To the Editors:
We think your readers will be interested in the following statement opposing the Reagan administration’s policy in Nicaragua. Circulated by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy/East and West, it has been signed by leading peace, labor, social justice, religious and cultural figures from the United States, Western Europe and the Third World. For the first time they are joined in their opposition to US interventionism by a large number of activists and writers from the Eastern bloc, many of whom have been persecuted in their own countries for work in independent peace and human rights movements.
Joanne Landy, Steven Becker
Co-Directors, Campaign for
Peace & Democracy/East & West
PO Box 1640, Cathedral Station
New York, NY 10025
As opponents of the Cold War East and West we protest the Reagan Administration’s escalating war on Nicaragua. The nature of the Nicaraguan regime is not the issue. We defend the democratic right of every nation to self-determination in complete freedom from superpower control, whether that domination is justified by the Brezhnev doctrine in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, or by Reagan’s claims of U.S. special interests in Central America and the Caribbean. The application of force against weaker nations blocks democratic social and political change, tightens the superpower’s grip on their respective blocs and spheres of influence, and fuels the arms race with catastrophic consequences for all of us.
To escape from the current global impasse we must find a Third Way in which democratic activists and movements from around the world make common cause to build an alternative to both blocs. We are raising our voices in unison against this ominous heightening of the Cold War, and demand an immediate end to the United States’ growing intervention in Nicaragua. We challenge the US to set an example of non-interventionism, and we ask the Soviet Union to do the same in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan.
Edward Asner, Steven M. Becker, Angie Berryman, Rabbi Balfour Brickner, Frank Brodhead, David R. Brower, Noam Chomsky, Dr. Charlie Clements, Gail Daneker, Richard Deats, Rep. Ronald V. Dellums, Tom DeLuca, Adrian DeWind, Daniel Ellsberg, Richard Falk, W.H. & Carol Ferry, Allen Ginsberg, Todd Gitlin, Victor Gotbaum, Stephen Jay Gould, Lee Grant, A. Winton Jackson,Charlie King, Charles Komanoff, Jeri Laber, Joanne Landy, Penny Lernoux, Grace Paley, Paul Robeson Jr., Bernard Sanders,George Soros, Rose Styron,Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., James Weinstein
Jiri Dienstbier, journalist, served prison term for civil rights activities; Jiri Hajek, former foreign minister; Eva Kanturkova, writer; Lubos Kohout, former professor, now works as laborer; Vaclav Maly, Catholic priest banned by State from exercising pastoral duties; Milos Rejchrt, Protestant clergyman; Jaroslav Sabata, former university lecturer, formerly on Communist Party Central Committee, imprisoned eight years for civil rights work; Anna Sabatova, activist, served two and a half years in prison; Zdena Tomin, exiled novelist; Petr Uhl, teacher, now a stoker, nine years in prison.
Barbel Bohley, Women for Peace; Werner Fischer, independent peace activist; Ralf Hirsch, independent peace activist; Roland Jahn, independent peace activist, forcibly expelled in 1982; Gerd Poppe, independent peace activist; Ulrike Poppe, Women for Peace; Lutz Rathenow, author and playwright, imprisoned for publishing a book abroad; Rudiger Rosenthal, independent peace activist.
Gabor Demszky, founder “AB” samizdat publishers; Istvan Eorsi, writer, poet, and playwright; Gyorgy Konrad, novelist and essayist; Gyorgy Petri, poet; Laszlo Rajk, samizdat publisher; son of L. Rajk, former Communist minister executed in show trial.
Jacek Czaputowicz, Polish independent peace movement “Wolnosć i Pokój” (“Freedom and Peace”); Jan Józef Lipski, Solidarnosć activist, member of KOR (Workers Defense Committee), imprisoned under martial law.
Sergei & Natasha Batovrin, founding members independent Soviet peace movement, now in New York City; Marya & Vladimir Fleishgakker, founding members independent Soviet peace movement, now in New York City; Lev Kopelev, writer, living in West Germany.
Kosta Cavoski, professor, Belgrade; Dobrica Cosik, Chair, Belgrade Committee for Defense of Freedom of Thought and Public Expression; Mihailo Markovic, professor, member Belgrade Committee for Defense of Freedom of Thought and Public Expression, editor Praxis International; Milan Nikolic, sociologist, tried for paper written at Brandeis University.
Isabel Allende, Chilean author; Father Ernesto Balducci, Testimonianze, Italy; Wim Bartels, International Secretary, Dutch Interchurch Peace Council (ikv); Simone de Beauvoir; Ariel Dorfman, Chilean author; Mient-Jan Faber, General Secretary, Dutch Interchurch Peace Council; Carlos Fuentes, Mexican author; Dan Gallin, General Secretary, International Union of Food and Allied Workers, Geneva; Gunter Grass, German writer; Mary Kaldor, END Journal; Petra Kelly, Green Party, West Germany; Rajni Kothari, Director, Peace and Global Transformation Program, India; Sylvie Mantrant, codene (Comité pour le Desarmement Nucleaire en Europe), France; E.P. and Dorothy Thompson, European Nuclear Disarmament (END).
