To the Editors:
Ernest Mandel, the noted European Marxist scholar, was barred from participating in a conference organized by the Graduate Students Association at Stanford University, California, October 17-18 where he was invited to debate Professor John Kenneth Galbraith of Harvard on “Technology and the Third World.” The United States State Department denied him permission for a four-day visit without any official explanation and persisted in its refusal despite protests from Stanford, Princeton and Harvard faculty members.
This is the latest of several such exclusions over the past year. The most publicized was the case of the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes who, on February 22, was prevented from docking in Puerto Rico. Even after protests by writers’ organizations, newspapers, publishers and high former government officials, formal permission to enter was withheld from him. In a March 5 editorial on this action the New York Times commented: “One sure way to tarnish the United States is for some bureaucrat to decide that a writer, painter or other artist is an “undesirable alien” because of his works or beliefs…. Congress ought to re-examine and eliminate these purposeless restrictions, which make the United States ridiculous rather than secure.”
The ban upon Ernest Mandel is especially arbitrary since he made a two-month tour of the United States last September-October, when he spoke at thirty universities from coast to coast. There is no doubt about his scholarly qualifications. He has an international reputation in the fields of economic history and theory. His major work, Marxist Economic Theory, has been published in many languages. Upon its recent appearance in the United States, Professor Robert Heilbroner of the New School for Social Research, wrote in the June 5, 1969 New York Review of Books that “the masterful re-presentation of Marxism by Ernest Mandel is as welcome as it will be indispensable.”
Yet the State Department decrees that, so far as it is concerned, he is no longer welcome in this country. As scholars and American citizens, we cannot permit “some bureaucrat to decide” whom we can or cannot hear any more than what we should read. We are able to read Mr. Mandel’s books and articles. We likewise insist on our right to hear him discuss these questions in person.
Ernest Mandel has been invited to speak at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Columbia, Amherst and the New School for Social Research in early December. He has also agreed to participate with other internationally esteemed scholars including Andre Gorz at a conference at Town Hall in New York November 29 under the joint auspices of the Socialist Scholars’ Conference and the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation on the subject of “Agencies of Social Change.”
We ask readers to join with us in signing the petition printed below which urges the United States State Department to rescind its ban and give Ernest Mandel a visa to come to this country for these engagements.
The issue at stake transcends the insulting treatment of a scholar of Mandel’s attainments or discrimination against his political beliefs and associations. It concerns the right of free communication and cultural exchange essential both to democracy and fruitful scholarly activity.
The petition follows:
Secretary of State William Rogers
United States State Department
We protest the exclusion of Ernest Mandel, the noted European Marxist scholar, from the Stanford University conference October 17-18 where he was to debate with Professor John Kenneth Galbraith of Harvard.
We request your Department to rescind the ban upon his entry and permit him to fulfill the academic and other speaking engagements scheduled here in late November and early December.
We find the arbitrary action of prohibiting scholars, writers, artists and other individuals from visiting this country because of their ideas or associations unjustified and intolerable on numerous grounds. Among them in this case is the infringement of our right to hear in person as well as to read what a scholar of Mr. Mandel’s qualifications has to say.
We urge an end to a policy that the New York Times, among others, has condemned as “a vestige of the restrictive era of the nineteen-fifties.”
Robert L. Heilbroner
Robert Paul Wolff
Letters of support and contributions may be sent to:
THE BERTRAND RUSSELL PEACE FOUNDATION of America Inc.
156 Fifth Avenue, Rm. 1003, New York,
November 20, 1969