Biography of Ralph
This photo shows a young Ralph Schoenman (far right) along with Bertrand and Edith Russell leading the Hiroshima Vigil march from the Cenotaph to Hyde Park, in London, 1961. Original at http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~bertrand/cnd.html.Used by permission of McMaster.
Of all the characters to have come and gone in the JFK
assassination, Ralph Schoenman surely ranks as one of the most interesting. He
is a true leftist who has at one time or another been involved in virtually any
cause you can name. He appears to still lead the itinerant life of a committed
In 1958, he went to Britain to study economics at the London School of Economics, where he received an M.S. degree in economics in 1960. During that same year, he became associated with Bertrand Russell and started the Committee of 100, a group of British intellectuals and leftists dedicated to bringing about real social change. At one point, he was imprisoned with other leaders of the Committee of 100, presumably for civil disobedience. He was arrested again some years later, after a rally in Grosvenor Square.
After the JFK assassination, Schoenman became the volunteer head of the London office of Mark Lane’s “Citizens’ Committee of Enquiry.” He also functioned as the secretary of the British “Who Killed Kennedy Committee,” which he and Bertrand Russell had founded in late 1963. In this effort he was concerned not so much for Kennedy or his politics, but rather for what he believed the assassination represented—another indication of the way in which the elite “ruling class” runs America, even to the point of eliminating a young and popular president.
One particularly bizarre incident occurred in 1965, and has been recounted by Warren Hinckle in “If You Have A Lemon, Make Lemonade.” Schoenman stormed into the apartment of Edward Epstein (the Cornell graduate student then writing his M.S. thesis on the Warren Commission, which would later become the famous Inquest) in Ithaca, NY, in desperate search of the FBI’s report on the autopsy. Epstein, taken completely aback, had to call the police before Schoenman would leave.
Schoenman was Bertrand Russell’s confidential secretary during his last years. In this capacity, he made excessive statements in Russell’s name that Russell repudiated posthumously.
Schoenman made many enemies. According to Warren Hinckle, Jean-Paul Sartre was said to gargle after just speaking with him.
Schoenman had vast amounts of energy, and became involved with all sorts of left-wing causes. He trotted the globe in pursuit of them. A taste of vintage Schoenman can be found in the story of how he was deported from Britain, a long series of events that, from a distance now seem almost manic. Beginning in 1967, he spent five months in Bolivia for the Bertrand Russell Peace Commission, observing the trial of the French Marxist intellectual Regis Dubray. While there, he was arrested when attempting to present evidence that Dubray was innocent and had been tortured by some of the same men who were trying him. He escaped and was recaptured, and was then expelled to Miami, where his passport was confiscated because he had previously visited North Vietnam. For four months he was prevented from returning to Britain, where he was living and working.
Meanwhile, he got a “travel document” and tried to go to Copenhagen for a session of the International war Crimes Tribunal. He was blocked and put on a plane to Amsterdam, from which he tried to go to Stockholm via Helsinki. He was removed from the plane in Helsinki Airport and imprisoned. The next morning, he was put onto a plane back to Amsterdam. During a stop in Hamburg, he left the plane and entered Germany. He once again tried to return to Stockholm, but was again forcibly removed from the plane and returned to Amsterdam, where he got permission from Swedish authorities to enter Sweden. When he landed in Stockholm, he was arrested, held for a day, and then put on a plane back to Amsterdam. A bomb threat cleared the plane and delayed his departure for another day. The next day he was put on a plane to Amsterdam, and wound up passing through Copenhagen, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Copenhagen before being finally returned to New York. When, a few months later, he “entered” Britain in June 1968 to plead his case, he was deported. (One report has it that he was arrested in Dublin, where he may have been trying to enter Britain from Italy.)
Schoenman currently heads The Organizer, a small Marxist group based in San Francisco that publishes a newsletter under the same name. He serves on its editorial board. The publication is headquartered at 4104 24th St. #440, SF 94114.
