An inventory as of October 29th 1988: What is happening at this moment?
In the USA: Activities registered of about 100 groups. No specific highlights. A peak period was during the Vietnam War, when many people withheld taxes on their telephone bills. But, still, a lot is going on now, too. The lobby in Washington consistently picks up momentum. And because of that, other forms of resistance also increase. As penalties for tax evasion get stiffer, the penalties for Conscientious Objectors refusing taxation for war also increase. There are plans to hold another conference on conscience in 1990.
In the Netherlands: there is a noticeable decline of activities since the signing of the INF Treaty. At this moment discussions are under way about new plans. New strategies are being explored. Particularly the link between Disarmament and Development is being stressed. In the Netherlands tax withholding takes place, not only on income tax, but also on road tax and the VAT of the energy bills.
There are a number of employers (including BWD itself) who refuse to withhold income tax of conscientious employees.
In the Federal Republic of Germany: a decline of the general interest in tax actions started already in 1983 when the government announced the deployment of Pershings as a definite fact. In that period conscientious objectors refused to pay their road tax on a once a year basis. The revenue service did not react as the amounts involved were too small and the activity slowly dwindled. On September 1st, 1988 the Peace initiative group started with its new action.
In Sweden: a committee would be inaugurated as of November 1st, 1988.
In the United Kingdom: Work for recognition through legislation has top priority. 86 out of a total of 650 Members of Parliament have been approached. Many of these still have questions as to the effect, as a precedent, related to legislation for our type of conscientious objection.
To effectively withhold taxes is very difficult in the UK. Most people Pay as They Earn (known as PAYE). The juridical authorities (and politicians as well) fail to see a relationship between the levying of taxes and the way tax money is being spent. Withholding taxes therefore goes hand in hand with exercising pressure on government and parliament.
In Denmark: no activities can be reported.
What has happened since Tübingen?
We decided then that the International Newsletter of the War Resisters International (WRI) would be used as an international platform for the exchange of information and discussion. There have been some problems with the administration but Veronica expressed hope that these shortly would be overcome. It is up to the various groups now to see and to pinpoint the more important issues for the Newsletter.
Translations into English would be helpful, but are not necessary. And the possibility for direct exchanges of information between countries also remains open.
Having heard a briefing of the BWD about an International Peace Fund in Tübingen there appeared to be no major support for the idea of realising such a project. In the UK there is not even a local Peace Fund yet, nor are there any plans to get one started in the near future. As an alternative we now talked about the possibility to support one particular project internationally. It ought to be related to tax withholding for war purposes. It might mean that countries where there is no local Peace Fund yet could also participate. Ed Pearson proposed in relation with his ideas about world citizenship to choose a project that in itself also would be international in scope. It was agreed to elaborate this proposal in a separate workshop.
International day, September first:
In the Federal Republic of Germany on September 1st, 1988 a new activity was launched.
In the Netherlands on September 1st, 1987 the BWD offered a cheque for the contents, at that moment, of the Peace Fund to the Prime Minister, Mr. R. Lubbers. He declined to accept the cheque. On the same date in 1988 a proposal for legislation for the recognition of conscientious objectors to taxes for war purposes was presented to members of parliament.
In the USA September 1st is not a good day: people tend to be still away on holidays. A more suitable date would be April 14th, when the tax return forms have to be mailed. So this year they limited the action on September 1st to extensive information about the international scene in their newsletter.
It might be helpful to have one new item of interest on which to focus the activities internationally. Or to seek donations for the new international project around that date. It was agreed for the near future to hang on to September 1st as the International War Tax Day.
So far this has dealt with concrete matters, but in our summing up we found Tübingen also to have been important because of its international outreach. It helps us in our motivation to realize that we are working in quite a number of different countries towards one common goal. In this vein it was considered to repeat these conferences at regular intervals and the workshop formulated a request to come together again in about two years from now.