Tenth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Brussels, Belgium 2004
Focus, Variety and Change
By Pedro Otaduy (Spain)
I am Pedro Otaduy, from Spain. First of all I want to introduce myself. I am a teacher in a secondary school. In 1983 I joined the Spanish Movement on Conscientious Objection (MOC), a well known group because it has supported the big struggle against compulsory military service in Spain. Finally, the insumisos (total resisters) defeated the army and in 1999 military service disappeared.
The first Campaign on War Tax Resistance was held in Spain in 1984. Next year I started working on this field and until now I have been working on it. You have already received a previous report about how we do tax resistance in Spain that surely you have read, so I will talk about other aspects of our campaign.
The Spanish War Tax Resistance campaign is not organised by a group in the traditional sense. We have no structures, no chair and no staff. We have a big support from the MOC but we can be considered independent. In Pamplona, the town were I live, four years ago we were five people working and I was the only member of the MOC. Now, the other four friends are active in other issues and we are six people, all of the members of the MOC.
Our campaign is quite well defined. You can see in our previous report how do we work in War Tax Resistance. Now I will talk about other aspects of our work.
We used to meet twice a year in a national assembly. In Autumn we put together the results of the previous campaign and start outlining the next one. In January or February we meet to decide about concrete aspects of the next one. We meet or, better said, we used to meet, because now, for the past two years, we have done this work by e-mail. It's not the same, I don't like it. I prefer to meet in person, face to face. But times are changing.
The most important decision to take is which will be our next collective project. It's a hard decision. We think that it could receive 30,000€ and we are not used to work with this amount of money. It's very little compared with military budgets, but too much compared with our budget. Sometimes we say that it is a little bit contradictory: we are few people, we deflect very little money, but we are nearly to die because our success.
Spanish Income Tax season goes from the middle of April to the end of June. Our campaign has three phases. First, before the income tax season is open, spreading ideas: we talk with mass media, we prepare press releases, we send information to tax resisters and groups closely linked to us. Second phase, during the income tax season, we do public office: we stay once a week in our office giving help to those people who want do tax resistance. Third phase, after June, we collect the results of the campaign preparing statistics to be sent to mass media, tax resisters and other groups.
We have a clear problem: we manage to have contact with people that are already engaged (in antimilitarism or in other groups or issues as environment, social work, trade unions, internationalism,…) but it is very difficult for us to contact new people, that is, to the biggest part of the society.
I can give you an example: In Navarra thousand young people were insumisos (total resisters) against military service. More than five hundred spent 2 year, 4 month and 1 day in prison because of this. But we have never been more that two hundred tax resisters in Navarra. That is: there were families that had their son in prison and meanwhile still paying for military without any kind of resistance. Why?
We find two reasons: fear to the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) and the opinion that this is a way that will not bring us to the end of armies.
To be afraid of the IRS is logical: what we propose to do is quite serious. We say to the government that we don't agree with it. And that has its importance. That is why we propose it. And there is another thing: perhaps more than fear is just comfort. If we don't do anything we will have less troubles.
To say that by this way we will not reach our purposes is hard to ear. Insumisos (total resisters) showed us that is really possible to defeat the government by means of non-violent civil disobedience. We can not do civil disobedience on tax issues, but it is very important to be critical of the military budget. And the non co-operation that we propose has a big value in this way.
It's important to insist on this criticism. We are in campaign from April to June, but during all the year we have to be active. We have to be able to use tax resistance as a support of our criticism. We think that we have the right to refuse military expenditure and we are not few people, we are all the tax resisters and supporters that we have.
These are the ideas that we have in Spain when doing our work. You have seen: I have not even mentioned a legislative work. At the moment we don't do any work in the legislative field. We had a very bad experience with the law on Conscientious Objection (1983). It was really bad. But we were able to prepare a strategy against it and finally we won. In 1999, with the law, Spanish military compulsory service disappeared. Some day we will have to deal with this issue. I think that it will be in a long time. But we have something clear: The law must suppose a real reduction of military budgets.