The Catholic News Archive has a pretty good catalog of issues of the Catholic Worker. Today I’ll present transcriptions of some of the material on tax resistance from the span.
These include several essays by Ammon Hennacy (these formed the raw material out of which he composed his autobiography, so if you have read that, you’ll see some familiar phrases and stories), as well as other writings by and about conscientious tax resisters, including long works by Ernest Bromley, Eroseanna Robinnson, and Karl Meyer. The articles fill in some interesting details about the evolution of the American war tax resistance movement during this period.
First, Ammon Hennacy, in the edition:
“How are you going to get people to put up the sword? My son died in Korea. I know you didn’t kill him. God bless you,” said an elderly woman as I was picketing the post office in Phoenix, , in response to Truman’s “emergency” declaration. The woman had seen my big sign which read:
“Put up thy Sword.
He that taketh the Sword
by the Sword”
On the reverse of this sign was a picture of a pot colored green with a sign on it—Capitalist. Opposite was a red kettle—Communist. Underneath was the caption: “The Pot Calls the Kettle Black.” I carried my old tax refusal sign as a sandwich in front. It read:
of your Income Tax
Goes for War.
I have refused
to pay Income Taxes
for Seven years.
The reverse sign hanging on my back read:
I attended mass at St. Mary’s before picketing and prayed for wisdom during my day which I feared would be more disturbing than my previous marches. In another church that morning a CW priest said mass for the success of my witness for peace. I had notified the City Manager and the tax man that I would picket against the war emergency. Ginny Anderson, whose C.O. husband Rik varityped my leaflet and made the above signs, stood on one corner to hand me extra literature and be my “lookout” for trouble. Byron Bryant, Catholic anarchist, home on Christmas vacation from his duties as professor of English at a western university, stood on the other corner. There was an unusual amount of people going and coming. Ne one advised me to go back to Russia or called me a Communist. As is usual in picketing most people were afraid to be seen taking a leaflet. If one person took a leaflet all others in line took it and if the first one refused so did all the others. Negroes and Mexicans and Indians always took the leaflet and many times a Catholic Worker. My leaflet read as follows:
What’s All The Shooting About?
It’s about men who put money ahead of God. It’s about young men on both sides misled into dying and killing each other. It’s about rationing, inefficiency, dictatorship, inflation, and politicians stealing a little more than usual.
War is what happens when one nation prepares to defend itself against another nation that prepares to defend itself. World War Ⅰ and World War Ⅱ did not end war nor make the world safe for democracy.
Neither will this one.
There just isn’t any sense to war! What can we do about it? If the politicians think one person is important enough to become a soldier, a munition maker, a bond buyer, or an income tax payer, then one person is important enough to
REFUSE to become a soldier,
REFUSE to make munitions,
REFUSE to buy bonds, and to
REFUSE to pay income taxes.
War does not protect you—it will destroy you!
You cannot overcome Communism with bullets. It can be overcome by each person doing what he knows in his heart to be right. The way of Jesus, of St. Francis, of Tolstoy, and of Gandhi teaches us to love our enemy, to establish justice, to abolish exploitation, and to rely upon God rather than on politicians and governments.
If you are a Christian, why not follow Christ? You might as well die for what you believe in as for what you don’t believe in. If you must fight, fight war itself. Don’t be a traitor to humanity!
Wars will cease when men refuse to fight.
(No “Johnny come lately" to the peace movement, I served 2½ years in prison for opposing World War I, 8½ months of it in solitary confinement in Atlanta Penitentiary. And since more than three-fourths of one’s income tax goes for war purposes, I have refused to pay my income tax for more than seven years. Nor did I register for the draft in either world war. I am a Christian Anarchist, a follower of Tolstoy, Thoreau, and Gandhi, and invite your serious consideration of their examples.)
“Extra, extra, all anarchists to be shot at sunrise,” shouted the good-natured news man stationed in front of the post office as I passed by. The one who had led the fight against me in August and later became my friend had left town. When a later edition told of a bank robbery in Tucson he shouted as I passed: [“Extra, extra, Gandhi robs a bank.” (missing from this article, but included in a later reprint —♇)]
A woman looked at my sign and asked if I did not know that Jesus told Peter to sell his clothes and buy a sword. I answered: “yes, but when Peter showed him the sword which he had Jesus answered ‘that is enough,’ and when Peter used this sword to cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest Jesus did not say to cut off the other ear but said ‘put up thy sword. He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword’.” As the woman walked on she shouted back: “Jesus called for a sword so he could perform a miracle. He never said ‘put up thy sword.’ You better read your Bible.”
Somewhat different was a teen age boy who pointed to an ad of the Marines and said that meant more to him than my sign or my leaflet which he had just read. I told him that if he believed that way—and he was to leave next month—that he should do what he thought was right. He refused to take a CW although he was a Catholic and went to St. Mary’s. I hoped that he would return safely and could then confer with the priest as to the possibilities of being a pacifist Catholic. It was not his fault that he had never heard the pacifist message before. We parted in a friendly spirit.
One gruff fellow asked, “What have you got there?” I answered, “It’s either very good or very bad; depends on how you look at it; better read it and see.” He smiled and went his way reading the leaflet.
A Catholic anarchist woman walked with me for a bit and was going to come after 3 p.m. and take Ginny’s place. While Byron and I went for lunch the Catholic banker whose bank had been robbed spoke to Ginny. Although the CW says “Starve the Bankers and Feed the Poor” he reads the paper and has visited me before on the picket line. Another Catholic anarchist woman came and missed us because of the following incident.
We had only brought along 500 leaflets and now at 3 p.m. they were nearly all distributed. Many had stopped with kind words and no one had openly insulted us. Two good natured policemen came up in a squad car and said they were having too many complaints about my picketing. They read my signs and leaflet. I told them that what I was doing was clearly subversive and that the FBI and the tax man had priority over them in my case and they ought to confer with them. One cop did so while the other asked me questions. Meanwhile people crowded around and watched my signs. I saw my tax man as he came near, and an FBI man. The police wanted to know what had been done when I had been arrested for picketing before. I told them that I had been released and had picketed 7 more days without being bothered. They conferred with headquarters and suggested that Ginny and I accompany them to the police station. Here we waited about an hour while detectives and police looked over the signs and leaflet and asked questions. I offered a CW to one police captain but he refused it saying that no Catholic paper could support such unpatriotic actions as mine. I asked him if he knew Father Dunne and he said he did. I advised him to call him up and see what he said about myself and the CW. (Later Fr. Dunne told me that the man had called him.)
Byron had phoned a Catholic attorney, friend of the CW, who spoke to Chief Clair. The latter told us we could go but I had better not picket for I might cause a riot and then charges of disorderly conduct, loitering, or other charges would be proferred against me. I told him that I had been able so far to handle individuals and crowds. He shrugged his shoulders inferring that I would be on my own. I said that I had been on my own all my life and another half hour (it was now 4:30) was not much to worry about. Before I left I told him that I would picket again on . He replied, “That is another day.”
We went back and gave away our few remaining leaflets. Postal employees looked out of the windows and saw that the police had not stopped us. (One of the calls had come from an ultra-patriotic postal employee, although another employee to whom I had offered a leaflet early in the morning had refused it and about 2 p.m. had asked for one, and after reading it praised me for my stand.)
Ammon Hennacy, in the edition:
Life at Hard Labor
“I don’t wear a label; I’m for all good causes,” replied the young ex-conscientious objector who, passing through Phoenix, had called the local paper to find my address, and had found me this evening as I was caretaker of Jersey cows at the sale of purebreds at the State Fair grounds. Many write to me or come to visit me who are drawn by different phases of my philosophy, so to save time I try to find out if their bias is Catholic Worker, I.W.W., pacifist, anarchist, vegetarian, life on the land, or tax refusal. This slogan of not wearing a label is fine, I told my new friend, for a young person in search of the truth, but at his age of 31 he ought to begin to have ideas that led to some definite belief and action. I admitted that for the average person of bourgeois tendencies to look at the Republican and Democratic parties and to think that wearing their labels was meaningless was a sign of progress. Like the housewife in the days when women did the baking at home who put the initials “T.M.” on the top crust of one pie, meaning “Tis Mince”; and the initials “T.M.” on another pie crust, meaning “Taint Mince,” labels surely do not have any meaning.
The thought behind my friend’s no label attitude seemed to be a desire to approach as many people as possible, on the street, in buses, at dances, etc., and to make friends and influence people by not scaring them with such words as pacifist or anarchist, but to rattle half-truths and half criticisms as a build up for “all good causes” and as a monkey wrench toward the status quo. This is a mass approach; mine has been to get the individual in this mass, if possible, to think. I remember forty years ago when well meaning friends told me that to use the word “Socialist” was defeating my purpose, and that some word such as “Progressive" that did not have such ill omen should be used. My reply then was that whatever word was used to designate a belief that word would always have a bad meaning to those who were being denounced. Today the word Socialist only means collaboration with war and has lost all its class conscious meaning. Even many timid anarchists whom I know prefer the word “Libertarian” for fear they will be called bomb throwers. I go on the principle of never being on the defensive, so when I am called a bomb throwing anarchist I tell the accuser that the government is the biggest bomb thrower with its A and H bombs.
I told my young friend that he could always get a crowd to applaud mild criticism of war and for the lowering of taxes and raising of wages, but that this same crowd would really follow the blazing torch of super demagogues who spoke of “the great native intelligence of the common man,” and who never meant to catch the bird but were adept in the case of putting salt on its tail. I pointed out that spiritual power was the strongest force in the world and that beside it all the two penny political victories did not mean a thing. Too many of us dissipate our energies by being “for all good causes” and never develop or use this spiritual power. And then we wonder why we become tired radicals and why warmongers rule the world. We refuse to use our strongest weapon, but at the ballot box where we are invariably outnumbered a million to one, we choose our weakest weapon.
As I was helping a farmer polish the horns of his cows he said he had heard that I was an educated man and implied wonderment as to my being a day laborer. I explained my plan of working at day work on farms in order that no withholding tax for war should be taken from my pay. He wanted to know more about these ideas and for the next hour he heard the words anarchism and pacifism undiluted by “all good causes” and departed with the current CW and my promise to mail him future copies. In contrast another farmer wanted me to go back to Russia if I didn’t like this country.
The cows for sale were listed in a catalogue with pedigrees and a record of their production of butter fat. The manager of the sale was discussing with one farmer about certain unregistered and non pedigreed cows which are called “grades,” and many times these cows give more and richer milk than the purebred stock. But there is no guarantee that a heifer from such a cow will be a good producer; more than likely a throwback of scrub stock.
In Albuquerque I worked for two men who specialized in extra fancy chickens. At one place I gathered eggs each hour from a trap nest, and marked the number of the chicken, taken from a leg band, on the egg she had just laid, and also in the record book. Those who did not produce a great number of eggs were thus culled out. “Why feed the culls?” my boss said. Each day a dozen or more hens would die of “blow-outs”; which meant that the very efficient egg producing machine had overstepped itself. The mediocre hens lived longer and did not blow-out. At a dairy in Albuquerque where I worked, my job was to go to any of the eight corrals and in the mud and manure drive the next string of cows to the barn to be milked. Nearly every night a calf would be born in this wet and cold discomfort and my job was to carry it to a warm stall after the milking was done. Very few of these calves, coming from cows that were “grades,” died. Later I worked for a multi-millionaire who had highly priced purebreds. My job was to keep a fire in a stove in the barn at night and to feed these calves egg with specially prepared milk. Yet the death rate among these purebreds made my boss groan. Tuberculosis and Bangs Disease (premature birth of calves) seems also to be more prevalent among the inbred purebreds. Super efficient bankers jump out of windows when red ink instead of black ink records their business schemes. Efficient assembly line workers go berserk and often a supposedly steady bus driver leaves his route and drives right on to Florida to escape his treadmill of efficiency. At its best our system is efficient only in turning out quantity and at its worst it is trying to bomb us to death. Very expensive garden tools these days are held together only by the paint on the handle and are of very inferior design and workmanship.
When I was a social worker in Milwaukee in the thirties we were often derided by well to do Republicans for “coddling the culls” when we helped the poor. And from time to time I have heard radicals who were especially scientific and eugenic minded look upon the ideals of Jesus and Gandhi as perpetuating the life of the unfit and the misfit. Although I helped in the formation of the CW House of Hospitality in Milwaukee in I will admit that my interest in the CW was limited then to its pacifist and anarchist slant and that I felt this coddling of the bums was not so important. Since, however, my study of Tolstoy and acquaintance with Peter and Dorothy, and my ten years as an actual laborer, rather than a radical theorist with a good job, I have come to view this whole matter in different light. The conversation about grades and purebreds that night and my meeting with the young rattle-brain who was “for all good causes” helped me to clarify my ideas along this line.
In this age of the assembly line, of super-markets and super advertising schemes; and of Service Clubs to put a little holy oil of goodness on this theft, the illusion persists that this is a scientific and efficient age. Yes, we produce, but for what? If somehow we do have bums, poor housing, ill-health, new diseases, and poverty these can only be attended to by Community Funds, Heart, Cancer, and Give a Dime Campaigns; pensions and social security payments by the state. Charity Incorporated has no room for Houses of Hospitality where there is no record of aid given or even the name of the recipient. “They won’t work if you keep on feeding them! They sell the clothing you give them around the corner for booze!” say the well fed parasites who also neither work nor help the poor except perhaps in a very dim and distant contribution to a fund, much of which goes for overhead. The idea of these professional do-gooders is to “give coals and treacle” to the poor, as Shaw said, and to keep them out of sight in order that the rich may not be reminded of the filth and degradation which is the foundation of their wealth. Good social workers are told not to “become emotionally involved” with their clients. Again, the mechanistic approach.
The CW breaks through all this sham. Instead of living in fine apartments to which we can repair after witnessing the other side of the tracks, we who accept Lady Poverty have given up worldly goods, insurance, and much of our privacy. This cull in the breadline; this drunk or prostitute; this maladjusted and perhaps lazy man—all of these may not be improved a bit by our help. Ours is not a success story; the Way of the Cross was also a failure. He at least might have led a rebellion against the Roman State instead of dying on the Cross and forgiving His enemies.
