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April 22, 2001

To the editor:

In his review titled "The Worldly Philosopher" (Book Review, April 8), Frederic Raphael peddles a lie, " ... Russell fell under the influence of Ralph Schoenman, an American 1960s activist whom some alleged ... to be an agent of the CIA planted to make the Left look deranged."

This example of disinformation is attributed by Mr. Raphael to "some who allege'-a common ploy. No named individual has ever made this assertion, nor has such a person been cited by Mr. Raphael or Mr. Monk.

It is entirely proper for people who disagree with the political views and activity of Bertrand Russell and myself to make known their criticisms, however vehement these may be.

It is quite another matter to reinvent people, slander them and father upon them outlandish ideas and deeds whose sole purpose is to impugn. This practice was refined under the FBI's "Cointelpro" operation.

Mr. Raphael writes, as well, that "Schoenman-Russell ... argued that Cuba had a perfect right, though Great Britain did not ... " to nuclear weapons. This again is utterly false, as the record bears out.

In "Unarmed Victory" (Simon and Schuster, 1963), Bertrand Russell published all the correspondence, exchanges and declarations through which we intervened to prevent a nuclear war at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.

We advocated a cessation of U.S. attempts to invade Cuba, assassinate its leaders and menace the world with a nuclear war, and we worked with Fidel Castro, Nikita Khrushchev, U Thant and prominent others to prevent it. This did not include advocating or supporting nuclear weapons in Cuba or anywhere else. We called for the removal of the nuclear missiles ringing the Soviet Union and China, no less than their absence in Cuba and Turkey.

Referring again to me, Mr. Raphael writes further that Bertrand Russell "even tried to adopt him as a son," an invention that would have brought smiles to the faces of my loving parents, who were vigorously alive at the time.

Mr. Raphael goes beyond even the vituperative Mr. Monk, whose fear and hatred of Bertrand Russell suffuse every page of this putative "biography."

I am surprised that the Los Angeles Times did not do some basic fact checking before publishing this tedious concoction.

Ralph Schoenman Vallejo, Calif.


Frederic Raphael replies:

Ralph Schoenman is quick on the trigger, as usual. It is almost sweet that he should prefer to take credit for his own buffooneries during the 1960s rather than to accept an opportunity to blame wicked Washingtonians for them. As he knows very well, it is not only Ray Monk who has reported (but not endorsed) the suspicion that Schoenman was the tool of outside forces. Schoenman knows very well that rumors of his not having been the unsponsored author of his own inanities have been current in many places for many years, but if he insists on owning up to the full responsibility, who am I to deny the man credit, of a kind, for maintaining that he was an even bigger clown than anyone could reasonably believe?

As for his denying that Russell ever maintained that Cuba was entitled to nuclear weapons, I can only refer your readers to Monk's text, where they will find chapter and verse. With regard to the modest claim that Bertie and Ralph "worked with Fidel Castro, Nikita Khrushchev, U Thant and prominent others," the truth is, as Monk points out, that Russell was worked on by Khrushchev, who cashed in, metaphorically, on his almost boundless vanity.

The unprominent Jack Kennedy (who effectively determined the course of what happened during those 13 days) waved away the philosopher's, and his minion's, irrelevant exhortations. Never mind: "Prominent others" is a social climber's phrase that lingers in the mind and recalls how keen Maoists like Schoenman were to rub peace-loving shoulders with nobs, even if they had blood on their hands, as Khrushchev did during the Great Terror.

What could be more childish than Schoenman's allegations that Monk's carefully annotated and measured criticisms of Russell were motivated by "fear and hatred"? Oh, wait a minute! I've just thought of something: The belief that nobody will remember that, toward the very end of his life, Russell repudiated his onetime amanuensis with contumelious finality, not to say fear and hatred. Perhaps Schoenman will one day disclose what vile agency-"Cointelpro" perhaps-gulled the old boy into such an ungrateful and unwarranted act after Ralph and Bertie had together saved the world.

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