Herb's account, to the best of my recollection, is quite fair and accurate
for the most part. And I learned a few things about the very early days that
I didn't know. I would like to make a few comments, however.
"For the record. There never was an attempt by the October League or the
CPML to "take over" SftP."
To quite a few of us it felt like a takeover attempt at the time, and
considerable energy was
expended by many members, Boston and elsewhere, to prevent it.
"There was a caucus within SftP "The Unity Caucus" of diverse persons who
wanted SftP to take an explicit anti-capitalist, more-or-less Marxist
position. I was a leading member of that group (It was not a group of
"outsiders." For example I was the convenor of the first meeting of SftP
when it tansformed from SESPA and the one who with Britta Fischer produced
the first issue of the magazine)."
I have always thought of and respected Herb and Britta as being among
the "founding members"
of SftP. I did not mean to imply that Unity Caucus members were
"Some of the members of that caucus resolved that, if SftP would not move
to where the caucus thought it should go, they would join a "revolutionary"
group and leave SftP. That is why the Unity Caucus more-or-less
disappeared. I certainly believe today that it was ill-advised for the
persons who participated in the Unity Caucus, myself included, to manifest
their need to be associated with a "revolutionary" group by attempting to
transform SftP. To the best of my recollection about 1/2 dozen participants
in the Unity Caucus did become members of the October League, myself
included. That was after the struggle in SftP and resulted in many of those
persons taking on factory jobs, leaving the organization, and dropping their
focus on Science. (Note that by leaving science to work in factories,
persons who could have increased the radical presence in science did not.)"
I'd be interested to hear more about the factory experience, and what you
think about that with
benefit of hindsight. For some former CPML members, that was a painful
"Science for the People came into existence through the radicalizing
transformation of SESPA, an organization of scientists (and very few
engineers), brought about by the infusion of angry students in the Boston
area (notably Al Weinrub, Larry Beeferman, David Jhirad. It had in its
ranks many non-scientists who rallied to the call for science for the
people. One of its programs was TAP (Technical Assistance Project) which
among other things helped the Black Panthers in setting up health clinics
etc. It also worked at unionizing technicians."
I had not yet moved to Boston when these activities were going on. I
did make an attempt to
start a chapter in Gainesville FL after I first heard about SESPA (in
1969 I believe), and then
joined an active chapter founded by Ted Goldfarb in Stony Brook NY.
Sadly, Ted died a few
years ago, of leukemia.
"The work of breaking down the barriers betweeen scientists and
non-scentists and having non-scientists actively participating ceased to be
a main focus after the departure of the persons associated with the Unity
Caucus. Notable exceptions were the work of George Salzman and Maurice
Bazin (who continues to work with indigenous people in Brazil) and the work
of Jon Beckwith with public school teachers. It appears to me that in the
end SftP became more of an organization of scientists communicating with
scientists and mainly a publisher of the magazine."
I don't think this is fair. SftP continued to do a lot of work with
community groups and high
school teachers, for example. During the last years of the
organization I was much less active,
so I can't really comment about that. I did get reinvolved just before
the end, so I was a
witness to that sad event.
"There is a lesson here for the present discussion on this list serve. The
"revolutionary fervor" and insistence on a narrowed set of principles by the
Unity Caucus and the almost inevitable split of that substantial group of
persons away from the organization upset the balance that could have
maintained a broader organization. The transformation of society requires a
transformation of consciousness that eventually becomes dominant in the
majority of the population. That is a very long process that cannot be
brought about by shouting radical ideas that are alien and alienating to the
very persons that must become the transformers of society. What is needed
is an active organization with a broad base united around a minimum set of
principles that can and will become more focussed and radical over time, but
only because the whole organization moves towards a more radical analysis as
the collective experience teaches its necessity. The problem with the
pissing contests on this listserve is not that people make ad hominem
attacks or any similar critique; it is that the listserve become less and
less relevant to the task that all must unite around, namely, the building
through struggle of a critical consciousness among all the people. Our
special responsibility is to contribute according to our particular
capability, namely, science. That is not happening for the most part.
Apparently most of us express our political conscience by participating in
other organizations. It saddens me that there is no active, broad-based
SftP organization. Were there one, the discussion on this list serve would
be quite different. I am confident that there will be such an organization
in the not-too-distant future; but it does not appear likely that we on this
listserve will be its initiators. More likely a bunch of young people
struggling to realize science fo the people will look at us for what we are
in the main--an ineffective bunch of nit-pickers who are committed more to
what is correct science than to organizing to make the transformations in
society that will result in science serving all the people.
I wholeheartedly agree.
I am not one who is going to quit the listserve or block out any
participant; I find it very entertaining and do learn things from it.
Carrol Cox wrote:
>Eric Entemann wrote:
>>later by some members of the
>>October League, soon to become CPML, who were in the Boston chapter of
>>(and elsewhere, I would suppose). Those were quite contentious times.
>>did outlive the CPML.
>That's a new bit of information for me. The CPML was a mixed bag. They
>could be pretty obnoxious, but there were also some very good people in
<< herb_fox.vcf >>
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