Where are we to look for those who are going to bear the Cross today? It is true that St. Francis, Tolstoy, Malatesta, Kropotkin and Gandhi left their inheritance and choosing voluntary poverty were able to accomplish much. We also print the word and deliver the lecture to the purebreds. We make no mistake in thinking that because a man is ragged that he is holy, for if he is avaricious he is as much a slave to money as is the rich man. (My banker friend Brophy jokingly told me that he would have to write a defense of the rich for the CW. I told him that he would end up contradicting himself and that the best defense of the rich could be obtained by giving a couple of drinks to a poor man on the street.) The Old Pioneer [Lin Orme, Jr.] tells of stopping at a stand in the desert recently and being charged 15¢ for a soft drink. “This is 300% profit for you” he told the proprietor. “I’m not in business for my health” said this greedy and seedy defender of the capitalist system. The Old Pioneer also tells of 25¢ being charged for one common needle in the old days when everything coming into Phoenix had to be hauled from Maricopa Wells station beyond South Mountain. “The freight is what costs” was the alibi of the greedy merchant. Neither do we consider the product of the purebreds. Tommy Manville, the dear old DAR ladies, the useless royalty of Europe, and our own inbred Duponts and intellectuals who have nearly without exception prostituted their talents toward the making of bombs. There is some hope that among the bums we may find a John the Baptist to carry on the work when we have gone, but there is little hope from politicians whose integrity has already been purchased and from the super educated to whom a doctors degree, a deep freeze and a television set mean more than fighting for a lost cause.
How will we then come to a sensible way of life? Without war work we would have a terrible depression. Hardly a person but whom will gladly earn this blood money! Hardly a person but whom will pay taxes for more bombs! The rich will not give up their riches and the poor will not give up their pensions; (the young will not help the aged; preparing to “keep up with the Jones’.”) The froth at the top has little right to scorn the scum at the bottom; meanwhile we who do the work of the world support them both. The Old Pioneer remarked recently that Jefferson’s plan of not having great wealth inherited was the right idea. This reminds me of the old Russian proverb: “Do not lay up your money for your son, for if he is any good he can make his own money; and if he is not any good he will lose it.” So in our writing, our picketing, our speaking, our help to the poor in Houses of Hospitality, we must need show our sincerity by our voluntary poverty. No one would think of bribing us for by our lives we have established the fact that we need nothing. We need not fritter our time by building up “all good causes,” which accept the tyranny of the state. When they are ready for it the rich, the bourgeois intellectual, the bum, and even the politician may have an awakening of conscience because of the uncompromising seeds of Christian Anarchism which we are sowing. To all of these we make our appeal and from all it is not impossible to gain a few adherents for that time “when each shall give according to his ability and receive according to his need.” For what does all our bookkeeping mean but a denial of this ideal?
Johnny Olson came back from a sojourn in Texas. In a splurge of affluence he bought five mouse traps and set them around our house. He caught the whole population which consisted of three mice. While I as a pacifist vegetarian would not cause the death of Brother Mouse yet as an anarchist I have no right to deny Johnny the right to catch them… The old mules, belonging to a neighbor, which I have used for plowing the garden these five years are now muleburger. They were not killed in time for the new government regulation which allows equine meat in weiners.
My friend Joe Craigmyle, nonregistrant, and one-cylinder vegetarian and anarchist, runs a fruit stand and at times I have helped him pick oranges and grapefruit in groves where he has purchased the crop. Even in the month of May when the new fruit is on the trees the last year’s crop is still sweet and juicy. As with apples the fewer fruit on the tree the larger. There is not generally time to thin out the fruit but many drop off before maturity. An orange or grapefruit may look fine but if it is light in weight it is pithy and is discarded right there at the tree. The load is graded as to size when we return to the stand. Coming home from work the other night in Joe’s truck we were discussing the idea of responsibility and of my reference in a recent CW article to the woman who called on every one else to remove the dead cat from the road. I remarked that I had seen a dead cat on the lateral that Sunday morning but being in a hurry to catch a bus did not practice my anarchist idea of responsibility in removing it. However, in the evening upon my return it was still there despite hundreds of cars and dozens of people on the road that day, so I took care of it. Just then we both saw to the right of us a two-by-four with four spikes sticking up. I said that this would soon give someone some trouble. By that time we were a quarter of a mile beyond it. “I’ll back up and you can throw it in the ditch,” said Joe. In my mind, then, Joe, who has not been much of a man of action, rose from a one-cylinder to a two-cylinder anarchist.
Recently I went to the federal court as a young Molokon who lives a few miles down the lateral had been out on $5,000 bail for refusing to report to the army. Dozens of other young Molokons in the vicinity had been given CO status. Whether the draft board lost his CO questionnaire or thought they ought to get hardboiled I do not know. I had phoned a local lawyer who had handled Craigmyle’s refusal to register case and he promised to come to court but did not do so. His excuse being that he couldn’t do anything about it. Judge Ling set as date for a trial and the Molokon will get a lawyer from Los Angeles. The Old Pioneer tells of in when he went to the court commissioner with about fifteen Molokons who had refused to register. Two of them worked for him and he arranged for bail. They asked him if they could sing and pray. The Old Pioneer doubted if they could but asked the commissioner about it. “Hell no, this is a court,” was the answer. “You’d better let them sing and pray and not look foolish for they’re going to do it whether you give permission or not,” said the Old Pioneer to the commissioner. So they sang and prayed. Now they register and do not sing or pray in court.
, I received a notice I owe $2.15 interest and penalty on my $192 tax bill for and unless paid within ten days my property and wages will be attached. This is an old run-a-round and I am not worrying. I ate the first Irish potatoes this year from our garden. The persimmon tree which the Old Pioneer’s daughter-in-law gave me last winter now bears fruit. Watermelon, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, peppers and onions are doing fine. I am irrigating and soon will come irrigating maize.
An excerpt from “Poverty is to Care and Not to Care” by Dorothy Day, from the issue:
Our whole modern economy is based on preparation for war and that is one of the great modern arguments for poverty. If the comfort one has gained has resulted in the death of thousands in Korea and other parts of the world, then that comfort will be have to be atoned for. The argument now is that there is no civilian population, that all are involved in the war (misnamed defense) effort. If you work in a textile mill making cloth, or in a factory making dungarees or blankets, it is still tied up with war. If one raises food or irrigates to raise food, one may be feeding troops or liberating others to serve as troops. If you ride a bus you are paying taxes. Whatever you buy is taxed so you are supporting the state in the war which is “the health of the state.”
The argument may go this way, but we still can choose what seems to us the most honorable occupations, which have to do with human needs. We can choose the kind of work most necessary to do, and if possible where there is no withholding tax for war. Ammon Hennacy in working by the day, at hard farm labor, has not paid income tax for years. One can so cut down one’s standard of living that no income tax is required; families with many children pay no income tax. One can protest in many ways this contribution to the atom and hydrogen bomb. If one owns property the government then can take a lien on it. If one has money in the bank, the government can confiscate it. So truly such protest as this calls for the most profound poverty and a voluntary doing without property.
All this is by way of saying that poverty is no longer voluntary, no longer a counsel, but something which is laid upon us by necessity.
Ammon Hennacy, in the issue:
“I got a letter from one of my sons in Korea this morning. My three other boys will go to jail before they go to another foolish war. God bless you for your sign about war; that’s just what it is: murder,” said a woman to me as I was on my 8-day picketing and fasting. She referred to my sign:
DRAW THE LINE AT MURDER
REFUSE TO GO TO WAR.
In contrast a man went by with his wife and said: “Drop dead!”
“Can’t do it, Mister,” I replied.
Rik had done a beautiful job on my leaflet, printed in the CW, on blue paper. I was nearly out of CW’s containing my tax statement so did not give out any unless people asked for them.
Now for the first time in my fasting I went to Mass and Communion each morning. I had worked until after dark for several nights in order to finish work that I had planned, and up until . I had eaten my last full meal and only toast bread until I commenced my fast at . I had written the following note, enclosing my blue leaflet, to 165 of the clergy in and around Phoenix. And as usual I had notified the police, the FBI, and the tax man, of my picketing, telling them that what I was doing was clearly subversive, but no worse than it ever was. “Please pray for the success of my fasting and picketing in this the 10th year of my open refusal to pay income taxes for war, if you can in conscience do so. My attitude may appear too radical but I feel that something as radical as the Sermon on the Mount is needed in this wicked world. I too believe in a personal religion but if in matters of social concern I act just as unbelievers act, then I am a fraud. If you have time stop and say hello to me as I fast and picket in front of the old YMCA.”
I had sent my leaflet air mail to the Mayor of Hiroshima and to Manalil Gandhi in Phoenix, South Africa. I received but one answer which was from a leading Methodist minister, who did not agree with my ideas but who praised my stand. I knew beforehand of the approval of the half dozen priests who appreciated the CW. As usual the Associated Press sent a favorable factual message on the wire about my activities and the local radios reported it each day, one announcer even reading my entire leaflet. But the local dailies, per their policy, refused to “dignify" themselves by mentioning my name.
I started the fast weighing 142 pounds. The scales also poured forth a slip with the dubious information that read, “Don’t always follow the line of least resistance.” I lost 2 pounds and which was exceptionally hot I lost 5 pounds. I slept that night for 14 hours and awoke refreshed.
One friend who was an usher in a Catholic Church and also a veteran, had always been cordial to the CW, but he felt that the plan of the American Legion to take the profit out of war and make the big shots who make war go to war was a better method than my tax refusal and picketing. I told him that I was winning my battle against the government each day and while this was only a step forward, his way was no more than conversation about it. I said that this method stood as much a chance of succeeding as a butcher putting vegetarian signs in his window. That those who make money and fame out of war would never stop. It was up to us to refuse to take part in war.
Now on I was weak but never a bit hungry. Several people on park benches nearby told me of a young man who had gone on a 62 day fast. They said he ate his lunch at the park. That day I introduced myself to him and found he had suffered from arthritis, stomach ulcers and chronic nightmare. He went to my friend Dr. Shelton in San Antonio and after 40 days of nothing but water to drink, all of the accumulated toxic poisons had been washed out of his body and he commenced to get stronger. He was entirely cured at the end of 62 days. Of the 25,000 people taking fasts there in 30 years only one person had endured a longer fast; that being 68 days. A priest in Phoenix had taken a 30 day fast there and had been cured. My friend had lost 57 pounds but had gained it all back again. I visited with him each noon and envied his vegetarian diet of pears and grapes. He had been raised a Catholic but believed in no religion at present. He was interested in my ideas and felt he would never go to war but he did not feel that it was his job to propagandize about it.
Other friends I met told me of a man in Phoenix whom I knew who had been given up by the doctors because of tuberculosis of the kidneys. He had read in some book that in ancient Egypt those with such trouble had laid in the hot sands. Egypt was too far away so he came to Arizona and for 6 months literally lived in the sand. He was entirely cured. He is a strict vegetarian these past 20 years and in good health.
The Mormon wife of a friend of mine told me of her grandfather who in the old days had several wives. At the age of 86 he discovered that he had diabetes. He fasted 68 days at home and cured himself and lived 9 more years in good health. But Mormons are used to disciplining themselves so his fast was not as difficult for him as it would be for the regular flabby American.
My other sign read: “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” HIROSHIMA WAS A-BOMBED , JUST 8 YEARS AGO . As penance I am Fasting IN MEMORIAM.
This was enclosed with a black border. The six story Veteran’s Bureau was across the street and many men in uniform went by. One soldier asked me what kind of lies I was peddling. I told him I was peddling no lies, but the right side of a very important question; that he had better read it and see what it was all about. He read it as he walked along. Another soldier did the same. Generally soldiers refuse to take the leaflet or tear it up.
Near quitting time on a young fellow whose appearance marked him as of the nervous intellectual type, and not a rowdy, stopped and asked me if this was my sign that I was carrying. I told him that it was. He said that I had better call the police for he was going to take the sign and tear it up and dance on it for no Communist could carry such a sign in his town. I told him that I was not a Communist; that I was a Catholic and an anarchist. He replied that he was a Catholic. I asked him what parish he belonged to and it was mine also. I inquired if he had been at mass the last Sunday and if he noticed me selling CW’s in front of the church. He had been to last mass and had not noticed me. I told him that if he had looked closer he would have noticed a candle burning before the Blessed Mother for the success of my intention in this picketing and fasting. He didn’t believe it. I asked his name and he told me but would not give me his address. I said I did not believe in the police and if he got any pleasure out of tearing signs he could do so. He took them and tore them off the standard and danced on them there on the sidewalk. He refused to take a copy of my leaflet or of the CW, muttering “Communist, Communist.” I advised him to see our parish priest and get straight on the matter of the CW. He promised to do so. I then called the priest and told him of what had just happened. He did not remember the name of my patriotic friend.
I wanted to see the AP man on another matter so went to the newspaper office. Here I saw my friend with my signs telling a reporter about the Communist he had found. I recognized the reporter from pictures I had seen of him but I had never met him. The reporter said that I was not a Communist for they all knew of my picketing activities for years. The patriotic Catholic said he was a veteran from Korea and repeated that no one could carry such signs in his town. The reporter said he was a veteran of two wars and he had fought for just such things as the freedom of Hennacy to carry his signs and picket; that if the young man did not like my signs he could do as the pickets in front of the White House in the Rosenberg case did: get other signs and picket the pickets. The reporter also said that I was standing up for the freedom which was true Americanism, and although he disagreed with my ideas, that the patriotic young man was acting like a Communist or a Fascist in denying me freedom. He picked up the signs saying, “Here Hennacy take your signs; they are yours, not his.” The young man said he would take them away from me. I replied that I was too tired carrying them anyway and would simply give out my leaflets the next day as Rik was away and I had no cardboard to make new signs. The young man said he would come down next day and tear up any signs that I had. The reporter told him that he was breaking the law and he was lucky he opposed such a person as Hennacy who would not take him to court. I left him still arguing with the reporter. The AP carried this story and it was reported over the radio. Some of the newspaper men wanted me to prefer charges against my assailant to make a more exciting story. I refused to do so, explaining my Gandhian principle of non-violent resistance to evil and that as an anarchist I could take no recourse to law under any circumstances. The next day the young man did not show up. I phoned my priest and he had not come around to ask about the CW.
All during my picketing the employees of the tax office, including the three Catholic tax men whose job it had been to get my tax money, were cordial. There was not a mean look from anyone in that office. This was the first time this had happened. Several friends came and walked around the line with me. Only about a dozen people tore up my leaflet. Many stopped and cordially approved of my picketing. About half a dozen grunted disapproval. There was not as much traffic as there had been other years at the postoffice. I had not met the new head of the tax office so as I finished my fast I introduced myself to Col. Wood and expressed my appreciation of the cordial attitude of his coworkers toward my picketing. He asked me the difference between a Communist and an Anarchist and seemed to understand my explanation.
