Eric Fawcett

Eric Fawcett (Toronto peace activist, physicist), 1990

Eric Fawcett, April 1990 and Sept. 15, 1990
I worked closely with Eric in Science for Peace, the organization that he founded with some other U of Toronto scientists.

April: When he attended a meeting of scientists in Moscow, he spoke to say that Sakharov should be present. The next time such a meeting took place, Sakharov was present.

Sept. 15:

Wrote off for CSIS file. Got 30-40 pages. What’s interesting is what’s in it that shouldn’t be: application in 1954. First item in it is postdoctoral fellow application to National Research Council. First “seditious” act was a letter to editor re guy had thrown a pot of paint at US embassy because Nixon had bombed Vietnam harbor and he was suffering for it. EF asked people to subscribe to a fund for this guy. Met Oscar Rogers through this action.

  • 1966 Scientific conference in Moscow. Nothing political. To hear the bible quoted by soviet scientists, great surprise.
  • 1973. Intl conf in Moscow. Good deal of discussion of human rights question. In the meeting there was an effort to bring refusniks (EF didn’t partic in this) to give papers, didn’t succeed.
  • 1976 – 6 week visit as exchange scholar. Did get involved. Major turning point, when EF became activist. “Moscow seminar on collective phenomena” — a seminar conducted weekly in apartment of Mark Azbel, famous in refusenik circles, prominent young theoretical physicist in Inst for Physical Problems, of which Peter Kapitza was director (PK was father of Sergei). PK was Stalin’s scientist, made statements not publicly. He had integrity. His letters are being published in Russian in the West. They are evidence of PK’s participation in political discussion w Stalin and Molotov. He was performing the function of the individual critic. One letter is his refusal to work on the hydrogen bomb, which was not based on the ethics but on the way it was being done — by committee on which Beria had prominent place. PK realized that a scientific enterprise on which a non-scientist had a prominent role was unlikely to succeed. He was sent to internal exile for two years, but not killed. Azbel worked in that insitute. Also Landau, perhaps the most brilliant physical scientist of 20th c. was put into prison. He worked at the institute and PK went on strike to protest his imprisonment. Not public dissent but private. Azbel felt he had to dissent in a dramatic way by refusing to acquiesce in persecution of Jewish scientists. Also wish for more individual freedom. He liked publicity and was weekly to take on the danger, held meetings in his apartments. EF has overemphasized role of Azbel but there were other refuseniks who were not allowed to function as scientists. They had hi quality seminars. The most senior of them was Benjamin Levich, corresponding member of th Academy of Scientists and physicist. These seminars were held in defiance of regulations. The individual participants were broought up as “parasites” because they didn’t have jobs, having been fired. The fundamental reason for almost all was the application to emigrate.Then get menial mob. Some lived on charity. Any meeting was illegal if without govt license. The mtgs were held year after year because of the participation of Western scientists. Azbel said, “we survived because you people came here. Soviet scientific community desperately needs recognition and know that if they close down our seminars while people like yourself attends one, they will attract a great deal of publicity.”
  • 1976 EF went to the seminar a couple of times, and it was a revelation. They were very much like us. For years after that EF worked for human rights and because of that emotion when you meet individual people. Most of them were not political people. Primarily they were scientists— but all they did wrong was want to leave. Went in 1976 to Kharkov in Ukraine for scientific activities. Visited institute, didn’t talk much politics.
  • 1977 EF went again, by then had become more vigorously active about rights of dissenters. This is when he enters CSIS files. Azbel called it the jubilee (five-year) seminar of the Moscow Seminar on Collective Phenomena. “The basic reason they are not allowed to emigrate is that the basic ideology is that all activities are political. They were denying this principle by holding these meetings, which they declared non-political. “ This seminar included 10 prominent scientists eg. George Wald. More ambitious, 4-day affair but got only 10 western scientists. CSIS picked up something that Azbel asked him to bring out. Whole books get smuggled out. It is seldom that anyone knows how this happens. He copied it out by hand , put article in Globe and Star. Lydia Dotto wrote the Globe article and Stephen Handelman for the Star: “Tourist vanishes in USSR.” EF went as American express tourists to Leningrad and Moscow, didn’t turn up at meeting but went to Azbel’s apartment. His tour guide was distraught. Did the same repeatedly, got in the bad books of the fellow tourists. On plane coming back he talked about the seminar, story got into the NY Times and Herald Tribune.

