In “Battle for Honduras–and the Region” [Aug. 31/Sept. 7], Greg Grandin free-falls into the booby trap of top-down coverage by giving voice solely to the Michelettis, Clintons, Zelayas and Otto Reichs of this conflict–albeit with an anti-imperialist’s pen. Grandin’s single mention of the Honduran resistance comes as an afterthought and does not capture the vibrant, massive, multidimensional cultural uprising on the day the rightful president was ousted.
I flew to Tegucigalpa with a human rights delegation after the coup, where we witnessed the burgeoning of a movement of hundreds of thousands of hondurenos, which continues to this day. The resistance manifests itself in community journalism, acts of civil disobedience, mass demonstrations and countless gestures of solidarity on top of artistic expressions, so central to Latin American liberation movements. Grandin rightly points out the threat of the coup to the stability of the region. If we oppose it, we must support the resistance: as witnesses, financiers and organizers. We’ve formed the Committee in Solidarity With the Honduran Resistance and have organized activities, pickets, demonstrations and cultural nights–with the intent of raising awareness of the coup and funds for the folks in the streets. The IMF has bucked the international community by extending a $164 million loan to the illegal regime (which dwarfs the $3,000 our committee has raised). Our work will continue until constitutional order is restored. ¡Viva Honduras!
Send donations to the National Front Against the Coup at: Proyecto Hondureno/CESREH, Box 6095, Chelsea, MA 02150.
New York City
I agree with Simon Rios that heroic resistance on the part of unionists, progressive church people, peasants, students and gay, lesbian and women’s rights activists has been more effective in preventing the consolidation of the coup in Honduras than has international pressure. Their actions–which include a call to boycott scheduled November 29 presidential elections–have finally forced Washington to join the rest of Latin America and announce that it will not recognize the result of that vote. The Honduran regime is desperate, threatening to prosecute anyone who abstains from casting a ballot (voting is technically mandatory in Honduras, but in the past it was not enforced). Also disturbing is that the coup government has just revoked the citizenship of Catholic priest Andres Tamayo, whom Nation readers may know as a 2005 Goldman Environmental Prize recipient. Born in El Salvador, Tamayo is a naturalized Honduran who has been in the country since 1983, working with peasants in their fight to defend their land against commercial logging. The coup government justifies the revocation of citizenship on the grounds that the priest has supported the election boycott and has participated in protests demanding the restoration of democracy.
Premature Antifascists Unite!
Dan Kaufman, in “La Despedida” [Aug. 31/Sept. 7] claims that “after the war, the Lincoln [Brigade] veterans were labeled ‘premature antifascists’ by the US military and Hoover’s FBI.” John Haynes and I published an article several years ago indicating that there is not one shred of evidence to support this claim. No veteran or any of their supporters has been able to produce a single document to buttress the claim. In fact, the evidence strongly suggests that it was the veterans themselves who sardonically appropriated the term “premature antifascists.”
New York City
The article Harvey Klehr refers to, “The Myth of ‘Premature Antifascism,'” which he wrote with John Earl Haynes and published in The New Criterion in 2002, contains significant omissions and a puzzling disregard for testimony not to the authors’ liking. In it, they describe their exhaustive search for documentation that a US government agency employed the term “premature antifascist” toward the Lincoln Brigade veterans. They fail to mention a speech Congressman John Coffee of Washington gave January 2, 1945, in Madison Square Garden, which was entered into the Congressional Record. “There is, of course, no honor high enough for those few thousand gallant American men and boys,” Coffee said about the Lincoln veterans. “They call them premature antifascists in some nasty Washington circles today.” Furthermore, Klehr and Haynes’s search took place in the 1990s, yet nowhere do they mention the salient fact that a fire at the National Personnel Records Center outside St. Louis in 1973 destroyed some 16 million to 18 million military personnel records, among them an estimated 80 percent of the files of World War II Army veterans. More troubling, Klehr and Haynes dismiss as irrelevant the testimony of Lincoln veterans like Leslie Kish, who detailed the following in John Gerassi’s marvelous oral history, The Premature Antifascists: “I was in Washington when the Second World War started and in July of 1942 went into the army. But then the harassment did start…. I was grilled and grilled. Boy was I grilled! I remember in my first session there were two guys in civilian clothes and two military guys who started asking me all sorts of incredible questions. This was the first time I heard the expression ‘premature antifascists.’ That’s what they called me.”
In his letter, Klehr writes that the vets “sardonically appropriated” the term, a point no one disputes. (Gerassi, whose father was a Republican general, makes that clear with his title.) Klehr doesn’t mention here, however, the claim he and Haynes made in The New Criterion that “there are indications that it was Communists and the veterans themselves who first employed the term.” What are the “indications” for their claim? One is, apparently, an anonymous response to a query for documents the two posted on a history discussion listserv. “You will never [their italics] find the term in official records,” the unidentified responder stated, “because it was used by people who opposed Hitler ‘too early’ as in the Spanish Civil War as a self-deprecating term for their own ability to see ahead and the U.S. Govt’s inability to see what Hitler was planning.” Case closed.
What’s obscured by Klehr’s narrow focus on an epithet’s provenance is the discrimination and harassment perpetrated by the military and the FBI against the vets after they came back from Spain. John Hovan, a gentle 93-year-old truck driver with the Lincoln Brigade whose house was firebombed and painted with swastikas after he pleaded the Fifth before the House Un-American Activities Committee, told me recently what happened while he was working as a shoe repairman at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island, in 1946. “I worked there as a civilian, and one day this ship’s service officer came to me and said he had to tell me something,” Hovan, who received an honorable discharge from the Navy after three and a half years of wartime service, recalled. “He hemmed and hawed and then said, ‘Well, I’m mixed up, but I’ll see you tomorrow.’ So the next day he finally said, ‘Look, I’ve gotten orders to fire you, to let you go, and I can’t get any answers why.'”
After his firing, Hovan found work in a textile mill and then a chemical plant. But for years he and his wife were harassed by the FBI. “They came to the house all the time,” he told me. “I remember they came, too, when I was working at the textile mill. They were waiting for me out at the parking lot, trying to get me to talk.”
Food for Thought
No sooner had our special issue “Food for All” [Sept. 21] gone to press than we heard from Food for All, a foundation whose program is run in more than 6,000 grocery stores. Millions of Americans support Food for All with contributions at the checkout counter of their supermarket.