Ginny and her boys came up and broke the fast with me around as we all drank juices at the juice bar. I left for New York on the bus. I had bought more fruit than I could eat but I nibbled at it on the way. In Prescott, I phoned the former head of the tax bureau in Phoenix and talked to his wife, Mrs. Stuart, Democratic National Committeewoman. They own the Prescott “Courier.” She was pleasant as usual and told me that they had a story on my fast that day. Soon I was with Platt and Barbara Cline in Flagstaff and now I could eat mashed potatoes and other soft food. Platt made a recording of my experiences. He had a fine Third Mesa basket which I took to New York for Dorothy. I spent with Hopi friends in Winslow and by I was visiting with Msgr. Garcia in Albuquerque and my good friend Rev. Soker of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church there. Reagans had moved to Arkansas and the letter I had sent to Al and Catherine Reser must have gone astray or they had moved, for I couldn’t find them. By I was in Sante Fe welcomed by Peter and Florence van Dresser. They had a meeting for me . I did not have time to go to El Rito to see their Organic House heated by solar heat and with windmill for power. I will stop there on my way back when I visit my daughter Carmen. Carmen is with her sister Sharon for a retreat at Mt. Shasta. I visited the nearby Trappist monastery and spoke to two monks who are CW fans and had lunch with the nursing sisters where I had spoken last year.
As I left I was pleased to see a good factual writeup on the front page of the daily New Mexican. This paper goes to nearby Los Alamos, so perhaps for the first time those who make the bomb could learn of opposition to it. A social worker told me that there were more maladjusted children from the homes of Los Alamos workers than from any other strata of people from the state. The gloom of this blood money thus defiles the next generation. A few days with my family in Cleveland and I arrived at Maryfarm, with Father Casey. I understood more this year than last and read some Catholic literature that I should have read long ago. It is too soon to evaluate the effect of this spiritual retreat upon me. Just now I am at Dave Dellinger’s at Glen Gardner, N.J., proof-reading my autobiography.
Some excerpts from an Ammon Hennacy article in the edition:
…Wally Nelson came to take me to Sharonville to spend the night with tax-refusers Ernest and Marion Bromley. We disagree on my frankness to the authorities but we have the same aim.
The afternoon and night was most pleasant as I became acquainted with Fred Schulder, age 79, who had written in the anarchist paper Liberty in before I was born. He is not religious in the accepted sense, but takes the CW. His son Horace Champney took me to Brookville to an area meeting of Peacemakers where Ralph Templin, Clay Marks, and others whom I knew held forth in a discussion about tax refusal and the picketing which they would do in Cincinnati .
Some excerpts from an Ammon Hennacy article in the edition:
Max Sandin, old time tax refuser, and one of we seven veterans of jails in World War Ⅰ who also refused to register in World War Ⅱ renewed old time memories with me.
Jim Ward had asked me in Chicago what live meant to me now that I was a Catholic and I had listed the seven things which seemed to me now in the most important, and I talked this over with Father Casey. Here they are: (1) Voluntary poverty. (2) The Sermon on the Mount. (3) Pacifism, with its absolutist meaning as evidenced in tax refusal. (4) The Mass. (5) To Work and not be a parasite. (6) Anarchism. (7) Vegetarianism, which includes no tobacco, alcohol or medicine. This is for myself and not meant for others. Each has to go at his own speed and in his own way.
We drove to Grasston to see old man Paul Marquardt and found him reading his Bible. He told us of the time when his children had been sent home from school with a card telling the family to save fat for the war. Marquardt immediately withdrew the children from the school saying that each morning he prayed “give us this day our daily bread,” and he was not going to save bread or fat or anything for a war. He told also of the priest in nearby Pine City, who, in instructing his confirmation class said, “Have faith like the Marquardts.” To have this honor in your home town is indeed an honor.
From the edition:
Individual Income Tax: War’s Chief Supporter.
Of the income of the Federal Government 48% comes from individual income taxes which we pay; 30% comes from corporation taxes; 15% comes from excise taxes; and 7% other sources
By Ernest Bromley
The Administration’s proposed budget, recently announced, asks for a billion dollar increase for “new weapons of unprecedented strategic and tactical importance” in order to give this nation “the greatest military power in its peacetime history.” Diagrams of the proposed income and expenditures emphasize two things: (1) The chief source of federal revenue is the individual income tax, (2) The chief national expenditure is military (including bomb stockpiling and new terror weapons). Both things have been true for these eighteen years, but one is always struck anew with each announcement of them.
So minute a portion of the tax money is being spent for any socially acceptable activity that it seems to be only an illusion to consider that one’s Federal taxes go to anything constructive. (Actually, the only way one can support the better enterprises is to bypass the Internal Revenue Bureau completely and find ways to contribute to these causes directly.)
The war build-up touches the individual much more directly and intimately at the income tax point than it does anywhere else. Almost two-thirds of every tax dollar goes to build H-Bombs, Guided Missiles, Germ Warfare, Conscript Armies, etc.—thirty-five times as much as for schools, roads, and health combined. (Can there be any doubt about what the Federal government’s major activity has come to be?) It is almost unthinkable that more people (especially more pacifists) have not declined to bolster this monstrous drive to destruction; that they have not at this major point stopped the flow of their funds through the book-keeping which takes most of what they pay and channels it into what they abhor; that they have not by-passed the present tax set-up and given their valuable, held-back funds to something worthy of support. Will we wake up too late?
The first, and major, encumbrance to keeping one’s tax money and using it for something decent is the withholding set-up. Trying to be a tax refuser in a withholding job is a good deal like being a pacifist in the army. In each case you have already placed yourself well within the system; and in each case the very first step is to take yourself out of the system. The real, creative possibilities on these fronts begin to open up only after this step of separation has been taken. The fact that such separations are difficult to carry out makes them no less imperative. Because the withholding situation presents problems, is there no advice that can be given to the average working person about the business of non-cooperating with income tax payments? I would advise: Stop paying income taxes (whether you file a form to this effect or not).
For some people this will, of course, mean that they will have to leave their present jobs and take employment that is not affected by withholding. Here we sometimes tend to lose sight of the fact that there is probably no type of socially useful work (individual or organizational) being done under the withholding tax set-up which cannot also be done outside it. And, too, this raises the important question of what social usefulness really is. Can “socially useful” firms or organizations remain socially useful to any real degree when their one rigid requirement is that the first portion of a worker’s earnings be set aside for war? Can a “socially useful” person remain socially useful in his job to any real degree when, in order to do with one hand the work of building a better society, he has first to do with the other hand the work of destroying it (like a church constructing a brothel)? Conscientious workers in such employment may reason after a while, as some have, that the effect of this operation is that they are working in a munitions factory part of the time.
Men go to prison rather than join the armed forces and support conscription. Should not the people with these principles (especially the people not subject to any draft) face the imperative of sacrificing a little economic security (or convenience), especially when not facing it means continuing to pay substantial sums of money for terrifying weapons and conscript armies?
Ernest Bromley lives in Sharonville, Ohio, with his wife, Marian and family. He keeps his earnings below the amount where any tax has to be paid. Around he refused, when a Methodist minister in North Carolina, to purchase an automobile tag (not a license), for his car and did three months in jail. His wife worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the leading pacifist group in this country, and quit her job rather than pay the withholding tax for war which this and all other peace organizations take from their employees. He has been head of the tax refusal committee of Peacemakers. He supplements his income by an apiary in his garden. I have visited there several times and respect the effort which he and his wife are making to live up to their ideals. They live a few miles from the Grail farm at Loveland, Ohio. The Jehovah Witnesses and the Catholic Worker are two groups where all work for their keep and no salaries—and no taxes—are paid. This basis of voluntary poverty could be approximated by others if they wished to make the necessary adjustment between faith and works and try to live in community.—A.H.
Excerpts from an article by Ammon Hennacy in the issue:
For the first time when the withholding tax began I have not earned enough money to owe the tax man anything. I only made $310 lecturing and as my Autobiography is not copyrighted and I want no royalties from it, the sales go to pay for the printing and whatever is left over will go to the CW. There is no status [sic] of limitations on income taxes so I owe for 12 years. I told the tax man that I would not be foolish enough to tell him where I was going to lecture so he could be there and get the money. There is practically nothing that I have to buy as all of us here at the CW work for our keep. However, if I was to purchase anything in a store and give the cashier a $5 bill for a dollar purchase the tax man, if he were present, could garnishee the change from the cashier right then without any legal proceeding.
In this idea of tax refusal there are ways by which pacifists have to act according to their web of circumstances. Some, like Ernest Bromley, limit their earnings to the amount they are allowed because of dependents and have no tax to pay. Others like Rev. George Hauser, because of being ordained in the clergy, do not have a withholding tax taken from their pay, but at the end of the year make a statement of their earnings. Then the amount of tax is taken by garnishee from the pay with added penalties. There are others who have an income from securities and do not work for wages and who keep their money in a bank where the tax man comes and gets it.
There are millions of people who dislike paying taxes and who may write a letter to the government about it, but they pay. There are others like Governor Lee of Utah who put a certain amount of the tax due which comes from income other than wages in a bank and dare the tax man to sue to get it. But the government always will evade a moral issue, so it is likely that the Governor’s money will be taken the same as others who keep money in banks.
I plan to picket the tax man here in New York City for , and then fast and picket in penance for the bomb we dropped at Hiroshima . The T men have interrogated me and what they want to do about my tax arrears is up to them. With more H bomb tests scheduled for the spring by politicians and militarists it is increasingly the responsibility of the individual pacifist to think and to act about being a part of this terrible destruction planned by those who will soon be asking for votes because they have “kept us out of war.”
An excerpt from an Ammon Hennacy article in the issue:
The coming atomic tests now scheduled for and the air raid drill for are a challenge to all Christians. We intend to demonstrate against this “pinch of incense on the altar to Caesar.” This with our non payment of income taxes for war and a refusal to be a part of the war system is positive evidence that we are trying to understand and practice the Sermon on the Mount.
The argument that the idealist hears from the opportunist is that we are not practical. I submit that our program of the one-man-revolution is the most practical of all. Others who believe in bullets and ballots must gain a majority before they can begin to practice their beliefs and thus postpone indefinitely anything but conversation about their views. We do not need to wait upon others for we have seceded about 90% from this exploitative system and are already practicing our ideals.
An editorial from Dorothy Day reflected on the hydrogen bomb test among other things, and included this note:
Those who can take such stringent courses as tax refusal can give their services rather than be put on payrolls and beg their way to supply their daily needs if they can find agencies willing to work with them on these terms. Or they can embrace voluntary poverty and manual labor as a life of penance and mortification.
The harvest is great and the laborers are few. No fear of unemployment in this field.
An unsigned book review in the issue included this:
These publications [Thomas Merton’s The Silent Life and Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality] will be of special interest to novices in the religious life or those contemplating such a move but laymen who read them should keep in mind that while there is much contained in them from which any Christian can benefit still the “techniques” of attaining union with God proper to the monk are not always the same for those “in the world.” Anyone who has lived under the Benedictine rule, and all the monastic orders of the Western world have felt the impact of Benedict’s spirit and legislation, knows the position of the concept of obedience in his thought. It is just about the most important single element and no one can be a good monk unless he is willing to give up his own will and like Jesus become “obedient unto death,” and the whole monastic observance is organized to serve this end. But the layman, living as he does most often in a society where “the prince of this world” and his spirit prevail, has the duty to cultivate, rather, the virtue of rebellion in order to be obedient to God. It is in rebellion too that we can imitate St. Benedict who fled the corrupt Roman society of his day, whose only concern was “to please God alone.” The monastic life is a judgement on the life of the “world” and in its light the “world” stands condemned. In this way the monk practices the virtue of rebellion. For those in the “world” there must be rebellion also if they are not to be counted “of it.” They must rebel against materialism by embracing voluntary poverty and giving all they possess over and above the absolute necessities to those who have not the necessities, they must rebel against war and its causes by conscientious objection and tax refusal, they must combat that selfish middle class individualism and fear of giving of self by embracing community in one form or another. Rebellion is the first step in any attempt at conforming to Christ; it begins at baptism when the neophyte formally renounces Satan—et omnibus operibus ejus.
More from Ammon Hennacy, in the issue:
Richard Fichter, whose article appears in this issue, had been dismissed from the Methodist ministry in Pennsylvania because of his energetic anti-war and tax refusal stand. I had never met him but he had bought several of my books and distributed the CW and had attended various picketing demonstrations. He and his wife have three small children and live on a farm with twenty cows to attend to. All radicals have to make the decision when to follow Caesar and when to follow Christ. 75,000 followers of Gandhi went to prison and someone besides the British government took care of their families. Many bourgeois minded pacifists thought it was wrong for a CO to go to CPS camp or prison and leave a family behind. Richard wrote to many papers about the evils of atomic war and little attention was paid to his views. So he came to New York City and in the midst of a nation wide broadcast on television he jumped to the stage and shouted his message. He thought that this would gain attention and the papers would print his views in full. Instead he was locked up in Bellevue for mental observation. I visited him there and met his wife and brother and two Methodist ministers who were his friends. Later his brother and Parents came to visit us at the CW from their home in Ohio. When the government comes to a pacifist and says you must register for the draft, pay taxes for war, sign a loyalty oath, or when a Congressional Committee wants you to tell on others, then if you do not follow the best you know and refuse absolutely, you are following less than you know and will live to regret your timidity. But to leave farm and family to try to tell your message to those who do not want to hear it is not wise and does not make a witness with the dignity which no doubt inspired Richard in the lives of Thoreau and Gandhi. A radical who has faith knows like Thoreau that “one on the side of God is a majority.” And when his neighbors think he is queer and out of step he can reply like Thoreau that he “is listening to a different drummer.” He is not frustrated if all are against him. He does not need the applause of the multitude for he will be content when “two or three are gathered together.”
Ammon Hennacy, in the issue:
Leland Olds of Yellow Springs, Ohio has refused to pay income taxes and as a result his house worth $9,000 has been sold by the government for the less than $200 taxes due. He can regain the property within a year by paying the tax with interest. This action, together with the sale of a car belonging to Walter Gormly and of Arthur Emery of Iowa, are the only cases I know of where the government has taken property of tax refusers. At times they have garnisheed wages and taken money from bank accounts. They got $5 from a farmer I was working for in Arizona who paid it out of his own pocket rather than take it from my wage, and the tax man also took my picketing sign saying he would sell it to the highest bidder. I never heard of anyone buying it. I still owe taxes for 12 years and will picket the tax office here on unless I am in jail on the air raid drill. Then I would fast in jail.
Karl Meyer, in the issue:
Stepping Up the Agitation
Dear Bob or Dorothy or whoever is holding things down there while we are all out making angry and urgent faces at the giants of the impersonalist order.
I was very encouraged to receive the issue and to read your letter to the California legislature, even as I was preparing to step up the agitation in support [of] Rose Robinson and tax refusal.
