Petition against McCarthyist censorship in French university libraries, addressed to the President of the Sorbonne University (Université Paris 1), Professor Philippe Boutry
A user of the Sorbonne University’s Pierre Mendès France Library recently proposed to a librarian that the library acquire the French edition of Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War 1939-1953 by Geoffrey Roberts, professor at the University of Cork in Ireland and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. The book was published in French in 2014 by Editions Delga, and originally published in English in 2006 by Yale University Press. The proposal received the following response:
“The proposed work, although it was written by a university professor, does not in principle seem to us to display the historical and scientific neutrality required for it to be included on our shelves. Nor do the other books published by the same publishing house.”
When the library directors were contacted about the incriminated book, as well as about the prerequisite conditions for a publisher’s books to be admitted onto the library’s shelves, a series of evasive answers was given. A visit to the shelves in question, those devoted to the history of Soviet Russia and the USSR, reveals that for over fifteen years, books containing unprofessional journalism and anti-Soviet propaganda have been systematically acquired, such as those by Bernard-Henri Lévy and André Glucksmann, as well as outright holocaust-denying books, such as those by Ernst Nolte. On the other hand, important scholarly works published in French during the same period have not been acquired, such as those by Arno Mayer, Michael Carley and Alexander Werth, whose famous Russia at War 1941 to 1945, republished in French in 2011, remains absent.
This censorship is taking place in a particular context. For example, on January 21, 2015, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna claimed, in order to justify the fact that Russia had not been invited to the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz this year, that it was the Ukrainians and not the Soviet army that had liberated the concentration camp. And on January 8 Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk claimed – without receiving any more public outcry than the Polish foreign minister – that the Soviet Union had invaded Germany in June of 1941.
These gross falsehoods have not been answered with any official reaction. This passivity is made possible only by the lack of historical knowledge within public opinion, partly a result of the censorship that has extended into the university. While this censorship lay tacit and insidious for a long time, it has now attained such a level that the Sorbonne University library no longer attempts to dissimulate it, in its prohibition of a well-known university professor and the entire catalog of a progressive publisher.
We demand that this blatant violation of university ethics be brought to an end, and that the Pierre Mendès France Library at the Sorbonne University respect diversity and pluralism in its acquisitions of scholarly publications. We demand also that this respect extend to all other university libraries.
No to McCarthyist censorship in university libraries!
The full history of this censorship and the exchanges pertaining to it is available at:
Godefroy Clair, Research Engineer at Université Paris 8
Annie Lacroix-Riz, Professor Emeritus of contemporary history at Université Paris 7
Aymeric Monville, Editor-in-chief, Editions Delga
Paris, February 3, 2015