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. 4, No. 2, March 1972, p. 22 – 24
REPORT FROM MADISON
Our sisters and brothers in Madison have recently put out another SCIENCE FOR THE PEOPLE newsletter (January, vol. 2, no. 1) containing lengthy reports on the Madison Science for Vietnam Forestry Project, the Honeywell Project, and the AAAS Convention. We thought our readers would be interested in reading the following item entitled, “A Letter to Hanoi.”
To our Vietnamese Comrades:
We of the Madison branch of Science for Vietnam extend to you our warmest greetings and our best wishes.
When we learned from Richard Levins of Chicago that he was initiating an American Science for Vietnam program we were very excited. We felt this was an opportunity not only to express our opposition to the Indochina War, but also to engage in active support of the people of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Science for Vietnam provides us with an opportunity to question
the neutrality of science, to question the isolation of scientists from society, and to demonstrate to our colleagues that scientific activities can be performed in collective and non-capitalist ways. The majority of Americans, including scientists, believe that only the experts are capable of making decisions about technical and scientific problems. We felt it important to work in areas where we lacked a formal background so that we could show the capabilities of the non-expert. By collective action, group discussion and mutual criticism we hoped to overcome our individual weaknesses.
We are pleased to send a selection of publications on the recent advances in the treatment of Tuberculosis. This consists of 28 publications with one major review of the chemotherapy plus additional detailed papers on new drugs in use. We also included some papers on Tuberculosis management in “underdeveloped” countries and a paper on Tuberculosis statistics in South Vietnam. We have concentrated our efforts on two drugs, namely, rifampicin and ethambutol, and have been able to secure a small sample of each to include with the publications. We sought out information that studied the comparisons of the effectiveness and toxic reactions of the new drugs with the more conventional medications that have been used up to the present. In the event that you do not have any supplies of the two drugs mentioned above or that you have no way of obtaining supplies, we have included publications that indicate their method of synthesis.
We are aware that information on the chemotherapy of Tuberculosis was not one of the requests made to the American Science for Vietnam group, and we would like to explain how we came to decide on this project and how we carried it out.
Several weeks ago we learned from the Chicago branch of an appeal for antibiotics from the D. R.V. Two of the drugs requested were streptomycin and isoniazid, which are commonly used in antituberculosis therapy. We were aware of the seriousness of this disease in Vietnam and we were also aware of the problem of acquired drug resistance to established antibiotics. In group discussion we elected to work on the more recent therapeutic agents in the event that you had little information along these lines. We understood of course, that you might already possess considerable information and experience in this field, but we felt that additional data would also be helpful. If there are any topics of specific interest on which you would like further information, please let us know for we would be most pleased to help out.
N E E D E D
1. Oscillograph—of type “Oscillofil 18” (Siemens S.A.F., French), requested by Laboratory of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics attached to the State Committee of Science and Technology.
2. Microbiological Stamps—of Bacterium, Fungus, Actinomyces of economical interest that produce antibiotics, vitamins, enzymes, aminoacids, hormones. Also typical stamps for microbiological classification, requested by the Biological Faculty of Hanoi University.
3. Seismographs—having free period of one second such as APX(France), Benioff(USA), or HES-1-02(Japan), with galvanometers, seismo-recorders for three stations and chronometer for one, requested by the Institute of Natural Sciences of the State Committee of Sciences and Technics.
4. Lamps for Atomic Absorption—Unicam. Al, Ag, Au, Be, Cu, Co, Cr, Fe, Ge, Hf, Mn, Mo, Nb, Ni, Pd, Pt, Rh, Si, Ta, Ti, V, W, Zn, and Zr, requested by the Institute of Physics attached to the State Committee of Science and Technology.
The above items are samples from an extensive list of scientific materials requested by the Vietnamese to equip their schools and labotatories. To obtain the complete list, write Science for Vietnam c/o Science for the People, 9 Walden St., Jamaica Plain, Mass. 02130 or call (617)-427-0642. Any item you can provide will be appreciated.
We have begun a new project on forestry management, and we hope to have this completed in a few months.