On I began to hand out a new leaflet outside the Federal Building which has been the focus of our protest. After outlining developments in the case. I wrote, “There are some of us who believe, as she does, that it is wrong to pay taxes for war. We have refused as she refused, to cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service in the collection of taxes. And, beyond this, we encourage everyone to do the same. If she deserves to be in prison we deserve to be there too. Therefore I ask from the judge, the United States Attorney’s office, the Internal Revenue Service and all taxpayers and supporters of military preparations, a share in the judgment against her. We have said very simply that your preparations for nuclear war, and therefore your war taxation, are criminal beyond any measure of crime that man has known before. And you have said that our dissent from the idea and action of military preparedness is criminal. The question of which is right is urgent for the future of all men. We have shown a readiness to ratify the truth of our conviction at the risk of imprisonment and hardship. The integrity of justice asks either that Rose Robinson be released, or that all who share her stand be imprisoned with her. That is why I ask the officials and the people for a decision in my case consistent with their decision in hers. How can one person be imprisoned for taking a stand, while others who take the same stand and, what is more, advocate and promote it in the marketplace are left free? I ask the officials and the people involved to release Rose Robinson, but if they will not do that, I ask them to prosecute me for refusing to cooperate with Internal Revenue Service and for advocating that all people do the same.”
The third person who came out and took this leaflet was Judge Robson. I had already mailed him a copy with a covering letter in which I said, “…By presenting this nuclear issue as an issue of imprisonment and freedom, we approach by an analogy the core of what it really is: that is, an issue of life and death for all of us… I hope therefore that you will not regard this leaflet distribution and this request for a share in the judgment against Rose Robinson as something impertinent, but as an attempt to enunciate forcefully the terms of a public discussion of a crucial issue, as well as to bear witness to a very strong conviction that it is wrong to participate in modern war in any way.”
We encouraged Rose by our vigil, visits and letters. In court she thanked us for that. I feel responsible to every one man insurrection to make it a two-man insurrection, so that it may become a three-man insurrection and finally a revolution of enough men.
It is at the critical moment when we recognize our responsibility to one another that we realize our responsibility to mankind and to God. That is what Jesus told us. We see war coming on, bearing down on us, a visible monument to an immensity of sin. Our voices have not reflected the horror we have seen. Our voices have not challenged the supremacy of crime in the actions of men. We were glad enough if a government preparing for World War Ⅲ, was yet benevolent in this decade until war comes, glad enough if our protest could be free from suffering. We are still accomplices because we have whispered at the moment when we should have shouted. We ought to throw up the challenge of Tolstoi and Thoreau, to keep all just men in jail or give up war and slavery.
Here we are making faces at the giants of the impersonalist order, but what we do not forget is that a face turned in urgent desperation to them is a face turned in hope to God. Our work is primarily a prayer.
Early last week two men were standing on the step of the Federal Building watching me as I passed my leaflets and commenting to each other. I recognized one of them. It was deputy U.S. Marshal Wheeler, the man who put the chains on me last summer at Mead, Nebraska. I stepped up to him and said, “Hello. Mr. Wheeler. Will you take a leaflet?” “Yes, Karl,” he said, “I’ll take that. I see that you are still here passing them out.” And so I was, and I realized that the children of this world are too wise to be consistent. Last summer he put me in chains for standing on a grass covered knoll near a missile base. Last month they gave Rose Robinson twelve long months and a long day. Who can say what they will do tomorrow when I walk up the steps and into the building and have a try at handing the leaflet to taxpayers lined up outside the Federal Internal Revenue office.
Chicago Catholic Worker
An announcement in the issue:
Prayer, Fasting, and Tax Refusal
Ammon Hennacy will picket the office of Internal Revenue at Varick and West Houston Streets in New York City and will fast at this time as a penance for our dropping the bomb at Hiroshima, , and for our continued atomic activities. He has openly refused to pay income taxes during 12 years while working in the fields in the Southwest, or while lecturing, as 83% of the income tax goes for war. He will picket from 9 to 5 on weekdays. Readers in New York are invited to keep him company, and anyone sympathetic can help by praying and fasting according to his capacity.
The same issue also included an article from Eroseanna Robinson, borrowed from The Peacemaker:
Rose Robinson Tells of Her Arrest and Prison Experiences
It was , and I got off the city bus in a hurry because I was late for work. My arms were straining with the packages I’d bought downtown. They were things for the Play Club mostly, and food. I hadn’t had any lunch, except a couple of cashews and some fudge nibbled at on the bus. I was quick-stepping toward Bethlehem Community Center compelled by two nagging realizations. I was late and I was hungry. I had a conference with my supervisor set for two o’clock. It was already ten after. Well, I’d just have to talk and eat at the same time. I stopped, late as I was, at the corner store and bought some buttermilk. Actually, I already had an abundance of food — vegetable soup, swiss cheese sandwich and what not. But for a change, I had a little extra money and for the rest of that year, certainly, I was going to be earning a little more than usual. For the first time in my seven years of tax refusal, I wouldn’t have to budget so closely. Eating was as good a way as any to celebrate. I was vexed with myself to be so busy. First the conference. Then group preparation. Then the Play Club children’s time. I’d have to do a lot of phoning after that for the parents meeting that night. I took the hall steps quickly when I got inside the building and rushed into the front office, I said “Hi” to the secretary. She had a peculiar look on her face. My supervisor and the girl workers were also in the office. I spoke to them but everybody kept looking at me strangely and nobody said anything. “What’s wrong with all of you?” I asked. “I’m not that late. It’s only 2:15.” Then the secretary said, “Rose, there’s somebody to see you.” She was nodding across the hall toward the library. Somebody to see me. I didn’t want to see anybody with all I had to do. I wanted to put down my arm-racking bundles and have my conference and eat. The fact is that I never had that conference and I didn’t eat for 115 days because a short, stocky, authoritative man in a grey uniform came toward me out of the library. Behind him was a man I knew. He’d come to my home several times and to Bethlehem Center only a week before. He was Mr. D.L. Turner, deputy collector for the Internal Revenue Service. The first man said, “Erozee-yanna Robinson?” and I said correctly “Eroseanna,” and he snapped his right hand open sidewise showing his badge. “I have a warrant for your arrest," he said. “Come with me.” For eight months the government, through its agents, had hammered link upon link several visits by the deputy collector, registered letters, a subpoena, a certified court order, telephone calls, throughout, to my home and work, a call to my sister, Adrienne, at her work, a visit to my job — until at last, they had reached the handcuff-end of the chain, putting my wrists into them so tightly that they cut, and lugging my body, in deliberately ungainly fashion, away to jail.
My body was lugged and dragged around many times after that because I refused to walk to jail or trial or any place authorized by the courts. And throughout the whole of my incarceration, the practices upon which government power pivots came into sharp focus. One is the coercion of the individual to unquestioningly submit to authority imposed by the government, the other is the deliberate misrepresentation of any individual who might take exception to such authority. This whole pattern is disguised as the democratic process’ and, in recent years, has frequently been labeled ‘freedom’ and ‘truth’. Actually, respect for the right of the individual to examine policies of government — which certainly affect us all — is a myth. And taking exception to policy, as in my own case — even though that exception be a denouncement of violence, waste, psychological intimidation, misrepresentation of truth, and preparation for wholesale destruction — can constitute a felony.
When the individual is willing to be fodder for such an organ, it is partly out of desire for reward but largely to escape punishment. And submission to such authority is no guarantee of either. So, when the deputy marshal told me he was there to arrest me, I told him that was his affair and was of no concern to me, and started up the 2nd floor stairs to my office.
I recognized that I was going to be forcibly involved and I was alert to a point of high tension. But still, I knew I was faced with a choice of being arrested or of arresting myself. I knew then that my arrest was to be his affair, since he had not the conscience to do otherwise, and later, that or the ten or so others who answered his telephone call for help when I refused to go with him voluntarily. I wasn’t going to contribute my body for incarceration anymore than I would contribute federal income taxes for militarization. This would be giving sanction to the government’s inflicting punishment upon the individual. But just as militarization is evil, so too is the punitive institution.
The government has prepared a glossy brochure about Women’s Federal Prison at Alderson, West Virginia. They call their penal process ‘rehabilitation’! This is a calculated misuse of the term. They proceed due south of rehabilitation. Such downgrading of human beings — infantile treatment of the women, the frequent apathy toward the physical ailments of inmates, the absurd restrictions — is anything but preparation for constructive living. This was equally true of the Cook County Jail.
This maltreatment of prisoners would be bad enough if done out of ignorance. But attempts at concealment of the facts by all levels of government personnel, with restraint of information and with lies, reveals the hypocritical state of such authority.
I’ve learned, since my release from Alderson, that a number of lies in regard to me and treatment of me were given to the Press by the wardens of both the County Jail and the prison and by the U.S. marshal. I will recount some in a later issue, but let me state a few of these now and set the facts in order:
Rose was arrested and taken to the Clerk’s office of the county jail.
I wasn’t taken to any office, but was carried upstairs and dumped on a bed in the incorrigible cell of the “Hole.” The Hole is usually reserved for narcotics addicts who are breaking the habit. It was overheated because addicts in that condition are always cold. They vomited all day and all night and in between they talked in the lewdest profanity. The Hole is a four part unit — 1 larger room about 9′×12′ and 3 tiny cells, removed from the outer door, about 4′×8′. The grey speckled floors were stone, the clay colored walls, iron. The larger section had four iron beds with mattresses and bedding. A bed in each of the little cells took up half the width. There’s a seatless toilet in each. The two outer ones had windows that opened (but that were kept closed because the addicts complained of being cold). Only one of these boasted a sink. Two cell doors remained open usually, while the one in which I was put was locked. In that cell, the window was nearly opaque with dirt and with heavy screening, and iron bars were on the outside. It could not be opened. Under it, going full blast always, was a radiator. The only way I could get relief from the heat, and a breath of cool air, was by lying flat on the floor on my stomach and inhaling of the stream that flowed under the hall door from several feet away. The iron bed had a wafer-thin mattress on it and was so short that my head and feet stuck out simultaneously beyond its borders. I was given a clean sheet and a blanket. To get some sleep at night, I tilted the bed up on one end out of the way and put the mattress on the floor. I slept fitfully with my head resting on stone, under the toilet. Whenever a toilet in an adjacent cell was flushed, the substance would back up into the others. This kept me jumping up throughout the night, reflushing the one over my head. The radiator boiled away, where my feet were, all night long. I didn’t wash for 3½ days because I was told I couldn’t use the facilities without begging. Frequently the matron put food for me on the floor.
Rose proceeded to take off her clothes and to remain thus in the cell.
I was forcibly undressed by two matrons after refusing to give up my own clothes. Then I was manually searched all over and forced into a striped cotton dress that was ripped in two places. All my clothes — even shoes — were taken from me. The next morning I was told repeatedly that I would be left in jail to rot unless I got dressed and walked out to go to court. I refused. About an hour later, without explanation, my clothes were given back to me. Another hour passed, and when I refused to walk out, I was dragged from the cell, up the steps, into a wheelchair and hauled off to court. When I returned, the nurse had trouble removing my clothes by herself, so she didn’t bother to take any more than my skirt. I fashioned another by doubling a sheet and wrapping it around my middle. I refused to put on the striped dress she’d provided. On the fifth day, after I’d been dragged from my prayers and put in isolation cell of the so-called hospital (a dingy white-painted dormitory), the nurse, who proved to be sympathetic and courteous, offered me a nightgown which I accepted. I wore this to bed and whenever I washed my own clothes.
Rose took exercises unclad.
Silly. I always wore the above-mentioned.
Rose, therefore, had to jump into bed when the warden and a reporter from the Daily News came to interview her. She told her story, said the reporter, who “quoted” her in the News.
How reluctant I’ll be to believe anything printed in the daily papers from now on. No reporter was ever admitted to quarters where I was confined. And such quotes are out-and-out lies. Moreover, I neither saw nor talked to the warden until the last day when, under his supervision, I was dragged from the cell and carted to the U.S. hospital.
Rose left the cell to go downstairs and see a boyfriend, but she wouldn’t go to see her parents.
During my incarceration I walked out of the immediate confines 3 times — once at Alderson when I helped carry a sick inmate to the hospital car, once to my release and one other time, at the Cook County Jail. And I went to talk to Rev. Ernest Bromley, editor of The Peacemaker. At first I hesitated. And then I decided that too few people knew my views on tax refusal and the like, so this was to me a fine chance to express these views through the newspaper. I then resumed my plan to see no one unless they were admitted to the area where I was confined. My mother was admitted and I welcomed her.
The other inmates were sneaking Rose candy bars during her fast. The warden, head matron, priest and others had proof.
This’s the first time in my experience that fantasy has become proof. I ate nothing throughout my whole time in jail and nobody crammed anything down my throat. After my removal to the U.S. hospital I ate nothing. I drank no water the first 3½ days of jail, very little — spasmodically — in-between, and none the last 9 days before force-feeding. I did not wish to crave things that could be withheld from me, because emotional control meant freedom.
Rose enjoyed being fed through a tube in her nose. She didn’t struggle.
At Alderson, I didn’t struggle. I gave voice protest and continued whatever I was doing. In the beginning at the U.S. hospital in Chicago, I had struggled, nonviolently against four men and two women. It took them 20 minutes to turn me over and stretch me out and another 20 minutes to get me tied, hand and foot to the bed, in a straitjacket. I couldn’t do much moving in that state, but they further secured me with a restraining blanket made of bulky canvas. Then they tightened a rope across my chest. It was in the mid-eighties in that room and no air was stirring. I had trouble breathing. I was miserable. But they had an easy time force-feeding me. By the next morning I was aching all over. One of the doctors came in and asked me how I felt. I felt terrible, I said. Would I struggle if he let me out? I’d thought about that overnight. How easy it was for them to force food into me—how uncomfortable it was for me. Besides this, I was 37 lbs. below normal weight and very weak. If I could keep them from having power over me, struggle I would. But I knew I couldn’t keep up even the kind of effort I’d made the night before, and neither did I have the control yet to remain lying in one position for a long period of time. So, I told the doctor, no. Did I want to be untied? Yes. So, he walked away and left me like that for several hours more. I stayed, thus restricted, for nearly 24 hours. The night before, when they inserted the tube, the other doctor had jammed it into my nose, letting it stop at my throat. I tried desperately to get my breath but I kept choking. I could see the doctor’s face, looking like a great wax mask—with expensive eyes—magnified enormously. He watched me as though I were a specimen under glass. I gagged three times and he watched me. “Alright now, breathe,” he said this steadily, “through your mouth”. Of course I did, and, in one movement, he jammed the tube down to my stomach. Blood bubbled from my nose and mouth. It continued for hours, after that. My nose and throat were inflamed and sore for 4 days. My nose remained sore and ran constantly, and I sneezed again and again throughout 12 days of force-feeding. The doctor at Anderson was considerate and gentle in this. He used a smaller tube and put it down by degrees. There was very little irritation. My nose did run for weeks though, and always when I talked. I sneezed, because the tube was left there all the time. I plugged up the nostril with cotton to keep the thing from wriggling. I slept with it and otherwise lived with it for 76 days and nights. That made a total of 88 days of force-feeding.
