By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
On Monday, September 12, at 96 years of age, Stanley K. Sheinbaum died in his California home. I want to add these lines to the tribute that he will surely receive from many everywhere. Despite his advanced age and ill health his friends will never find comfort for his departure. Because Stanley belongs to the category of those Bertolt Brecht called the essential who struggle all their lives.
From his New York childhood during the Great Depression until the era of the global dominance of US plutocracy he walked a long path that led him not only to travel across his country but also to know the rest of the world. He learned to be interested, as were few of his countrymen, in the conflicts and problems of others and to get involved and take sides, “trying to create a little peace and justice in this unjust world” as he wrote in his memoirs published five years ago (A 20th Century Knight’s Quest for Peace, Civil Liberties and Economic Justice).
He discovered in 1959 that the program he led at Michigan State University was a covert CIA activity, and became the first person who publicly denounced the illegal actions of the CIA inside the United States.
In the 1960s he articulated the campaign for the release of Andreas Papandreou, imprisoned by the military junta in Greece. He led the movement for raising the necessary funds for the defense of Daniel Elsberg, arrested in 1971 for revealing the so-called Pentagon Papers on the aggression to Viet Nam. This was an iconic fight with the outstanding participation of Leonard Boudin and his disciple the young Leonard Weinglass, both brilliant human rights and civil liberties activists. If it were not for Stanley, according to Ellsberg, “the trial would have been over, Nixon would have remained until the end of his term and the war would have continued.”
He promoted the work of the American Civil Liberties Union in Southern California to end racial segregation in schools and to combat the repressive methods of the LAPD as he led efforts against the apartheid regime of South Africa.
1988 he organized a group of American Jewish leaders who, on 6 December, met with Yasser Arafat in Stockholm, Sweden to start a process towards mutual understanding and peace in Palestine. The gesture won him many enemies. “For a while I was the most hated Jew in America … by other Jews” he wrote in his Autobiography.
He took a courageous stand in confronting police brutality and the Rodney King beating. He did so from his position on the Los Angeles Police Commission of the LAPD and on the streets of the city. “He was” –in the words of Afro-American Congresswoman Maxine Waters– “an extraordinary human being.”
He also addressed Cuba. He visited us here and we kept communication at a distance to the end. He opposed the blockade, fought for the normalization of relations, and was decisive in the battle for the liberation of our Five antiterrorists whose situation he helped publicize in the United States. What was announced on December 17, 2014, was also the result of his solidarity commitment that had rarely reached the major media headlines.
At the end of his life he could say: “I’m still interested; I still get involved; I still believe that tomorrow will be better. And so, I’m still very optimistic. If I have learned something over the years it is that it is not so important whether or not we win the battles. What is really important is that we continue waging the battles for justice, for equality, for fairness. “
Stanley keeps riding on.
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.