from what we are than what we are, right? [“nosotros no tenemos más fuerza de lo que somos y que los que somos, ¿es o no es?”] Very well, they can change the law or they can throw us in prison. And then we will shout to the whole world why this is: because we refuse to kill, because we refuse to participate in the absurd game of defending those who oppress us and push us into to war and madness, because this money that we avoid giving we dedicate to those who work for that which is the true defense and true progress of humanity. Whoever wants to know that for which we look, who wants to oppose abuse arm-in-arm with us, who wants to join us, who shouts with us: Not one man, not one woman, not a penny more for war.”

He left my house, and he still was shouting in the street. And he left me shouting to myself also. What a marvelous power of persuasion the truth has when it is expressed with conviction.

As you can see, I had trouble with some of the language (darned poets). But I think I got the gist.