Rose was being well-fed, gaining much weight, and was getting 3000 calories per day.
For nine days at Alderson, I was force-fed 2 pints of water with 5% sugar and 2 pints of a mixture of egg, molasses, sugar, salt, water, evaporated milk and orange juice. After that the mixture was doubled and the sugar-water eliminated. When I was removed to solitary confinement, the mixture was cut 25%. Then it was cut a second time. I was carried to solitary 25 lbs. underweight. Taking measurement of myself revealed I hadn’t gained a pound. Limited exercise wore me out. To keep from losing, frequently I’d spend long hours in bed. Hospital aides (inmates) told me the mixture contained very little protein and an abnormally high amount of molasses, salt and orange juice. Long before they told me this I’d started drinking lots of water because I was feeling irritation from the acidity. I was drinking as much as 15 glasses of water each day. Sometimes I felt a little feverish and my face would swell. That was when the prison staff would compliment me on how nice and fat I was getting. Only when friends came to the prison, asking after my welfare, did the aides tell me the protein had been increased noticeably but that the molasses and salt and orange juice remained high. Again, before they told me this, I’d already noticed my measurements were increasing normally. When I was released, I was 10 lbs. underweight.
Rose liked the feeding.
I was forced-fed in a ragged pattern. The aides and nurses came any time between sun-up and 9:30 at night. I overcame feelings of weakness usually through prayer, and sometimes, as I said before, by just climbing into bed. Food was left as an enticement throughout most of my confinement. An aide who felt sorry for me told the head nurse I wasn’t getting enough nourishment. “That’s impossible.” said the nurse. After that they left a glassful of the stuff on the dresser. Often I was spattered with the stuff, whenever the tube came off the syringe. So, too, were walls, ceiling, floor, draperies bed, bedding — everything in the cell. And usually it was left where it landed. I made a practice of going on with whatever I was doing. At first, the nurses carried or sat me into position for force-feeding. Sometimes the aides would lurk, pitcher and syringe in hand, waiting for me to halt so that they could pour the stuff down easily. After I was moved to solitary, the aides were ultimately told to walk away if I didn’t sit down right away, so sometimes my stomach was left empty. One day I accidentally got a hole in the tube. The doctor refused to let the aides cut it, and he decided that neither did he have the time to leave the hospital to change it. I wasn’t fed for 25 hours.
Rose was given considerable freedom of movement.
When this was said, I was in solitary confinement in the maximum security cottage, one of only two with bars on the windows and with locked outer doors. I remained there for 27 straight days in full confinement. The last 31 days, the cell door was opened from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.
And so the lies went and there are more — most skillful — all paid for with federal income tax. Lies. The Official order of the prison day, and at Alderson, the green grass grew all around. For the grounds were lovely to look at — lovely its trees, its broad lawns and gay spring flowers, lovely the birds singing outside the cottages where wires crawled through the walls like snakes, so that every word that every inmate spoke day or night was listened to and taken down on a tape recorder. There weren’t any secrets. Next time, I’ll tell about the alleged psychiatric and medical examinations at Alderson and about the marshal’s predictions about what the inmates would do to me when they found out I wouldn’t work. Also, I’ll tell about a time of weakness. One morning, for a moment, I was in a turmoil. Daily discipline, including prayer exercises, helped me to regain strength.
More from Karl Meyer, in the issue (excerpts):
I have had a small house of hospitality, five rooms where I have lived with nine or ten people who were sick, poor, orphans, old, travelers or needy of other kinds.
I have sought some way to work for the support of my responsibilities to this house and not pay federal income taxes for the support of militarism.
In I quit my job where taxes were withheld and resolved not to pay withholding tax anymore and went to jail for 54 days in solidarity with tax refuser Eroseanna Robinson, who had just been imprisoned here in Chicago.
After my release I began a search for work without taxes. I experimented with self-employment in odd jobs and in tutoring. I tried to persuade employers to pay for my work in the form of a direct donation to St. Stephens House, without withholding tax. I received an opinion from a lawyer that Internal Revenue Service had ruled that this type of arrangement with a charitable organization was legal for hospitals, so I applied at a number of hospitals, but was turned down. I looked for part time work paid for in cash. Nothing worked, particularly me.
Being under the firm impression that only one’s relatives could be claimed as dependents for the purpose of withholding exemptions, I complained bitterly to my pacifist brethren that, in fact, I had nine dependents but was unable to claim them for non-tax purposes. Not one of these experts on tax resistance set me straight.
On , after five months of frustration, I checked on the Internal Revenue Service definition of dependents. This is how it reads: “To qualify as your dependent… a person (a) must receive more than one-half of his support from you for the year, and (b) must-have less than $600 gross income during the year… and (c) must not be claimed as an exemption by such person[’]s husband or wife, and (and) must be a citizen or resident of the United States… and (e) must (1) have your home as his principal residence and be a member of your household for the entire year, or (2) be related to you…”
I counted four people in my household, in addition to myself, whom I could claim for dependency exemptions. I discovered that all along I might have been earning $3000 per year without a cent of withholding tax. I could have kicked myself all the way down Clark St.
We need more small houses of hospitality “to shelter the homeless at a personal sacrifice” instead of delivering them to the City and the State to be supported by taxes, on the street or in the jails. We believe that housing the unemployed, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and the aged and, last of all, visiting the prisoners are parts of a total Gospel of Peace. If we do these things, we can also starve the tax collector, by feeding the poor. We can build “a new society in the shell of the old,” a City of God, and swing wide its gates to let the King, and his ambassadors, enter in triumph.
Not all of the poor who come to our door come in the embassy of God. Several nights ago one of the men came with two drop-cloths and a gallon of turpentine “from the job” and asked permission to leave them here and stay the night himself, and I, in all innocence, agreed to this. The next morning, two painters arrived, with a policeman, demanding the drop-cloths, which had been stolen from them and traced to our house. I turned over the drop-cloths, but the policeman also demanded that I turn over the thief. When I declined to do this, he said that he would take me to the station and book me for possession of stolen property. The painters agreed to sign a complaint against me, because, they said, not only had the cloths been stolen, but also, some paint had been spilt and now they would have to pay for it out of their own pockets. However, perhaps if I would reimburse them for the spilt paint, they would find it in their hearts to forget about the complaint. How much paint was lost, asked the policeman? Ten dollars worth. Now, half a gallon of paint may have been spilt, but how could anyone have spilt ten dollars worth? Still I had to take their word for it or they would surely have taken me to the station and signed the complaint, so in the end I paid and they went away satisfied with their take, all of which goes to prove the old moral: one good theft deserves another, or no use taking a fall over spilt paint. After the danger had passed, I found the thief under a bed in the farthest corner of the back room. He said he was sorry. And I said he sure as hell should be. And after a little of that he left.
I did reap an unexpected reward for my ordeal however, for that morning the most shiftless character in the house, out of an excess of sympathy and generosity, offered to press my trousers for me.
I might also say that some of the “rich” even come to our door as ambassadors of God. There is one man who comes from time to time and leaves things that we need (clothing, furnishings or household items) inside the door. He just opens the door, puts them inside and goes away. For almost two years he has been doing this. He used to come perhaps once a month, but recently he has taken to coming much more frequently. For a long time we knew nothing about him because we never saw him come, but several times recently, when the door was locked, he knocked and handed in his gifts when the door was opened and then left very quickly. I have always respected his anonymity, because I remember from my childhood the story of the shoemaker and the elves: the elves used to come at night and make shoes for the shoemaker, but one night he tried to catch them at their work and they disappeared and never returned again. (After the story I told above, let me hasten to say that there is always a ticket with the things that this man brings so that I know they are not stolen.)
During the voter registration period, one man from the neighborhood came in and asked, “Is this a registration office?” And I looked at the crucifix on the wall and the picture of Ammon Hennacy and said, “No, it isn’t.” The Democratic precinct worker for our building came in to see if we were registered, and she told me that I am going to vote under the name of Geoffrey Thornton, because he is registered but she can’t find him anywhere in the building. She needs votes but this is one she won’t get. Three young Catholic workers have said they may join me in the work here soon. If they do, we will be well staffed to carry out the Green Revolution program I outlined in my last letter.
The next article concerns Laurence Hislam, a war tax resister who is new to me. It comes from the issue:
Catholic Pacifist Jailed in England Father of Five Refuses Civil Defense Tax
By Robert Steed
My friend Laurie Hislam, who resembles Ammon Hennacy in many ways, was recently sentenced to a term in jail far refusing to pay his Civil Defense rates. He served two months last year for taking part in the civil disobedience campaigns of the Committee of 100 which protested the British involvement in the nuclear arms race.
I was in court with Laurie in when he first appeared on this charge. When he put on bis best suit, cranked up his car (a huge, old London taxi), which finally had to be pushed down a hill to get it started, and drove to town where other friends were waiting in court I was expecting fireworks but the magistrate put a damper on the proceedings and said he would allow no speechmaking. He said a note would be made of the tax refusal, and went on to the next hearing. Laurie said the court would probably send someone around to the house and want to take away a table or a few chairs and auction them off for the amount owed (the former owner having the privilege of bidding for them too) and debated whether any kind of resistance should be offered and if so what kind. When I left a few days later nothing had happened and a month after that when we met at the Spode House PAX Conference it was still the same. And now more than a year later I have heard in a letter from Laurie’s wife, Winifred, that he is serving time for the offense.
Lest I give the impression that Laurie became a radical in middle-age I should also say that he declined to serve in World War Ⅱ and instead of showing up for his physical went off on a tour of England and Scotland selling anarchist literature for Freedom Press. When he got back to London after a year on the road the police picked him up but the army doctors found something wrong with one of his feet and rejected him.
In the intervening years he has become a Catholic, gotten married and moved to the Cottswolds in the west of England near Gloucester where he and his wife built their house with their own hands and are raising five beautiful daughters. The whole family is vegetarian. Here is the text of Laurie’s leaflet explaining his position which was distributed in the Stroud area:
Why I Am In Jail
I have just commenced serving a term of imprisonment imposed by the Stroud (Glos.) Magistrates, and I believe it is important that it should be clearly understood by the members of the community on whose behalf the Magistrates have officially acted, why this has happened.
For the past two years I have refused to pay the portion of the Local Rate (roughly 1 penny in the pound) allocated to “Civil Defense.” My reasons are as follows:
- There is not even any pretense of preparation to protect the people of Stroud in the event of war.
- According to Government spokesmen, there is no known means of protecting the population against nuclear attack.
- Even if “Civil Defense” could be effective (which I do not believe possible) I would still feel bound to refuse to pay for it, since “Civil Defense” is an essential part of the preparation for a war in which millions of innocent people would be brutally killed or maimed.
- I believe that those who support “Civil Defense” have been deceived by the Government into believing that they are helping to save life and assist the injured, whereas in fact by their acceptance of the need for “Civil Defense,” they have given their tacit agreement (in certain circumstances) to the waging of nuclear war and its unimaginably terrible suffering.
- Worst of all is the hypocrisy attached to “Western” propaganda, which says, in effect, the Russians are the atheistic barbarians and we are good people trying to protect Christianity and democracy, whereas, in fact we and the U.S.A. are prepared to collaborate with the Russians in the ultimate blasphemy of destroying the whole of creation.
A so-called policy of which this is the logical result can never be justified, and I appeal to everyone who reads this statement to seriously consider his or her position. Examine your conscience and ask yourself the question: Am I willing to lend my support, either actively or (as the majority, unfortunately do) by my silence, to the preparation for nuclear war? (Remembering that “Civil Defense" is part of the insidious mental conditioning for war-acceptance.)
If we give our silent agreement to Lord Home’s recent boast of our ability to annihilate all Russia’s cities (even in revenge) we have committed murder in our hearts. You can no longer remain silent and still hope to retain your integrity. I may be forcibly silenced for a time, but I ask you to speak out fearlessly against the crime which is being prepared by the world’s leaders. Above all—speak out for the children and babies of the world who rely upon you for protection. You cannot give protection by preparing for war — a war in which there can be no defense — only revengeful slaughter on both sides.
This next comes from the issue:
Handbook on Nonpayment of War Taxes; published by the Peacemakers’ Movement; 35 cents; 52 pages; available from the Peacemakers (1208 Sylvan Ave., Cincinnati 41, Ohio)
Reviewed by James Forest.
For all those who have ever felt a deeply responsive chord struck upon reading or re-reading the story of 10 just men saving the city, this book on conscientious tax-refusal should be meaningful.
The book is divided into a number of sections: there is a good collection of fairly brief quotations by a wide range of tax-refusers, a chapter on the philosophy and history of this particular form of conscientious objection, considerable material concerning the inherent legalities/illegalities, descriptions of the basic forms of refusal (surprising variety) and, most important, a substantial collection of “personal experience” sketches. The reader might find it useful to see a tightened version of the major contents:
Nonviolence begins with personal disarmament: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hate, let me sow love.” It is not a partial disarmament. At least that isn’t the goal. It is a serious and concerted effort to shred the rhinoceros hide which makes us either witting or unwitting enemies to other men. (I recently had the opportunity to hear a young woman describe the effect her first long term contact and participation in a nonviolent project — in this case the Walk to Cuba — had on her. She spoke of the sensation of peeling off layer upon layer of dead skin, of feeling the wind for the first time.) What is it the pacifist says? I refuse to be your enemy. I refuse to be your enemy so much that I will fight for you, fight with you, fight with love to see justice done — even at personal risk. The Great Commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” I cannot be free until you are free. I cannot be comfortable or safe or satisfied until these things are common property.
It is not necessary to quote here statistics offered in the book on where taxes go. We all know. A good deal of it goes to the arms race in all its continuing facets. I don’t think it would make much difference if it were only a little. There is nothing more moral in contributing a nickel to a child’s death than in giving a dollar for the cause. But the plain fact is that more than half that money goes for that purpose, and we do give it.
Said one woman, Miriam Nicholas, deciding this was one contribution she would be unable to make, “…the government expects me to help pay for weapons that could destroy all life on this earth.” “This I must not give,” said Wendal Bull, finishing a similar statement. “You may be imprisoned, but that is sometimes more honorable,” Ross Anderson stated. “If I can’t stop other people’s killing.” Milton Mayer decided, “I must stop my own.”
What Is the Law?
