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by Multiple Authors
‘Science for the People’ Vol. 4, No. 3, May 1972, p. 22 – 25
REPORT FROM BERKELEY
We have been very slow in writing up reports on the San Francisco APS meeting for Science for the People. Here is what I can give you now.
Bob Cahn has written up a piece on the Job Crisis. It ends with a “threat” that if the APS Council does not propose a satisfactory plan of action by the Washington meeting (end of April) then there should be “No Business as Usual”. Just what action that implies is purposefully ambiguous; and it will depend on the people who plan to go to Washington to decide how to implement this. I hope you can help disseminate the word and plan some appropriate action against the physics “ruling class” over this issue.
Perhaps you can do a review of the Physics Free Press which appeared from unknown sources but made a very strong impression on all APS’ers.
While the job crisis for young physicists was the most pointed issue at the annual APS meeting in San Francisco this winter, there were a number of other issues which came up for solid discussion, both as part of the scheduled program and as SESPA augmentations. The new Forum on Physics and Society, part of the APS, made its debut with an overflow crowd coming to hear biologist Paul Ehrlich talk on population and ecology. Ehrlich was more showman than scientist in talking about ecology, and he continued his egofilled debate with Barry Commoner over whether “population” or “technology” is the major cause of pollution. Ehrlich’s audience of mostly straight physicists was very strongly impressed by the program’s first speaker: Maurice Bazin, who spoke on Physics and the Third World — a powerful analysis and indictment of how American science has been exported more to enslave the underdeveloped countries than to help them. [See Bazin’s article in this issue.]
An APS panel discussion on “Uses of Physics” presented physicists from AT & T, General Motors, and Xerox Corp. showing what “Uses” of physics their employers were most interested in; and they were joined by the notable physicist M. L. Goldberger (former Pentagon advisor, present member of IDA, Professor at Princeton and Chairman of the Federation of American Scientists) who explained how academics can help produce the kind of properly educated scientists that can be profitably “Used” by corporate and governmental employers. Goldberger showed his liberal colors by needling the GM representative about air pollution from automobiles. GM reply: We are doing studies in mass transportation because if this ever becomes the dominant mode of travel, then GM wants to be on top of it. ! ! However, when asked about his contributions to the Vietnam war, Goldberger became very defensive.
In terms of mass events, the highlight of the meeting was the appearance of Richard Feynman to receive the Oersted Medal (for outstanding contributions in the teaching of physics). The SESPA leaflet which protested Feynman’s sexist book was widely distibuted, and when Feynman rose to receive his award before an audience of 2000, he was greeted by a group of picket signs which surrounded the podium. His response was mixed. He forcefully and publicly denounced the practice of sexism; but he said that it was stupid for us to pick on his textbook; moreover, as expected, he refused to consider removing the offending passages. SESPA chose to keep the protest at a low key, and it was undoubtedly successful in that the issue of sexism (perhaps more pernicious in physics than in any other science) was raised to a higher level of consciousness in the minds of more people than has ever happened before.
Perhaps the most significant new issue to come up at this meeting was the discussion of William Shockley, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, who has been busy promoting his racist—crackpot theory that Blacks are genetically inferior in intelligence. People from SESPA, together with people from PLP, presented a resolution at the APS Business Meeting. APS President, Robert Serber, ruled it out of order, saying that this was not proper business within the purpose of the APS. His ruling was challenged from the floor, and a heated debate followed. Radicals argued that the professional society could no longer hide from its responsibility to face this issue, and, significantly, some members of the
APS Council spoke and voted against Serber. A group of Black physicists took an active part in the debate. With perhaps a hundred members present, Serber was overruled and the anti-Shockley resolution was overwhelmingly approved. Member votes, however, are only advisory to the APS Council. In the past the APS Council has tried to avoid issues as controversial as this. The matter will probably come before the Council at their meeting in Washington at the end of April. It is important that APS members write or speak to members of the Council, urging them to approve this resolution. We hope that concerned members of the APS on the East Coast can attend this meeting. (Professor P. M. Morse at MIT is now President of the APS and will know when this item is scheduled for action by the Council.)
Also: Please send us 150 magazines each two months instead of 75—also 50 buttons.
