To the Editors:
Your readers may be interested in the following letter from a group now being organized to defend peoples and cultures whose existence is threatened. Those interested should get in touch with M. Cochin at the address listed below.
New School for Social Research
New York City
First of all, a few words to define this Action Committee for Ethnic Minorities and Aboriginal Populations in whose name we are writing.
It was formed very recently (end of January) on the basis of a text which we have included with this letter. Thirteen hundred copies of this text have been distributed in the various university establishments in Rennes and neighboring towns. At the moment the Committee consists of roughly ten active members: students of differing departments, a sociology lecturer; its means of action (action being the object of the exercise) are obviously extremely modest.
However, it is for very precise reasons that we have considered it necessary to publicize our existence as soon as possible. We consider that the most important and urgent political action that can be undertaken today is the struggle against ethnocide, no matter the form it takes and regardless of the country in which it takes place. It is indispensable that all acts of genocide should be denounced, that opinion should be alerted about all massacres and crimes against a specific culture, and at the present time all efforts in this direction remain insufficient; but all the publications, meetings, and radio/TV programs which discuss these questions would be ineffectual were it not for the presence here and there of people who actively oppose the dangers which the expansion of industrial society represents for ethnic minorities, and more especially for the weakest of them, tribal populations.
The problem is that this opposition is characterized by a lack of continuity, by a duplication of effort which greatly limits its efficiency. Up till now there has never been any kind of permanent liaison or global solidarity among those people who combat ethnocide.
We want therefore—and it’s the purpose of this letter—to take the initiative in instigating moves toward the coordination and continuity required by the great mass of actions carried out to defend peoples and cultures threatened with annihilation. Coordination on this scale will not be easy, of course; but the stakes are too high and the “March of progress” does not leave us enough time to continue with the presentday dispersion of effort and objectives.
In this direction, we think that at least among those anthropologists who refuse to countenance the continuation of generalized ethnocide, neither ideological conflict, nor personal differences, nor theoretical disputes should prevent any longer the conclusion of a pragmatic agreement whereby on-the-spot intervention and aid to resistance movements among tribal minorities would be needed.
Our obviously marginal situation does not allow us to hope that we could ever carry out the program described above on our own. If however you are interested in any of the ideas expressed here by us, would you please get in touch with us.
As far as we are concerned, we are capable of carrying out the following tasks:
—collecting money for those who are working to prevent specific examples of ethnocide
—reproducing and distributing documents, appeals, open letters, either on the local level (i.e., Brittany) or internationally
—taking part in any action destined to expose those responsible directly or indirectly for ethnocide.
If our way of posing the problem or if what we consider to be activist solutions appear inadequate to you, please let us know. Tell us what kind of conditions would be required for you to associate yourself in a common project in the struggle against ethnocide.
Comité d’Action pour les Minorités Ethniques et les Populations Aborigènes
c/o Jacques Cochin
Section de Psychologie
Université de Haute-Bretagne
P.S. At the moment we do need, especially, trustworthy and recent information on the South Sudan events (Khartoum). Please would you give us the references to the works and most important articles which have been published in English on this subject.
Moreover, you may know some personalities who are actively interested in this matter; it would be very kind of you to let us know their address, so that we could get in touch with them.
September 23, 1971