Sustaining War Tax Resistance

Workshop Number 3

Led by Bill Ramsey

Bill began the session saying that he wasn't sure whether we were looking at how to sustain ourselves or the movement but that one cannot really separate the two. Bill suggested that we were not investigating the mechanics of resistance in any one country, rather we were thinking about attitudes and posture.

As we introduced ourselves, we shared our stories. Bill pointed out that such sharing is one way of sustaining WTR. Our group included some people just starting resistance, many long-termers, those who feel isolated or independent, and many of us who have support groups or are part of a loose community of resisters.

Bill had a number of good ideas based on his own experiences, which I'll list here for simplicity.

  • The boldness of your action serves to empower you.
  • If you need to step back, use your retreat as a form of outreach, i.e., have a public event to raise back taxes.
  • Use your redirection of taxes as a way to sustain you by getting to know the group receiving the money and having a ceremony to publicize it, or at least to acknowledge the action to the members of the group.
  • Be specific about your motivations: rethink and retell them.
  • During a difficult time, it is important to seek those with whom you can talk easily - “better to be in a nest than out on a limb.”
  • Share your experiences with international visitors who usually are incredulous, then very grateful, so that you are sustained by those who suffer from how your taxes are deployed.
  • Figure out a nominal way for people to begin, i.e., resisting $50 a year, so that more will be inclined to try out the act of resistance.

Participants shared the following ideas:

  • Opportunity to resist always comes again if you're not ready the first time.
  • The bailiff coming to your door to collect provides a chance to educate someone.

Lack of time prevented us from having as much dialogue as some participants desired. The term ‘workshop’ is defined and practiced differently in other countries and consequently, raises varying expectations for attendees. So perhaps the style of the ‘workshop’ should be clarified for future conferences. Our session also could have been divided into three parts after the initial presentation to allow people more time to share experiences, which is what we all want to do!

Betsy Corner, reporter