Comprehensive Disobedience Urged in Spain

Say… what’s going on with the tax resisters in Spain these days? There are two active tax resistance campaigns that I know about: one is a sort of expanded war tax resistance campaign that has grown to include a critique of centralization and of austerity budgets that favor international bankers over taxpayers and citizens; the other is part of a Catalan independence movement that is upset that the region is paying far more in taxes to the central government than it receives in government benefits and services.

The first of these groups is updating their “Right of Rebellion” manifesto for the coming tax year and is fine-tuning the way in which they encourage people to redirect their tax money from the central government to local, autonomous social welfare projects. They are also continuing to staff “economic disobedience offices” to give face-to-face advice to resisters.

Something that’s new to me is that they’re promoting something they call Desobediència Integral (Comprehensive Disobedience):

Comprehensive disobedience involves breaking the social contract with the state of the territory where you live, in order to make a new social contract with a community in which the individual feels really connected.

This campaign has provoked a backlash from that portion of the left that sees the central government as an important part of its program and is threatened by proposals to weaken it. An organization called the “Grupo de Trabajo Economía Sol” (Sun Economy Working Group) made the following criticisms:

  • If people withhold taxes from the government, the government will probably begin cutting the budgets of education, health, and social welfare programs before those of the more objectionable parts of the government.
  • The law now requires Spain to make debt payments a priority over social spending, so if you reduce tax revenue, you do nothing to fix the problem of illegitimate debt, but only hurt recipients of social spending.
  • Tax revenue should be managed by the people as a whole, and not by small groups on a local scale. The projects proposed as recipients for tax redirection may be nice, but they are lacking in transparency and in democratic control.

Meanwhile, the Tortoise Antimilitarist Group is ramping up its more traditional war tax resistance campaign.

In the second of these campaigns, some 650 municipalities in Catalonia have decided not to forward the taxes they withhold from their employees (and certain other taxes they administer) to the central government in Madrid, but instead to give the money to the Catalan Tax Agency. This is something of a symbolic measure as the Catalonian government itself sends this money along to Madrid, but the rebellious towns see this as an opening gambit in a series of measures it hopes will lead to increased Catalan independence.

Some more tax resistance news from days of yore:

From the Colombia Missourian, :

11 demonstrators oppose use of taxes for military

By Mollie Vento
Missourian staff writer

Eleven demonstrators gathered outside the Federal Building, 600 E Cherry St., to protest the use of tax dollars for military spending.

George Mummert, a spokesman for the demonstrators, said they represent no organization. “We’re just a gathering of concerned citizens who have an objection to our tax dollars going toward war and its preparation and not to peace.”

The protest came on the final day to file income-tax returns.

Mummert said the protesters received mainly positive response from passers-by. In addition to passing out literature and holding signs, the group planned to deliver a giant postcard bearing supporters’ signatures to Rep. Harold Volkmer’s office.

Most of the demonstrators were “people of faith,” according to Mummert, although they are not affiliated with any particular denomination or church. “It’s hypocritical for us to pray for peace and pay for war,” Mummert said.

He cited statistics stating that 64 percent of the federal income tax revenue goes toward current military expenses and debts from past wars. All the protesters were what Mummert called “hard core war tax resisters.” They do not file federal income tax returns, he said.

Mummert, a conscientious objector in , said other tax resisters pay half their tax, some pay all but $1, while still others refuse to pay their telephone excise tax.

From The Washington Post, :

Tax Resisters Refuse to Fuel War Machine

by Colman McCarthy

Well-deserved acclaim has been given to sociologist Daniel Jonah Goldhagen for his recent book Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. It details the complicity of German citizens during the political reign of the Nazis when much of the public accepted the intellectual arguments for the mass murder of Jews.

“Hundreds of thousands of Germans contributed to the genocide and the still larger system of subjugation that was the vast concentration camp system,” writes Goldhagen. He states that “the moral bankruptcy of the German churches, Protestant and Catholic” was “extensive and abject.” Religious leaders “were men of God second and Germans first.” They blessed state violence.

As the main military force that defeated the Nazis, the United States has been able to position itself on the moral high ground and, with furrowed brow, ponder in astonishment why so few Germans protested their government’s well-organized barbarity.

If a cold eye is to be cast on Germany’s behavior a half-century ago, why not a condemning word and a protesting stance of resistance against the violent policies of the U.S. government in ? What violence? Congress lavishes the Pentagon with $700 million a day, a sum nearly equal to the military budgets of all other nations combined and 17 times more than the combined budgets of the six nations the Pentagon claims are threats. Also each day, about 38,000 children are dying throughout the world of hunger-related diseases, according to Oxfam International.

The United States is the planet’s largest arms merchant, with Commerce and State Department officials roaming the world on trade missions to hustle more customers for the U.S. weapons industry. Client states include such habitual violators of human rights as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. , uncountable dictators to whom the United States has supplied weapons turned them on their own people. , the annual arms bazaar — the “Contingency and Operational Procurement Exhibition” — is scheduled at the Sheraton-Washington Hotel. This is the mercantile occasion when the newest wares of death are displayed. The Peace Action Education Fund is organizing a protest.

Differences between Germany’s military machine 60 years ago and America’s today are obvious. Less so are the similarities. Germany had a complicit clergy, as does the United States today. America’s church leaders offer a biblical argument: Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, to God what is God’s. Dorothy Day had an answer for that: After you give to God, there should be nothing left over for Caesar.

