Digging through Back Issues from the Radical Press

This dispatch comes from the newly-released archives of the “Liberation News Service” — a radical alternative press association. It is dated :

Hang Up On War Day

 — 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 witholding 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 “bank”.)

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.

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