ALSO: We are pursuing the Shockley thing on this campus and getting involved with larger issue: Jensen and Herrnstein. Please send any more information and analysis that you may have.
— Charlie Schwartz
REPORT FROM ST. LOUIS
Here is our brief report from the St. Louis front. I don’t have a lot to say, but a couple of items deserve mentioning. The McDonnell Project is being covered in a separate report which you will receive shortly, or which I will enclose with this letter if I get it in time.
(1) The St. Louis Ecology Group is preparing for publication of materials on the automobile: its politics, ecology, and economics. Our main focus is on the many ways in which the U.S. committment to private automobiles as the major form of transportation is geared to maximize profits and not to meet human needs throughout the world. The auto and its related industries, especially oil, consume enormous amounts of the worlds resources to provide an inefficient means of transportation for a tiny segment of the world’s population. We are trying to show how capitalism ravages the environment by exhausting valuable resources to produce goods that bring profit.
Countries which supply the U.S. corporations with oil, magnesium, cobalt, nickel, and other raw materials for automobiles might want, rationally, to use those materials to produce trucks and tractors. But the U.S. corporations control the raw materials, and they are used to make luxury items for affluent Americans. The auto industry exploits third world countries by exhausting their natural resources, it exploits workers at home by subjecting them to tedious, unhealthy, and unsteady working conditions, and it exploits consumers by building poorly engineered products, and by opposing the introduction of more rational means of transportation (i.e. rapid transit, monorails, etc.). Our aim is to make the automobile a case study in how capitalism exploits and controls much of our daily lives.
The form of this publication will be first a detailed book, then a series of pamphlets dealing with specific aspects of the problem such as the industry’s relation to its workers, the auto and imperialism, and how auto pollution affects most seriously the health of the inner city poor. We
hope to complete the larger book by June, 1972.
(2) A radical sociologist at Washington University has moved into what may be called the third round of his battle for a fair and open hearing on his tenure case. Over a year ago the department voted by a narrow margin to grant tenure. In making that decision questions about Colfax’s involvement with various community groups, and especially the Black Panther Party in Connecticut (before he came to
Washington University), were raised. The department’s vote of 5-4 was called by the Administration “not sufficiently strong” and the department was asked by the Dean to vote again. This time the vote was negative (4 against, 3 for, and 2 abstentions). Late in the spring Colfax asked for an AAUPtype hearing on the matter, claiming that some of his publications were not included in the file that circulated among department members, and that political questions had influenced the department’s vote. This fall the university convoened its “informal” committee which considers all faculty personel problems. This is a three-member committee (the AAUP committee for hearing tenure cases is supposed to be a 9-member committee), which conducted “informal” hearings (i.e. no transcript, and limited witnesses). Washington University has never adopted the AAUP recommendations on tenure questions, and thus felt no compulsion to follow its procedures. The informal committee decided last month that no academic freedoms had been violated in the Colfax case, and recommended to the Chancellor that no further investigations were necessary. Colfax countered by claiming that political considerations were at the heart of the department’s desire to get rid of him. Active in community lead-poisoning work, and with welfare mothers, Colfax had been trying for some time to put his sociology into practice in the community. He had claimed that traditional academic sociology should be discarded and a new activist brand substituted for it. Undoubtedly these views, coupled with his
spending a considerable amount of time helping organize people in the community, led colleagues to view his scholarly commitment skeptically.
The Chancellor has now acceded to a “formal” AAUPtype hearing, although not agreeing to all the AAUP details. Although the faculty is considering adopting the AAUP regulations, the Chancellor refuses to allow Colfax’s hearing to be postponed until those regulations can be put into effect. Thus, the Chancellor has asked the Faculty Senate, an elite body of established professors, to pick a 9-man committee (AAUP recommends that the 9-man committee be chosen from the faculty at large) to give the case a formal hearing. Whether the hearing will be open or closed is not clear, but a transcript will be made. Colfax’s proposal of a 9-man committee composed of three whom he selected, three whom the Faculty Senate selected, and three chosen by the Other six, was rejected. Although it seemed like Colfax had won a victory by the Chancellor’s decision to hold a hearing, in reality, this was just another move to go through the forms of justice without the substance. Not only is the selection of the committee unfavorable, but the outcome of the hearing has been left purposefully unclear. If the committee finds that Colfax’s academic freedom was actually denied, it is not clear whether they will reverse the sociology department’s decision, or whether they will simply send the matter back to the department. The former would be a victory; the latter only chaos added to confusion. What’s more, the Chancellor explicitly stated that the 9-man committee was not to deal with the question of Colfax’s academic competence—only with whether his academic freedom had been violated. It should be obvious that the latter cannot be investigated without dealing with the former.
