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
Help for Science Education in Cuba and Vietnam
by Red Crate Collective
Scientific and technological resources of the United States should not be used to help colonize and repress people in less developed countries, but to help them improve their own economic, political and cultural position. That would be “Science for the People.” While the chances of official U.S. policy being changed to conform with this notion are slight as long as the U.S. government continues to be controlled by the dominant power interests, people can do something to implement such an approach. Two countries where scientific aid for the people is urgently needed are Vietnam and Cuba, where U. S. science and technology continue to be used to devastate and oppress.
In Vietnam, U.S. military strategy is designed to destroy the will of the people to resist occupation by the Saigon-Washington government. Part of this strategy is to disrupt Vietnamese society and culture by any means necessary; for example, by bombing Vietnamese villages with incendiary and antipersonnel devices such as steel needles and pellets, or by relocating a large part of the rural population in the South away from their ancestral lands. “Vietnamization” will not improve matters, since the U.S. government recently admitted that “preventive” bombing of the North will continue and intensify during the “Vietnamization” period.
This calculated disruption of civilian life, unprecedented in its severity, has not damaged the morale of the Vietnamese people, but it has hurt them in other ways. The Vietnamese value highly their intellectual tradition and system of education — aspects of their society that are practically unknown in the U.S., where most people think of the Vietnamese as tenacious but simple-minded peasants. American scientists, recent visitors with their Vietnamese colleagues, point out that U.S. bombing of the North has forced the Polytechnic University in Hanoi to decentralize and has destroyed much of the Central Scientific Library.
The Vietnamese people see scientific and technical education as extremely important. In the short run, they need it for industrial manufacturing and medical techniques to save the lives of their people. In the long run, they need it to rebuild their country and improve their living conditions.
In Cuba, U.S. policy is aimed at nothing less than starving the people into accepting the kind of government that the U.S. government believes is best for them. Not content with eliminating Cuba from the sugar quota and instituting a trade embargo that prohibits U.S. firms from exporting to Cuba, the U.S. government tries to enforce a vicious secondary boycott of European and other Western firms that sell to Cuba. Thus not only industrial articles but also food and medical supplies are very scarce, and rationing is severe.
Thirteen years ago the Revolution took power in a country that had been for half a century little more than a colony of the U.S., with its economy completely integrated into that of the mother country and almost totally dependent on one crop, sugar. Since then, despite U.S. opposition and obstruction, the Cuban people have been working to achieve stability, economic independence and control over their own political destiny.
Numerous visitors over the past few years report that the Cubans are aware of the importance of education to this endeavor, particularly in science and technology. However, the disarray of the educational system engendered by Cuba’s former colonial status has been aggravated by the departure since the revolution of the vast majority of the elite university professorial class. Thus progress in this critical area will be slow and help is needed.
In the United States “Science for the People” is not yet a reality. The corporate and military establishment controls much of scientific work, both in industrial research and development and in the universities where it is protected by “academic freedom.” But American scientists can use science to help the Vietnamese and Cuban people in a significant and constructive way. These people urgently need advanced medical, scientific and technical journals and textbooks to further their educational endeavors. In addition, the Cuban people welcome American university professors, particularly in the biological and health sciences, who wish to teach for a few weeks or months in Cuban universities.
A political collective in Cambridge, Massachusetts has already collected and shipped over 3,000 pounds of books and journals to North Vietnam and Cuba, and other groups are also active. For the past two summers American professors have taught at the University of Havana, and further courses are planned for the coming summer. If you are interested in such projects, please write for more information to SESPA Science for Vietnam and Cuba, P.O. Box 59, Arlington Heights, Mass.