S. Brian Willson on Protest and Direct Action Tactics

S. Brian Willson was interviewed on KQED’s radio show “Forum with Michael Krasny” . Among the things he discussed were varieties of protest tactics, symbolic tactics versus practical direct action, the need for deep and radical change as opposed to superficial changes that keep dysfunctional structures intact, and his encounters with Juanita & Wally Nelson.

Here’s some of what he had to say about tax resistance:

Willson: I think it would be good if people simplified their lives and lived below the taxable level. Or even if they didn’t do that, to become tax refusers and to begin getting rid of their property — which I did, myself, with the IRS over the years…

Krasny: Have you refused to pay taxes?

W: I refused…

K: But you didn’t get prosecuted.

W: No. And I thought I would be prosecuted.

K: ’cause there are so many in jail who have said…

W: Sixteen years… but I had to get rid of my property, my bank accounts, and pay all my bills with postal money orders. But I had to resolve going to jail. I mean I had to resolve that that was a likely consequence. But I felt free when I made that… It took me three years to get clarity on that, back in the early eighties. But when I got clear about it… I’ve had twelve meetings with the IRS over the years and I was always very clear with them that their option was to take me to prison. Because they didn’t have anything to seize, but they could seize me. And I thought — my lawyer said — pretty sure they’re gonna do that. But they didn’t.

Later they took a call from “Greg:”

Greg: I would think that if people were to become tax refuseniks at a larger scale, we’d cut off the supply — the blood supply — to people who are making some of these really poor decisions. My question is: how would that be coordinated? how would that get started? how would that become a much larger movement so it wasn’t just maybe a few people who were left hanging out there with their pants down, so to speak — how to go and make something that’s a coordinated effort that was much larger in scale and difficult to stop, and really make a big statement?

W: Well that’s a good question…

K: We’re getting this from a lot of emailers: ‘How do we organize?’ or ‘How do we get more momentum?’

W: There are about 10,000 tax refusers in the United States, I think, now. There is a national group called the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Council [sic] which is trying to do just exactly what you as the caller have suggested. It’s just very tough: it’s another leap that people make. I made the leap, myself, and it took me three years to process the thought of being a tax refuser, which I felt was the correct position for me personally, and I met other people who were tax refusers…

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