Second International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns

Vierhouten, the Netherlands 1988

The State and Individual Responsibility

The chairperson desires the meeting to be divided into two parts, each part containing a question of the paper Thomas wrote. Thomas made a few remarks beforehand: The paper is written as a personal contribution; and it is written out of the Dutch situation in 1988 with Europe's economic coming together in 1992 in mind.

In explanation of question 1, Thomas called attention to the growing distance between citizen and state. He asked himself what the meaning of this (distance) is for our movement. We respect the state. But the decisions which the Dutch state takes can no longer be called Christian. It is directed on economic growth, a growing gap between rich and poor, between workers and unemployed. The state is losing her grip on a number of areas. The military and political systems operate internationally, what is still the authority of the state? In explanation of question 2, Thomas called attention to a united Europe in 1992. Our attitude should aim at working on a wider scope, by which he meant that our drive for peace should include the poor in the entire world.

One participant remarks that it is an important and fundamental paper, but clearly written from a socialist point of view. He remarks that the matter of violence or non-violence (item 3) is not thoroughly analyzed in the text.

Another participant remarks that in his view a united Europe is not a danger, as the paper suggests, but a conflict avoiding situation. Thomas explains that at this moment national governments can be reached reasonably easy, but what in 1992: who can we turn to then, who will be responsible?

Ed states that in the discussion two different approaches of this discourse are used by the participants: a more competitive approach (who's the enemy, what should be the strategy) and a more friendly peace loving one.

He feels his responsibility, as a peace taxpayer towards the state is in the first instance a personal one. How can I change something, for example, in ecological sense? He advocates his own initiatives to support; the movements ask theirs to support their initiatives. The courts and Revenue Service do nothing. Some people in America believe that paying for peace is more clearly for the public (Money is a strong tool). We should print and use our own money and peace cheques. The spending of money can be better controlled by paying for peace.

Another participant remarks that we should not discuss the right or wrong of European unity in this workshop. A European marriage or the United Nations: Is unification good or not?

Thomas adds to that the question: How do we refuse taxes in Europe 1992?

Someone reacts that it has nothing to do with the economic unity; the collective defence effort already exists. It is more important to know how independent each state as member of the community can act.

In contrast to the performing of protests, another remarks, why don't citizens make more use of the rights they all have? That could be lifesaving for ourselves.

Thomas again points out the different options he sees and wrote down in his paper: Do we hope for a new society or do we fight for a new society? He compares it to the violence or non-violence approach.

Someone reacts with the question: Is the state indeed our enemy? We are born in a capitalist society. A dialogue with the state is very necessary. Look, for instance, at the influence the Green Party has. It is really changing. At the end of the endeavour, glorious success! I think the state to be good for 90% and for 10% below standard. A more loyal attitude towards the state is desired.

Thomas disagrees; he thinks the state is going downhill towards chaos. Some agree with him, they believe the state to be fixed and hardly democratic. It was states that made the holocaust possible. Other participants believe that we should not destroy the state, but that there should be civil disobedience through alliances based on the conscience.

An optimistic approach in favour of the human race is desired, someone remarks. The greater the number of people that protests, the better. Individual protests simply raise more aggression. Sometimes I have the feeling I have too much expectations from democracy. We should keep both feet firmly on the ground and fight for more democracy.

Ed asks whether words like fighting, enemy and misery should not be banned from our way of thinking and speaking. He knows a man who carries with him a list of 17 words to make him happy at all time.

A participant remarks: We should ask ourselves: are the steps we take positive? In that way we need not be nervous if we miss a step. She is optimistic about human rights too, because sometimes there are unlooked for, indirect results.

Thomas explains that for him the state is one of the existing power centre and therefore the enemy. We want to change ourselves and change society, so the state has to change as well. He wants to listen to the increasing number of “after war” victims. He does not think that the state wants to or can change. It cannot control the process. In his opinion there is only one solution: the ideal socialism that can dominate the production. What do the Prophets have to say about this: No division of the merchandise itself, but division of the land etc. and of the benefits from that. From private to groups.

Someone replies that being in prison for a minor offence surprises those around you and causes them to think. Talking to people can make them think. Slowly they can come to a more positive approach and even change their opinion.

Not everyone agrees.

One of the participants states that the military effort is still increasing, while the mentality of people is not changing in his view. He thinks we need a new kind of thinking.

Ed mentions the Oxford Research Group, who is busy with new thinking. He thinks we have to increase our efforts to bring about a changing of mentality. As an abstract example he mentions the individual strength. As a concrete example he mentions the actions that have been going on for years at the nuclear power plant in New York. Money can only be spent once, so if the money is spent for peaceful purposes, it can't be spent on war (preparations) anymore. He is, however, not very optimistic about the present developments.

Someone remarks to that: Do we, as people, still know what we need? Our own activity, the purpose of our human activities, it was all very clear 100 years ago. But since then the connection diminished, does it still exists at all? And how do we imagine a world full of peace? Do the poor take from the rich? Or will the rich give to the poor?

The workshop ended with the conclusion that the key questions were not sufficiently discussed, nor was there time enough to discuss the six items of the paper one by one. Tax problems need a political, psychological and materialistic approach and dimension. The paper provided a good basis for discussion.