Fifth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Hondarribia, Spain 1994

About Insumisión

Report on Rafa Sainz de Roza's lecture about Insumisión

September 15, 1994

Reported by Joy

Rafa Sainz de Rozas addressed the group of delegates who had arrived on this date for the Conference, as we met in Pake Leku. Rafa is a young lawyer, who has been a leader in the group of those who publicly express their conscientious objection to the military in Spain. They are known as ‘Insumisos’.

He began with a brief history of their campaign, prefacing it with the statement that Spanish law is militaristic and harsh although the government's legislation regarding CO status is roughly the same as in the rest of Europe. He added that the Spanish Army is not popular in his country.

The Spanish COs wanted to make a collective stand to change the law. They recognized that to be successful, they must begin with raising awareness of the people to this issue. From 1977 the movement began to grow and in 1984 the government was preparing to pass a law to allow exemption on deep religious conviction, and only after an examination on their consciences by the authorities. It was as if you had eye trouble smiled Rafa. If the CO passed this exam they were assigned to alternate service: 9 months of military service would be replaced with 13 months of alternative service.

The COs said No! to this proposal, and insisted that they be able to choose not to serve without penalty. For seven years young men and women have been going to jail for 1-6 years terms for their disobedience to this law. They have written to the government to inform them that they will submit to no exam on conscience.

The criminal courts where these COs were tried, were finding that the sentences were light, so the government made them more severe. The group of activists proposed, to all COs on trial, that they bring to the court a minimum of four witnesses who would speak publicly to verify the CO status of the individual being tried. This was their method of multiplying the numbers of people who were publicly making statements on this issue. 8,000 have faced the courts, with 4 times that number bearing witness. Still at least 170 remain in jail.

To gather support in the communities for their stand against having to pay the penalty of alternative service, they embarked on a vigorous educational campaign. They went into the high schools to speak to the young students. They worked with unions (e.g. teacher's) and other organizations to persuade them not to accept alternative service COs for employment so that they are not supporting the penalty theory. This appears to be working well, and the general public awareness is growing.

Now the emphasis for this group is on Global Civil Disobedience. It was in this regard that Rafa urged all of the delegates at the Vth International Conference on Peace Tax to inspire others to work toward the shared goal of final and complete demilitarization of our nations.

About the ‘insumisión’

The Spanish group on War Tax Resistance and, among them, the group of Pamplona-Iruñea was charged to prepare the Vth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns. That's what we have been doing and we have tried to separate it from any other thing. That's why we have been reluctant until now to tell you about the ‘insumisión’, but the date of our meeting is coming and we realize that when you arrive you will find hundreds of conscientious objectors imprisoned in Spain. We must explain this to you! So I asked Pedro Oliver to write a short explanation about this for you.

In my own town there are more than 100 conscientious objectors in prison. Pedro is one of them. Last August, Justice Minister decided to give to all the insumisos the third degree, that is, he allowed them to leave the prison in the morning but they must go back at night. In this way, the minister tried to reduce the social answering against the imprisonment of insumisos, but that was not a real solution and last December the insumisos decided to break down the third degree, they decided to put in practice, once again, the principle of non-cooperation. One Sunday, 33 of them rested in different houses and on Monday they appeared behind the mass media explaining it and went to a public place (a church) waiting for the government reaction. On Tuesday, the police went there and caught them. Now this 33 have lost the opportunity of leaving the prison at day, but they have put the problem in the right place: the government must give a political solution to the problem of insumisos and any kind of distraction will be publicly denounced.

The only political solution to this problem is the abolition of the military service and the insumisos have done a great step towards it. At the end of February some other insumisos will object, once again, the third degree. Pedro will be one of them. We are remembering the death of Gandhi these days, but the insumisos have Gandhi in mind every day with their non-violent struggle.

Maybe that we have exceeded our coordinating work with these lines, but we are sure you will understand us.

Dear friends:

Our shared friend Pedro has asked me to explain something that could be shocking to those who have never heard about it: In the Spanish State there are more than a hundred young people in jail for having refused going to the military service.

How is it possible the existence of so many conscientious prisoners in an European country? In fact, we consider ourselves as conscientious objectors. And that's why we have disobeyed the laws that are trying to decide over our conscience. We are anti militarist following a non-violent campaign of civil disobedience against the legislation on military service and conscientious objection. This campaign has been promoted since 1989 by the Movement on Conscientious Objection (MOC) and supported by all kind of social, politic, trade unions and religious groups. This campaign has become really popular and it maintains several political, juridical and sociological discussions about its nature as a new social phenomenon and about the strength of the movement that is promoting it. This is known by the name of ‘insumisión’ (total resistance) and that's why its protagonists are usually called ‘insumisos’.

But you probably ask yourselves the reason why the MOC has promoted a so important disobedience campaign. We have to think of the wide experience against military legislation and conscientious objection that the MOC and other anti militarist groups have showing the actual function of the civil service, substitute of the military service. There was a large amount of discussions in this movement to conclude that this substitute service's aim was not only to limit the conscientious objectors dissidence but also to support the thing that was the main objective of our objection: the military service. Together with this generic and anti militarist critics, it's obvious that the substitutory service affects negatively the employment efforts and reproduce the militarist patterns, its disciplinary rules are even harder than the military ones,...

With this reasons clear, the MOC started, before 1989 and while the law on Conscientious Objection was being appealed by the Spanish Ombudsperson, to set up the two main basis for the success of the civil disobedience of the objectors: to promote among the NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) the no-cooperation with the substitutory service and to create a wide social support by giving all the information that was possible. Thanks to the non-cooperation of a wide majority of social organizations that could have received objectors, the PSS has been placed at a stale-mate. The Spanish army, after a not very far dictatorship, are not very well thought of, and neither is the army service. Meanwhile the anti militarist movement has kept on growing and thousands of youth have decided to be conscientious objectors (more than 60.000 last year). At the same time, the substitute service can offer only a few thousand of places, some of these being objected by the ‘insumisos’.

Knowing this reasoning, you will understand that the civil disobedience to the military and its substitutory service have unusual and encouraging characteristics: nowadays we are more than 9.000 the insumisos that are prepared to assume jail punishments between 12 and 28 months. We don't see the prison as something traumatic in our lives. The main thing is that disobeying in a so pedagogical way and assuming the responsibility of our act, we have generate a wide social debate about the abolition of the military conscription and about the pernicious consequences of the militarism and the army for the human kind and the nature. At the same time, we, the objectors ‘insumisos’, feel as a part of a wide social movement that promotes the demilitarization and solidarity face the unfairness: we know that the only way for non military needings, the only way to peace is the practice of justice. And I'm sure that all you, the workers on war tax resistance and peace tax funds, think the same. I wish you the best for your next meeting here, in the Spanish State.

Pamplona-Iruñea, January 28, 1994.

Pedro Oliver

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