RIP Joffre: A tireless resister — who could try patience

Joffre Stewart died in his hometown Chicago at age 93 on March 12. He became a dedicated nonviolent resister to war and injustice out of a short stint in the military during WWII when he went to prison for going AWOL. Early on he found his political home with the revolutionary pacifism and direct action of Peacemakers, a group founded in the late 1940s by Ernest and Marion Bromley and Juanita and Wally Nelson. He carried his anarchist-pacifist politics with him for the rest of his life, although Joffre was not someone who fit easily into a group. He was a poet and might have known every open mic poetry night in Chicago; he had a great voice for recitation, […]

Public vs. Quiet Resistance

Making your war tax resistance public brings attention to the harm caused by militarism and military spending, can help galvanize others to action against war, and encourages civil disobedience. However, many resisters, for whatever reason, choose not to be outspoken and public about their refusal to pay war taxes. A few months ago, the war tax resistance e-mail discussion list took up this topic of public resistance when discussing how to deal with NWTRCC archival materials, including correspondence. Several resisters expressed concern about a trend of people wanting to remain private about their resistance, associating relative quietness with an lack of willingness to take responsibility for their actions. Indeed, a hallmark of “civil disobedience” as a concept is choosing to […]

Ammon Hennacy’s “One-Man Revolution”

Ammon Hennacy: The Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist

A man asked me: “Why does a fellow like you—with an education, and who has been all over the country—end up in this out-of-the-way place, working for very little on a farm?” I explained that people who had good jobs in factories had a withholding tax for war taken from their pay, and that people who worked on farms had no tax taken from their pay. I told him that I refused to pay taxes. He was a returned soldier, and said that he did not like war either, but what could a fellow do about it? I replied that we each did what we really wanted to. ―Ammon Hennacy, The Book of Ammon Ammon Hennacy refused to pay war taxes […]

Ammon Hennacy and other early modern war tax resisters

NWTRCC network member David Gross has been working to release the enormous volume, The Book of Ammon, a collection of writings by the Christian anarchist Ammon Hennacy, as a free e-book. This book, currently out of print, is a fascinating look at a man famous for his draft resistance, his war tax resistance, and his involvement with the Catholic Worker movement. I’m one of the test readers of the book, looking for typos (Hennacy wasn’t much for proofreading!). A few items caught my interest, and I’d like to share some additional research. 1. Ammon Hennacy repeatedly states that he turned to farm work, after leaving his job as a social worker in 1942, because it was the only kind of […]

Service and agitation on LA’s Skid Row

Book review: Dietrich, Jeff. 2011. Broken and Shared: Food, Dignity, and the Poor on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Marymount Institute Press / Tsehai Publishers. In 1970, Jeff Dietrich was a young draft resister who had just returned to the United States from traveling in Europe. He heard about the Catholic Worker movement at a Peacemakers conference in St. Louis, and set out for the Los Angeles Catholic Worker to learn more. For the last 45 years, he has been dedicated to the various projects of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker (LACW). Community members live on low incomes in solidarity with the poor. LACW, in keeping with the teachings of Dorothy Day, does not have tax-exempt status. LACW is noted for […]

Martin Sheen backs this war-tax-resisting group

Catholic Worker logo in a woodcut black-and-white art style. Showing a cross behind Jesus in the center, with a light-skinned woman on the left holding a basket and carrying a baby on her back, and a dark-skinned man on the right holding a pickaxe.

Since I joined the war tax resistance movement, I’ve had many opportunities to get to know friends in the Catholic Worker houses around the country, including in New York City, Milwaukee, and Las Vegas. Catholic Worker houses offer a place to sleep, meals, and/or support for those in need, which may include homeless, poor, mentally ill, or refugee persons. Some houses run farms or cottage industries. Recently I learned that the actor Martin Sheen is a Catholic Worker supporter. I’ve been reading Los Angeles Catholic Worker Jeff Dietrich’s book Broken and Shared: Food, Dignity, and the Poor on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, a compilation of Dietrich’s essays in the Catholic Agitator over 40 years. Martin Sheen wrote the foreword. Sheen ate meals […]

Spanish Tax Resisters Take Collective Action: An Interview with Enric Duran

On October 1, 2014, I had a Skype chat with Enric Duran, an extremely active organizer in the Spanish tax resistance and collective economy movements. Enric is a key organizer of Derecho de Rebelión (Right of Rebellion), a movement about which David Gross has reported to us before. Derecho de Rebelión arose in response to the Spanish government’s prioritizing of foreign debt over the provision of public services. The movement has created Offices of Economic Disobedience in cities around Spain, which  have open hours and various activities to provide advice and encouragement to people considering tax resistance. (You can read David’s article on that movement here. If you read Catalan or Spanish, check out the Manual of Economic Disobedience on […]

Resistance, Redirection, and Revolution: Tabling at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair

Tabling at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair this weekend, I realized again that anti-war activism is only part of the picture in modern war tax resistance. With so many problems in the world, with so much reporting and news from the proliferation of modern media sources online, it’s hard to know where to focus. Not only that, but it may not be in our best interest to focus too narrowly. Because anarchists acknowledge the interconnectedness of economic, social, and military issues with the functions of capitalism and the state. I usually don’t have to explain the concept of war tax resistance in much depth. They are usually supportive, if not always personally interested. I don’t get pushback on the level that […]

Summer Travel: Destination Wisconsin

Family related activities got me out of New York City a week ago and into Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Given the timing of my flights I realized I could fit in a visit or two with people in our war tax resistance network, so I made some contacts and set up a couple meetings. We are very lucky to count among the friends of NWTRCC, Phillip Runkel, an archivist with the Special Collections and University Archives at Marquette University. I made an appointment to visit Phil at the Archives in Raynor Memorial Library. Thanks to my name being on a visitors’ list, I cleared the front desk and headed to the archives. First I ran into a display on Catholic Worker and […]

WRL Pie Chart — Escape from Responsibility?

A Distraction from Direct Action? Since the 1970s the War Resisters League’s annual Federal Tax Pie Chart has been a very effective vehicle to channel outrage and protest, by radicals and liberals alike, against U.S. wars and military spending. However, I’ve recently come to realize that all too often the pie chart (as well as similar analyses from FCNL, AFSC, National Priorities Project, and even the OMB) has been used as a means to avoid taking action or, at least, direct action. Having these obscene specific dollar figures and percentages readily displayed can be seductive (even mesmerizing): billions of dollars going to this or that imperialist war or horrible weapons system. Though this can spur people to lobby Congress or the President, generate letters to the editor, and even provide […]

Resisting Authority: Tony Serra

Our October 16 Twitter post shared some information about J. Tony Serra, a criminal defense lawyer who is also a war tax resister. Serra has successfully defended several unpopular people in his career, including Huey Newton of the Black Panther Party, and Chol Soo Lee, involved in a San Francisco Chinatown murder. This latter case was the basis for the 1989 film True Believer, in which James Woods played a lawyer based on Serra. Serra has been convicted for his war tax resistance three times, and spent four months in prison after a 1974 conviction for “failure to file” his tax return, as well as nine months in prison in 2005-2006 for a misdemeanor of “failure to pay” $44,000 in taxes. In […]