UCSC Astronomers Reject Researchers’ Complicity with the Genocide of Palestine

This letter is written 100 days and 75 years since the beginning of the Israeli state’s genocide and ethnic cleansing of occupied Palestine. After 57 years of colonization of Palestinian land in the West bank; after 16 years of siege on the Gaza strip; after Palestinians have been subjugated under a dehumanizing apartheid state on their own ancestral lands,[1] we now watch with horror as the Israeli government (hereafter referred to as “Israel”) accelerates its project of genocide under an international spotlight. Since renewed Israeli aggression on October 7 2023, at least 31,497 Palestinians have been killed – 92% of whom are civilians, and nearly half of whom are children.[2] This is a staggering number – compare this to the infamously deadly Syrian Civil War, with a 25-38% civilian casualty rate.[3] 

As internationally banned white phosphorus bombs rained down on Gaza,4 a call to action came from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions to end our complicity with the slaughter:

“Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes – most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research. […] This urgent, genocidal situation can only be prevented by a mass increase of global solidarity with the people of Palestine and that can restrain the Israeli war machine.” [5]

As people of conscience who love life and wish to see it protected, as astrophysicists who keenly understand just how precious and lonely life is in the vast universe, and as researchers who are made complicit in Israel’s war crimes by our university’s investments and research products, we can no longer in good faith engage in academic research that enables the murder and subjugation of our siblings around the globe.

We, academic workers of the UC Santa Cruz Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, commit to demilitarizing our research by:

(1) withholding academic labor benefiting militarism; 

(2) refusing research collaboration with federal military institutions as well as private arms and defense companies;

(3) calling upon faculty and PIs within our department to disclose funding sources, resist suppression of political speech, and support their students in divesting their labor in the pursuit of ethical research.

The United States military is Israel’s greatest supporter. Without the U.S., Israel’s military infrastructure, which is actively being used for the mass slaughter of civilians in the West Bank, Gaza, and targets outside occupied Palestine, would crumble. To date, the U.S. has sent $158 billion (non-inflation adjusted) in bilateral aid, 86% of which flows into the Israeli military – the U.S. is single-handedly bankrolling one sixth of Israel’s military budget.[6] 

Our University of California holds an ugly place in this ecosystem of blood money. UC has received $295 million in research funding from the Department of Defense in FY 2022 alone.[7]** UC Santa Cruz alone received $10.5 million in FY 2022.[8] In return, the products of our research lubricate the churning gears of the war machine.

Technology that astronomers have developed for science is being misused to surveil and target people both within and outside the U.S. While astronomers prefer to look up, airborne and satellite military surveillance look down, using many of the same optics, image processing techniques, and controls used by astronomical satellites and developed by astronomers. Hyperspectral imagers (known as integral field spectrographs to us) were first developed by astronomers[9] and have been workhorses for our field since – but they are also used for identifying and surveilling targets[10] (and proposed for use in facial recognition[11]). Adaptive optics, independently invented by military and civilian astronomers, can de-blur images taken through the Earth’s atmosphere, allowing ever more precise surveillance[12] – which curtails the freedom of everyone, from civilian protesters[13] to occupied Palestinians.[14]

Beyond astronomy, the UCSC Applied Mathematics department received a 5-year $170,000 grant for “Mathematical Analysis Of Human Response To Millimeter Wave Heating.” The nightmarish weapon using this heating effect already exists and is in use by the U.S. Military – the Active Denial System (ADS) is a millimeter wave ranged weapon that causes heating and intolerable pain in its target, and has been proposed for use in both active combat and controlling protesters.[15] 

UC’s continuing unwillingness to divest from Israel[16] as it commits genocide under an international spotlight demonstrates that, unlike us, they are not bothered by the suffering that our research actively propagates. 

Demilitarizing education is an ethical priority: our research enables the surveillance and slaughter of our Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghani, and Syrian siblings with ever-greater efficiency. Further, demilitarizing education is a climate crisis priority: the U.S. military’s emissions are greater than those of entire industrialized countries,[17] and there is no teaching and learning on a dead planet. Universities must put their monetary and intellectual resources towards building a world where war is not necessary, not stoking the flames of rabid militarism. 

We call on the University of California to divest its money from apartheid, genocide, and militarism. Cut the flow of money and intellectual property from UC’s coffers into those of the US military, defense companies, and the apartheid state of Israel. 

We call on UC faculty to divest their research from apartheid, genocide, and militarism. 

  • At minimum, disclose all sources of funding that support your research and students. Support students who wish to divest their intellectual labor in pursuit of ethical science.
  • Fight to withhold your research and patents from military applications. Campaign your institutions to reclaim ownership of your intellectual property and its applications – it’s your research, you deserve to control its use.
  • Disclose and critically consider your collaborations with Israeli universities. Isolating individual researchers is unacceptable punishment that conflates an individual with their institution; however, universities are institutions that launder money, intellectual property, and prestige for the countries in which they are based. Academic collaboration is tacit approval of these institutions’ complicity, theft, and violence.

