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
About This Issue
by Editorial Collective
‘Science for the People’ Vol. 8, No. 2, March 1976, p. 3 & 46
This issue of Science for the People magazine goes to press as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) finalizes preparations for its Feburary 1976 meeting in Boston. The AAAS, as the largest and one of the most powerful organizations of scientists in the U.S., reflects the scientific establishment at large in its elitism and class nature. Science for the People, which started in Boston, has been active throughout the country in challenging the priorities, content and utilization of scientific research; these have historically been dictated by the capitalist class, with the cooperation of organizations like the AAAS. One focus of our work has been to debunk the myth of the neutrality of science, widely believed by academicians. They call for academic freedom, while the military calls for a more advanced technology of destruction and counterinsurgency, longer-range and more-accurate missiles, new biological and psychological weapons. The capitalist class needs this technology to protect and ex-tend its influence throughout the world, in order to obtain more resources and wider markets; thus it needs to direct the content of scientific research to its own ends.
One powerful mechanism of control has been the conscious organization of scientific work on a contractual basis. Two articles in this issue document the role that industry, the government and particularly the military have played in organizing and funding scientific research in this country. While they have obtained the needed information and technology, at the same time they have led the academic community to believe that scientific re-search is freely determined and politically neutral. We have attempted, through our experiences and the experience of others, to understand the political nature of scientific research; this has led to a more detailed critique of the ideological and scientific content of research, as well as its uses. We have criticized technological explanations and solutions for political problems, such as the attempts to find genetic causes for crime (studies of XYY males) and poverty (IQ and Hermstein’s meritocracy). Technological advances in such areas as agriculture and health care are intended to benefit agribusiness and the health-care industry, rather than to provide good food and adequate medical care. We have also criticized such spurious scientific theories as those proposed by the new breed of sociobiologists who claim that the status quo is an evolutionary inevitability.
Science for the People has been active in exposing the use of scientific research for the control and oppression of people in this country and throughout the world. We began some six years ago during the Viet Nam War, when we focussed on the military’s use of advanced technology, such as the electronic battlefield. Since then we have become increasingly aware that the U.S. has continued to use science and technology for the exploitation of the people and resources of Third World countries.
Here in the U.S., the class nature of the scientific establishment has led to the perpetuation of sexism among scientists and technical workers: Women in science have not been exempt from the oppression suffered by women in the society at large. Elitism among scientists begins in high school—students learn that only the “most intelligent” can ever hope to understand the mysteries of science, that such matters are best left to the “experts.” These divisions facilitate capitalist-class control of science.
But we have also learned some good things, some hopeful things. We have seen how science in China has come to serve the people; there the priorities of research reflect the needs of the people and everyone has the opportunity to participate in scientific activities. This optimally utilizes the potential of all the people and, in so doing, demystifies science and provides access to scientific tools for all. A science for the people is being built in China, but this would not have been possible without the armed struggle of the people to overthrow the old social order and to end foreign domination.
We get correspondence from hundreds of people everywhere who have heard of Science for the People or read the magazine. They relate their ideas about scientific issues, their own experiences in laboratories, organizing scientists and technical workers, and engaging in alternative ways of doing science. We must work together steadfastly toward the restructuring of scientific work until its products belong to and meet the needs of working people. Here in the U.S., as well, this can finally take place only through extreme social transformation.