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 email@example.com
China: A Trip Proposal
‘Science for the People’ Vol. 9, No. 3, May/June 1977, p. 34–36
The idea of a second SftP trip to China first received serious consideration in December 1974. After a couple of false starts, a resolution was finally agreed upon at a Northeastern Regional Coordinating Committee meeting in September 1976 to make a serious attempt to generate the activity and support needed to develop a proposal to send to the People’s Republic of China before the end of the year. Although we didn’t quite make the deadline, the effort was a success and the proposal that follows was forwarded to China by members of the first trip delegation in mid-March of this year.
The political work that was involved in reaching an agreement on the goals and specific contents of the proposal underlined the need for a decision-making structure and a more adequate communication network within SftP. On the other hand it also demonstrated that a joint effort by five widely separated groups is possible even under the present structureless circumstances. The document below went through several steps of revision, each based on input from several groups and individuals and is more worthy of being represented as a national SftP proposal than any prior product of our organization.
Now come the tasks of preparing for the trip- and should we be fortunate enough to receive a positive response from the People’s Republic- of selecting and making the post-trip work a success! It is not too late for individuals and groups to begin to relate to the China trip work. Anyone wishing to become involved should write to: SftP China Trip, c/o Ted Goldfarb, 208 William St., Port Jefferson, N.Y. 11777, immediately.
It should be clear from reading the proposal that involvement will require a serious commitment of time and effort. Although we invite anyone who is interested to join us in making this venture a success, we are in particular need of progressive people with actual experience in agricultural work. We also hope that it is clear that there is much support work to be done by many more people than just the few who may be selected to go to China.
Stony Brook SftP Chapter
In 1973 ten representatives of Science for the People spent a month in the People’s Republic of China as guests of the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the Science and Technology Association. A book entitled China: Science Walks on Two Legs was written by the group and has been widely read. In addition, members of the group have presented talks and slide shows, and participated in numerous discussions about their experiences.
Science for the People is an organization whose members are involved or interested in science and technology-related issues, and whose activities are directed at exposing the class control of science and technology under capitalism. As part of this effort we try to promote an understanding of a nonelitist, broad-based science which might be created if science were connected to and controlled by the masses. In developing our understanding of such an alternative we know that we have much to learn from our Chinese comrades. Furthering the cause of friendship and understanding between the people of China and the people of the United States is an important aspect of this effort.
The responses we have received from readers of our book about science in China and from participants in our discussions and slide show presentations indicate that these activities have been very successful. This practice has taught us the need to stress the connection between the success of the revolution and its continuing consolidation under the People’s Republic, and the development of a socialist organization of science. We have found, as others have noted, that many Americans – including a large percentage of those who admire China’s achievements – ignore the Chinese explanation of the political, economic and social transformations which have made these remarkable achievements possible.
The activIties resulting from the China visit have also served to heighten our own political awareness and to strengthen our organization. Discussions about the need for a visit by a second delegation, designed to further our understanding of the dialectical relationship between the development of science and the continuing revolutionary process in the People’s Republic have been taking place for well over a year. During the past several months, groups have been meeting in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York to study this issue.
This process has resulted in a decision to propose a second trip. We are particularly interested in learning about organization, planning and decision-making at all levels of scientific activity, and how the political process assures the connection of these endeavors to the masses of Chinese working people. We have decided to focus primarily on agriculture because of its central role in China’s development.
Our hope is to receive an invitation to send a delegation of twelve people who would spend at least four to six weeks in the People’s Republic. We would prefer an invitation for sometime during the summer, or perhaps the early fall of 1977. (The project we are proposing is such that we could probably learn more during these months than during the winter.) We would like to spend at least four days in each place that we visit in order to obtain a more thorough understanding of what we see.
GOALS OF THE TRIP
The specific goals of the trip we propose are best described in terms of the post-trip political work planned by Science for the People. Some of the details of this work are presented below. Briefly stated, we envision an outreach educational effort directed primarily toward American working people, rather than toward the professional-technical-academic sector. Since the vast majority of Americans relate to agriculture as city dwelling worker-consumers, rather than as farm workers, we would hope to look not only at agricultural production, but also at such aspects as distribution, food processing and nutritional planning. We hope to contrast the relationships between agriculture and science and technology in a socialist-based system with those relationships under capitalism. For these purposes we would like to obtain information during the course of the trip on such topics as the following:
I. Social Aspects of Production
a. Control and organization of the production process, both local and central.
b. Occupational health and safety of workers on farms and in the processing plants.
c. Women in agriculture – production, distribution and planning.
d. System of incentives.
e. Who decides what to plant? (On the basis of what information?)
f. Effect of the “three-in-one” concept of agriculture.
g. Effect of mechanization on workers.
h. Is agricultural work respected by those not involved in agricultural labor?
II. Technological Aspects of Production.
a. Basic and applied research in agriculture. (Who participates? Where is it done? How are the results translated into practice?)
b. Improving land fertility. (Soil conservation, crop rotation, use of fertilizers, etc.)
c. Use of chemicals in soil improvement, in pest control and in food processing.
d. Pollution control and use of wastes.
e. Quantity and nature of energy inputs.
f. Pest, insect and weed management. (Chemical, biological and other methods.)
i. Regional self-sufficiency versus
regional crop specialization.
