Hey War Tax Resisters: You Aren’t Hard Core Enough!

It isn’t too often that someone from outside the war tax resistance movement looks in and says “y’all just aren’t standing up to power enough — don’t be such a bunch of appeasing weenies.”

Barry Loberfeld’s up to the challenge, though. He’s written An Open Letter to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, challenging them to support people whose consciences lead them to withdraw support from the whole government, not just that part of it that engages in foreign wars.

Loberfeld quotes the War Resisters League Appeal to Conscience in support of war tax resisters (the one that I critiqued here two years ago), and argues that if it asserts an individual right to “withhold his person and property from the war effort of the State” why stop there? Why not stand up for the right of individuals to decide wholly for themselves, using their consciences, the disposition of their person and property?

To put it as directly as possible, will the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee “publicly declare” its “encouragement of, and willingness to lend support to, those persons of conscience who choose to take this step”?

“The War Resisters League affirms that all war is a crime against humanity” — so reads its credo. But it is all-too-obvious that its supporters oppose only foreign militarism. They actually advocate domestic militarism, the deployment of armed forces by the State against its own citizens. Their “pacifist” position rejects retaliation by “the army” against invading soldiers, but sanctions the use of coercion by “the police” against people who have themselves committed no violence. How can we pretend that the violence of domestic militarism — even when we call this state coercion “socialism,” “progressivism,” “egalitarianism,” or any other inane misnomer — is not real violence? Are its weapons less real? Its jails? (Of course not, which is precisely why the Appeal acknowledges the “personal risks” of refusing to obey the orders of those who command the weapons.) And how could anyone justify this violence?…

I challenge the War Resisters League and its supporters to fully become good neighbors and really oppose “all war” — not only the war the State wages against other nations, but also the one it wages against its people and their lives and property. A world without domestic militarism is simply a world without violence. To imagine that it will also be a world without justice, prosperity, cooperation, and compassion, is to proclaim that violence the font of these values — as absurd, cynical, and ultimately obscene a statement as one could make.

I think that Mr. Loberfeld has some good points, but I also think that he is mischaracterizing the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee based on one document (and conflating it with the War Resisters League to boot). In my experience, NWTRCC is and historically has been a welcome place for anarchists and other people who oppose the current government entirely, as well as for those who are enthusiastic statists but oppose specific wars or war in general.

I suppose it could tighten its doctrine (though I think the statists might win out by force of numbers in such a battle at this stage) or splinter into statist and anarchist groups, but I don’t think that would help much.

What the many ideologies represented in NWTRCC can agree on is the need for conscientious people to reduce the amount of money that they’re paying for the government’s wars and bloated military budgets. And NWTRCC provides a good organizing focus and information clearinghouse for us.

Should statist war tax resisters become more skeptical of government in general and less supportive of it? Of course they should. But that’s going to take some convincing.

The National Priorities Project have released their analysis of the budget, and hope to answer the question Where Do Your Taxes Go? For methodological reasons, they settle on a lower percentage of your tax dollar going to the military than do the War Resisters League in their pie chart. For instance, they put veterans’ benefits in its own category and they don’t include any of the interest on the debt as a military expense.