Nick Wright & Lorin Peters Address Northern Calif. War Tax Resisters

Last night I heard war tax resisters Nick Wright and Lorin Peters speak at a meeting organized by Northern California War Tax Resistance.

Peters was back from Hebron, where he’d been working with Christian Peacemaker Teams, and he shared photos and observations about his time there.

Peters says his tax resistance has become more confrontational in recent years, moving from a mostly-symbolic refusal to pay the phone tax to “what Gene Sharp would call ‘withdrawal of consent.’ ” Today Peters has adopted complete non-cooperation with the IRS — he refuses to file, and instead sends letters explaining his reasons. “We’re entering an era of ‘spiritual warfare,’ ” Peters says, “the political process is bankrupt.”

Nick Wright had attended the 10th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns in Brussels , and reported back about this conference.

I arrived a little late and so I missed the first part of Wright’s talk, but here are some items from the notes I took:

  • Wright was impressed with the Conscience UK group, which he thought was the most “slick” of the groups represented at the conference, and the one that had the broadest focus in terms of war tax resistance in general.
  • Most other groups had a more narrow focus on Peace Tax Funds or other forms of official accommodation for conscientious objectors, although most of the peace tax campaigners were also war tax resisters.
  • Peace Tax Fund advocates acknowledge that there are objections to their program within the war tax resistance movement, however Wright found that at this conference there was near-unanimity about the value of a Peace Tax Fund-like program. It is seen as a winnable battle, and potentially a valuable tool that war tax resisters can use.
  • The most high-profile peace tax campaign going on these days is that of the Peace Tax Seven in the UK.
  • Some Italian war tax resisters have had success in pursuing the conscientious objector argument in the courts, and apparently are paying a portion of their taxes to non-governmental organizations with the blessing of some judges. These cases haven’t yet been brought to higher courts, however.
  • Some people who are lobbying the government or international bodies (including multiple UN human rights bodies and overlapping multi-nation European meta-governments) to try to enact some official accommodation for conscientious objectors to military taxation feel that they are unable to become war tax resisters because such “lawless” actions would hurt their credibility with those they are lobbying.
  • The Quaker Council for European Affairs is trying to push for an acknowledgment of conscientious objection to military taxation as a human right in the Council of Europe (which is a larger body than the European Union and is apparently more amenable to such an argument).
  • The Peace Tax Fund bill being considered by the U.S. Congress has a similarly tight definition of “conscientious objector” as that used to categorize people for military service by draft boards — that is, to qualify as a “conscientious objector” a taxpayer must be “opposed to participation in war in any form based upon the taxpayer’s deeply held moral, ethical, or religious beliefs or training.” Non-pacifists who nonetheless conscientiously object to the way their money is being spent on wasteful, reckless belligerence would not qualify.
  • Best slogan from the discussion: “War Tax Resistance — it’s a direct action you do every day.”

“Conscientious Objector”
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.