About This Issue

About This Issue

By the Editorial Collective

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 5, No. 3, May 1973, p. 2—3

In the middle room, the one where most meetings are held, the group is gathered. Posters cover the walls. Boxes of magazines are stacked at two sides, some on top of the bench, sharing it with a man and a woman. Other persons are seated opposite on the couch under the blackboard or at the table by the window. One lies on the floor. From outside the voices of neighborhood children are heard; a beer can strikes the pavement. Everyone knows everyone and they great each other warmly.

As usual, it’s about eight-thirty when the meeting scheduled for seven-thirty begins. Six to ten of the thirty-odd members are there. Discipline is not this group’s forte. A little shuffling—Who’s gonna be chairperson? What’s on the agenda? Who’s gonna take notes?—and the meeting begins. Several topics are discussed; decisions are made, most of which will never be carried out; and finally comes the topic of who is to be on the next editorial collective. For this is a meeting of the Bagholders, that rather select group composed of members of editorial collectives for one year past.

“Anybody have any candidates?” A fellow worker, a new guy, he’s been coming to. our study group. I’ve already talked with him, he wants to do it.” Other suggestions are made. Maybe three or four of the attendees have candidates to suggest. Some are questioned: “What is the person’s political qualification?” “Does she have the time?” Etc. Finally, a collective having been agreed upon, someone accepts the task of initiator-the one who calls them to their first meeting and ”initiates” them for maybe two meetings.

By such a process we came to be an editorial collective. We were supposed to be five (already too few). One never showed. Two who started found it necessary to leave for family or personal reasons. A volunteer made us three—a woman computer programmer who works at “the other computer company”, a physicist who works at “the largest acoustical firm”, and a graduate student at MITool with part-time employment. Not too many. Putting out a magazine is a full-time task and this issue has taken its toll on our minds, bodies and spirit. Fortunately, we had a lot of help from our friends, patience from those with whom we live, and gallons of tea and coffee.

We’d like to tell you some of the work that was involved, and what we learned. Not all of the work was necessary. Not all was fun. Much that we would have liked to do we haven’t been able to do, in part, because many out there didn’t do what they should have done. Let us explain.

The three of us are in workplace study groups. Always these groups end up using everything but Science for the People. It hasn’t seemed to have the quality, relevance or depth required for a serious study/action group. We didn’t think we could change that right away, but we wanted to begin. Our ideas took shape as we solicited articles via a letter accompanied by the Gorz article (p. 6) and distributed to chapters, contacts and friends; and then by a questionnaire which helped us get an idea what the various chapters are doing. Some articles such as the Fischer/Lesser study (p 16) and the article by Alex Szejman (p. 31) were written specifically for this issue, at our request. We received articles accompanied by letters that we felt to be of greater interest to the readership than the articles themselves, and consequently printed the letters. Another case is the Weinrub article (p. 22): things came in bits and pieces, none of which made an acceptable article, but because the content was important, we asked Al to patch the stuff together. (Al also put in about a hundred hours of typing, stripping, and organizing same.)

On a par with the idea that our movement doesn’t need leadership is the misconception that editing is “elitist.” We have changed submitted material because we took the role of editors of a political magazine seriously. We hope you will take our work seriously enough to give us comradely criticism where needed. When an article was received early enough, substantial changes were discussed with the authors. Often, however, we stretched our deadlines for people who ended up giving us illegibly scribbled or single-spaced copy, which we felt could not have even been cursorily proofread. This division of labor (much of our time was spent getting first drafts into readable form) is poor political practice. It implies that our time is less valuable than the author’s. At the same time, we felt duty-bound to rephrase passages and even major segments which expressed valuable ideas but were vague, misleading, verbose, and in some cases, factually inaccurate. Where our desired changes were in clear conflict with the intended meaning, we separated our own ideas into italicized editorial comments. We strongly urge people before submitting an article (double spaced, typewritten, and in several copies) to show it to their friends, discuss it and request constructive criticism.

It is difficult to create a magazine that is serious but not humorless, substantial but not “heavy”, thorough but not boring, balanced but not liberal . . . In fact, the whole trip has been difficult and, under the stress, our feelings have been sharpened. For example, that a U.S. president has proclaimed May Day into Law Day infuriates us; he thus attempts to deny us the commemoration of heroic struggles for the 8-hour day, and implicity honors the brutal legal hanging in 1886 of four Chicago working class leaders. How different from treating POW war criminals like heroes. We are also angry about a lot of other things like “self justifying ideology” and “peace” in Cambodia. But what really brings tears to our eyes is the impotence born of ignorance which so often characterizes our movement. There can be no coherent class struggle without class analysis specific to the culture, historical conditioning and present stage of our society. Yet we’ve barely begun this task. We need to take our historic responsibility seriously. We need to integrate political struggle into all aspects of our lives through study and action. How long will May 1 be Law Day? When will it be May Day, the workers’ holiday? To win the struggle we have to know what the struggle is and which side we are on.


CONTRIBUTORS: Boston Interim Steering Committee, Boston Science Teaching Group, Boston Women’s Issue Group, Britta Fischer, Herb Fox, Andre Gorz, Mike Hales, Al Huebner, David Jhirad, Mary Lesser, Madison SftP, Joe Neal, New York City SESPA/SftP, Claus Offe, Rising up Angry,  Jeff Schevitz, Charlie Schwartz, Stony Brook SESPA, Alex Szejman, Mike Teel, Rush Wayne, Al Weinrub, Dave Westman.

PRODUCTION CORRECTIVE: Typing Coordinator: Al Weinrub; Paste-up: Britta Fischer; Proofreading: Dave Westman, Nancy Shaw.

PHOTO CREDITS: Technology Review, M.I.T. p. 41; Project Physics Course, Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, pp. 15, 27; Man and Machine by Cartier-Bresson, Viking Press, pp. 19, 28; American Labor, A Pictorial Social History by M.B. Schnapper,
Public Affairs Press, pp. 8, 18, 21, 32


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