Germany Country Report Number 1: Netzwerk Friedenssteuer Deutschland

by Christa Voigt and Uta Pfefferle

The 8th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns is approaching and gives us the opportunity to report on the activities of the German Peace Tax Movement NETZWERK FRIEDENSSTEUER during the last two years.

Some of us are still involved in court cases against the Internal Revenue Service. The conflict is increasing since instead of disarmament the reorganization of military defense towards ‘crisis intervention forces’ is being pushed. Another strong reason is the great indignation at NATO operations during the Kosovo war. Some friends in the Network have become competent with regard to court cases. So they are able to give support to others.

In this context I wish to mention our folder:

Kriegsdienst ist weit mehr als Soldat-Sein. - Durch unsere Steuerzahlungen sind wir alle, Männer und Frauen, an Rüstung und Kriegsvorbereitungen beteiligt. - Das wollen wir ändern” “Military service is far more than being a soldier.

By paying taxes all of us, men and women, participate in armament and war preparation. - This we wish to change”.

The folder has been designed as a loose-leaf collection, which enables us to change and supplement it as needed. Headings of the leaflets are: “The History of War Tax Resistance”, “Legal Proceedings with Regard to Withholding Taxes on Reasons of Conscience”, “What everybody can do”, “Peace Tax International”,“ Campaigning for a Peace Tax Bill,” “Taxes to Ploughshares”, addresses and a list for orders. The Newsletter “Netzwerk Friedenssteuer Nachrichten” informs twice a year about activities of the Network Council and about the work and actions in the regional groups and in special fields.

We have national meetings twice a year. Spring meeting is organized by the ecumenical campaign “Taxes to Ploughshares”, which is part of NETZWERK FRIEDENSSTEUER.

A highlight at Whitsun 1998 was our participation in the “European Congress for Peace and Conscientious Objectors” in Osnabrück, Germany. This Congress has its historical roots in the “Treaty of Westphalia”, settled in Osnabrück and Munster after the 30 Years War in 1648. Under the headline “Perspectives of Pacifist Action - Practical peace policy through civil intervention in everyday life” our concern was well placed.

In preparation for the Congress a Memorandum was written. It includes an appeal for “the creation of legal provisions to allow citizens to decide freely to pay that part of their taxes, which would normally be spent on the military into a fund to finance a military-free peace policy”. In the final declaration our concern was adopted by the whole congress. During the congress we had a stand informing about war tax resistance and peace tax campaigns. There we demonstrated for instance the proportion of military taxes that everybody is paying for products and food every day. With this true to life presentation we came in good contact with visitors.

In the final report of the Peace Congress an appeal in favour of the Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund quotes Paul Oestreicher saying: Tax refusal is the modern form of refusing military service. It was written as a result of a congress preparatory meeting of activists from peace tax fund groups in Berlin in April 1998.

As CPTI has recommended we sent a German version of the Commitment 2000 to all members together with the “Netzwerk Nachrichten”, recommending to sign it and to add as a personal contribution a commitment similar to the following: I will support the aim, that people may not be forced against their conscience to do military service or to pay for military services with their taxes.

We have decided to work again towards a Peace Tax Bill. In 1986 and 1991 the Green Party already presented a bill in parliament which gained little support. A small team of active peace tax campaigners is working again on various forms of Peace Tax Bills and methods of political campaigning. However, in the first run we do not plan to present a well defined law proposal but will rather raise the question to MP's of how the constitutional right of freedom of conscience could become effective for conscientious objectors to military taxes. Thus we hope to provoke more activity and, eventually, involvement on their part. Only then (and on request) we plan to present law proposals which have been worked on before in Germany and in other countries, e.g. The Netherlands, GB and USA. Besides lobbying Members of Parliament we are trying to gain as much public support as possible from different religious, political and peace groups and well known personalities. The whole issue of war tax refusal and its discussion in society hopefully will lead to more awareness and support among citizens and bring us closer to the goal of a Peace Tax Fund.

Freiburg, Monday 28 February 2000