Poet, activist, and long-time war tax resister Joffre Stewart has died.
Stewart’s war tax resistance went all the way back to the Peacemakers movement in the 1950s. He was a thorough anarcho-pacifist and an eager political debater (“anti-political” he would say, to correct me) with little patience for half-way measures.
During World War Ⅱ, he was imprisoned for being AWOL, and subsequently was jailed repeatedly for refusing to cooperate with draft registration or with racial segregation, and once for turning up at a poetry reading at a Barnes & Noble bookstore and being thrown out as an undesirable.
He is among “the best minds of my generation” immortalized in Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl, in which Stewart is depicted as having…
…reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets…
Fifty years later he would turn up in much the same way at NWTRCC national gatherings — usually having gotten there by Greyhound bus from Chicago, however long that took — with leaflets as incomprehensible as ever.
These photocopied poems, manifestos, and newsprint collages were difficult to interpret. Their frequent, strong, and unartful denunciations of Israel, which often featured stars-of-David enclosing swastikas and epithets like “Zionazis”, seemed often to veer towards crude anti-Semitism, only to be rescued by a style that was so obscure as to make their ideology impenetrable.