*Organizations listed for identification purposes only
The following letter was received with a request that it be published in The New York Review.
Open Letter to the President of the Republic of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega
According to a Voice of America broadcast on November 1, 1985 (the Czech language 6.00 AM transmission), the Nicaraguan government ordered a two-day suspension of broadcasting by the independent radio station Radio Catolico so as to punish the station for having transmitted a recent sermon by the Bishop of Managua which included two sentences which Voice of America claimed were the cause of the Government’s ban. The first sentence states that freedom is a great gift from God to mankind while the second maintains that it is wrong and against the will of God to take away one’s neighbor’s freedom.
We are signatories of the Appeal by European intellectuals “Nicaragua has the right to peace” (see Le Monde of May 8, 1985), the text of which has been sent, along with a list of Czechoslovak citizens who appended their signatures to it last May, to the Nicaraguan Embassy in Prague. Some of us are also signatories of a declaration signed jointly by people in the USA and Eastern Europe [which was published in The New York Times on December 1, 1985 and appears above]. Both of these texts call for non-interference in the affairs of Nicaragua and specifically for a halt to the sending of material assistance to the anti-Sandinista armed resistance. In varying degrees the texts express support for the courageous people of your country; they also refer to national independence and the right of nations to decide their fate in all independence. With the knowledge we have of the situation in Latin America, including Nicaragua, we can well appreciate that the question of human rights can and must assume a different aspect in a country suffering from material poverty which is furthermore the victim of an economic embargo and military incursions, in contrast to a country like Czechoslovakia, for instance, whose superficially well-functioning economy ensures its citizens a general level of prosperity and a fair consumption of material and cultural commodities—at least, from the point of view of people in the Third World.
The fact that activists from different citizens’ campaigns here insist so strongly on the implementation of political, civil and cultural rights, and that they fight for a more democratically run society as well as their society’s greater independence from the State, and the State’s greater independence from the Soviet Union, etc., might viewed in this way seem strangely eccentric. We could of course understand such a misconstruction of our demands, but there is no way we can reconcile ourselves to it, since the fight for human dignity and freedom, the fight for social justice and the fight for equal rights of peoples and nations, are one and the same struggle: the emancipatory battles in Eastern Europe and Latin America are part and parcel alike of that struggle. And it is out of our feelings of solidarity with the oppressed that, on the occasion of this regrettable action against Radio Catolico, we wish to express our grave concern over developments in Nicaragua in the field of human rights and regarding the future of democracy in your country.
The recent declaration of a state of emergency, as a result of which numerous personal liberties and rights, including the right to strike, have been abolished or curtailed, cannot be justified in our view solely in terms of the military incursion by anti-Sandinista units operating from Honduras and Costa Rica. The counterrevolutionary onslaught will either be defeated by the free supporters of the Revolution or the Revolution will perish. In such a case it does not seem to matter too much if its defeat will be caused by outside intervention or an internal development which negates all the Revolution’s ideals and which, with the socalled aim of “saving the Revolution,” gradually sets up a bureaucratic dictatorship, a new system of repression and manipulation with empty slogans and full jails. There are many who are able to find something positive even in such a development. In Latin America, for instance, there are those who point to the “positive” side of just such a development in Cuba.
However, we live on a different part of the planet and our purpose here is to convey to you the historical experience of Europe and particularly of its Eastern half, whose lamentable situation (and not only in the field of human rights and political democracy, but in economic terms, too!) is especially glaring in comparison with Western Europe. It is paradoxical that in countries that have carried out national democratic and social revolutions in the name of the rights of working people, of the proletariat, and of the free development of every member of society, these rights are fewer (that is if they exist at all) than in countries where those revolutions have not occurred. These are the questions which strike us when we contemplate the future of the Sandinista Revolution. We protested against American support for the military attacks on your Revolution because we consider that US policy on Nicaragua is detrimental to the cause of human emancipation. But now that we feel that this cause is being seriously jeopardized from within, it is to you that we address our sincere concern.
Jiri Dienstbier, Zuzana Dienstbierova, Ladislav Hejdanek, Eva Kanturkova, Lubos Kohout, Vaclav Maly, Milos Rejchrt, Jaroslav Sabata, Anna Sabatova, Jr., Petr Uhl
Sent via the Nicaraguan Embassy in Prague on December 1, 1985.
NB. This is an open letter by the above signatories and not a Charter 77 document.
February 13, 1986