This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email firstname.lastname@example.org
About This Issue
Outraged by the U.S. war in Vietnam, in a period of heightened political and social awareness, progressive scientists and technologists joined together 13 years ago to establish the organization and the magazine, Science for the People. Thus was launched an organized radical critique of science and technology under U.S. capitalism, an effort to demystify the work of scientists in the capitalist system, an investigation into alternative modes for scientific productive capacity, and a challenge to the basis of the imperialist state. Central to this was the role of science and technology in an increasingly militarized capitalist society. It is now a commonplace: more than half of all scientists and engineers and of all support for research and development in the U.S. are controlled by the military.
Yet surprisingly, in the last decade few Science for the People articles have dealt specifically with the issue of militarism—as a central source of corporate profit, as the predominant mode of scientific and technological production, and as a basis for U.S. hegemony in the world. With this Special Issue we hope to refocus attention on the extent to which science and technology have been pressed into the military service of U.S. capitalism.
But we hesitate. . . the subject is so enormous, its hold so tight, its presence at once too abstract and too all-encompassing to confront directly. Do we have access to the necessary information? Is the subject inappropriate for organizing? Will we be risking our careers? Can we discover the truth about the “Soviet threat”? Yet with U.S. war preparations increasing, we found that despite all reservations, no issue could be so crucial today or so important for political organizing as this one.
Several articles reveal the dominance of militarism in the U.S. and the central role science and technology play in it. “The Basic Economics of ‘Rearming America’ ” confronts the vast economic scale of militarism, and we learn of the strategies of the capitalist class—its vested interest in militarism and how science and technology fit in. Congressman Ronald Dellums, in “What Constitutes ‘Adequate’ Defense?”, condemns the despicable policies of the Reagan Administration. “Resurgent Militarism in Academia” documents the military control of scientific research and development, showing how the military operates to achieve these ends.
The “Soviet threat”, which we approached so cautiously, is attacked in several articles as a political-economic tool for expropriating labor and resources to en-rich capitalist elities (see “The Basic Economics of ‘Re-arming America’ “, “What Constitutes ‘Adequate’ Defense?”, and “U.S./U.S.S.R. Strategic Policy”).
Those in power hide these realities from us. They mystify the truth and, in the name of national security, conceal the relevant facts. Given the facts, the average person can understand the political and technical aspects of militarism. Expert economists and policy analysts have no monopoly on knowledge and action (see “Challenging the Weapons Labs”). Were military appropriations not buried in unlikely sections of the budget (see “The Basic Economics of ‘Rearming America’ “, “Resurgent Militarism in Academia”, and “Space Militarism”), and were military projects not masqueraded as noble civilian enterprises (see “Laser Fusion” and “Space Militarism”), the public would not be drowned in a sea of mystification. But as things are now not only are the people kept placated, but scientists and technicians are kept unaware of their participation in military-capitalist projects. When all else fails, the cloak of secrecy is donned to hide information, not from imagined adversaries, but from the workers and the public whose lives and security are threatened (see “Biological Weapons and Third World Targets”).
Science for the people means challenging militarism on many fronts. Science workers and the public need to be informed and to mobilize for the political struggle. They need to mobilize around specific technologies and research projects (e.g., “Biological Weapons”, and “Laser Fusion”). They need to mobilize in the weapons laboratories and at research centers (see “Resurgent Militarism in Academia” and “Challenging the Weapons Labs” and “Space Militarism: A Debate”). And that struggle must be carried to its final stage: a fundamental transformation of the present political-economic system.