III. The Organization of Distribution and Consumer Concerns
a. How products get to urban consumers.
b. Predictability of prices. (How will increased mechanization affect prices?)
c. The distribution of products among teams, brigades, communes, etc.
d. Food processing.
e. Regional differences in diet. (How is this being affected by socialist development?)
f. Nutrition. (How is nutritional information disseminated? Research in this area.)
The subgroups connected to Science for the People chapters which prepared this proposal and others which may form will prepare for the trip. This will include:
1.) Study of Chinese agriculture and politics: This would allow us to be more specific about the places we wish to visit and the sorts of questions we will need to ask.
2.) Study of American agriculture: Examination of the social and political structures of American agriculture is necessary to be sensitive to differences observed during the trip to China.
3.) Planning post-trip work: Detailed planning for the production of a slide show and the various writing and speaking projects, including contacts with local community groups. Efforts will be made to learn what specific questions American working people have about matters connected to our effort.
During the trip, we hope to visit a broad range of scientific facilities including communes, factories, distribution centers, universities, research institutes and central scientific and technical planning bodies. We also hope to visit a cross-section of agricultural regions in China and representative cities. Further details will be worked out among the China groups during the pre-trip period. Should we receive an invitation we would be pleased to discuss the specific nature of our information-gathering activities with our prospective Chinese hosts.
The means we would use to convey the information and understanding we gain from our trip will
1.) Production and distribution of a high quality slide show and script similar to the very effective NARMIC (North American Research on the Military-Industrial Complex) slide show which described the automated battlefield in Vietnam. We would offer copies of this show free or at a nominal rental to schools, civic associations, scientific societies and anyone else who might be interested. If possible, we would also produce an automated version with a tape of the script which could be set up for continuous showing at large scientific meetings and other public places.
2.) The writing and publication of pamphlets for different audiences. One pamphlet could be designed for publication by the progressive press and could be sold in bookstores as well as through progressive outlets. A second pamphlet (or series of pamphlets) will be designed for elementary and secondary school children. This pamphlet will present an overview of Chinese agriculture and food distribution, how it differs from the U.S., and the political, economic and social implications of these differences. A third pamphlet, which will be advertised in U.S. agricultural publications, will be designed specifically for U.S. farm workers and will describe how conditions differ for their Chinese counterpart brothers and sisters. In addition, the writers of these pamphlets would condense the major aspects of the text to magazine-length articles and write them in a style that would make them suitable for publication in broad circulation journals that reach nonscientific and scientific audiences.
3.) Engaging in personal appearances in conjunction with local organizations, consumer groups, farm workers, schools and universities, depending on home location of the particular delegate.
4.) Writing a mass circulation paperback book similar to that written by the first Science for the People delegation. This project will depend on our ability to locate a publisher with a wide distribution network who is willing to allow us to control the editing of the final Manuscript.
5.) A final possible project might be a technical book on agriculture in China written by a subgroup of the trip members who possess sufficient expertise.
The delegation will consist of twelve people. They will be selected from, and be representative of, the Science for the People groups that have been preparing for this project. The majority of the group will not be individuals who could be considered experts in agriculture although a few such people who have either academic or practical experience will be included. We expect the delegation to be made up of people with backgrounds related to a wide variety of scientific disciplines. All members will be expected to have engaged in a program of study related to the proposed project. To the extent possible, the delegation will be balanced with regard to sex, levels of expertise, skills related to post-trip activity, etc. Funds will be raised to enable participation by those who otherwise could not participate.
SELECTION OF TRIP PARTICIPANTS
(not sent to the People’s Republic)
The trip participants will come from four different groups of people: 1) those involved with China groups associated with SftP chapters, 2) those involved in SftP chapters which are too small to support actual China subgroups but are willing to help disseminate the results of the trip, 3) those SftP members who are not in SftP chapters but who have other affiliations with progressive organizations that can help with the outreach work, 4) at least two participants with practical farm experience, both with politics consistent with SftP.
We suggest that, since people in the first group will be best able to engage in all aspects of the pre- and post-trip work, they should constitute at least two-thirds of the trip participants.
Selection should be done in the following manner:
The National Organizing Committee (NOC) or some subgroup working with one or two of the participants on the first SftP trip should set quotas for each of the existing China groups as a function of its size and activity. These groups would then do a preliminary selection of their own members to fill the quotas. This preliminary delegation of at least eight people from category one must contain no fewer than three women.
The selection of people in categories (2) and (3) who have written to one of the China groups in response to ads in SftP magazine and the letter sent to all chapter contacts, will be done by the same NOC subcommittee mentioned above.
The selection of people in category (4) will be done by the same NOC sub-committee. All China groups should make an effort to locate potential delegates from this category.
All trip candidates will be selected on the basis of the following criteria: 1) past and present activity in SftP and other progressive organizations, 2) commitment to the development of the trip project and to preparing for the trip, 3) willingness to commit at least 10 hours per week during the 3 months immediately following the trip to make the projects happen, 4) specific skills like writing, photography, and public speaking, 5) at least two or three participants will be included who have expertise related to some aspect of agricultural science.
Everyone participating in the trip would be expected to devote considerable time and effort to producing the first of the several projects within two to three months after the end of the trip. Together with groups within SftP they would also be expected to work on setting up the distribution network to get our story to the people.