This case has illustrated a great deal about how decisions are made at this (and other) universities. It has shown the subtle ways in which those who try to serve the people are dealt with by the established power structure. What Dave Colfax has called for is a new method of practicing sociology, one that emphasizes involvement with real community problems, with organizing, and helping people meet their own needs. This has of necessity meant that he spends less time publishing weighty papers—though he has published considerably even by traditional standards. His approach is a threat to those who would use their academic position to avoid dealing with the community’s immediate problems.
Thus, they claim publically not that Colfax has politics they don’t like, but that he “hasn’t measured up” to their standards.
— Gar Allen
THE MCDONNELL PROJECT
McDonnell Douglas is the largest employer and most profitable corporation in St. Louis. It is also the largest war contractor in the United States-since 1966, McDonnell got more than twice as much in war-related contracts as the next largest contractor. It produces the Phantom F-4 and F-15 fighters being used in Southeast Asia and in the Middle East.
People in St. Louis are beginning to understand the many ways that McDonnell affects their lives and the lives of people throughout the United States and the Third World. The McDonnell Project is beginning to build a movement based on the principle that the people who’s lives are affected by decisions should be able to make those decisions, and an understanding that it will not be possible for people in St. Louis or anywhere else to live decently until they, and not just a small group of powerful rich people, control McDonnell and corporations like it.
The project has made a film in which people who work at McDonnell and Vietnam vets talk
The McDonnell film is a political documentary about the effects of the aerospace industry in general. It consists entirely of interviews with people who have had some kind of working relationship with McDonnell Douglas Corporation or its products. The film runs for 27 minutes, is in black and white, and rents for $30.00. Sale price is $200 (but negotiable). For information get in touch with:
The St. Louis Project
REPORT FROM NEW YORK CITY
Scientists in New York City have engaged in two main projects recently—occupational health and safety, and medical and technical aid to Indochina. A detailed report on the occupational health and safety is given in another article in this issue. Scientists who taught the OCAW course at Rutgers this fall are now preparing a shortened version of the course for presentation this Spring. Members of the United Auto Workers have expressed particular interest in the course, and it will be oriented more toward the types of hazards they face, such as welding, paint and metal dust fumes, noise, etc. The course begins April 3 at the Rutgers Labor Center. All those interested in attending and participating in the course should contact Dave Kotelchuck or Jeanne Stellman (addresses at end of occupational health article).
Also Computer People for Peace (CPP) and the New York chapter of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) are engaged in projects involving technical and medical aid to Indochina. Members of CPP heard mathematician Chandler Davis speak last fall about his trip to Vietnam and China, and were told of Vietnamese requests for information concerning computer uses in this country. Areas of interest are operation and management of small and medium size computers, and applications of computers to process control, medicine, city planning, and economic planning. CPP recently wrote a letter to Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Hoang in Hanoi asking for further details. Those interested in helping CPP on this project should write CPP, The Dolphin Center, 137A W. 14th Street, New York, New York, 10011.
New York MCHR is presently beginning a project on medical aid to Indochina. Members have recently been visiting interested groups at medical schools and other health institutions, discussing the war and passing out detailed descriptions of medical needs. Also the group has been presenting a slide show, developed by NARMIC, on the electronic battlefield in Indochina. For more information contact Medical Aid for Indochina, New York MCHR, 137A W. 14th Street, New York, New York, 10011.
— Dan Kotelchuk
REPORT FROM SANTA CRUZ
As a relatively new collective (begun in October, ’71), we have so far chosen to put most of our energies into Science for Vietnam. While this has been our heaviest emphasis, there is a growing movement among us to broaden the scope of our activities. Our present membership is drawn from the Santa Cruz community and the University, the latter mostly undergraduates with some faculty.
