Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Aug. 29, 1996
issue of Workers World newspaper
The memorial service for Sean Gervasi, held here Aug. 15 at the Martin Luther King Labor Center, was both a personal tribute and a political event. It was attended by more than 200 people.
Gervasi died unexpectedly in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, on June 19 from stomach cancer. He was 63.
Since the early 1990s, Gervasi had been documenting and exposing the role of the imperialist powers in the breakup of Yugoslavia. He was working on a book, "Balkan Roulette," at the time of his death. The book, which was nearly done, is expected to be published next year.
Gervasi was an economist trained at the University of Geneva, Oxford and Cornell. His political career began when he took a post as an economic adviser in the Kennedy administration. He resigned in protest after the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
After his resignation, Gervasi was never able to get work again in this country as an economist, despite his impressive academic credentials. He became a lecturer at the London School of Economics after leaving Washington. Notwithstanding his great popularity, the school refused to renew his contract in 1965.
The Daily Telegraph in London reported in its obituary on Gervasi that this "led to one of the first student sit-ins" of the 1960s.
During the 1970s and 1980s he was an adviser to a number of governments in Africa and the Middle East, helping them navigate the hostile and predatory world of transnational corporations and megabanks. He also worked for the UN Committee on Apartheid and the UN Commission on Namibia.
In addition, Gervasi was a journalist, contributing to a wide range of publications, from the New York Amsterdam News to Le Monde Diplomatique. He was a frequent commentator on the listener-supported Pacifica radio station WBAI in New York.
In 1976, Gervasi broke the story of how the U.S. government was secretly arming the apartheid regime in South Africa.
In the late 1980s, Gervasi began to focus on the Cold War and what he called the "full court press," a basketball term for a highly aggressive strategy. In an article published in the Covert Action Information Bulletin in 1990 after the breakup of the USSR, Gervasi showed how the Reagan administration's strategy of economic isolation, a gargantuan arms buildup with the threat of a nuclear attack, and CIA-directed sabotage had been decisive in bringing down the USSR.
Gervasi backed up his analysis with careful scholarship and documentation.
Gervasi was widely respected as a leading independent figure in the left. But his views were contrary to the fashionable dogma that blamed the USSR's collapse almost exclusively on failures of leadership and excessive centralization of the economy.
Gervasi saw the breakup of Yugo slavia as an extension of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the first step in a NATO takeover of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He became active in exposing the role of external powers, particularly the U.S. and German governments, in fomenting the civil war in the Balkans.
Among other activities, he led a team of researchers at the International Action Center in New York that collected information on the U.S. role in the breakup of Yugoslavia.
His view that the war in Bosnia was sparked by the aggressive machinations of the imperialists, and not age-old ethnic rivalries, alienated Gervasi from much of the liberal and progressive movement. Journals to which he had once regularly contributed would no longer print his articles. He had great difficulty finding a publisher for his book on the Balkans.
Gervasi's contributions as an independent thinker were strongly presented at the memorial in the keynote address by Heather Cottin, his wife. She focused her talk on his fight to expose imperialism's role in the destabilization of the USSR and Eastern Europe and the impact this has had on the liberation movements in the Third World.
Among the many speakers who paid tribute to Sean Gervasi's life and work were Samori Marksman of listener-sponsored WBAI radio, former Amsterdam News editor Don Rojas, political activist Alan Dorfman, author Nadja Tesich and Sara Flounders of the International Action Center. A delegation came from the Serbian community.
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