Published July 1, 1987
Dr. Anatoly Koryagin, the psychiatrist released from the gulag several months ago, is what North African Christianity in the third and fourth centuries would have called a “martyr-confessor”: a man who has survived torture for the faith (in Koryagin’s case, for protesting the political abuse of psychiatry in the USSR) and who thereby has a special claim on our attention. The views of dissidents who have suffered grievously for their convictions are not the only views that have to be accounted for in thinking through a peace strategy for the United States; but they ought to be engaged with great respect. Therefore, we note the following from the heroic Anatoly Koryagin:
“It is important and necessary to struggle for peace. But one also has to struggle for a humane world and not for any old world that happens to be there. The person who is dying behind prison walls- it doesn’t matter to him how he loses his life: either he dies in war or on his prison cot. The terms peace and disarmament should carry concrete humane meanings . . . “In prison in 1986 I smuggled out a letter developing three slogans under which one should struggle for peace. First, peace and humanism are indivisible. Second, peace should be fought for in the name of humanism . . . Third, only a society with a human face and laws has the right to speak about peace for all mankind. The struggle for peace can be incomplete or, if you wish, not completely honest, if peace is relegated to the abstract realm and if it is not a peace requiring a humane structure of society.”
Our colleagues at the World Without War Council (WWWC) of Greater Seattle have produced an important and impressive guide to some of the key nongovernmental agencies which are shaping the U.S. debate over peace, security, and freedom in Central America. The Directory of National Organizations Dealing with Central America lists 36 such organizations, their addresses, phones, and publications and offers a brief thumbnail sketch of their work. The full ideological range is covered, and the truth is told without regard to immediate policy issues and choices.
American domestic debate over Central America has too often been characterized by acrimony and, indeed, disinformation. Why did the Council in Seattle publish the directory? As WWWC executive director Holt Ruffin writes in the introduction, “We hope that this directory will encourage Americans concerned about peace in Central America not only to appreciate the need for more ‘friendly persuasion’ as we discuss this problem in our own communities, but also to ask more often the question: which are the forces in Central America that favor words, and which the ones that favor munitions?”
It is an entirely admirable goal, and the Council’s directory helps advance it. The directory is available for $4.00 by writing the World Without War Council, 1514 N.E. 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98105, or by calling the Council office at (206) 523-4755.
We note an important new organization working on the issues that concern AMERICAN PURPOSE. VISA, which is not a piece of plastic money, but “Visits International for Soviets and Americans,” is led by Dan and Tamara Horodysky, a husband-and-wife team in Berkeley, California. Their aim is a simple one: to make it easier for families whose members live in the U.S. and the USSR to visit each other. VISA does not make representations about emigration cases, although the Horodyskys are entirely sym- pathetic to the plight of refuseniks and others denied emigration visas. It simply asks that family members who wish to visit each other in the United States and the Soviet Union, and then return to their homelands, be enabled to do so without jumping through the multiple political and bureaucratic hoops that now stand in the way.
To this end, the Horodyskys have been busily generating newspaper coverage of their issue and have briefed congressional and executive branch leaders so that the question of family visits remains on the U.S./Soviet negotiating agenda. They have been instrumental in building steam behind Congressman Christopher Smith’s House Concurrent Resolution 68, expressing Congress’s support for family visits between American and Soviet citizens.
Success in this small corner of the human rights field could have large con- sequences. It would be a genuine example of glasnost rather than glitz if the Soviet leadership would follow through on its Helsinki Final Act commitments on family visits. If opening the windows of a closed society or if-to put the matter more precisely-helping create a civil society capable of a measure of independence vis-à-vis the Soviet state is a pre-condition to peace, then the Horodyskys’ work serves humanitarian ends in the largest sense of the term.
Like most such efforts, VISA works primarily on faith capital. Those who would like to support such work with other forms of capital, or who would like more information about VISA, should write Dan and Tamara Horodysky at P.O. Box 2361, Berkeley, CA 94702 or call them at (415) 540-8472.
Among the welter of organizations working on various aspects of the South Africa issue, one of the most impressive has gotten unfortunately too little notice. We refer to Project South Africa, which is guided by Bayard Rustin, chairman of the A. Philip Randolph Education Fund. Rustin is one of the underappreciated heroes of the American twentieth century and brings more than sixty years of civil rights, trade union, and peace experience to bear on the quest for a post-apartheid South Africa that is free, democratic, and pros- perous. Project South Africa works to link South African and American groups-trade unions, educational organizations, legal assistance agencies, public health professionals-in common efforts within South Africa aimed at building the infrastructure of democracy. Project South Africa recognizes, in short, that the question “After apartheid, what?” must be addressed in any responsible attempt to bring down official racial discrimination in that troubled and divided land. And Bayard Rustin has an answer to that question: after apartheid there must be democracy in South Africa or one form of tyranny will have been exchanged for another.
Project South Africa welcomes tax deductible contributions that can be earmarked for the project and made payable to the A. Philip Randolph Institute at the institute’s address, 260 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.