Ralph Schoenman

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Ralph Schoenman (born 1935) is an American left-wing activist who was a personal secretary to Bertrand Russell and became general secretary of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. He was involved in a number of projects supported by Russell, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the Committee of 100 and an unofficial war crimes tribunal to try American leaders for their conduct in the Vietnam War. Shortly before his own death in 1970, Russell publicly broke with Schoenman.

Life[edit]

Ralph Schoenman (centre right) alongside Bertrand Russell and Edith Russell, leading an anti-nuclear march in London, Feb 1961.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Schoenman was educated at Princeton University but then left the U.S. for Britain in 1958. He was involved in various protest activities during his student days and became active in the CND after arriving in Britain. This brought him into contact with Russell, for whom Schoenman began working in 1960. Bernard Levin wrote critically of Schoenman's influence on the aged philosopher, painting Schoenman as partly responsible for Russell's virulent anti-Americanism, in contrast to his earlier pronouncements against communism.[1] Russell said of Schoenman, "You know he is a rather rash young man, and I have to restrain him.".[2]

In 1963, Schoenman participated as Russell's secretary in attempts to mediate a solution for the Sino-Indian border conflict, after China declared a ceasefire the previous year. For visiting communist China, the U.S. embassy in London put him under a travel restriction, stamping his passport as only valid to return to the U.S.[3]

Schoenman was an organizer and member of the Russell Tribunal, an International War Crimes Tribunal which visited North Vietnam and Cambodia in 1966-1967.[4] In addition to the group's own camera crews, Schoenman tried to negotiate network television coverage from NBC and CBS for the tribunal's visit to Hanoi, but was turned down in a dispute over the conditions. The networks charged that they had been asked to pay for the privilege and also felt that the restrictions proposed to them, including submitting footage for censorship, would imperil their objectivity. CBS News president Richard Salant said, "They are out to prove a point with investigations and they have an ax to grind".[5] Schoenman denied the allegations that fees or censorship had been requested, while noting that the networks would pay to acquire footage from others, as ABC had done to obtain film from one of the tribunal's cameramen.[6]

After making these visits, Schoenman argued in a hearing of the tribunal that the U.S. had committed genocide in Vietnam. He argued, "It is not possible to drop four million pounds of bombs every day on a country the size of New York and Pennsylvania without exterminating the civilian population".[7]

During the course of the tribunal, the U.S. government revoked Schoenman's passport because of unauthorized visits to North Vietnam. In November 1967, he was deported back to the U.S. by Bolivian authorities when he traveled there to attend the trial of Régis Debray.[8] As a result, he was prevented from attending the tribunal's proceedings in Copenhagen later that month because Danish authorities refused to allow him to enter without a passport.[9] This led to a sequence in which Schoenman shuttled between several European countries, none of which would admit him, before illegally entering Britain, where he remained for 10 days until being deported in June 1968.[10][11]

Russell publicly repudiated his relationship with Schoenman in December 1969 and had him removed from the board of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.[12] Schoenman then renamed the American branch of the foundation the American Foundation for Social Justice and continued to promote hearings into alleged American atrocities in Vietnam.[13][14]

Later, Schoenman settled in Princeton, New Jersey, but was again able to travel, visiting Iran during the waning days of the Shah's government to raise awareness of the human rights of the U.S.-backed government. After the government fell, he circulated claims of a counterrevolutionary conspiracy in support of American interests that sought to eliminate communist forces.[15] However, the new Provisional Revolutionary Government expelled him in March 1979.[16]

Current activity[edit]

Since 2002, he has been working with documentary filmmaker, Mya Shone, providing commentary for radio stations in many parts of the United States and Canada, and producing the "Taking Aim" radio show, billed as "Uncompromising, fact intensive exposés of the hidden workings of a capitalist system addicted to permanent war".[17] In about 2009 they moved from broadcasting over WBAI to an Internet webcast.

Writings[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Levin, Bernard. "Bertrand Russell: Prosecutor, Judge and Jury". New York Times, February 19, 1967.
  2. ^ "Bertrand Russell Is Dead; British Philosopher, 97". New York Times, February 3, 1970, p. 1.
  3. ^ "U.S. Curbs Russell's Aide". New York Times, July 24, 1964, p. 13.
  4. ^ "5 on Russell 'Crime' Panel In Cambodia on 10-Day Visit". New York Times, January 13, 1967, p. 2.
  5. ^ Dallos, Robert E. "2 Networks Spurn Russell 'Court' Bid". New York Times, February 16, 1967, p. 1.
  6. ^ Schmidt, Dana Adams. "Fund Bid Denied by Russell Aide". New York Times, February 20, 1967, p. 13.
  7. ^ Schmidt, Dana Adams. "Russell Aide Accuses U.S. of Genocide in Vietnam". New York Times, May 8, 1967, p. 8.
  8. ^ Johnston, Richard J.H. "Bolivians Deport Aide of Russell". New York Times, November 3, 1967, p. 9.
  9. ^ "Russell Tribunal Starts 2d Session". New York Times, November 21, 1967, p. 6.
  10. ^ "Schoenman Is Returned by Netherlands to Ireland". New York Times, May 21, 1968, p. 16.
  11. ^ "Schoenman, Ousted By Britain, Arrives". New York Times, June 29, 1968, p. 2.
  12. ^ "Russell Disavows American Ex-Aide". New York Times, December 10, 1969, p. 3.
  13. ^ "Russell Clarifies Position". New York Times, January 13, 1970, p. 37.
  14. ^ Robinson, Douglas. "Ex-Pilot Alleges Civilian Slayings". New York Times, April 7, 1970, p. 5.
  15. ^ Apple, R.W., Jr. "American Describes Police Siege In Terrified Small Iranian Town". New York Times, December 18, 1978, p. A4.
  16. ^ Jaynes, Gregory. "Ex-Premier's Death Asked At Iran Trial". New York Times, March 16, 1979, p. A1.
  17. ^ http://takingaimradio.com/about.html

External links[edit]