The legal aspects of tax refusal are complicated and inevitably vary from case to case. It is, of course, a punishable offense to refuse all or part of one’s taxes. It is also an offense not to submit the required documentation. Any noncooperation with the Internal Revenue Service is illegal. The penalty can be as high as a $10,000 and a year in jail plus the cost of prosecution.
In practice, for reasons which one can easily understand, no such sentence is ever meted out. In fact few tax-refusers ever find themselves in front of a judge at all. It is interesting to draw some quick statistics from the 41 cases detailed in the handbook (there is some slight overlapping): Four lost their jobs (two were Protestant ministers). Six were jailed, average sentence served being about three months. (Those jailed, it should be noted, refused any alternatives: put no money in the bank so that it couldn’t be seized, held no volatile property in their own names, etc.) Nine had property or funds seized. (The government, when it desires to seize anything, prefers funds; attempts to garnish salaries or draw from cheeking and savings accounts are most common. As a last resort it may seize property for public auction, such as a house.) 29 received no punishment and had no property or funds seized. That is not to say there was no intimidation, that the going was easy. It wasn’t. But the simple truth is, or at least has been, that there are still relatively few tax collectors, district attorneys or judges who wish to play a modern version of Pilate’s role. We can be glad there remain many (perhaps even a growing number) who do not feel justice is served by stale coercion of conscience.
Forms of Refusal
There are, and this I didn’t realize, several distinct forms of tax-refusal, each with its own sub-variations. The first and probably most well known is absolute nonpayment.
To practice absolute nonpayment it is necessary either to earn an income too low to be taxable (Citizens and residents, under 65, can figure as nontaxable any income which is below the number of members in the family times $600. Thus a family of three would be tax exempt if it made less than $1,800 in the course of a year), or, if is is impossible or philosophically repugnant, to earn a taxable income where one is not subjected to withholding tax, such as by having one’s own business or forming one with others of similar concern. Ammon Hennacy, though he owes $1,300 in back taxes, is for the present in the first group, earning less than a taxable income. Karl Meyer was in the latter group until he discovered he could count all the members of St. Stephen’s house of hospitality as dependents (as long as they had lived in the hospice from the beginning of the year and received half or more of their subsistence from him). Persons interested in both tax refusal and running a small house of hospitality might find this an ideal solution.
For persons who are having taxes withheld from their incomes there is the opportunity of refusing to pay the balance due, or part of it.
Others, whether they have taxes withheld from their earnings or not, sometimes choose to pay only the percentage which they feel is used for peaceful purposes — 30% to 40%. UNESCO seems to be one of the frequent recipients of the balance.
A third form of partial refusal includes persons such as Franklin Zahn, who annually withholds a “token ten dollars.” These believe that the minimum one can do is to refuse a symbolic sum. “Ten dollars is large enough to be noticed,” Zahn says, “but small enough to avoid excessive penalty.” The “token ten,” he suggests, could be given to some constructive project and the IRS so notified.
(The book also relates Zahn’s refusal, beginning in , to pay that portion of his telephone bill which was a federal tax, at the time 49¢ monthly. He explained this action to the telephone company, saying “My refusal to pay this tax is part of a larger rejection of all participation in defense activities.” Before long his telephone was removed. His resultant letter of explanation to friends, an apology, is a document worth reading: “Three times I have refused the monthly telephone war tax of 49¢ (15%) and now [garbled text omitted ―♇] is no more, as of . I regret much of the inconvenience of this fails on you, and offer my apologies to you and others who thus suffer from my act of conscience. When irked, please consider: 1. Somewhere in the world there may be one less bullet killing a human being. 2. The $3.74 saved monthly will be used for CARE parcels. 3. If it actually is the narrow choice I feel it to be, you would prefer me to be connected with my highest conscience than with a mere gadget.”)
Finishing the handbook, I am reminded of a brief epigram of James Baldwin contained in The Fire Next Time. “To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.” How we admire action and commitment! St. Francis strikes off to the Holy Land with his nonviolent “Army of Love,” an army, as Clement of Alexandria would call it, “which sheds no blood.” And we applaud this, one of the few moments of sanctity which occurred during all the Crusades, one of the few a Christian can recall with pride. St. Maximillian refuses to serve in the military and shortly dies under the executioner’s axe. The Cure d’Area, as a young man, changes his name and flees to the mountains rather than be conscripted. Before death he recalls this, saying be never felt his conscience burdened by it. And on and on. Thank God the list is endless. No editorializing is needed on lives like these. Somehow they change the question. It is no longer Should I be a tax-refuser? It becomes How can I be anything else?
It is fitting to end this discussion with a quotation the book provides from Milton Mayer:
“The power to stop war is not in my hands, and never will be. The only power that is in my hands is to stop killing my fellowmen. A thousand, or two thousand, or fifty thousand people refusing to go on killing via the tax method may save the old way of life; fewer than that were required to save Sodom. But if a new way of life is the condition of the revolution to which we are called, then we must find it in our hearts, and when we do that we will stop killing our fellowmen and, best of all, stop justifying our doing it. If I can’t stop other people’s killing, I must still stop my own.”
Another book review from the issue:
The Cold War and the Income Tax, by Edmond Wilson; Farrar, Straus and Company; 1968; 118 pp.; $2.95.
Reviewed by James Forest.
Edmund Wilson’s most recent book is a small volume which carries the subtitle “A Protest.” Indeed it is that: a forceful, plain-spoken broadside at the cold war and the related income tax, and though it is not without blemish, it ought to provide at least an awakening for a great many.
What Mr. Wilson has done is to tell a simple, and at times homely, tale that began with carelessness (or more likely unadmitted and ingrained Yankee independence) and concluded with a monumental decision, at least for our timid age: a modified refusal to pay income taxes.
Much of the book is devoted to a detailed account of the original carelessness, fascinating in the sense that a common experience of almost everyone is seen in the sharp relief of Mr. Wilson’s prose — the utterly frustrating encounters with the rule-book bureaucrats, who seem always the same whether it is a hospital clinic or the army or a tax office that houses their working hours, or no matter what their ideology may be.
In Mr. Wilson’s case, his long encounter was precipitated by almost, dedicated indifference to taxes.
Until taxes were no problem to him, as they were automatically withheld by his various employers. But after that year he began to devote himself to fulltime independent writing, and of course there was no withholding. Six years went by, no taxes were paid, no returns filed, and though he tells us he occasionally thought about the eventual necessity of paying up, he was unaware of the astounding severity the law applies for even minor neglect. When at last he spoke to a lawyer friend, saying he might need some assistance in preparing his returns, the lawyer was flabbergasted and immediately urged Mr. Wilson to establish citizenship outside the United States before it was too late. But even the author of To the Finland Station can be naive, and he couldn’t believe it would be more convenient to change countries than negotiate a debt. He insisted on settlement, gave the lawyer a check and told him to begin his work. “You’re a brave man,” his lawyer told him.
The Years That Followed
It would be of little value to outline the years that followed , when the arduous work began. He must often have wished he had followed his friend’s advice and tucked himself away in a friendlier economy, where if he were paying taxes, at least it wouldn’t be for war. It took Mr. Wilson five years and two lawyers to settle the case.
At some unspecified point, Mr. Wilson’s instinctual annoyance emerged into a time of probing the meaning of his experience, the inadequacies of the collection system and, most important, the uses the money was being put to. His discoveries are carefully outlined—translating the noble sounding verbiage of the Administration’s Budget in Brief (which says in part, “The Federal Government’s final responsibility is to help safeguard the peace and security of the free world. This is our largest category of expenditures… Expenditures devoted to national security… space programs… and the continuing cost of past wars amount to 79% of the administrative budget…”), translating this into the facts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of napalm and phosphorus bombs, of disease, warfare. The latter two are of particular interest, because, (despite protest demonstrations at Ft. Detrick, Md., the U.S. research-development center for chemical and biological weapons) there is little popularisation of these methods of warfare, though it is admitted that napalm bombs are being used in Vietnam — as they have been widely used elsewhere — and there is evidence that disease weapons are also being employed. For instance, water supplies in South Vietnam have been poisoned in areas where both civilians and Vietcong rebels use the same well, killing some Vletcong, but also many non-combatants who were merely thirsty.
About napalm: It is, Mr. Wilson writes, “a kind of jelly saturated with gasoline, which is ignited by the bursting of the bomb. Its great advantage is that it sticks to whatever it touches… Its effect on human beings has been described by a BBC correspondent in Korea: ‘In front of us a curious figure was standing a little crouched, legs straddled, arms held out from his sides. He had no eyes, and the whole of his body, nearly all of which was visible through tatters of burned rags, was covered with a hard black crust speckled with yellow pus. A Korean woman by his side began to speak, and the interpreter said: “He has to stand, sir, cannot sit or lie.” He had to stand because he was no longer covered with skin…’ ” The BBC correspondent goes on to explain, however, that he would rather be killed by napalm than phosphorus or flame throwers.
Toward Inspired Derangement
The material on disease warfare (often termed bacteriological, biological or chemical) is on much the same level, though not so grossly horrifying, as we do not see it translated into eye witness accounts. Involved is the same degradation of any value system. For as one military man, Admiral Mahan, puts it, every advance in the use of lethal weapons, beginning with firearms, has been denounced as cruel. He goes on to point out that shells with asphyxiating gases could produce “decisive results.” Says Philip Noel-Baker, in his book The Arms Race, “All the leading governments have them now.” And in the Chief Chemical Officer of the United States Army announced that even “mental derangement might be deliberately inspired” by this form of weaponry.
As Mr. Wilson observes, “Human life since Stalin and the Nazis has been something that few people in the East or West any longer care much about.” Or as Robert Pickus, Turn Toward Peace executive, observed: “We support policies that would make Genghis Kahn vomit, and yet we turn out for Church every Sunday.”
Of course the question is, what can we do about all this? To Catholic Worker readers this is no new question, as we have been fighting this a long time.
Mr. Wilson outlines the general steps of tax refusal (see detailed article on this subject in the September 1963 Catholic Worker [Forest’s review, see above]) and describes the course of two more well known refusers, Dr. A.J. Muste of the Committee for Nonviolent Action and Liberation magazine, and the Rev. Maurice McCrackin, active in the civil rights effort and the Peacemaker movement.
He goes on to describe his personal response, which is to keep his income below taxable levels. (It is a fact, though it is not mentioned in this work, that Mr. Wilson has assigned all royalties of this book to use in the peace movement.) He has decided not to go to jail, however, and will move to another country before allowing this to occur. But he is determined to withdraw his support:
“When the stakes in games become so serious — when everybody’s life is at stake — they ought not to be played at all, and the taxpayers should not support them.”
The following article, from the issue, announces the formation of the “War Tax Protest Committee,” a group I hadn’t heard of before. I’m guessing it was an early, regional form of the group “National War Tax Resistance,” which came together in .
The War Tax Protest Committee was formed to bring together West Coast conscientious objectors to income taxes for war and war preparations. The aim of the committee is to heighten public awareness of uses to which tax monies are put and to suggest alternatives to the submissive payment of such taxes. A range of activities around the tax deadline is being planned, including an all-day picket of IRS regional headquarters in San Francisco, a press conference, and a public meeting.
Founders of the War Tax Protest Committee include Ammon Hennacy, Roy Kepler, Mark Morris, Britt Peter, Ira Sandperl, Barton Stone, Sam Tyson, and Ida and Denny Wilcher.
The War Tax Protest Committee welcomes all persons involved in war tax protest — from total refusers to those who include a letter of protest with their return.
Creation of this new committee took place at the Committee for Nonviolent Action-West weekend seminar on Conscientious Objection to Income Taxes for War Preparations at Forest Farm in Marin County, . The new committee, however, will have no organisational tie with CNVA-West, which is furnishing it with office space.
c/o CNVA-West P.O. Box 5983, San Francisco 1, Calif.
The issue reprinted a letter from Joan Baez announcing her income tax resistance:
Joan Baez, American folksinger, has refused to pay that 60% of her income tax which goes for military expenditures. She sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service explaining her action:
What I have to say is this:
I do not believe in the weapons of war.
Weapons and Wars have murdered, burned, distorted, crippled, and caused endless varieties of pain to men, women, and children for too long.
Our modern weapons can reduce a man to a piece of dust in a split second, can make a woman’s hair fall out or cause her baby to be born a monster. They can kill the part of a turtle’s brain that tells him where he is going, so instead of trudging to the ocean he trudges confusedly towards the desert, slowly, blinking his poor eyes, until he finally scorches to death and turns into a shell and some bones.
I am not going to volunteer the 60% of my year’s income tax that goes to armaments. There are two reasons for my action.
One is enough. It is enough to say that no man has the right to take another man’s life. Now we plan and build weapons that can take thousands of lives in one second, millions of lives in a day, billions in a week.
No one has a right to do that.
It is madness.
It is wrong.
My other reason is that modern war is impractical and stupid. We spend billions of dollars a year on weapons which scientists, politicians, military men, and even the President all agree must never be used. That is impractical. The expression “National Security” has no meaning. It refers to our Defense System, which I call our Offense System, and which is a farce. It continues expanding and heaping up, one horrible kill machine upon another, until for some reason or another a button will be pushed and our world, or a good portion of it, will be blown to pieces. That is not security. That is stupidity.
People are starving to death in some places of the world. They look to this country with all its wealth and all its power. They look at our National budget. They are supposed to respect us. They do not respect us. They despise us. That is impractical and stupid.
Maybe the line should have been drawn when the bow and arrow were invented, maybe at the gun, the cannon, maybe. Because now it is all wrong, all impractical, and all stupid. So all I can do is draw my own line now. I am no longer supporting my portion of the arms race.
Joan C. Baez
Karl Meyer was back for the edition:
War Escalates, Tax Refusal Called For
“The future will be different, if we make the present different.” ―Peter Maurin
By Karl Meyer
I have been refusing to pay Federal income tax, or to file tax returns, . Finally, on , after several visits, an Internal Revenue Service agent sent me returns for the years 1962, 1963 and 1965, which he had prepared and filed without my cooperation or consent, claiming a total of $1,099.12 in back taxes and penalties for those years. we have shared the greater part of our personal income with people who have no income, through the house of hospitality, and I have claimed an appropriate number of exemptions on the withholding tax slips which one must file with one’s employers in order to hold a job, but I.R.S. did not recognize these exemptions, because I refused to file a return or to substantiate a claim to such exemptions in their conversations with me.
My resistance to Federal taxes is not based on legalities, but on moral opposition to militarism, and I will maintain it in spite of legalities and without taking refuge in them. I will never pay the tax that is claimed, even if I must become a pilgrim from job to job in order to avoid the attachment of my wages. (A national list of income-tax refusers is being collected for publication, by the No Tax for War Committee, c/o Rev. Maurice McCrackin. 932 Dayton St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45214. Last year’s list included the names of Dorothy Day, Martin Corbin and Ammon Hennacy among a list of two hundred.)