We will continue with our work in the hope that your country will soon be free of the U.S. military aggressors, and in the hope that we may soon see an open exchange between our two peoples.
The Madison Collective
Science for Vietnam
Copies of the Newsletter can be obtained by calling Robin Dennis (608=256-8752) or Lome Taichman (608=237-3755) or by writing the Madison Group, c/o Joe Bowman, Teaching Assistant Assoc., YMCA, North Brook-St., Madison, Wise. 53775
AAAS NOTES: OBSERVATIONS FROM CHICAGO
The following excerpt is taken from a letter written to Science for the People by someone from Chicago who participated in the AAAS Actions. We encourage others to write in their criticisms.
One observation is that whether by habit or design, most of the war protest was styled for media consumption. But lacking was a thorough discussion of goals at the week’s outset. The media’s attention was successfully drawn, but there were no priorities as to what content to impart (the PRG’s seven points? individual moral outrage? war crimes? history of the war?) and therefore poor group discipline. Most news reports of the Bundy session carried only the circular chairs, one war crimes question, fighting over the microphone, and a quip from Buntly that the heckling was not too high-brow. The Bundy session could have been an opportunity to have emphasized and repeated for the American public the crucial matters of total troop withdrawal by a set date, exclusion of Thieu/Ky from a coalition government, etc. To have allowed private sentiments of rage to run Bundy off the stage and thereby take precedence over elemental public education was self-indulgent.
A second observation is that interest in the rank and file of the AAAS as a possible constituency was low. Choice of tactics shows this. For example, why not organize a mass walk-out on Humphrey? Why not have respected the vote outcome in the Bundy session, i.e. one hour of crossfire, then return to the regular talks—especially when further questions were scheduled at the end? Reports from the few groups that had encountered people in idea exchange in the small AAAS seminars had been encouraging, but this was not tried on a wide scale.
Obviously the resumed bombing of North Vietnam (had the continuous bombing of Laos been forgotten?) made the air war high-profile again so it was urgent to make a media impact to re-awaken dormant consciences coast to coast. But overlooked was that simultaneous political education among and inclusion of the AAAS rank and file might have produced a stronger result. In many ways, scientists are like Gl ‘s, whose skills, as necessary to the survival of the empire, must be denied to the military-industrial what-all. Personal style, egoism, or undiscipline that interferes with this cannot be afforded.
— Ann Foley
REPORT FROM WASHINGTON
The Washington Science for the People group was beset by a number of problems last summer. Our mailing list consisted of professional scientists in government and universities, and some students. Some were dropping out of science because of the misuse of science or the frustration of trying to organize scientists. Some were doubtful about the kinds of AAAS tactics they’d read about in newspapers last December. And some of the more activistic “young professionals” were absorbed in setting up a Nader-style science center.
In addition the previous year’s activity had brought out our inexperience. We had sometimes alienated less radical people by preaching to them, and demanding a certain purity of consciousness. And probably worse, most of our meetings turned into rap sessions with no followup actions. It seems that part of the problem has been that our bourgeois education leads us to philosophize but not to act. Thus many people left meetings when no action was taken while others remained paralyzed.
This past fall, however, we became more active by spreading the Science for the People magazine, organizing a group at George Washington University, working toward and participating in the AAAS 71 actions and setting up literature tables at other conventions. Attempts were also made to help Marion Barry (who left graduate school in Chemistry and found more significance in creating self-help programs for Black people in Washington, D.C.) get elected chairman of the D.C. Board of Education.
As the new year starts SESPA-D.C. is completing an initial phase of organizing in which our main concentration is on getting Science for the People to the people. By spring the magazine will be on consignment in a dozen bookstores and complimentary literature will have been sent to several thousand people. Attempts are being made to place the magazine in public institutions. Another emphasis at this stage is to create groups based in several working and educational areas. We have started or have contacts in nine area institutions. Our hope is to be involved in educational programs and some technical assistance projects by late spring.
