New York (LNS) — A
group of New Yorkers declared
to be Hang Up on War day. They assembled en masse at the main telephone
company office, paying their phone bills but withholding the 10% excise tax,
which is used to finance the war in Vietnam.
The group then walked to the nearest post office, and used the tax money to
send money orders to the Canadian Friends Service Committee for the purchase
of medical supplies for Vietnam. Nonpayment of telephone tax is a federal
offense, and the government also could construe the contributions to the
Canadian Friends as a violation of the “trading with the enemy” act.
There are thousands of phone tax refusers — though in most cases the
government gets its money without legal prosecution. The Internal Revenue
Service can attach bank accounts or pay checks in order to collect its money.
Many tax refusers pay the tax voluntarily after they receive two or three
bills from the Internal Revenue Service. In any case, the administrative costs
involved in collection are almost always many times higher than the typical
monthly phone tax of two or three dollars.
I’ve written before about the ideas being developed in Spain under the
desobediencia integral (comprehensive disobedience) and
desobediencia económica (economic disobedience) banners. Among
these are the idea that grassroots, radically democratic assemblies and
projects can better become sustainable if they are funded by what the activists
are currently misdirecting to the government as taxes. They recommend
redirecting your taxes into such projects.
I found a possible ancestor of this idea in
an old issue of Liberation ().
It comes from an otherwise unremarkable article by Arthur Waskow about ideas
for strengthening what he calls “the movement,” one of which is:
Arrangements should be made for a movement “investment bank” — that is, a
way of channeling new investment money into important new business areas.
“Important,” of course, not by profit standards but by political ones — and
the “bank” board should be chosen by the major movement groupings and by the
businesses extending their credit. (The proposed Peace Tax Commission,
intended to decide where war tax refusers who want to contribute their money
to useful purposes can best do so, might be a prototype of such a movement
Waskow was one of the signers of the “Writers & Editors War Tax Protest”
the year before, so he had some familiarity with the war tax resistance
movement of that period.