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About This Issue
‘Science for the People’ Vol. 10, No. 4, July/August 1978, p. 4
An admitted purpose of U.S. aid to underdeveloped countries is to protect North American economic and political interests.1 Academic research programs, funded by the government and private foundations, support these goals by trying to teach the dispossessed poor of these countries to accept their situation. The programs keep them from recognizing the need for social revolution which would fundamentally change the conditions of their poverty. In this issue, Howard Brick describes what one such academic group, the Community Systems Foundation (CSF) in Ann Arbor, has planned for poor communities in the Cauca Valley of Colombia.
The drive to take over and consolidate small individually owned farms by U.S. corporations or their proxies has forced small farmers onto less fertile land or off the land altogether. The traditional foods the farmers once grew are less available and their diet has consequently deteriorated. USAID supports this process by providing technological know-how for the large-scale cultivation of the fields. It also supports the CSF program that tries to modify the behavior of people in the Cauca Valley so they learn to stomach (and to purchase as well) the new crops grown on the land they once owned. Researchers and policy makers may see themselves as missionaries in these countries, dealing with poverty and malnutrition, their programs cloaked in progressive or even radical jargon. But in Brick’s words, this CSF program “only helps to perpetuate the real social basis of hunger and starvation” by failing to face the unequal ownership of the land which led to the formation of these poor communities.
These are not isolated examples of how academic researchers support the exploitation which goes hand in hand with the penetration of underdeveloped countries by Western capitalism. Much university and private research on Third World nutrition aims to replace or bolster local sources of food with more expensive ones from outside. The agressive sale of infant formula by Western corporations is one such example. Families pay exorbitant sums for the formula while the mother’s milk goes unused. The death rate for infants from diarrhea and malnutrition has at least doubled. Another government-funded program for population control that spends tens of millions of dollars yearly uses American medical schools to train foreign doctors in the most efficient methods of female sterilization. Such a program does not at all address the real health needs of Third World women.
The existence of these programs illustrates the pervasive influence of U.S. economic interests on government policy and academic research. There is no lack of enthusiastic policy makers and researchers to design them. Exposing the naivete and arrogance of these people and their programs is important.
The current resurgence of the Right, mentioned in our last “About This Issue”, is not limited to the U.S. Steven Rose and Hilary Rose briefly report on the rise of reactionary forces in England and their impact on Marxist and other radical and critical thinking in the unviersities. A similar increase in the power of the Right in West Germany has resulted in much more direct and legal repression of leftists. The Roses also describe the growth of the National Front, a British party composed of a mixture of neo-Nazis and other racists. Their ideology and literature make explicit use of scientific racism by drawing effectively on the authority of people like Jensen, Shockley and others. Thus it becomes abundantly clear that this is not merely an academic issue to be discussed by university intellectuals and emphasizes the importance of debunking and discrediting these “experts”. The rise of the Right is in part a reaction to the progressive gains of people’s struggles during the last two decades. We on the Left must now protect hard-won progressive measures such as desegregation, affirmative action and gay rights. At the same time, we recognize that these are limited victories, which involve certain contradictions and are susceptible to cooptation. Hopefully we can learn from the experiences of the divided and hence weakened British radical science movement: our strongest response to the Right is a principled, unified response.
We are also printing in this issue the second half of the article on professionalism in nursing by the Boston Nurses Group (see our last issue for the first half). The entire article is now available as a pamphlet from New England Free Press, 60 Union Sq., Somerville, MA 02143