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Human Rights for Everybody

To the Editors:

I have attached a statement I hope you can print in the NYR. It is a message to the Human Rights Conference in Paris, December 17 and 18. It comes from a number of prominent left activists in human rights struggles who have worked in the United States.

The Paris conference was called by left and libertarian organizations and individuals, including the International Committee Against Repression, the International Federation For Human Rights, the National Education Federation (F.E.N.—the teachers’ union), and the C.F.D.T. (the second largest labor federation in France).

The organizers are seeking participation from similar forces throughout Europe for an independent body that will review compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords by the thirty-five signatory governments.

This Paris conference was intended to parallel the official meetings in Belgrade where the thirty-five signatory governments’ representatives are supposed to discuss progress in the implementation of the Helsinki Accords.

I hope you will be able to help us publicize this expression of solidarity with human rights struggles in the east and in the west.

Marilyn Vogt

Brooklyn, New York

The Belgrade meetings are supposed to assess progress in the implementation of the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. As first-hand witnesses of and participants in the struggles for human and democratic rights in the United States, we can tell you that Washington and its allied governments have made no meaningful progress. Therefore, we salute your challenge to the United States government’s claim, as well as the claims of the other governments at Belgrade, that they defend human rights.

We hope you will convey our message to all those struggling for human and democratic rights in Europe—in the east as well as in the west: “Do not be fooled by Carter’s statements on human rights.”

The Wilmington Ten are not fooled, ten civil rights activists who were framed up and jailed. The three people who testified against them have now admitted they did so under police pressure and that their testimony was lies. Yet the government attorney of North Carolina, after meeting with Carter’s Attorney General Bell, refuses to reopen the case. Nine of the Wilmington Ten are now serving a combined total of 282 years in prison simply because they were active in the movement against the national oppression of Black people in the United States.

The Four Puerto Rican Nationalists are not fooled. They are today the longest-held political prisoners in the Western hemisphere. The Carter government refuses to amnesty them.

Paul Skyhorse and Richard Mohawk, presently fighting a government frame-up murder charge, and Leonard Peltier, recently sentenced to a life term of imprisonment as a result of another US government frame-up charge, are but three of the hundreds of American Indian activists who have been systematically persecuted by the Washington government in recent years—or killed under mysterious circumstances. They are not fooled by Carter’s statements of concern over violations of human rights.

Neither are the thousands of anti-war activists, Black freedom fighters, feminists, socialists, and others who fight for social change and who know that President Jimmy Carter and the US government continue to cover up illegal CIA and FBI surveillance and harassment of their activities and murderous attacks on their organization and leaders. The government’s own documents have proven its systematic efforts to disrupt, destroy, and introduce violence into movements for civil rights and social change in the US. These documents became known as a result of the Watergate and subsequent revelations. Yet the Carter administration resists attempts by groups like the Political Rights Defense Fund and the National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case for a full disclosure of the U.S. government’s illegal acts.

Thousands of foreign-born workers, driven to seek jobs in the United States illegally because US corporations perpetuate poverty in these workers’ home countries, live in subhuman conditions in the United States, subject to deportation by the US government if they dare to stand up for their human and democratic rights. These foreign-born workers hear hypocrisy in Carter’s human rights statements.

There are 40 million poor Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian-American people. They are not fooled either. They are without employment opportunities, decent housing, or proper medical care, and have no way of emerging from poverty. They are suffering still more as the government continues to attack their hard-won rights to affirmative action in employment, education, and housing. Carter asks them to “tighten their belts” for the sake of higher corporate profits.

Women, struggling to defend their reproductive freedom (to defend their right to abortion, which is presently under attack, and to defend themselves from government-forced sterilization programs at home and abroad), to win ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and to win funding for expansion of child-care facilities are not fooled.

And millions of workers, peasants, and intellectuals around the world know the truth about the priority of human rights in United States foreign policy because they live under brutally repressive regimes the United States government props up in Iran, Chile, Brazil, South Korea, Argentina, South Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, and elsewhere.

We have called your attention to the US government’s hypocrisy in claiming to uphold human rights. We also denounce the violations of the principles of socialist democracy in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

We condemn:

The imprisonment of Helsinki Watch Group members and of the thousands of others who are now confined in labor camps, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals in the USSR because they oppose that government’s repression and raised their voice in defense of democratic rights.

The arrest and imprisonment of those who fight against national oppression in the USSR, like Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev and the Jewish rights activist Anatoly Shcharansky.

The firing and imprisonment of Polish workers for protesting bureaucratically-imposed price increases in June 1976 and demanding democratic rights.

The persecution and even murder of those in Poland, like the student Slanislaw Pyjas, who defended the victimized Polish workers.

The arrest, harassment, and expulsion of the signers of the Czechoslovak human rights manifesto Charter 77 and of its sympathizers in Rumania, Yugoslavia, and other East European countries.

The expulsion of Wolf Biermann from East Germany because of his outspoken support for socialism and democracy.

The real allies of those fighting for democracy in the east and in the west are those—progressive forces in the ranks of organized labor, the socialist movement, among women, and among oppressed nationalities—who challenge violations of human rights around the world.

Your initiative is proof of our growing numbers.

We wish you success and extend our solidarity.

Emil de Antonio, film director; Dore Ashton,1 art critic; Reza Baraheni, poet and former Iranian political prisoner; Norma Becker, chairperson of War Resisters League;2 Eric Bentley,3 author and playwright; Philip Berrigan, antiwar activist; Alvah Bessie, writer and one of the Hollywood Ten; Noam Chomsky, linguist, professor at MIT; Martin Duberman,4 historian and playwright; Richard Falk, professor of International Law at Princeton University; Luis Fuentes, professor at University of Massachusetts; Allen Ginsberg,5 poet; Armando Gutierrez, Texas La Raza Unida Party; Jim Haughton, leader of Fight Back in Harlem; Julius Jacobson, editor, New Politics magazine; Paul Jarrico, Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted in 1950s; Patrick Lacefield, staff member of WIN Magazine; David McReynolds, Socialist Party—USA; Albert Maltz,6 writer and one of the Hollywood Ten; Paul Mayer, theologian, New York Theological Seminary; Joan Mellen, film critic; Gaudencio Thiago de Mello, Brazilian composer; Kate Millett, feminist author; George Novack, Marxist scholar; Grace Paley, author, War Resisters League; Juan Jose Peña, 7 New Mexico La Raza Unida Party; Willie Mae Reid, Socialist Workers Party; Ralph Schoenman, organizer of the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal; Afeni Shakur, National Task Force for COINTELPRO Litigation; Lumumba Shakur, one of the Black Panther 21 defendants; David Thorstad, gay activist, writer; Gary Tyler/Eusi Kuumba, Black youth framed up for murder, now imprisoned in Louisiana; George Wald, biologist, Nobel Prize Winner; Howard Zinn, professor of history, Boston University

  1. 1

    Signed with reservations as to style.

  2. 2

    Organizations listed for identification purposes only.

  3. 3

    Signed with reservations as to style.

  4. 4

    Signed with reservations as to style.

  5. 5

    Signed with reservations as to style.

  6. 6

    Signed with reservations as to style.

  7. 7

    Signed with reservations as to style.

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