He was proud of himself, but later EF came to see the press that the Jewish community in the US was inappropriate, so he moved on to other issues. What is going on in the MIddle East now is because of the outcome.

  • Most relevant for my book was 1981, open letter. CAUT bulletin editor was Helen Baxter (it is not impt mag any more on international issues). Half page ad for Science for Peace (S4P) — first one, Oct. 1981. Approve your ideas, but Sakharov is in Gorky. Brezhnev had appealed to scientists of the world to set up a conference to deal with the threat of global nuclear war. EF wrote open letter (on same page as our initial notice of S4P) to Brezhnev. Thesis of it was that we are responding to your appeal for sanity and reduction in weapons, do want to take part. But this initiative would be much more likely to succeed if you had the participation of Sakharov and Brailovsky (a refusenik who had taken over the role of Azbel after Azbel was allowed to leave). EF was Chair of Can Cttee of Scientists and Scholars. That same year Israel Halperin, Eugene Forsey, and EF led a delegation to the Soviet Embassy, appealed for Victor Brailovsky. In 1988 Brailovsky left the USSR, but for years he was sent off to internal exile, etc. Brailovsky and his wife Irina were scientists.Because of those few individuals, many Western scientists who are sympathetic to your ambitions for scientists to do something about this, will not. Carter picked up this debate and ran with it — the connection between human rights and peace issues. While you might think that publishing this open letter would preclude your participation in other issues, this was not so:
  • EF visited USSR in 1982 to meet Velikhov and other high level persons. They were trying to arrange a conference. They wanted cooperation of Union of Concerned Scientists, S4P, Sana in UK. But Sana was not willing to attend. So S4P was probably the only org that responded to Brezhnev’s appeal from the West. The important point is that this open letter the previous year had not interfered. Official guide was Vlasilov Dobrosielski, who was about EF’s age, a career peace researcher at IMEMO, which puts out a book 2 or 3 times which includes articles by people from USA Canada institute, etc. He published in that volume. He was responsible for ferrying Eric around for a week and entertaining EF in evenings (for which he had 32 roubles). They didn’t talk science or peace but just life. He had a crummy old car. They played tennis, and he didn’t have any sneakers. There are only 2 factories that make sneakers and both had failed. EF sent him sneakers. EF doesn’t think he had any influence on this guy, but he liked him.
  • 1982 he visted for a week. One conversation on that occasion was with a scientist Prof. M.S. Khaikin, a little older than EF, whom EF has known a long time and now very closely. He invited EF to visit the institute, also conversed in the street about what EF was up to re the connection to Brezhnev’s initiative. He said that “We scientists in USSR don’t talk about these issues because we have no information about our own missiles, deployment, etc.” The idea that was prevalent then was that if you are trained as a physicist, you are a physicist, and if you get involved in questions of human rights or war, you’re not just doing something wrong, but you are sick — like schizophrenic. People who were put into psychiatric hospitals, they were not necessarily being punished. The definition of schizophrenia in USSR is very different in USSR than in the West. Khaikin would be regarded as mentally unbalanced if he engaged in the activities that EF was into. Khaikin said he no knowledge about missiles,etc. and that he was incapable of engaging in this debate. He never did engage. He was pleased that EF was so engaged. Khaikin was not so innocent. Soviet intelligentsia may be 2-3 % of the population. Those who are interested in world affairs can be very well informed because you get it from short wave and by reading between the lines, and grapevine. But they don’t know about missiles. Khaikin is part of that intelligentsia. (We don’t have the same sort of thing here.)

EF has never had any criticism at any time in the USSR. When EF concluded a talk he ended it with the notice that this information may not be used for any military purpose. The scientists thought that was impossible for them to do, but accepted it for EF. Post-perestroika and glasnost, it seems possible for them, but pointless now that the local problems are so bad.

