Report of Activities from Berkeley

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

Report of Activities from Berkeley

by Charlie Schwartz

Science for the People’ Vol. 2, No. 2, August 1970, p. 12

March 4 1970… Our campus program for the Scientists./Engineers’ Second-Annual-Day-of-Concern was a mostly student-run series of critical talks and panels, with very little participation by the more establishment prople who joined in last year. It was interesting that by noe the ABM/MIRV issue was reduced to the level of guerilla theater—all rational discussion at the campus having been exhausted. An impressive highlight was the joining of 100 new people to the list of those who have signed the “No war research” pledge. A copy of the film on Hiroshima, just released for circulation, was shown a couple of times to overflow audiences; no rhetoric needed to accomplish this.

Livermore… The Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Livermore California, 40 miles from this campus is the prime facility for research and development work on nuclear weapons. Ardent supporters of the laboratory’s ABM/MIRV/??? development programs consider Livermore “the last hope of the free world.” For about a year we have tried to open up some channels of communication between this very isolated place and the rest of the world (Berkeley(?)). On April 15 SESPA led a group of 500 anti-war demonstrators on an early morning picket of the lab. Tom Hayden spoke at the rally outside the fence of this mammoth installation, but he found speeches to be inadequate to deal with the problems of people vs the war machine-as represented by Livermore Lab.

Numerous attempts to arrange meetings with people inside the lab have been refused by the lab director, even when these requests came from conservative University faculty members. On one day a group of six drove out to the lab spontaneously in the hope of having lunch at the cafeteria in the unclassified area and talking to inmates (about bombs, Cambodia, students, life, etc.). Their early-warning system was excellent because a full security alert was waiting for us and we were barred from entering the grounds. We protested to University President Charles Hitch that above all the university has an obligation to promote free and open discourse. He replied by quoting lab rules that political activity is not allowed! (Make bombs but don’t talk about them!)

The U. Cal. faculty is in the process of considering whether to retain its connections with the Livermore and Los Alamos laboratories. SESPA people here are in favor of increasing the connection between these weapons labs and the campuses in the hope of infusing some more humane direction into these anti-human projects. Most liberal faculty seem to prefer the choice of severance. Ultimately the choice will be up to the AEC and the University Regents (Reagan and friends). So far we have held one town meeting in Livermore and had a few personal contacts in an attempt to get the issues of “where technology is leading us” into the open. This will continue.

In late spring the AEC announced its E.O.Lawrence Awards to outstanding young scientists. One of the recipients was Michael M. May, director of the Livermore Laboratory, cited for his great contributions to advanced nuclear weaponry. We decided that Dr. May deserved greater recognition. So we announced that SESPA would award Dr. May the First Annual M.F. Strangelove Award “for outstanding contributions to the modern theory and technique of genocide and mass destruction.” In response to our initiative the AEC abruptly cancelled a day long program it had planned, including speeches by distinguished politicians and scientists and educators, along with presentation of the awards.

Free Speech at Lab… A controversy has been brewing at the Berkeley Rad Lab (no weapons work but all funded by AEC, and a mixture of academic and non-academic staffs) since last November when an employee group was denied permission to hold a noon hour meeting in the auditorium to discuss the war. The director appointed a committee to study the free speech question and finally came out with a policy that says nothing but technical topics related to the mission of the lab can be discussed at meeting held at the lab. Many lab people were outraged at this policy but the director felt he had the backing of the silent majority. (Actually the biggest fear people up there have is that free speech at the lab will have the same effects as free speech on the campus—riots and budget cuts. It is amazing that a lab with 3000 people, sitting adjacent to the Berkeley campus physically, could be so remote in spirit.) Actually it is expected that the restrictive rules will be proven untenable and that free speech will prevail in the very near future. Similar issues have been of concern to people at many AEC and other labs across the country. One of our goals should be to start opening up all scientific laboratories; those who graduate from the campuses and “go to work” should not leave their freedoms behind them but rather take them along.

Hiroshima/Nagasaki Days… August 6/9 of this year marks the 25th anniversary of the first use of atomic bombs. SESPA will be working in cooperation with Asian-American groups here and with many other anti-war groups to commemorate the occasion and to raise current issues of science and war. We are calling for a nation-wide suspension of normal technology/production on August 6 so that all may ponder our collective fate. It is hoped that this may be a significant occasion to promote organization of technical people in their own labs. We intend to put special pressure on the AEC; and to encourage scientific workers all over to take a more active part in political issues. When the next atomic bomb is dropped let each of us have more to say than, “I was just doing my job.”

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