Technical Assistance Program

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

Technical Assistance Program

by Herb Fox

Science for the People’ Vol. 2, No. 2, August 1970, p. 7

TAP is one of the ways to put the slogan “Science for the People” into practice. In response to the expressed needs of community groups and in an attempt to give technical people a chance to counteract the frustration that comes from being misused by society, Boston area SESPA set up TAP.

TAP’s charter is to assist community political groups in situations where technical experience and knowledge can make their struggle more effective. TAP recognizes the truth of Huey Newton’s famous statement, “The spirit of the people is greater than the man’s technology.” TAP proposes that one way that the spirit of the people is greater than the man’s technology is in the capability of the “spirit” to move technically trained people to bring the “man’s technology” to the side of the people’s struggle

TAP recently helped people in a working-class town in the Boston area. The people found themselves waging an uphill struggle against the “highway lobby”. Another one of those obnoxious highways that destroy homes and are reducing our country to a mass of asphalt, rubber and steel was to go through the people’s community. The Department of Public Works lied to the people by showing plans for a sunken highway, whereas they really started work on an elevated highway.

As usual, the community destroyers relied on the residents’ ignorance and inaction, but a group of residents got together to inform their neighbors on what was in store for them and to rally opposition to the highway. Recordings of the sounds of elevated highways and of the sounds of sunken highways were provided by TAP; they set up sound equipment at public meetings. When bulldozers came the community was aroused; men, women and children put their bodies in front of the construction equipment. Construction is now held up as litigation proceeds against the Department of Public Works.

Local radical groups are now beginning to use TAP. Newsreel had a car fixed and the Boston chapter of the Black Panther Party received information and technical assistance. A new and free community medical clinic needed electrical power because those inveterate servants of the people — the city fathers and the Edison Company — found some excuse for denying them power (ha!). TAP helped in obtaining, operating and maintaining an electrical generator. TAP has also assisted the Panthers in evaluating, purchasing and maintaining a truck and in setting up outdoor sound equipment and communications equipment.

Demystification of technology is one of TAP’s objectives. In every instance technical helpers explain to the people receiving the help what they are doing and why. The aim is to pass on information and technique so that community people themselves can continue the technical work. So much so-called “specialized knowledge” is just jargon or knowing which catalogue to look in.

Organizing informal instruction groups is next on TAP’s agenda. An automobile repair group is proposed where people will learn by doing. They hope to take on the repair of a vehicle to be used by a community group or the repair of vehicles needed by poor people.

Another project in the planning stage is the design and fabrication of carrier-current transmitters — an electronic device that permits broadcasting by using the electrical wiring of a building or housing project as an antenna.

Looking for a chance to use your Science for the People?


(Technical Assistance Project)

If you want to work on Sound Systems, Automobiles, Communications Equipment, Chemical Analysis, Self-Defense Mechanisms write: Science for the People, Box 59, Arlington Heights, Mass. 02175, or call ‘Scot’ 491-8725 or 491-1850 ext. 305

Theoretically trained? We’ll help you learn practical skills!

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