  • 1985 visited with Pat on sabbatical — Moscow and Kharkov and Donetsk. Gave interview to local paper. Atmosphere full of peace propaganda.Visited USA-Canada institute, which was more balanced than SPC.
  • 1986 was beginning of glasnost. July, big conference on whether to continue the moratorium with Derek and EF. Two major things, the conf and the realization that perestroika and glasnost were for real. The report of this committee was very important, written by the initiating cttee of which Derek Paul was a member. He sat in on the discussions, mostly in Russian, with interpreters. Derek had the job of pulling together the final wording of the English statement, he realized how significant that was. By changing the emphasis he could affect the coloring of it. He was impressed by the confidence displayed in him. This was unthinkable before.The openness of the procedures. They were genuinely concerned about assessing the dangers of the moratorium. They took the advice to continue it for some time.

The Sakharov matter. First it was not just EF’s question. He talked to Dan Ellsberg and Ove Nathan [sp?] Rector of U. of Copenhagen, who is very active guy, and Theodore Taylor and the Boston woman psychiatrist [Margaret Brenman]. They discussed, concluded that if they could get across the idea that if Sakharov were there, he would make several important contributions. He knows more about weapons systems than anybody. The Western media were just ignoring the whole event, but they are interested in human interest. If Sakharov had been there the press would have been all over the place. Goldansky (who is now prominent guy in SU because he is on the council of Pugwash and, more important, an important governmental body “Supreme Soviet?_) was chairing this meeting. When EF asked this question, he expected it to be dismissed, but Goldansky said, this is a very interesting proposal and we will look into the possibilities for next time.

  • 1986, meeting Olga and Yury Medvedkov. Met her first in her apartment because Yury was in prison then. During youth congress, they wanted to get him out of circulation, so put him in prison for 10 days or so. EF went there with Daniel Ellsberg and the Boston woman psychiatrist. To be present at meeting between Yury and Daniel Ellsberg was great but EF couldn’t say now what they talked about. Ellsberg stands most for dissent in the West for his first and his continued actions. He had just come from Nevada and had been over the fence. Yury said he believed they were being taped and that these tapes were having a deeper influence on Soviet policy than anyone realized. He had been informed that these tapes were transcribed and conveyed to people in the hierarchy. This was after Chernobyl. In a properly organized society, he would be part of a committee taking action on this problem.
  • February 1987, there was a big conference in February, Multiple Peace Fora. By then Sakharov was part of the proceedings. Prominent business people, religious leaders, artists, media, scientists, etc. Trudeau was there with the Power Corporation in Montreal, interested in joint ventures. There were 8 such fora at the same time, but didn’t know about the others until they were all brought together to hear Gorbachev. There was very little Western coverage, though it was the event of the decade. EF’s one opportunity to have conversation with Trudeau, but it was small talk. EF can’t recall what they discussed but thinks he probably told him about the moratorium conference the previous year, noted that he had met him first at Sussex Drive. Trudeau talked about the joint ventures to EF, he thinks.The event was flashy but not otherwise very signficant to EF; it did evolve into something. One person behind this is Eisenhower’s granddaughter. Another person behind it was Gorbachev, and the Federation of American Scientists. They set up International Foundation for Human Crisis, or some such thing, which EF will find out about. Frank von Hippel is active in it. Jeremy Stone, of Federation of American Scientists, was pushing it. The head of Greenpeace was there. They have wonderful skill at getting people’s attention onto issues. Another guy, in 87 or 88, there was an effort to get the Soviets to participate in the monitoring of the Nevada test and Americans to participate in the Semipalatinsk tests.

Azbel published a book called Refusenik. It includes something about the Jubilee conference. EF will give me some reports.

  • 1990 EF was there mostly on scientific work. Went to SPC and met Andrei Melville, Alexander Nikitin, director research centre of SPC. Melville is Vice President. Melville had just come back from Tallinn. EW has written something up which he will send me a photocopy of, about peace research in Moscow, director is Alexander Kislov, historian and deputy director of IMEMO. They are looking for a more permanent place of their own. They have about 10 researchers. Quite impressive. Didn’t want it to get too big.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books