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The New Plight of the Praxis Professors

To the Editors:

The plight of the Belgrade professors, members of the highly regarded Yugoslav Praxis group, is already quite well known in this country. Although strongly defended by members of their department, faculty, colleagues, and students throughout Yugoslavia, and by international scholars, they were suspended in 1975 from Belgrade University in the Republic of Serbia. This was the same year in which the journal Praxis was suppressed and the Korcula summer school discontinued by Yugoslav authorities. For ten years prior to 1975 both the journal and the Korcula summer school had served as an open and free forum for many of the leading Marxist and non-Marxist thinkers from Eastern and Western Europe including Herbert Marcuse, Lucien Goldmann, Ernst Bloch, Erich Fromm, Jurgen Habermas, Tom Bottomore, and Agnes Heller.

Although the Belgrade professors were suspended in 1975, they have continued to function as a group and have fought for their rights in Yugoslav courts. They remain loyal Yugoslav citizens, committed to Marxist humanism and to the ideals of socialist self-management. The suspension and continued harassment of the Belgrade professors remains a serious blemish on the record of a country that has, not only by its steadfast resistance to Soviet Diktat but also by its innovative approach to domestic affairs, aroused hopes for freedom and democratic socialism in Eastern Europe.

After the death of Tito last May, some of the Belgrade professors anticipated that a process of liberalization would take place. There was hope that the professors would be reinstated in the University with full rights to teach and publish in Yugoslavia. But on June 5, 1980, a new law was passed in the Republic of Serbia that is directed against the Belgrade group and will have the consequence of firing them by December, 1980, without any further right of legal appeal.

This change in the law specifies that individuals who have been suspended for a period of two years must either find new work within six months or lose all rights as employees. Seven Belgrade professors (Zagorka Golubović, Mihailo Marković, Dragoljub Micunović, Nebojsá Popov, Svetozar Stojanović, Ljubomir Tadić, and Miladin Zitović) have for the past five years refused on principle to sever their tenuous connection with Belgrade University. They have refused to be intimidated and have fought a long legal battle for full reinstatement. We have recently received a moving summary of the legal appeal that they have made challenging the constitutionality of this latest change in the law. This most recent change (the law has been changed five times in the past five years) not only violates Yugoslav constitutional law, it clearly violates the international legal obligations that Yugoslavia has undertaken by signing the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the 1975 Helsinki Covenant on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Covenant of the International Confederation of Labor No. 111.

We are concerned that these circumstances should be widely known. We urge the appropriate authorities in the Republic of Serbia not only to repeal this new law, but to reinstate the Belgrade professors to their full rights as teachers and scholars at Belgrade University. We also urge all those who share our concern to communicate their support to the appropriate Yugoslav authorities. Letters may be sent to the Ambassador, Yugoslav Embassy, 2410 California Ave., N. W., Washington, DC 20008; the President of the Presidency of SR Serbia, Belgrade, Yugoslavia; and to the President of the Presidency of SFR Yugoslavia, Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

Richard J. Bernstein, Haverford College; Gary Bertsch, University of Georgia; John P. Burke, University of Washington; Peter Caws, City University of New York; Robert S. Cohen, Boston University; David Crocker, Colorado State University; Victor Gourevitch, Wesleyan University; Adolf Grünbaum, University of Pittsburgh; Loren Graham, MIT; Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University; Gerald Holton, Harvard University; Charles H. Kahn, University of Pennsylvania; Thomas S. Kuhn, MIT; Paul Kurtz, SUNY—Buffalo; Lyman H. Legters, University of Washington; Ralph Miliband, Brandeis University; Sidney Morgenbesser, Columbia University; David Paul, University of Washington; Richard Rorty, Princeton University; Richard Sens, MD, Boston Psychoanalytic Institute; Gerson Sher, McLean, Virginia; Robert C. Tucker, Princeton University

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