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
Future Directions for Science for the People
by The Magazine Coordinating Committee
On April 28, 1974 a meeting was held in Boston to discuss the future direction of Science for the People magazine and the role to be played by the magazine coordinator. Members of the Boston chapter were joined by others from the Northeast region. This report includes background material provided by the Magazine Coordinating Committee and an account of the meeting. We encourage discussion and response from all members.
SftP magazine began as an outgrowth of the antiwar movement and since its inception in August 1970, has appeared regularly and dependably every two months. As the anti-war movement faded and political perspectives have deepened the magazine has tended to reflect these changes. During these few years, SftP has been the main voice of dissidence within the scientific and technical workforce. For those who felt isolated and estranged from the established practise of science and technology, it has provided a voice for their alienation and an organ for their political development. Our organization has undergone a positive shift in its political orientation, a shift from predominately anti-war to a more long term anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist one. The magazine has been an important element in the shift. Its articles have brought out the systematic nature of the misuse of science and· technology and has sought to challenge the dominant ideology of science and in our society.
Responsibilities of The Magazine Coordinating Committee
The responsibility of producing the magazine currently rests with the Magazine Coordinating Committee (MCC). The MCC, which began in July of 1973, is composed of people who have served on past editorial collectives and who are willing to put their primary political activity into SftP magazine. The MCC is responsible for the long term planning, production, and distribution of SftP:
- Determining the long term focus and direction of the magazine by specifying the kinds of articles and taking steps to generate such material.
- Establishing General Editorial Policies and Principles by specifying the process by which SftP magazine is produced and taking whatever steps necessary to make SftP activity a politically responsible and rewarding experience.
- Selecting and aiding editorial collectives. Although the production of each issue rests with an editorial collective chosen by the MCC, the MCC has the responsibility of helping out the collective members, teaching technical skills where necessary and responding to questions or requests for help or advice.
- Determining the format of the magazine by maintaining continuity in the form and appearance of the magazine in typesetting, layout, and design convention, in length and frequency of publication.
- Increasing the distribution of the magazine by planning, initiating and coordinating efforts to increase the readership of the magazine. These efforts should be consistant with the focus and direction determined for the magazine and include advertising and enlisting the help of SESPA/SftP membership, broadening bookstore and library distribution etc.
These responsibilities require major input from the greater membership such that the magazine reflects the position of the organization as a whole. In spite of its success, many people feel that SftP has not realized its full potential. In response to a request by the Boston Area Steering Committee, the MCC formulated several proposals regarding the future of the magazine.
The political perspective which underlies these proposals is the conviction that the struggle to achieve socialism is going to be a long one, that it must mobilize the majority who work but enjoy few privileges, that it will be fought along class lines in a way which recognizes and deals with sexism and racism, that it must provide a vision of how our energies can be constructively used. The focus of the magazine should be to help bring the scientific and technical workforce into the struggle in alliance with other strata. To that end the Magazine Coordinating Committee proposes that the magazine be directed to a much broader constituency—to those who do the nitty-gritty of scientific and technical work (engineers, technicians, computer people, low-level researchers, students, etc.) and to those who are struggling against professionalism and oppressive uses of technology (prisoners, free clinics, etc.) While material will still be about the misuse of science and technology, the focus will be on the struggle against this misuse, and how it relates to the broader political struggle against capitalism.
The following proposals originated with the Magazine Coordinating Committee and were amended and added to by the meeting:
- That the magazine be directed as outlined above, with the emphasis for the future being on:
(i) More timely articles.
(ii) Articles focussing on job conditions, alienation, struggles around work.
(iii) Articles focussing on struggles against oppressive science, technology and professionalism.
(iv) Material which unites and identifies the above with other political struggles, which provides historical perspective, which raises questions of strategy and practise. This might be in the form of regular features, for example, News Notes, Working Class history, Book Reviews, Aspects of Racism, sexism, elitism etc.
- After each issue of the magazine appears, the MCC will arrange an open meeting to discuss the magazine; other chapters are encouraged to do the same.
- The meeting also recommended that the Magazine Coordinating Committee periodically formulate and present long term plans for the future of the magazine to the national membership.
These proposals were voted on and accepted by the Boston Chapter. We emphasize that these votes represent a tentative solution by the Boston Chapter only and that this subject requires ratification and input from the national organization.
The Magazine Coordinator
For the last year, Science for the People Magazine has had a full time paid magazine coordinator, Al Weinrub, working for it. Al is leaving at the end of May. [See announcement in the magazine of March 1974[note]Archive Editor’s note: see announcement on page 22[/note]]. This means not only that another coordinator has to be selected and the means for doing this discussed, but also that this is a good time to review the role played by the coordinator.
So far the responsibility of the magazine coordinator has been to work with the Coordinating Committee to organize and coordinate the planning, production and distribution of Science for the People magazine. More specifically, the coordinator has assumed the principle responsibility for drawing editorial collectives together, helping them to conceptualize their magazine, teaching them the technical skills of designing a magazine, preparing it for the printer, and organising the mailing of the magazine once it is ready for distribution. On a more long range level the coordinator has attempted to organize groups of people to write, solicit or otherwise generate articles for the magazine. In working with the magazine Coordinating Committee on these kinds of activities the coordinator’s role has been to increase the group’s efficacy by coordinating its work, for example in writing reports, formulating plans, drafting positions etc.
However, the present Coordinator has worked approximately seventy hours per week on these activities. This is undesirable, not only because it is unreasonable to expect someone to devote this much time to the job, but also because it places too much responsibility and power in the hands of one individual. It was the opinion of the meeting that in the future much of the routine work now done by the coordinator should be taken over by the magazine Coordinating Committee. Thus, although the future responsibilities of the magazine coordinator should still include the provision of fundamental support for editorial collectives and the Coordinating Committee in the production of the magazine, the coordinator should be free to do long range planning, to solicit new material and to increase the distribution of the magazine.
The meeting accepted the proposal from the Coordinating Committee to hire a new magazine coordinator to replace Al Weinrub. The Committee proposed that the final selection should rest with the MCC, since it was essential that its members be able to work closely with the new coordinator. However, while this view found some sympathy in the meeting, several people present felt that in fact the position of coordinator is not simply one of an employee of the Coordinating Committee, but also one that holds considerable political power. The coordinator not only deals with the Coordinating Committee, but has contacts with the rest of the organization. While it was felt that it will certainly be possible to find some formula for selection that will take into account both the wishes of the Coordinating Committee and the membership as a whole, the meeting decided to shelve the problem temporarily. The Coordinating Committee was directed to formulate specific proposals on the method of selection of the coordinator and on the accountability of the Committee to the national membership. This being so, those present agreed to allow the Coordinating Committee, for this occasion only, to select a coordinator for the next six months, on the understanding that more acceptable procedures will be available in the future.
The Coordinating Committee then chose Sara Lennox as coordinator starting June 1st. Sara has been a member of the Coordinating Committee since last September and has demonstrated a serious committment to the magazine and to the organization as a whole.
If we are to be an effective political organization the magazine must have input from outside the greater Boston area. With this in mind we would like to reemphasize the necessity of the national membership participating in planning the future and to take an active role in the production and distribution of the magazine.