His recent and current causes include the war in Bosnia, U.S. aggression against Osama Bin Laden, black rights, and anti-Zionism, in support of which he travels widely and speaks on many college campuses. He also regularly appears on radio. According to Justin Raimondo’s Allied Farce: A wartime Diary: (http://www.antiwar.com/diary43.html), Schoenman at a recent San Francisco rally “is tall and so thin that he looks as if he might snap in the brisk breeze sweeping though the plaza. His face is so emaciated that it looks like a death-mask, a face reflecting in every respect the mummified ideology and catchphrases that embellish his peroration. He reads a long, tedious tract, filled with phrases like ‘the workers council were the proletarian power in embryo, but these were smashed by the Stalinist reaction.’ When he speaks, rays of wrinkles spread over the leathery skin of his face in waves.”
For a recent expression of Schoenman's views, see his paper for the Open World Conference of 11-14 February 2000 in San Francisco, entitled "What Strategy to Fight Global Capitalism?" Other articles can be found at http://www.igc.apc.org/workers/to/terror.htm (Resist U.S. Aggression! Who Are the Real Terrorists?) and http://www.igc.apc.org/workers/to/black.htm (A New Stage in the Back Struggle in America.).
In 1988 he published the book The Hidden History of Zionism (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, CA). In the words of the back flap, "The Hidden History of Zionism is a meticulous documentation of previously unavailable data on the process of conquest inflicted on Zionism's own victims, the people of Palestine. It reveals a tragedy parallel to the betrayal of the Jews themselves. No reader of this remarkable study will ever again perceive Israel and the Zionist movement in the same light." Previously he had published Bertrand Russell: Philosopher of the Century, Death and Pillage in the Congo: A Study of Western Rule, written with Khalid Ahmed Zaki, and Prisoners of Israel, written with Mya Shone.
As might be expected, Schoenman holds many extreme leftist beliefs. Here is a selection of them.
America is run by a “vicious oligarchy” that rules it “through a network of clandestine agencies at the service of banking and corporate capital.” (Article Resist U.S. Aggression! Who Are the Real Terrorists? In The Organizer.)
America is still in a protracted class war (above).
Zionism is racism and Israeli brutality.
Zionists collaborated with the Nazis to create the Holocaust.
Israel is an apartheid state where Palestinians are the true Jews.
The Palestinians were given a police force solely for the purposes of suppressing its own population.
Suits by Ralph Schoenman
Ralph Schoenman is suing people frequently these days. In November 1999 he won an award of £100,000 in damages in London against Bryan Magee and his publisher Orion Publishing Company and Orion Books of allegedly damaging statements in Magee's book Confessions of A Philosopher. The interesting thing was that the case did not even go to trial. Schoenman claimed that the author and publisher had been waging a "smear campaign" against Bertrand Russell and him. Details on the suit and its resolution are given on Raeto West's site, at http://www2.prestel.co.uk/littleton/br9911_schoenman.htm.
With the success of this suit, Schoenman and his lawyer then proceeded to sue Random House and Magee in California for $3 million in damages plus costs (for the American distribution of the book). As of this writing (2 October 2000), the result of the suit is not known.
In Spring 2000, Mr. Schoenman discovered my JFK web site and strongly objected to a variety of things there, including using a very nice picture of him from The Hidden History of Zionism, which I have since removed and substituted with a much older one. His lawyer then issued a veiled threat to URI ("the University of Rhode Island acts at its peril..."). At one point, the lawyer wrote me and suggested that I go to my insurance agency as a source of money and arrange for them to pay him. Schoenman has objected to the posting of various remarks about him on the "Russell List," an Internet discussion group based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, that deals with all aspects of Bertrand Russell's life and work. The most recent case was his objection the posting of "What Strategy to Fight Global Capitalism?" on its newly reinstated Russell List, even though the organizers of the conference who first posted the article (and others) encouraged its readers to distribute these materials and repost them.
Another Article by Ralph Schoenman
We previously featured a long article by Ralph Schoenman entitled “Report to the Rockefeller Commission,” which was submitted in 1975 to the commission that investigated domestic abuses of the CIA. Schoenman used this opportunity to try to link the CIA to the assassination of JFK. Mr. Schoenman maintains that this article is covered by his copyright even though it is archived in the Gerald Ford Presidential Library at the University of Michigan. We are presently looking into whether we can repost this interesting article.