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
By Multiple Authors
‘Science for the People’ Vol. 3, No. 5, November 1971, p. 13 – 14
St. Louis, Missouri
Although several contacts on the campus have been helping to distribute Science for the People, we
have not had any formally organized SESPA group here previously. However, some of us in the various science departments are working on a couple of little projects, not enough to form a complete organization around, but which need to be done. One is sending technical books to Cuba; the other is getting together a packet of information for Dick Levin’s “Science for Vietnam” project. Another group here has been working on a film about McDonnell-Douglas Corporation, including interviews with a number of laid-off workers. The film is expected for completion sometime this fall, though there are some technical problems to be solved.
We think that a regularly functioning SESPA chapter is a real possibility here. The way we are
generally going to proceed is to try to build out of some of the groups already in operation. My experience is that the most effective and permanent organizations arise from people who are working together on something specific; out of their initial collaboration, a more permanent group can form. We’re going to see if that approach is successful here. Since McDonnell determines
a lot about the economics of the city, and since it employs many people in the engineering and science areas, it is a good target for beginning some kind of SESPA organizing. But it may be a while before we can honestly report that anything viable is in operation.
— Gar Allen
We began organizing at the beginning of 1971 as a chapter of the Computer People for Peace. At that time, we intended to emphasize organizing among aerospace workers because aerospace employs so many technical workers in L.A. and because of the industry’s obvious complicity in the Vietnam war. During 1970 we had public meetings once a month which attracted as many as 40 or 50 persons; films were shown and we had invited speakers from other movement groups including a representative from TASC in the Palo Alto area.
However, during that time we did not make significant progress as a group because of lack of focus and the failure to develop a core of committed persons. We also underestimated the difficulties of organizing in aerospace (we hoped to have a group within each major company) which seemed to be primarily due to fears of losing security clearances as well as the more general problem of unemployment. We did start a newsletter (Aerospaced) of which only one issue has been published and initiated a leafletting campaign of aerospace companies. Leafletting became a major hassle because of the physical arrangment of most of the companies and because of the quick response of security guards. Several people working with us who have security clearances have been subjected to special investigations as a result of their activities. More about that later.
The group fell apart at the beginning of 1971 because the few people who were doing most of the work were unavailable for a few months. Since then we have started again but with a small group which meets weekly with the intent of spending enough time together to get to know each other and to have activities develop more slowly but (we hope) more solidly. There are about 6 people involved. The individuals range from persons employed in aerospace, layed-off aerospace workers and persons employed in commercial firms, to full-time movement people. We need to develop closer links with the universities and other nonindustry oriented groups.
A major recent activity was assisting the Peace Action Council (a coordinating council of movement groups in L.A.) in computerizing their mailing list. In the process we helped train persons in keypunching and in understanding aspects of computer systems. We hope to continue this kind of work in showing how the movement can use technology and to help develop small scale technologies appropriate for people’s problems. We are publishing a pamphlet on one’s rights in security investigations and are planning another which discusses the position of a person who has and wants to keep a security clearance and who is also working for the movement. We are also planning activities in support of Ellsberg which should be a critical issue for organizing. Another activity which we have discussed is sponsorship of a workshop on science teaching which would focus on the ways in which current science teaching limits the ways we look at the universe, our culture, and ourselves.
Four of the people associated with our activities have been called in for special security hearings by DOD agents. The situation is too complex to summarize here but the important consequence from an organizing context is that an atmosphere of fear has been created which makes it difficult to even talk to fellow workers, let alone involve them in activities. We are planning countermoves to this harassment and can use any information that can be supplied by you or your readers as to similar experiences. We will be glad to supply information on the situation in L.A. in return.
We have only seen two copies of Science for the People but the reaction has been generally positive. We will get together a more detailed critique of the magazine in the next few weeks. Finally, we are beginning to feel that Computer People for Peace is too narrow a name for the L.A. area and that a name indicating a broader group would be better. In the interim we are calling ouselves the Technology Working Group; however, we have discussed organizing a SESPA chapter and would like to get your comments on that.
— Ken Ziedman & D.M.