LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives


SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives


SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE@LIST.UVM.EDU


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Monospaced Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Home

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Home

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  April 2007

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE April 2007

Subject:

about MAG

From:

Chandler Davis <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 6 Apr 2007 00:21:15 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (113 lines)

What was Mathematicians Action Group?
Short answer: A bunch of mathematicians, mostly
young, mostly radical, active against the Vietnam War,
against sexism, racism, elitism within the profession.
Long answer..... It really starts with some
collective actions by some of the same people, before
MAG pulled itself together and gave itself a name. In
1965-68, having failed to get a protest against military
funding of mathematics accepted as a Letter to the
newsletter of the American Mathematical Society, a few
of us gathered signatures to run the statement as a
paid ad. Big success, hundreds of signatures. In
1966-67, we gathered signatures on an international
statement against the war. This was exciting to those
of us who had the international contacts, and it was
cheering that one of the leaders was a very well-known
mathematician, Laurent Schwartz of France. Again, a
big success, hundreds of signatures in the US, many
thousands world-wide-- even from the Soviet bloc, though
some there were afraid to sign a non-official political
statement, and some were not against the war (!-- out of
naive faith that whatever the Kremlin said was bad must
surely be good).
In 1968, at the initiative of Steve Smale & Mel
Rothenberg, a hundred or so mathematicians en route to
a midwestern AMS meeting seized the opportunity to
demonstrate outside the Democratic Party convention in
Chicago. We did not get beaten or gassed by the Chi
police, but, as you may recall, many other demonstrators
under various banners did. It was widely felt that the
city government of Chicago bore heavy responsibility
for the violence.
That winter, at the national AMS meeting, a
well-organized floor fight led by Lee Lorch succeeded
in passing a motion that the upcoming next national
meeting of the Society, scheduled for Chicago, should
be rescheduled elsewhere, in protest of Mayor Daley's
police riot. This was the point at which the loose
conspiracy of left activists chose the name MAG and
began trying to exist continuously rather than merely
one campaign at a time. But, influenced by ideology of
participatory democracy, we never had responsible
officers, let alone an office. After the first year or
so, our continuous structure consisted entirely of a
telephone tree, with me as the center, and a newsletter
edited & produced by a very few faithful drudges (some
of the time that was me too). Incredible.
Yet we had floor fights for worthy causes at
AMS meetings, petitions in support of political
prisoners, well-attended open forums on issues like
making mathematics serve the people, and overcoming
elitist exclusion of ....[you name it]. Our internal
strife was painful, but nowhere near as bad as in some
left movements I can think of. When the International
Congress of Mathematicians was held in Vancouver in
summer 1974, two delegates from DRVN were there, their
expenses paid by a collection we had taken up! (One
contributor, Joan Hutchinson, made her contribution
conditional on a delegate being a woman. It happened.
North Vietnam did have a strong woman research mathe-
matician, a wonderful person, and it was arranged that
she was one of the delegates.) From 1973, we pushed
the AMS to protest the imprisonment of a leading
Uruguayan mathematician by the military dictatorship.
After 1976 MAG ran out of steam. Needed a war
to charge its batteries? Or was it just that some of
our objectives were won? No simple answer. The AMS
had been changed: political letters to the Notices were
and remain a normal thing; it is taken for granted that
contentious issues are sometimes debated at business
meetings or in special sessions at meetings (we felt
let down when this was routinized); an Academic Freedom
Committee and a Committee on Human Rights of
Mathematicians were set up within the AMS, and after a
few years some of us were tolerated as members of them--
even on the Council of the Society. When the AMS Council
got around to passing a resolution against the war --it
was against the Christmas bombing of Hanoi in late 1973
--it was not our doing, but surely our agitation had
been a needed precursor before such an action became
thinkable.
Other lasting contributions: The organization of
& for Black mathematicians, the National Association of
Mathematicians, was not an outgrowth of MAG, but it was
a friendly associate, with many common members; it
continues healthy today. The Association for Women in
Mathematics grew directly out of MAG, and its inspiring
founder and first President, Mary Gray, was also a
leader of MAG; AWM is a thoroughly accepted pillar of
the establishment today, and if it is not as radical as
it was, I guess that's mostly because there's no need
that it should be.
Yet the military budgets kept growing & growing,
mathematicians kept pouring their scientific smarts into
the war industry. Many's the time I've felt, Where is
MAG now when we really need it? The largest employer of
mathematicians is the National Security Agency. AMS
employees still arrange meetings for mathematicians to
pitch their services to Washington agencies. In early
1988, after much agitation in MAG-like mode, we got the
AMS to hold a referendum on two motions: one calling for
reducing the military component in funding of mathematics
and one calling for no cooperation with the Strategic
Defense Initiative at all. Voting rate was unusually
high, and both motions passed by large margins. Action
by the AMS officers and staff to implement them was nil!
That called for a vigorous, visible insistence by the AMS
members that their will be carried out. We were still on
the scene, most of us, and angry; yet we mounted no
revolt against the AMS's collusion. Why had our militant
spirit of the 1960s deserted us? It had better revive.
Chandler Davis

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
May 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LIST.UVM.EDU

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager