To the Editors:
For many years the struggle has been going on in Poland to keep alive an independent intellectual life, free from censorship and official restrictions. An extremely important aspect of this struggle is the “Society for Academic Courses” (better known under the nickname of the “Flying University”). This society arranges—in private flats—open lectures, seminars, and discussions in fields which in official academic teaching are inevitably distorted by all sorts of suppressions, taboos, and lies—especially in the social and human sciences.
To sustain and to expand this movement—basic for genuine cultural life—the support and solidarity of scholarly circles all over the world is essential, in particular since persistent and often extremely brutal attempts are made to stifle any efforts in the direction of an independent intellectual life and scholarly freedom. This is why we believe it advisable to set up an International Support Committee for the Freedom of Learning in Poland. It aims at defending the “Flying University,” at providing support for various forms of free cultural activity, and at stimulating exchange between scholars in Poland and in other countries. This includes meetings, material help for intellectuals who are harassed or discriminated against in Poland, provision of libraries to support free learning and studies, and publication of the results of discussions and research.
We wish to associate ourselves with this cause and ask for the support of all who hold dear the freedom of teaching, of research, and of intellectual progress.
Alfred Ayer, philosopher, Oxford; Heinrich Böll, author, Nobel Prize winner, Cologne; Paolo Casini, historian of philosophy, Rome; Jean Delumeau, historian, Paris; Michael Dummett, logician, Oxford; Michel Foucault, philosopher, Paris; Agnes Heller, sociologist, Melbourne; Frank Kermode, historian of literature, Cambridge; Leszek Kolakowski, philosopher, Oxford; Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, historian, Paris; Richard Löwenthal, political scientist, Berlin; Cesare Lupporini, philosopher, Florence; André Lvoff, biologist, Nobel Prize winner, Paris; Mary McCarthy, author, Paris; Iris Murdoch, author, Oxfordshire; Gunnar Myrdal, economist, Nobel Prize winner, Stockholm; Robert Nozick, sociologist, Harvard; Krzysztof Pomian, historian, Paris; Hilary Putnam, logician, Harvard; Willard Quine, philosopher, Harvard; Joan Robinson, economist, Cambridge; Quentin Skinner, political scientist, Cambridge; Jean Starobinski, historian of literature, Geneva; Charles Taylor, philosopher, Montreal; René Thom, mathematician, Field’s medal, Paris; Edward Thompson, historian, Worcestershire; Jean-Pierre Vernant, historian, Paris; Franco Venturi, historian, Turin; Peter Wiles, economist, London; Alexander Zinoviev, logician, Munich; Andrzej Zaki, archaeologist, Zurich
Address for correspondence:
Free Learning in Poland
International Support Committee
11, Bevington Road
Oxford OX2 6NB
Contributions may be sent to the account:
Account No.: 2821-25
Crédit Industriel et Comercial
30 avenue de la République
F-92130 Issy-le-Moulineaux, France
(Editors’ Note: Soon after this appeal was received, The New York Times of November 30 reported that a “police campaign” was threatening the Flying University. Police have recently arrested and fined a number of lecturers and harassed and photographed students.)