Science for the People Activities

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

Science for the People Activities

by Multiple Authors

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 6, No. 3, May 1974, p. 35 – 37


The Army Mathematics Research Center: Our attack on this military research center continues. The center recently attacked our book The AMRC Papers (see SftP, Jan. 1974) in a White Paper sent to the faculty. In a fashion reminiscent of Nixon’s Operation Candor, the AMRC “whitewash” paper admitted for the first time that most of our facts were correct, while hiding behind charges of misrepresentation and the doctrine of academic freedom. Our response was a counter-memo to the University, answering their charges and their new rationalizations for working for the Army. We continue to speak of alternative research directed towards people’s needs.

Occupational Health: For the past year, some of us have wanted to confront this massive problem, and action is finally underway. Our first step was to work with other individuals in sponsoring a Worker’s Forum on Safety and Health, as part of the Community Health Month programs here in Madison. The forum was attended by about 50 people; union leaders, rank-and-file workers, and scientific, medical and legal people. They heard speakers on the causes of accidents and disease on the job, and ways for fighting unhealthy work conditions. The highlight of the program was the speech by Carl Carlson, a worker at an International Harvester plant and president of the Chicago Area Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (CACOSH). We proposed a permanent group in Madison to operate like CACOSH in assisting local unions to win healthy workplaces. The audience welcomed our proposal, and agreed to meet again to put it into effect. The forum alone has inspired the union at a local foundry to file a complaint about air pollution and other hazards. 

Energy Crisis: This January, we helped run a community discussion of the “energy crisis,” its causes and possible solutions, in conjunction with a protest of Gulf Oil’s recruiting on campus. The result? A better idea of what oil companies could be like under worker-consumer control. We’d like to develop this idea further with other groups in Madison and around the country. 

A Word on Other Political Groups: This past year, the Madison collective has been reaching out and beginning to co-ordinate our efforts with other radical groups with some success. The scientific skills in our group have often been amplified by the manpower, organization and expertise of other community groups. Contacts have included broad-spectrum political groups such as Attica Brigade and the Wisconsin Alliance, various radical newspapers, Madison’s free clinic and a group working on the people’s history of Wisconsin. SftP can obviously accomplish more as a branch of a unified Left, and we hope to push further in this direction. 


Presently we’re involved in three major projects: the May issue of Science for the People, educational work around the energy crisis, and fact finding work concerning health hazards endangering Eastern farmworkers. 

We’ve written a leaflet defining the nature of the energy crisis and the role of monopoly capital in manipulating the public. An additional flyer was designed to create activity around the Long Island Lighting Company’s (LILCO) rate increases. Three of our members attended the first LILCO public hearing, establishing contact with various citizens’ groups and gaining some insight into people’s attitudes on the energy question. We’re presently in the process of planning energy related actions and literature distribution. 

Long Island migrant farmworkers lack legal protection from the health hazards presented by pesticides. fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals. Thus. our project involves identification of the chemical products used on local farms, and validation of suspected health hazards. We will attempt to work on these problems through education, and by pressuring farmers to abandon unsafe practices. We are presently involved in the initial information gathering and planning phase in what will undoubtedly be a long-term effort. 

Our study group was set up as the theoretical basis for our work, and to increase our factual knowledge of current situations. Thus far, we’ve studied the subjects of scientific socialism and dialectical materialism. We spent a considerable amount of time reading literature on the energy issue. This we summarized and used in writing the energy leaflet. 

We’ve taken part in a number of spontaneous actions. Literature tables were set up (by our people) at various functions. This was the case at a Pablo Neruda poetry reading and at an account of the Chilean coup. Similarly, we prepared a leaflet and sold books on China (as well as Science for the People issues) at a three-day, University sponsored China information series. On another occasion, we attended a demonstration protesting a forum by William Shockley, sponsored by a local high school. 

Finally, we prepared a position paper focusing on the nature of problems affecting the University community as it relates to and supports the American political and economic structure. 


A two-day midwest regional conference of SESPA was held February 23 and 24 in Chicago. Saturday morning was devoted to chapter reports and general areas of mutual interest. Several groups (Madison, Evanston, and Chicago northside) have sponsored forums on the energy crisis, and others (Minneapolis and Chicago southside) have sponsored or participated in forums on race and IQ. While people were generally agreed that these forums were an effective way of presenting our views to a larger group of people, no one found them useful for recruiting new members. Although there is general concern in this area, a full discussion was not held (due to limited time) about how we could be more effective in our recruiting. Several chapters have also formed working coalitions with other left groups. These coalitions center around three main areas: industrial health (Madison), energy crisis (Chicago northside), and race and IQ (Minneapolis, Chicago southside). Several groups are discussing reading selections on science ideology, especially a critique of present science ideology, and the role of Marxism in a working philosophy of science. 

In the afternoon a series of one-hour workshops were set up to give us more time to discuss questions of mutual interest. Workshops were held on agriculture, energy, ideology, health care, race and IQ, and the planned National Science Teachers’ Association actions. The purpose of the workshops was to exchange information, and to try to coordinate these activities on a regional basis. In the agriculture workshop, the Chicago southside chapter agreed to act as coordinator for information on agriculture and food. The outline for a general critique of existing agricultural technology to be sent to the Vietnamese was discussed. At the health care workshop, we discussed our experiences with working on various aspects of health care and organizing around industrial health conditions. Health hazards faced by students working in university laboratories were briefly mentioned. 