But I am not writing about this because I expect a mass addition of Catholic Worker readers to the list of income-tax refusers (it is not that easy to resist so thoroughly the demand of the state). I mention it as background to a more modest effort that we have also been promoting. we have been advocating a first step toward denying to the government funds to carry on the war against the Vietnamese people, refusal to pay the 10% excise tax on telephone service. This tax had been reduced to 3% as of and was scheduled to expire altogether, but it was restored in . The rationale for our campaign to refuse the tax is based on the words of Congressman Wilbur Mills, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and administration floor leader for the legislation which restored the tax, who stated directly at the outset of debate on the measure, “The bill, H.R. 12752, is intended first and foremost to provide additional revenues to help finance the expenditures required to sustain our operation in Vietnam!” (Congressional Record, .) Further along he declared, “I believe it is clear that it is the Vietnam, and only the Vietnam, operation, which makes this bill necessary,” and a third time, “I have stated, and I state it again, that it is the extraordinary expenses attributable to our operation in Vietnam that are responsible for the Ways and Means Committee reporting this bill.”
The Chicago Workshop in Nonviolence, Peacemakers, the Committee for Nonviolent Action, The War Resisters League, and other groups supporting the campaign have already collected several hundred names of people who are refusing the tax, but not yet in the numbers for which I had hoped. It is not that any danger is involved in the act. In no case has telephone service been terminated, because, under the regulations, the ultimate responsibility for collecting the tax lies with the I.R.S., not with the telephone companies, which are only required to bill for it. And the I.R.S. so far has done practically nothing to collect from any of the phone-tax refusers. This is understandable when you realize that the amounts of money are so very small, that it took I.R.S. six years to get around to trying to collect over a thousand dollars from a publicly acknowledged income-tax refuser like myself, and that they have never succeeded in collecting from Ammon Hennacy or numerous other tax refusers.
For the individual, the telephone tax by itself seems an insignificant amount of money, though the Johnson administration is counting on it, together with a 1% automobile excise tax increase, to raise $1.2 billion in , which would pay for about twenty days of killing in Vietnam at current rates of spending. For the individual, telephone-tax refusal is a small step, but for many it is a significant step, because for the first time they are acknowledging in action that if they had the free choice they would refuse to contribute to the activities of the federal Government, because its military activities outweigh its positive tax-supported programs. And if they admit that they are involuntary participants in such a great evil, they must face the issue of struggling in the society for the freedom to do what they believe is right, even by going outside of the law. But in going outside of the law they are taking back for themselves a basic responsibility for the order of society, which they had hitherto reposed in the state and the law. They are facing the issue of ultimate personal responsibility for society and the needs of others as we have faced it in the houses of hospitality and the Catholic Worker movement.
These are some of the implications of civil disobedience; of recognizing that the majority of citizens organized in the state, have failed man so badly, that we must struggle to build a whole new way of life that will be able to be human. I remember how often Ammon Hennacy has spoken of the people who were “pacifists between wars,” which he says is like being “vegetarians between meals,” and now it is possible to speak of those who oppose the war but pay their phone tax at “pacifists between telephone calls,” because with each ten-cent telephone call another penny joins the stream of Federal revenue that flows inexorably to Vietnam. It is true, friends, that with a first small step like phone-tax refusal, we are trying to coax people down the primrose path to the one-man revolution. The future will be different only if we change our lives. The act is small, but the meaning is large: this war is not our war, and we are willing to struggle to be on the side of life.
In the edition, Karl Meyer explained in-depth how to stop income tax withholding by claiming excessive dependents and how tax redirection could be used to nourish alternative institutions. (This would not be good advice to follow today, as the IRS has new punitive tools at its disposal.)
Through Effective Tax Resistance:
A Fund for Mankind
By Karl Meyer
Let us speak of a clearcut solution to two prevailing ethical concerns which are shared by many stable, wage-earning citizens who are in the peace movement today. On the one hand, we see a perverse system of national priorities which devotes most of our federal tax contributions to militaristic purposes which we abhor. We want our money to be used positively to fulfill social needs. On the other hand, we see young men of draft age resisting war and conscription concretely by refusing to participate, and suffering the consequences: imprisonment or exile. We wish to support them and to align ourselves with them in a real way.
Let me affirm that it would be very practicable for us to get together in our own resistance movement to prevent the conscription of our money by the military and to create a Fund for Mankind to support the things we believe in and provide mutual aid in the difficulties that might come as a consequence of our resistance.
The Vietnam War may draw towards a conclusion in the months to come, yet we have already been warned by spokesmen of the government, if not by the history of the last twenty-five years, not to expect huge amounts of money to be freed for the solution of domestic problems. There are plenty of military boondoggles waiting in the wings, promising that military expenditures will command the stage for many years to come. We should either seize our destiny in our own hands or stop crying about our involuntary complicity in the militarization of society.
I promise to show how we can stop paying for militarism and instead pay into an alternative fund and use it according to our own moral and political judgments.
At the outset, we must directly contradict the widespread notion that refusal to pay federal income tax is merely a form of personal witness and a purification of conscience, which because of inherent obstacles cannot emerge as a general action of resistance to the Vietnam War, militarism, and imperialism. Instead, let us affirm that tax resistance can be the most promising basis for a movement of constructive social action, as well as resistance to the evils of war and the wastefulness of the arms race.
Right away we come to the heart of the issue, because people say, “Our taxes are withheld at the source and paid by our employers without our consent.” This is the fallacy which must be resolutely laid to rest. Your consent is given whenever you fill out and sign a new W-4 Employees Withholding Exemption Certificate. The proper use of this form and of the early income-tax return are the keys to effective tactics of widespread tax resistance.
Let me therefore outline these tactics for Everyman in nine easy steps:
Obtain a new W-4 form from your employer. On lines 4 and 5 claim as many extra dependents as is necessary to prevent the withholding of any tax (ten or twenty or five hundred thousand or thirty-five million if you wish). Sign the statement, “I certify that the number of withholding exemptions claimed on this certificate does not exceed the number to which I am entitled.” (Entitled by whom? We cannot have a moral revolution as long as we supinely acknowledge that we are entitled to do only what can be drained by the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations. We must explicitly reject the standards and definitions specified by a blind bureaucracy and instead affirm definitions that spring from our own consciousness of human solidarity. We must affirm that our obligation to the victims of United States militarism entitles us to claim as many exemptions as may be necessary to prevent the payment of taxes in our name.) Submit the new form to your employer. He is not responsible under law for the legality or accuracy of our claim, nor is he authorized to alter your claim. He is advised, but not required by law, to report to the Internal Revenue Service if he believes that your claim exceeds the number of dependents to which you are entitled.1 It is only if you fill out no W-4 form that he may withhold the taxes without your consent.2
Write a letter to the I.R.S. stating that five hundred thousand American soldiers are depending on you to bring them home, or that thirty-five million Vietnamese are depending on you to stop supporting the war, that consequently you cannot accept the narrow definitions of human interdependence specified by I.R.S. regulations, that you therefore affirm your right to claim enough exemptions to forestall the collection of war taxes, and you have recently filed a new W-4 form with your employer in accord with this affirmation. This will put you on record as an open and principled tax resister, and may provide you with some defense in case of prosecution for making a fraudulent claim, since fraud implies an element of concealment, deception, and bad faith.3 But in writing to them, I would advise you not to name your employer, since this would only facilitate possible attempts by the I.R.S. to harass or intimidate you or your employer.
Taking these first two steps should forestall the withholding of any tax from your wages.
On April 15th (fifteen and a half months after the beginning of your no-tax year) you are required by law to file an income-tax return. File and complete an honest return, but don’t do it the way they want it. On line 3B of form 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, enter the same number of dependents previously claimed on your W-4 form (if thirty-five million, enter that number on line 3B). Attach a schedule stating the moral grounds of your claim: the universal interdependency of man. For line 11C, multiply the total number of exemptions claimed by six hundred dollars. Fill out the rest of the form, showing no tax owed, and send it in.
Wait a few more taxless months while the I.R.S. gets around to figuring out your form, disallowing your numerous exemptions, and sending you a “proposed adjustment” of your income tax liability. You have another taxless month to request a District Conference to discuss the “proposed adjustment.”4
If agreement is not reached at the District Conference, you may appeal to the Appellate Division of the Regional Commissioner’s Office.4
All steps up to this point can be easily taken without the aid of an attorney and without much cost or inconvenience to yourself.
If agreement cannot be reached with the Appellate Division, a statutory notice of deficiency will be sent to you; you will then have ninety days to appeal to the Tax Court of the United States, but if the I.R.S. believes that assessment and collection of the tax deficiency will be jeopardized by delay, it may proceed to assess and collect the tax in the meantime, pending your appeal to the Tax Court and decision by it, and any further appeals to the United States Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, if you choose to pursue such appeals. So a number of time-consuming bureaucratic steps must be gone through before the I.R.S. can make its final assessment of the tax due and begin the process of attempting to collect. The whole process must be repeated for each taxable year. I do not see how the I.R.S. can reach the collection stage in less than two years from the date when you first began to frustrate the withholding of taxes.
Even if you chicken out and pay up at that point, you will have cost them more than it was worth and made them wait at least two years to get their money. But above all, you will have expressed concrete convictions clearly and registered effective short-term resistance against any particular war or Defense Department program that happens to be the primary current target of the resistance movement. If you want to go beyond this and keep struggling, as I have done, there are further effective steps to prevent the collection of the assessments by wage attachment or seizure of assets:
Take your cash out of banks you have used in the past. If you have so much money that you have to be afraid of keeping it in the mattress, you should probably start thinking of what that money says about your aspirations towards human brotherhood. In the meantime, you could distribute it into several banks you have not used before and be careful not to write checks in payment of bills whose payment could easily be traced by the I.R.S. (such as telephone and utility bills). I have used an account in this way for several years, but I could do without it easily enough.
If you are not strongly tied to your current place of employment, you can switch jobs as soon as the I.R.S. arrives to collect from your wages by levy and take a few simple precautions to make it a little difficult for the I.R.S. to discover your new place of employment. They are so bogged down and incompetent that it doesn’t take much to throw them off the trail for several years. I changed jobs in , and they haven’t found out my new job yet, though they have tried through numerous visits, phone calls, notes left under the door, and other perfunctory attempts.
In preparation for the eventual confrontation, you can begin early to have real property which you use, such as houses and automobiles, owned and registered in the names of persons who will not be liable for payment of income taxes.
These and similar steps have worked for me and for a number of other individuals around the country for many, many years. I have used this method of tax resistance, or variations, of it, for the last ten years. In that time, I have paid no federal income tax of any significance. I have devoted the greater part of my total income to sharing with other people through Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality. The I.R.S. is many years and hundreds of dollars behind in its attempts to collect from me, and has indeed collected nothing from me so far, though it has prepared returns for the years 1962, 1963, and 1965, and is trying to collect over eleven hundred dollars from me.
Here is the strength of tax resistance. If you don’t play by their rules, the cost of collecting will in many cases exceed the successful collections. The process of assessing and collecting taxes in the face of intelligent resistance is an immensely complicated bureaucratic operation, which frequently gets bogged down for incredible periods of time. The due process of law involved in the arrest and conviction of an induction refuser under Selective Service law is child’s play when compared to the due process involved in the collection of taxes from the intelligent tax refuser. So we have an effective tool at hand for resisting the demands of war and the arms race, if we will only seize the courage to act.
Now we turn to the constructive side of this action. If we pool all of the tax money that we did not pay in locally administered funds, we can create a model for a future in which men can regain direct control of their common institutions and effectively deny their consent to governmental programs they believe to be evil.
In each community or region we can set up a common fund. Each contributor will have one vote, as in a cooperative. The members will meet from time to time to set priorities and guidelines for administering the fund and to elect a committee to administer it according to their guidelines.
Part of the fund can be held as a reserve, which can be invested in low-interest loans to socially useful projects. In case of needs these loans can be liquidated in order to compensate members of the fund, up to the amount of their contribution, for personal losses and needs resulting from successful tax collections by the I.R.S. The reserve funds can also be used to provide legal defense for members who might be prosecuted under the tax laws, and to provide aid for the families of those who might be convicted and imprisoned or suffer other needs as a result of conscientious tax refusal. Thus through mutual aid the members of the fund will be protected from personal hardships arising from their stand, and together they can develop a most valuable sense of community and solidarity, that could immeasurably strengthen the whole peace movement.
Assuming that successful collections by the I.R.S. would always lag far behind the ongoing contributions to the fund, the greater part of receipts could be disbursed in the form of direct grants for ail kinds of socially useful organizations and projects. Assuming that the federal-income-tax contributions of most people in the movement probably far exceed their voluntary political, organizational, and charitable contributions, we could expect that the tax alternative funds could become one of the most substantial sources of money for the projects and purposes in which we most strongly believe. But beyond that we could hope that our experience in mutual aid through these cooperative funds would bear fruit in the development of ashrams and communities for closer economic and social cooperation; for it is when our constructive action and our resistance to evil become for real that we will see the need and value of mutual aid and begin to create cooperative alternatives within the competitive society in which we live.
If we ignore or neglect the great potential of tax resistance joined to constructive action, we must be deaf to history and blind to experience.
Deaf to history. Do we not know that tax resistance has been one of the greatest sources and strategies of revolutionary movements throughout history? Has not history shown that taxation is a process requiring the general consent and cooperation of the populace? Has it not been shown that when numbers of people reject a government by withdrawing their consent from the elaborate bureaucratic process of taxation, that government is in deep trouble? Did not the French Revolution begin with tax resistance? Was not the Estates General called into session by the King because he found it impossible to raise sufficient revenue for the operation of his government? Was not tax resistance the slogan and rallying cry of the American Revolution: “Taxation without representation is tyranny!”? Does not the Boston Tea Party, an act of resistance to taxation, stand in our historical tradition as a model for the actions of the Baltimore Four, the Catonsville Nine, the Boston Two, the Milwaukee Fourteen, the D.C. Nine, and the Chicago Fifteen? Did not Thoreau fashion the cornerstone of American resistance theory out of his own experience as a tax resister? Was not Gandhi’s largest and most significant campaign of civil disobedience, the Salt March, based on the strategy of tax resistance?
Blind to experience. Can we not see what the I.R.S. knows full well: that even where the public gives general consent to the process of taxation it is always and everywhere a grudging and tentative consent, a resentful and querulous consent, a fragile consent that must always be nursed and safeguarded by positive public relations? Why has the I.R.S. trodden so lightly in prosecuting principled tax refusers, usually concentrating instead on ineffectual attempts at collection? Is it not because there exists among the public at large a greater reservoir of grievance, a potential of sympathy for tax resisters, and, what is more, a vast subliminal potential for tax resistance and evasion, that only needs to be aroused by news of widespread tax resistance?
Let us learn from the experience of the draft-resistance movement and the telephone-tax-refusal campaign, a few years ago, many people regarded draft refusal as a personal witness of the solitary conscience. Today it has taken on the dimensions of a social movement. It is, however, restricted by the narrow age and sex range of those who are subject to conscription, and even more restricted by the narrowness of the draft as a single focus of action.
In the telephone-tax-refusal campaign we measured the potential dimensions of a tax-resistance movement. In , we started the campaign for nonpayment of the ten-per-cent federal telephone excise tax, which had just been restored by Congress explicitly to help in meeting the rising costs of the Vietnam War. The issue of WIN magazine quotes from a Wall Street Journal story reporting that eighteen thousand people refused to pay their telephone tax last year. This resistance tactic caught on quickly and spread rapidly with little organizational effort, because it was a direct and simple action which any telephone subscriber could easily carry out. But after flaring up briefly, interest in this tactic gradually subsided, though thousands no doubt continue to refuse to pay the tax. Enthusiasm for the action could not be maintained, because it was not resistance for real. It was, rather, the first token of a spirit of resistance, which at the time could find no practical channel for deeper development.
When we can combine real war tax resistance with the tremendous constructive potential of a Fund for Humanity, we will have raised a banner to which all honest and courageous men of conscience can repair.
Note: I want to acknowledge the contributions of Brad Lyttle, Sidney Lens, and several young members of the draft-resistance movement whose names are unknown to me. Recent discussions with them helped greatly in stimulating and formulating the ideas for the article, which has also been distributed in mimeographed form by the founders of the Chicago Area Alternative Fund (C.A.A.F), 1209 West Farwell, Chicago, Illinois 60626. (Tel: 764-3620). We have begun. Join us!
Notes and References
Internal Revenue Regulations, Paragraph 31.3401 (e)-1 (b) — “The employer is not required to ascertain whether or not the number of withholding exemptions claimed is greater than the number of withholding exemptions to which the employee is entitled. If, however, the employer has reason to believe that the number of withholding exemptions claimed by the employee is greater than the number to which such employee is entitled, the district director should be so advised.”
Internal Revenue Regulations, Paragraph 31.3401 (e)-1 (a) — “…If no such certificate is in effect, the number of withholding exemptions claimed shall be considered to be zero…”
Internal Revenue Code, Section 7201. ATTEMPT TO EVADE OR DEFEAT TAX. “Any person who willfully attempts to evade or defeat any tax imposed by this title or the payment thereof shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.”
Internal Revenue Code, Section 7205. FRAUDULENT WITHHOLDING EXEMPTION CERTIFICATE OR FAILURE TO SUPPLY INFORMATION: “Any individual required to supply information to his employer under section 3402 who willfully supplies false or fraudulent information, or who willfully falls to supply information thereunder which would require an increase in the tax to be withheld under section 3402, shall, in lieu of any other penalty provided by law (except the penalty provided by section 6682), upon conviction thereof, be fined not more than $500, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.” (Section 3402 is the section which provides for withholding of income taxes.)
INSTRUCTIONS — Unagreed Income, Estate, or Gift Tax Cases — U.S. Treasury Department — Internal Revenue Service — Publication No. 5 (Rev. 8-64)
Internal Revenue Code, Section 6861. Jeopardy Assessments of Income, Estate, and Gift Taxes.
Meyer had a followup in the issue:
Clarification On Tax Withholding
By Karl Meyer
December 12, 1969
Dear Mike and Allen:
I was pleased to receive your inquiry about our “Fund for Mankind, Through Effective Tax Resistance” (Catholic Worker, ). Yours is one of dozens of serious inquiries from all over the country, and the fourth so far from the Minneapolis area alone. Jim Dunn (19 Sidney Place S.E., Minneapolis, Minnesota) has already started an alternative fund and has reprinted my article as a leaflet. Dennis Richter (Hope House, 2603 14th Ave. South) has begun by claiming forty million exemptions on his W-4 Withholding Exemption Certificate. This has tremendous educational value, but we don’t know yet the effective results of this experiment. One person in Chicago tried this mass approach and it did not work. He claimed three and a half billion dependents, the entire population of Spaceship Earth. His employers, on the advice of their tax attorneys, rejected his W-4 form, on the grounds that it was not correctly filled out because it would be impossible under the rules to have that number of legally qualified exemptions — a trenchant argument we must confess. They also pointed out that their payroll computer program could not handle that number of exemptions. Two digits, or a maximum of 99, would be all the computer could handle. This leaves him nowhere, since his only recourse would be to appeal to the Internal Revenue Service or the courts for support of his right to claim three and a half billion, and it is obvious enough that he would get no support from that quarter.
Does my article give the impression that I advocate claiming such great numbers of exemptions as a practical step, or that I myself have used this approach and succeeded? If it does, that impression should be corrected before it leads us down the blind alley of ineffectual protest. I myself have always claimed the minimum number of exemptions necessary to prevent the withholding of tax (between six and twelve in my case) and the same modest approach is used by all those I know of who are successfully using the exemption method of tax resistance at present. The idea of claiming hundreds of thousands, millions or billions of dependents makes for a beautiful protest and a glorious expression of fraternal solidarity. I introduced this idea in my article, and I certainly hope that a certain number of bold souls like Dennis will experiment with it; but I proposed it with tongue in cheek, and I would be the first to predict that it will not work in very many cases. Most employers, on their own initiative or on the advice of I.R.S., will probably reject such a W-4, and those that don’t may fire you. It would be a fine educational protest, but if the idea is protest, that could also be expressed by picketing the personnel office during your lunch hour to ask them to stop withholding taxes.
If the purpose is actually to prevent the withholding of tax, the most practical way to proceed is to claim the minimum number of exemptions necessary to achieve that objective! This number can be found by dividing your weekly salary by $13.50, or dividing your projected annual salary by $700, or by consulting the tables and rules in Circular E, Employers Tax Guide, available to the public at your local office of I.R.S.
The minimum number of exemptions necessary for most people will be between six and twenty. If your employer should question the number you claim, you may wish to save him the embarrassment of being implicated in your action by simply stating, “This is the number of exemptions to which I believe I am entitled.” Since you are the person responsible for the number which you claim, it is not necessarily incumbent on you to offer your employer a more elaborate explanation. In our group, some people have explained to their employers the entire basis of their claim; others have filed the new W-4 with their employer without further explanation; some have written to I.R.S., or other officials of government, stating the entire basis of their claim; others have taken the action without informing the state directly. These choices must be made on the basis of personal inclinations and circumstances of employment.
You ask about the chances of prosecution for tax evasion or fraud. No principled tax refuser has been indicted or prosecuted for violation of tax laws within my memory or knowledge. A few have been imprisoned briefly for contempt of court for refusing to reveal information about their income and assets. The I.R.S. has concentrated exclusively on attempts at assessment and collection, rather than prosecution. With the rapid development of this campaign, I predict that this policy will be changed. If pressed to do so, I could name a man whom I believe to be a prime candidate for aggressive prosecution. But it would be impossible for me to predict what pattern of criminal prosecution may emerge as this campaign grows and develops. I do predict that many people in this movement will eventually be subjects of intensive efforts by I.R.S. to assess and collect income taxes that they have not paid. Ten years ago I popularized the aphorism: “If you can’t do time, don’t commit crime,” which was taught me by Marshal Raab as he drove me to the penitentiary. Today I am in a position to coin a new variation of this maxim for our time: “If you can’t stand heat, don’t put your hand in the fire.”
If people want to start out easy and test the temperature before they go all the way they might begin by not paying the ten-percent federal excise tax on telephone service or they might try claiming just one extra withholding tax exemption. Most important of course is to band together in small local alternative-fund groups for mutual aid and the sharing of experiences.
Over the years I have developed quite a tolerance for heat of all kinds so I was not dismayed on when Agent Roy Suzuki of the I.R.S. telephoned at my place of employment, which he had at long last discovered, and very graciously demanded payment of $46.60 in taxes, penalties, and interest for , a small part of a bill for more than a thousand dollars, going back to that I.R.S. has been unsuccessfully trying to collect for a long time. After I stated that I would not pay he came over immediately and served my employers with a levy against my wages which they reluctantly honored by deducting $48.60 from wages due to me. These events inspired the composition of the following ballad, which is currently leading the hit parade of the tax-resistance movement:
Some Enchanted Taxmen
Some enchanted evening
You may meet a stranger,
You may see him come to you
Across the crowded room,
Then pull put his badge
And ask for your wage;
If you don’t go along,
He will not argue long.
He will be a taxman,
He will be insistent,
He will bring a levy
To place against your wage,
And when he is done
He’ll go back to his boss,
And give a report like this:
Suzuki:— Who would believe it,
Who would say it’s so?
I found him at Follett’s,
I collected dough.
His boss:— Oh, Suzuki,
How did you know? Now that you’ve found him,
Never let him go!
Suzuki:— Forty-six dollars,
All for the war,
I’ll go back again soon,
I will grab some more.
His boss:— Oh, Suzuki,
Try going slow,
Don’t scare him off too fast,
Don’t let him go.
Suzuki:— l have worked so patiently,
I have tried so long,
My, but that man’s
Conscience is strong.
Boss:— Don’t get sentimental,
Remember he’s your foe,
Now that you’ve found him,
Never let him go.
Suzuki:— I’ll go back tomorrow,
Shortly after dawn,
I’ll levy on his wage again;
But he will be gone.
Boss:— Buck up, Suzuki,
Don’t let it get you down,
We have lots of agents,
Snooping round the town.
Suzuki:— They will never nail him,
They’ll never collect,
Why should we waste our time,
Breaking our necks?
Boss:— The war must go on you know
And we must be paid,
The arms race must be financed
And profits be made.
Suzuki:— We will never make it
With guys like that Meyer;
Why not quit and go to work;
Our proceeds would be higher.
Boss:— Roy, that’s not the spirit
Of I.R.S., you know;
Once you have found one.
Never let him go!
A few days later I quit my job, and since then I have been earning part of our livelihood by part-time and irregular labor, while spending most of my time on the important work of developing the tax-resistance campaign. I have to thank Roy Suzuki for having given me the incentive and the opportunity to do this. To coordinate a countrywide campaign for tax resistance and to provide literature and counseling we have established a center called War Tax Resistance/Midwest (1339 North Mohawk St., Chicago, Illinois 60610) which is sponsored by the Nonviolent Training and Action Center, the Chicago Area Draft Registers and the Chicago Catholic Worker. We will have a basic leaflet based on my article in the CW, as well as reprints of the article itself. For a single copy of each, send us a stamped, self-addressed envelope. For quantities the price will be a dollar for fifty, or two dollars for a hundred, plus a dollar for each additional hundred in one shipment. We hope that people will send a few extra dollars to help with the organizing costs and that new tax resisters and alternative funds will earmark a small percentage of their tax savings to contribute to the organizing work.
The issue reported on the death of Ammon Hennacy on . Ernest Bromley added a tribute, which included this summary of his tax resistance activity:
I, like so many others, knew Ammon by reputation long before I met him in person. He was one of the pacifist tax refusers during World War Two, at a time when I could count them on the fingers of one hand. He was in Arizona during those years, working as a day laborer in the fields. To the few of us who made up the Tax Refusal Committee of Peacemakers, which began in , he is memorable, not only because the number was still very small but mainly because he was simple, direct and dramatic. He saw that the government got none of his tax at the source (through withholding), he refused the total amount of income tax, he took steps so that the tax man could not garnishee money from his employer, and he went straight to the tax man and to the people with the message that he would not pay for the weapons or the soldiers. He was basic, cryptic, humorous. When the tax collector asked him if he thought he could change the world to his point of view, he answered, “Of course not. but I’m damn sure it won’t change me.” Then, referring to his contest with the government, he said, “Every day I win and every day the government loses.”
He once told a tax man, “Peter could return to his nets, but Matthew could not return to his tax collecting.” It was in World War One, while doing time in Atlanta Penitentiary for opposing the war, that he read the Bible and became a Christian. He was also turning from socialism to anarchism. It was not however, until the early 1950’s that he joined a church. Soon he wrote his first book. The Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist. Later he revised this book, calling it in the new form The Book of Ammon. While in Arizona he wrote a column in the Catholic Worker, entitled “Life at Hard Labor.” He managed by doing day labor in the fields and irrigation ditches, to contribute financially to the education of his two daughters by his first marriage.
After moving to New York in he became one of the associate editors of the Catholic Worker with Dorothy Day. In he moved to Salt Lake City and began a "House of Hospitality.” Borrowing the language of Robert Frost in one of his poems “Build Soil — A Political Pastoral,” Ammon spoke early and often of the “one-man revolution — the only revolution that is coming.” He felt that the only way to change society is for each to become a radical and responsible person. He detested dependence on government, state, institutions. He wished to live as the early Christians did. He did not join organizations or participate much in conferences or committees. Most of the actions he took were solitary ones.
After leaving Arizona he travelled several weeks of each year, going to homes of friends. Innumerable opportunities opened up to him to talk to small groups of people. Many young idealists got their inspiration from a first contact with Ammon Hennacy. He was always quick in tongue and caustic in comment. He could state his views briefly. Once when asked why he refused to pay Federal taxes, he said “Jesus wouldn’t make atom bombs. Why should I pay for them?”
And Karl Meyer wrote, in part:
[I]n thirteen years, I spent only a few hours in his company; so I know nothing of him that is not amply recorded in the Book of Ammon and his columns. The only original thing that I can tell is what he has written in my spirit.
In closing I want to remind you that Ammon wouldn’t pay taxes that go for war. In his last letter to me () he wrote, “I think your idea of claiming a million dependents is o.k. for a joke between you and the tax man, but to consider it for a group of people is not being a bit realistic. Hardly half a dozen in this country would have nerve enough to do it for fear of losing their jobs.”
That was the main fault Ammon had: he never had faith that other people would be radicals, would change their lives and live the revolution. But I remember a pipsqueak boy of twenty once, who didn’t want to lose his job, who wanted to take bail and get a lawyer and a long continuance. And one summer day that boy went down to Chrystie Street, and that was the day that he met Hennacy.
That’s why I have faith that a lot of people are not going to go on paying taxes for another five years of national murder; and anyone who really wants to stop can send me a couple of stamps for our leaflet entitled “Common Sense for Every Concerned Taxpayer — You Can Stop Paying War Taxes Now,” or send a dollar for fifty copies.