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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ammon Hennacy's "One Man Revolution."

As some in the peace movement decide to take a break from their vigils because a Democrat is in the White House, we could all learn from past antiwar activists who, though they faced much greater odds, refused to become complacent or apathetic.

One of the best examples is Ammon Hennacy. If Hennacy were alive today, he’d probably be a blogger and a darn good one too. Blogging would have seemed an ideal way to promote his “One Man Revolution.” Like starting a blog, the strategy he advocated was open to everyone. For him, it required nothing more than a homemade sign, some stationary, a stamp, and a pen.

Hennacy spent decades promoting his own special brand of Christian anarchism, tax resistance, and pacifism. He was born on July 24, 1893 on a farm near Negley, Ohio. His ancestors were abolitionists and a picture of John Brown was on the parlor wall. As a young adult, he became a socialist and refused to register for the draft during World War I. While there, one of his cellmates, the famous Alexander Berkman, converted him to anarchism.

During World War II, Hennacy did not flinch in his pacifist views. He not only refused to register for the draft but announced that he would not pay his income taxes. He also avoided tax liability through a life of voluntary poverty, reliance on barter, and advocacy of a decentralized economy based on mutual aid (shades of Karl Hess). During this period, he declared: “As a Christian Anarchist, I refuse to support any government, for, first, as a Christian, all government denies the Sermon on the Mount by a return of evil for evil in legislatures, courts, prisons, and war. As an anarchist I agree with Jefferson that ’that government is best which governs least.’”

During the Cold War, the one man revolution kicked into high gear. In 1950, for example, he led a one-man picket against nuclear tests. He declared, “I am not paying my income taxes this year, and I haven’t done so for the last seven years. I don’t expect to stop World War III by my refusal to pay, but I don’t believe in paying for something I don’t believe in-do you?“ During this period, Hennacy became increasingly friendly with Dorothy Day, who published the Catholic Worker. In 1964, he wrote a combination autobiography and political treatise, The Book of Ammon. He died in 1970. We need more of his kind today.


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