We have developed a wide variety of Science for Vietnam projects, ranging from rather technical to completely non-technical. This wide range reflects accurately the composition and interests of the group, from those of us trained in the sciences through those whose experience is rooted in in the humanities to those the humanities to those who have not yet selected some area of specialty.
Our function, we believe, is three-fold:
(1) to give direct aid to Hanoi and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam
(2) to offer a way for people who oppose the war to directly and positively express that opposition
(3) to educate ourselves and others of our community both about the specific nature of the war
and the economic basis of that war.
Based on these goals, we have selected the following projects which have had varying degrees of success:
(A) BZ Gas. An effort to identify the chemical structure of this nerve gas and to develop both a field detection and a detoxification procedure. We’ve thoroughly searched the literature, sent for the relevant patents and have laboratory facilities available to us. Although we’ve tentatively identified the structure, it would really speed up our efforts if we could get a sample of the gas.
(B) Cultural Exchange Project. The Vietnamese in Hanoi suggested (to our surprise) an exchange of
cultural materials including political and other mass media publications, samples of contemporary music and art, etc. They’ve offered to send several Vietnamese publications in English regularly: Vietnam Courier, South Vietnam in Struggle (NLF), and Vietnam Studies. They are also interested in finding outlets for Vietnamese records to help create understanding and solidarity between the peoples of their country and ours. Our goal is to establish a Vietnamese Center in the community here, where these materials can be made available. We have sent our first package on mass media (political) and our next one will focus on women’s liberation.
(C) Psychological Warfare. We’ve encountered real difficulty in responding to this request. Hanoi
has asked that we identify the current trends of psychological research in this country. The results of
having searched through the abstracts of government research (unclassified; classified through 1967 when TAB was discontinued) were disappointing. We’ve asked Hanoi for more specific questions, but we need help from anyone here who might know possible information sources.
(D) Educational Packets. Hanoi has requested material in all academic fields for use at the beginning
college level. We’ve decided to respond to this by selecting individual subject areas and assembling a
collection of several good general texts, significant journal articles (xeroxed), etc., accompanied by a subscription to a journal relevant to the selected subject. Our first packet is on general Ecology. The Bay Area Institute is involved in a similar project and we are coordinating with them (see below).
(E) Research Directions in Crop Pathology. A literature search to determine the trends of this research as well as the researchers and institutes engaged in it, focusing on rice and soybean disease research.
This is a new project and will involve sending xeroxed journal articles.
In addition to making the community here aware of the above projects, we have undertaken several educational programs:
—E. W. Pfeiffer (Zoologist, U. of Montana) presented a slide/film talk on his research to the campus and the community, entitled “The Ecological Devastation in Indochina”. His presentation was well-covered by the local media (newspaper, TV, radio) and it greatly aided our efforts here, including building our own membership. We strongly suggest that others make use of Pfeiffer’s materials and experience, and his willingness to assist in building Science for Vietnam projects.
—Banning Garrett (Bay Area Institute, SE Asian Ed. for Ramparts) reported on his January trip to Hanoi, including his interviews with POW’s and discussion with the Vietnamese about political strategies of the movement here. Garrett urged groups interested in sending material to the North Vietnamese to make use of the following forwarding address which has proven reliable. Also, groups without postage funds are encouraged to mail their material to the Bay Area Institute for forwarding to Hanoi.
Bay Area Institute
9 Sutter St.
San Francisco, Calif.
One of the recurrent difficulties we have had since the beginning of the project has been to find ways to tie in the activities in direct support of the Vietnamese with organizing within the local community. The Vietnamese have made clear (through B. Garrett) the critical importance of the 1972 Presidential elections to them in their struggle. If we are to respond adequately to this concern expressed by Hanoi, our activities must be directed not only at the policies carried out by Nixon but at developing issues to expose the whole economic and political basis for the US presence in SE Asia. With this in mind, we’re attempting to develop a coalition which includes these major activities:
—the Science for Vietnam projects described above
—research on local war-related light industry
—guerilla and street theater basically focused on issues such as the myth of winding down the war.
We hope this description will be useful to collectives in other contexts around the country, and we want to be in contact with any who want to join us in one or more of them.
— Santa Cruz Science for the People Collective
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