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War Tax Resistance (1969)

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?

Source: A Fund for Mankind by Karl Meyer,
Catholic Worker Oct-Nov 1969

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