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Non-violent protest best method to end apartheid (1)

(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid.)

I was very moved by The Tech's account of what happened during the demonstrations last Friday and last Monday. You have made me think a great deal during the last two days, and I would like to share some of these thoughts with you.

I did not attend either the Friday or the Monday rallies. I would first like to tell those who demonstrated peacefully and engaged in civil disobedience while fighting, non-violently, for a cause in which you believe, that I hold you in the highest respect. I also think that ending apartheid in South Africa is a very noble cause. It is hard to believe that such a racist regime can still exist as we approach the end of the 20th century. To those of you (if any) who acted violently during the demonstrations, I want to say that I deplore any act of violence, regardless of who commits it.

I attended the rally on Tuesday, and I read with great interest all the information that was handed out during the rally. I urge you to continue fighting against apartheid, but I encourage you to do so in an effective way.

According to one of your leaflets, the leaders of the African National Congress have called for economic sanctions as an effective way to put pressure on the government in Pretoria to end its institutionalized racist practices. Therefore I think that we, as students, should look for effective ways to impose economic sanctions against South Africa.

I have divided economic sanctions into three levels, from the most direct to the more indirect ones.

First Level Sanctions. No student should buy from or sell to South Africa. No student should lend money to the South African government. I do not think any MIT student does any of the things I just mentioned. However, some of our parents or relatives may actually be responsible for making similar decisions in the companies for which they work. Talking to these parents or relatives would be the first step.

Second Level Sanctions. No student should buy anything from, or sell anything to, or do any business with an individual or corporation that does not impose first level sanctions on South Africa. This, by itself, would not be effective, unless a statement is made to the company or individual upon which the student imposes sanctions. It is not enough to refuse to buy Coca-Cola products. One must send a letter to the Coca-Cola Co. every time one does not drink Coke because they do business in South Africa. One should not work for any of the companies that do business with South Africa either. Again, this by itself would not be effective. So one should interview with these companies anyway, and if offered a position then refuse to accept it, telling the company that one is not accepting the position because of the company's ties in South Africa.

One of the coalition's leaflets lists 51 companies that conduct business in South Africa. This is a good starting point. One should not drink Coke or Pepsi, or buy personal computers from IBM or Hewlett-Packard, or cars from Ford or General Motors, or purchase gas from Exxon, Shell, Chevron, or Texaco. One should refuse to buy textbooks published by John Wiley & Sons, or buy anything at Sears. One should give up one's American Express or Citibank Visa/Mastercard credit cards. If sick, one should not use medicines produced by Shering-Plough or Pfizer. As I said, each time any of these decisions is made, one should write a letter to the company explaining that one is refusing to buy its products because of the company's doing business in South Africa.

Third Level Sanctions. Economic sanctions should be imposed upon those individuals or corporations that refuse to impose second level sanctions.

It is very hard to find an individual or corporation who would not be eligible for third level sanctions. For example, one should not fly with an airline that buys its planes from Boeing. One should not visit restaurants where Coca-Cola is served. One should not work in any company that uses IBM, Hewlett-Packard or Digital computers. One should not pay for copies made with Xerox machines. One should refuse to buy food harvested with tractors produced by Caterpillar. And so on.

As it turns out, MIT is eligible for third level sanctions, because it buys products from and invests in companies eligible for second level sanctions. If one were to impose third level sanctions on all of those individuals and corporations that are eligible for them, one would in fact, find it very difficult to survive in our modern society. It is hard enough to impose second level sanctions on all those who deserve them. I would encourage all students to concentrate on these second level sanctions first, before demanding again that MIT divest.

I reiterate my respect for the members of the Coalition Against Apartheid. The divestment rallies were very effective in reminding me that apartheid still exists. I think it also reminded us that the right to have peaceful demonstrations cannot be taken for granted. I'm sure the "Goddess of Liberty" erected in Beijing last summer was considered by the Chinese government also an "unauthorized structure." We should fight to demonstrate and while doing so, remember that there are many countries around the world in which not only arrest, but also imprisonment and torture are probable outcomes of a peaceful rally.

Alejandro Cano-Ruiz '91->