The second similarity is how rarely dissent is voiced by ordinary Americans. Normalcy prevails, as if it were rational to have a proposed military budget $20 billion larger than in , at the peak of the Cold War.

Not all Americans fall into line. This month in more than 50 cities, such groups as Veterans for Peace, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the War Resisters League have been organizing programs and demonstrations for tax resistance. Last year, according to the National War Tax Resisters Coordinating Committee, about 20,000 patriots who value their government but not its warrior spirit refused to channel money to the Pentagon through the IRS They are back this year, again finding it both illogical and immoral to work for peace while paying for war or war preparation.

The IRS labels them tax cheats, which is incorrect. They are happy to pay taxes when the money is for social programs that enhance life, not for the world’s most effective killing machine. Those with religious ties argue persuasively that providing money for military people to kill violates the teachings of the world’s religions.

For Marian Franz of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, a Washington nonprofit group, conscientious tax resistance is a religious liberties issue. She has allies in Congress, including Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) and Rep. Andrew Jacobs Jr. (D-Ind). Each recently introduced legislation — the U.S. Peace Tax Fund bill — that would provide legal protection for citizens who want their taxes to be diverted from the Pentagon maw. The legislation is not likely to pass in this or the next millennium. Its value may be for historians, ones who will ask how and why so many ordinary Americans in the said or did nothing about their government squandering its wealth on militarism. In this current darkness, a few lights shine. Honorable dissent may be only flickering, but it is still a flame.

McCarthy seems to have had a soft spot for war tax resisters. He penned another op-ed on the subject in :

Dreaming of a Peace Tax Fund

Colman McCarthy

 Whether a taxpayer obeys or violates his or her conscience on April 15 is no concern to the Internal Revenue Service. It wants dollars, not qualms. But at tax time, conscience is an issue to a fair number of citizens whose religion, ethics, or value system holds that cooperation with war or war preparation is not moral.

They see no consistency of conscience in working 364 days of the year opposing policies that make the United States the earth’s most militarized nation while, on the 365th day, paying taxes that overflow the government’s war trough.

Tax money has paid for all seven of America’s declared wars and all of its 137 “presidential actions,” the latest of which are Grenada, Libya, and Nicaragua. Citizens helped provide the Pentagon with nearly two trillion dollars under the Reagan administration, including a doubling of money for nuclear weapons and the beginning of a space battlefield.

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, an East Patchoque, N.Y., group estimates that between 10,000 and 20,000 people will be sitting out for reasons of conscience. The estimate is probably low. This isn’t a group much given to self-generated publicity or issuing press releases every time Caspar Weinberger emits another war whoop. Street theater is rare, although a few war tax protesters will put up a picket line in front of the IRS offices in Washington.

More important than the precise number of resisters is the growth of lawyers or counselors assisting them: More than 120 are now at work, up from 55 in . Strength is seen in another figure: a 400 percent increase — from 45 to 180 — in for national and local groups working on war tax resistance.

Kathy Levine of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee reports that the people saying yes to their consciences and no to the IRS form a diverse group: “During Vietnam, it was mostly ‘the peaceniks’ who protested this way. They were against just the Vietnam War. Today there are people from all kinds of political and philosophical positions who are refusing to pay their taxes. Some are opposed to the development of nuclear weapons. Some have religious convictions who feel they must obey God’s law before a civil law. And many in the middle class are sickened and fed up with the amount of money going to the military.”

Groups like the War Resisters League and the Friends Committee on National Legislation calculate that 55 percent of the tax dollar goes for military or military-related purposes. The federal tax law lacks a provision for pacifists or others who want no part of the government’s violent solutions to conflicts. After that, though, good news and bad news emerges.

The good news is that no conscientious tax resister has been jailed for . For the IRS, the strain in dogging tax cheats and willful evaders, and prosecuting them if they are caught, is too great for it to be coming down hard on the noncriminal resisters. The bad news is that the IRS, through the “frivolous return” penalty that was added to the tax code in , has increased enforcement powers to make it easier for the government to get not only the money that wasn’t paid by April 15 but also a larger amount from penalties Bank accounts and personal assets can be attached. Without a meticulous plan of resistance before a decision is made and the services of a skilled tax lawyer after, a conscientious resister can end up paying the IRS more than if he had not protested at all.

In a few days, a solution that would satisfy both the resisters and the government will be proposed in Congress: the Peace Tax Fund bill. With some 55 House sponsors and four in the Senate when offered in the last session, the legislation would amend the tax code. Citizens opposed in conscience to participating in any way in military solutions would be allowed to redirect their taxes to non-military purposes. These tax resisters aren’t out to deny money to the government. They seek only to deny it to that part of government that wants money for military violence, which is morally unacceptable.

Marian Franz, the director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund and who has been working for this law for , says that “during the Vietnam era 15 percent of all draftees were recognized as conscientious objectors. If that same percentage of taxpayers diverted their tax payments to the Peace Tax Fund, this trust fund for peace projects would receive about $2 billion each year. These funds would have an impact on the way the world would think about, and moves to resolve, international conflict.”

A dreamer? Yes, gloriously. But not a dangerous dreamer. The planet-threatening menaces are those who keep on dreaming — especially around April 15 — that more money for more militarism is the way to peace. All that group proves is that well-funded dreams become expensive nightmares.