On Sunday morning, we talked about ways to increase magazine sales, Larry Olds’ trip to the Italian Science for Vietnam conference, and the national SESPA movement. No one was willing to take on the responsibility of putting out the magazine, but we were interested in contributing more material regularly. Gift subscriptions were suggested as a good way to get a wider readership for the magazine. Two packets of information are going to be sent to the Vietnamese at the Italian conference—one on agriculture, and the other on qualitative analysis of complex systems. On the subject of a national meeting, some people felt that a national structure was essential for increasing growth of the organization. They also felt that an immense work load is dumped on Boston, and that this must be alleviated through changes in national structure. Other people were strongly opposed to the centralization of the organization. They felt that this is part of a general trend on the left to tighten organization as a substitute for content. They also mentioned the condescending attitude on the part of some people in Boston, an example being the response to the Morales-Melcher letter in the last issue of the magazine. All were agreed that a freewheeling discussion nationally was a critical need. Most people felt that the national conference should be held for the purpose of discussion rather than for passing resolutions and taking various formal steps. 

  — Chicago Southside


Since 1968, SESPA has participated yearly in the AAA$ conference. We have, in the past, attempted to criticize the very basis of the AAA$ (American Association for the Advancement of $cience)—exposing its role in American science and joining with other progressive scientists and non-scientists in presenting a science for the people. 

As the SESPA chapter nearest to San Francisco, we in Berkeley coordinated activities at the conference. We organized counter-sessions and made contact with SESPA chapters around the country. Although the response was not as large as it had been in previous years, groups from the west coast and east coast sent word that they would be in S.F. for the conference. As preparations continued we wrote several leaflets and also a booklet entitled “Professors in the Pentagon” which is a follow-up of the Jason study done a couple of years ago. At the same time we also sent a number of letters back and forth to the AAA$ in Washgintomb. Richard Trumbull, the AAA$ meeting manager in Washgintomb, notified us that he would be glad to provide space for us and hoped to cooperate with us in every way. Were we ever to learn otherwise! 

Since the small society sessions (which were once the main hallmark of the AAA$) were no longer part of the AAA$ conference, most students and young scientists would not have any reason to attend. Although we realized this, we did not understand its significance to our relationship to the AAA$ meeting. The structure of the meeting this year revolved around invited sessions on “social” questions and good P.R. science (a Ia Emmanual Velikovsky). The theme of the conference, in fact, was the future of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

When the conference opened Monday morning, we found that there were no out-of-town SESPA people about, and that the space we had been allocated was outside the back door to the exhibit hall—where we would be sure to go totally unnoticed. We managed, by waging a continuous struggle, to get a small space inside the exhibit hall where we could talk to people (but not without incredible hassle which continued for the rest of the conference). The real lesson was that the AAA$ was no more what it had been because the large numbers of students and young scientists open to new ideas were not there. Those present had a large investment in the scientific status quo. They may have been upset with the present national crises, but they could not agree on a single principle of unity upon which they might work for change. 

During the first three nights of the meeting we held our own counter-sessions. Our session the first night was entitled “The Real Criminals” and replied to the regular session on “Crime and Social Control in the 1990’s.” That evening we were competing with Emmanual Velikovsky, who was defending his theory that the earth has, in the past, had near-collisions with other planets. Why did his lecture attract 5000 people while only 100 attended ours? 

Our session on the second night countered the corporate-oriented AAA$ sessions on the “Future of the Bay Area.” We attracted 50 people. Next door was a multi-media demonstration attended by 2000 people. We quickly took advantage of the situation and set up a table outside this demonstration. This attempt to communicate with the people was stifled when Trumbull threatened to have us arrested, but we started rapping with a group of science students from small Bay Area colleges who were more than willing to give us a hand. With their help we had too large a contingent for Trumbull to bother with, so as the event let out we had one of the high points of the convention with people lined up 3 and 4 deep around the literature table. The new issue of Science for the People on IQ had arrived that afternoon and sold well, leading to some very educational discussions with people. Our third session on “American Science in Latin America” drew 150 people.

Based on our experiences this year, we have concluded that there are two possible orientations that SESPA might take with respect to AAA$ conferences in the future. First, if the conferences continue to function as they are now—a direction they have been moving in for the past couple of years—one useful thing we might do is open up the conference to the people so that they might hear what the satraps (corrupt government officials) of science have to say on such issues as the future of specific geographical regions, the relationship of the scientific establishment to the running of society (here and in the rest of the world), crime and social control, etc. The other alternative is to focus our energies elsewhere than the AAA$ in a place where we might build a movement of scientists and other people interested in a science for the people. For example, plans are now starting for the Association of Science Teachers meeting which will be held in Los Angeles in two years. Here is an organization that is looking for progressive groups and individuals to participate in their conference (even running sessions and otherwise directly participating in the conference). This organization is composed of individuals who disseminate a great deal of information to young students who have no idea of the many possibilities for developing a meaningful, interesting and relevant science for the people. 

  — Jon Levine & Randy Knight for Berkeley SESPA


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