SESPA-D.C. established a collective to provide a base for Science for the People activities while bringing interested people together in a living and working situation. We will struggle with our elitism, racism ‘and sexism on a personal and institutional basis. If you are planning an action in D.C. and/or need a place to crash, then drop in.
— Dan Adkins
REPORT FROM ST. LOUIS
The St. Louis Radical Ecology group and friends sought to provide some radical perspective amidst the deluge of material at this year’s AAAS meeting on the general questions of pollution, environmental decay, and natural resource management. The symposium we presented was entitled “Radical Approaches to Ecology: the Economics and Politics of the Automobile.” In the sessions we wanted to show by analyzing one industry in particular—the automobile industry—how the economic system as a whole is
the source of the environmental crisis. Our perspective was that the ecology question could not be separated from the broader political and social crises of advanced American capitalism.
The ecological problem of course extends beyond the mere consideration of how to clean up pollution and waste. It raises the question of how resources are utilized, who makes such decisions and on what basis, and under what forms of production these resources are consumed. Thus, natural resources must necessarily include human resources and the environment must necessarily include the social environment. The ecological problem emerges as one of the contradictions of America’s advanced state of productivity and the political system to which it is coupled.
Our study of the automobile, and automotive pollution, brought all these considerations to the fore. For example, it was shown in one session that the U.S. automobile industries consume large percentages of the world’s supply of bauxite, copper, nickel, zinc, manganese, and lead to produce cars for only a fraction of the world’s population. The decision to use these resources in this
way is dictated by the needs of the automotive industry for growth and profit. Thus the allocation of resources is based not on a rational level in so far as human needs are concerned but on the irrational growth dynamics of the economic system. The power of such corporations to allocate natural resources amounts to a de facto disenfranchisement of the world’s population.
Then too we had to consider the system of American imperialism by which the labor of third world peoples is exploited in order to make the automobile business profitable; and further, the dehumanizing and alienating production line conditions of workers in the auto manufacturing plants here in the U.S. Two workers from the Black Caucus of the UAW in St. Louis described, for example, the health and psychological effects on workers’ lives of working in an automobile plant. We pointed out also the direct effects of auto pollutants on human health, emphasizing the special burden of such problems on the poor who are concentrated in the urban areas.
Our symposium attempted to show how the present form of decision-making by large corporations, the exploitation of people and resources, and the ecological problems which some people in the U.S. have begun to worry about, are all necessary outgrowths of the capitalist economic system. An economist argued that capitalism necessarily involves continual expansion, and that competitiveness leads to always seeking the cheapest and most readily available source of raw materials, regardless of its effects on the natural or human environment. Our main point here was to show that lasting solutions to the world’s ecological problems are not to be found, for example, in building better catalytic converters or afterburners for automobiles. That approach touches on only one small aspect of the auto’s ecological disruption, and fails to strike at the root of the problem.
As an alternative approach we discussed some of the things being done in the People’s Republic of China. One of our group’s members, who had recently (summer 71) spent three months there, contrasted the use of resources in Hong Kong (exemplary of capitalist forms) with that in Shanghi. He outlined the way in which the social and economic order of the People’s Republic makes possible the rational use of resources, and thus prevents the kinds of environmental disruption so characteristic of capitalist
countries. The Chinese ethic was to turn “wastes into treasures.”
The Radical Ecology Group aims to prepare the materials presented in Philadelphia in several forms to reach audiences which the movement does not now reach in great numbers: workers, consumers, and high school students. We have the following specific plans in mind: (a) To present most of the material organized for Philadelphia in a well-documented and complete form (as a short book) for use by university classes or political education groups; (b) A shorter book, less detailed and annotated, for use in worker groups, by high school students, or the general public; (c) A slide or film presentation; and (d) An educational packet for specific use in schools. Particularly important, we feel, is the extension of this analytical approach to other industries, such as the aerospace-electronics industry. Such case studies could be particularly useful in worker-organizing efforts. We have found that our material on the automobile can be of great value to the Black Caucus workers at St. Louis’ GM plant.
— Gar Allen, member, Radical Ecology Group
>> Back to Vol. 4, No. 2 <<