To the Editors:
I think many of your readers will be interested in the following letter from Ken Coates, Director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation:
We are writing to ask your help concerning a grave crisis which confronts the Foundation. Our work has increased considerably in the years since the death of Bertrand Russell, partly because we have established a first-class modern printing press (which services a large number of trade union, community civil liberties, socialist, radical, anti-war and women’s organizations, besides the needs of the Foundation itself); together with an extensive publishing house which has produced approximately 100 pamphlets and some three dozen books in the recent past. But the traditional work of the Foundation in defense of peace, in opposition to imperialism, and in support of political prisoners in every continent of the world, has not in the least declined since Russell’s death.
We are profoundly moved by the large number of letters which come from every part of the world, requesting assistance, and expecting our intervention to be effective. Of course, the fact that Russell is now silent means that the role of the Foundation has changed, and that very often it has become a switchboard, either connecting victims of repression with appropriate lobbies which can help them, or sometimes directly organizing petitions and press coverage on their behalf. This has increased the difficulties of the work. Where, in the past, a simple letter from Russell could often have a dramatic effect on a dictatorial government which was ill-treating its political prisoners, now it is necessary to organize quite extensive collections of signatures in order to achieve a somewhat smaller impact. None the less, we have abundant evidence that the work we have been doing is useful, and that very many people have need of it.
However, we now face a double crisis, which poses a risk that we may be put out of action for an uncomfortably long time. Firstly, the UK Inland Revenue are insisting on pressing a very high tax claim against us relating, as we feel, unjustly, to money given by Bertrand Russell and expended in connection with the Tribunal on War Crimes in Vietnam. We had made careful allowance to meet all due tax payments, and this case is being pressed even though the special commissioner whose function is to adjudicate such claims has already decisively found in our favor. The Revenue admit that they have chosen to move against us as a test case, in order to reverse the precedents of judge-made law which govern the matter in question. They have told us that they intend to appeal, if necessary, through all the relevant courts, to the bitter end.
They have also refused to underwrite any of the legal costs which this decision imposes on us, even though there is no suggestion that we are culpable, and even though it is admitted that the case is brought entirely in order to establish new norms to assist the Revenue in future cases which have no connection with ours. The legal costs involved in this enormous litigation could be prodigious. As if this were not enough, the local council has simultaneously decided to issue a compulsory purchase order to enable it to demolish our printing factory and all our extensive associated offices. The sum of these two initiatives means that the Foundation urgently needs to raise a very large amount of money in order to maintain its capacity to continue Russell’s work. The absolute minimum amount involved is £20,000. Large as this sum is, our survival cannot be assured on less….
We are sorry to be compelled to write in this vein, but we hope there will be friends who will help us to frustrate these attempts to put us out of action….
The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
Bertrand Russell House
Nottingham NG7 4ET, England
February 20, 1975