Czech hunger strike against US radar base

A Czech activist, Jan Bednar, has been on hunger strike for two weeks to protest the “military occupation of the Czech Republic by the United States”—by which he means the plans to build a radar base for the new “missile shield” on Czech territory. From the website, May 25:

Jan Bednar’s health conditions are deteriorating
Jan Bednar’s health conditions are deteriorating. He is on his 13th day of hunger strike against the military occupation of the Czech Republic by the United States, part of the Star Wars project. The medical team, his friends and family and sympathizers from all over the world have pleaded with him to stop. Nevertheless he is determined to continue.

“There are no signs that the Czech government is willing to open dialogs on this issue or any official statement by the European Parliament” he repeated this morning.

Sympathy and support for the pacifist Czech grows daily:
Former Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Kavan paid the protesters a visit, as well as other intellectuals and politicians.

Protests in support of the Czech democracy and against Europe’s nuclear rearmament policies increase daily: uncountable solidarity fasts, are continuing in Amsterdam, Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, České Budějovice, Brunswick, Copenhagen, Florence, London, Malaga, Milan, New York, Bologna, Paris, Toulouse, Trieste,Turin and have now reached Sidney. More than a thousand people sign the online petition everyday.

European reporters are arriving in the Czech Republic to cover this new Prague Spring but national TV continues its biased course.

Solidarity messages pour in daily from hundreds of organizations and personalities such as: Noam Chomsky, Dario Fo and Franca Rame Giorgio Schultze, Giulietto Chiesa (European Parliament member), Luisa Morgantini (Vice President of the European Parliament), Nichi Vendola, president of Puglia Region in Italy, French bishop Jacques Gaillot and Pulitzer prize winner Chris Hedges.

Unlimited hunger strike today:

Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in Prague since May 13, Dino Mancarella in Trieste since May 14, Federica Fratini Isabel Torres, Eduardo Calizza in Rome since May 19, José Alvarez in Spain since May 22. They have been joined today by Bruce Gagnon and the Korean Sung-Hee Choi in the USA and Gareth Smith in Australia and Joaquin Valenzuela in Bologna.

However, there is something which is not quite right about this effort. The banner of the website displays revolving quotes and portraits of MLK, Gandhi and one “Silo.” Who the hell is Silo?

“Silo” (real name Mario Rodríguez Cobos) is the Argentina-based leader of a messianic psycho-therapy cult with political pretensions, whose modus operandi is to appropriate the names of previously-existing groups and movements. They call themselves the “New Humanists,” but are disavowed by the bona fide Humanist movement of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein. They have also gone by The Community, The Greens and the the Movement for Nonviolence. (See this reporter’s 1989 exposé of their efforts to organize the “The Greens” in New York City.) Much information on their methods is online at—which is mostly the work of Bob Von Holt, a former cult member who blew their cover in the San Francisco area in the ’80s. They now have enclaves in New York, Europe and Latin America. They dishonestly represent Silo as the “founder” of Humanism, the Green movement, nonviolence, and the Argentine answer to Gandhi and MLK (an honor that rightly belongs to Adolfo Pérez Esquivel). Their hubristic rhetoric about “humanizing the Earth” may sound like the usual New Age jive, but folks who have fled the cult report the use of psycho-drama and sexuality to manipulate members and keep them in the fold.

See our last posts on the Czech Republic.

  1. Greenpeace occupies Czech radar site
    Getting much less media attention than the huger strike, 20 members of Czech Greenpeace have been maintaining a protest encampment in the military zone at Brdy where the radar station is to be built since April 28. (IPS, May 21; Making Waves Greenpeace blog, May 13; Aktualne, Prague, April 20)

  2. Czech hunger strike
    Hi, Bill. Hunger striker Jan Tamas is a friend of mine, and I accompanied him when he was here in the US last month, meeting with Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, and others who are openly supporting the cause of the Czech activists. Thank you for bringing attention to this most important issue, which is characteristically receiving very little press here in the US.

    Whether you agree or not with the tactic of the hunger strike, it can hardly be referred to as “hubristic rhetoric.” Rather it is the courageous action of 2 men who feel extremely threatened by the possibility of a US radar base 40 miles from their home and are willing to put their lives at risk to bring attention to this issue. For us, that is what characterizes humanism today: intentional action towards transforming the violence and discrimination of a system that is becoming more and more anti-human.

    As a New Humanist, I also want to respond to your insinuations against Jan and other members of the Humanist Movement. The ‘cult’ slur is transparently ridiculous for anyone who knows the Movement and its activities over the past 40 years. It’s an old story that I thought had long ago been put to rest, but for the record: it arose in Chile and Argentina in the 70s when right-wing, church-supported military dictatorships in both countries accused us along similar lines. By the way, Silo is no longer connected to the Humanist Movement and has not been since 2001. The Czechs put him on their website because obviously, like Gandhi and King, he is an inspiration for them. That is their choice.

    As for your other inferences, it is true, we have never been members of the AHA, not because we hold anything against them but because, unlike them, we leave open the option for people to believe or not believe in God: for us it is not an issue. We are concerned, instead, with the lives and the futures of people on this planet, of all countries and from all cultures. For that reason members who have aligned themselves as part of the Movement have chosen to work within organizations (like the Community for Human Development, the Center of Cultures, the Humanist Party) that have as their focus a particular endeavor of human existence: the political, cultural, social, environmental.

    Finally, I re-read with interest your “expose” from 1989. The Brooklyn Greens were an attempt to bring a humanist expression to environmental social action; sadly, they were not able to further advance their proposals at that time. I find it ironic that the US base in the Czech Republic may soon be approved thanks to the votes of the Green Parliamentarians, who are openly going against the wishes of their base in order to retain their position of power as members of the right-wing coalition government. It is for that reason that New Humanists have always stressed the importance of personal change along with social change, because we understand this “virus of the heights.”

    Thanks again for your report.
    Dennis Redmond

    1. Smells a little cultish, sorry
      I did not refer to the hunger strike as “hubristic rhetoric,” but to Silo’s talk of “humanizing the earth.”

      Silo is all over the New Humanism website.

      I believe the AHA holds something against you.

      I share your criticism of the sell-out Green MPs. But speaking of the US and particularly New York City, the Greens who rejected your efforts as predatory were entirely grassroots and legitimate.

  3. Update on Czech hunger strike
    Gwendolyn Albert writes from Prague, May 30:

    This is a summary from the left-wing press: Yesterday, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg met with Bednár and Tamás, on hunger strike since 13 May, to protest the planned US anti-missile radar base on Czech territory. The activists reminded Schwarzenberg that the project has many opponents in the EU and that they had received a declaration from the Vice-President of the EP, Luisa Morgantini (EUL-NGL) of Italy, expressing her support. Tamás and Bednár proposed to Schwarzenberg that the government should halt negotiations with the US for a year, hold a more in-depth public discussion on the issue, ask the EU to adopt an official stance on the issue, and wait for the stance of the new US administration after the presidential elections there in autumn. Schwarzenberg rejected all of their proposals but said he would be glad to participate in a public debate of the kind they described, although he himself would not initiate it. Opposition Social Democratic leader Paroubek visited the strikers, asked them to eat, and said it was likely the parliamentary opposition, with support from the Greens, would not approve the radar.