We call on all academic workers everywhere – graduate students, postdocs, lecturers, faculty – to divest their labor from apartheid, genocide, and militarism. 

  • Think critically about why the fruits of your labor are enticing to military funders, and work to prevent your beautiful science from being used for inhumane purposes.
  • Spread these actions beyond our own department and into yours. Here is our Action Packet to help you get started!

Solidarity forever. Within our lifetimes, Palestine will be free.

Isabel Kain, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Malik Bossett, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Douglas dos Santos Grion Filho, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Tenley Hutchinson-Smith, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Kyle Davis, Graduate Student Worker, UAW 2865
Nicholas Scarsdale, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Alexandra Mannings, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Deno Stelter, Assistant Project Scientist, UAW 5810
Tyler Gordon, Postdoctoral Fellow, UAW 5810
Madelyn Broome, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, UAW 2865
Sierra Dodd, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, UAW 2865
Mikayla Wilson, Graduate Student Worker
Kendall Sullivan, Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810
Maissa Salama, Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Anonymous Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Diego Garza, Graduate Student Worker, UAW 2865
Sven Heydenreich, Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810
Anne Dattilo, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Pedro Jesus Quiñonez, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Alejandra Rosselli-Calderon, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Prasiddha Arunachalam
Jules Fowler, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Anonymous Faculty Member
Anonymous Faculty Member
Anonymous Staff Member
Anonymous Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810

**Corrigendum:

• In the original letter, we stated: “UC has received $25.86 billion in research funding from the Department of Defense in FY 2023 alone.[7]” This has now been corrected to “$295 million in research funding from the Department of Defense in FY 2022 alone” and the link to reference [7] updated.

Notes from Palestine organizing 11.22

Just wanted to send a quick update before the Thanksgiving holiday (in the US), which, of course, is a twisted concept under the framework of settler-colonization. On this note:

Events:

  • Nov 25 (Saturday 1pm ET): “Science under Occupation” hybrid teach-in/forum hosted by SftP Montreal, joined by Palestinian medical trainees in Cuba.
  • Nov 27: No Tech for Apartheid’s online panel.
  • Nov 29–Dec 5 is “Read Palestine Week.” SftP magazine has joined with >300 publications on a solidarity statement. Please see the list of all articles on Palestine we published in the past. We encourage everyone to read, discuss among you, and help advertise them (hashtags #ReadPalestine, #LirelaPalestine and #اقرأ_فلسطين)

Info:

  • We are collecting and updating testimonials from scientists in occupied Palestine, and working toward providing material support.
  • We are building a coalition with Just Mathematics Collective and Particle for Palestine (please sign-on their respective statements) to expand our current organizing activities.
  • More letters to sign from the “Responsible AI Community”
  • A survey of cultural institutions and their political stance. *We are trying to expand on this by focusing on academic institutions and labor unions* Please sign up to join our organizing teams.

For those who get some time off from work, it’s a great opportunity to bring your whole family to your local protests!

Palestinian Scientists Speak

Thank you very much for reaching out. The situation is horrid. Birzeit went online right away but it is limping along and the students are refusing to attend online classes. I wish they would attend online classes. It is not safe for them to travel to campus due to the safety on the roads leading to campus. We are unsure if the universities will be able to pay salaries in coming months.

My research on biodiversity is greatly restricted, yet I continue to make collections and conduct research on native plant propagation and restoration.

At this current stage my field research and collection work is too vulnerable to interference to be made public, but I do appreciate your assistance.

Perhaps we could discuss ways in providing research support to faculty at Palestinian universities who are attempting to carry out research, with small grants, research assistance, server/cloud donations, software, equipment, etc.

Thank you,

—O (Birzeit University)

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to say what is happening to us right now. In fact [the atrocity] started years ago when we were occupied and forcibly removed from our homes and land in Palestine. From that time till now we are suffering all horrible ethnic cleansing and mistreatment.

I don’t know if the world forgets that we are under occupation and blindly took all the Israeli media that “we are terrorists and want to kill them,” or that they know that we are so oppressed. Either way, I don’t know why they never move to help us.

We just want to live in peace and have our freedom like any other people in the world.

Here, we don’t have rights to move freely. Any moment they will stop you and tell you to “go back.” Where? I don’t know. “Just go back.” That’s all. Here, the soldiers have full rights to kill any Palestinian and at the end they will tell you that we threaten them. Settlers with the help of the army are terrorising Palestinian civilians and killed many poor civilian Palestinians. Israelis have full access to roads built in Palestine area A,B, or C. But we don’t.

We are living in concentrated camps waiting to be killed.  Here you have gates at every village. They will close it whenever they want. In some villages they close the gate after 6 pm and open it for a specific period of time. Like a jail. It is a military occupation running for 75 years.

Every day when I go to work I kiss my kids because I don’t know if I would come back. Just why?

The problem is that the majority of Israeli were taught that we are animals and should be killed. They don’t want to give us our basic needs of life. They want to suffocate us and force us to leave. They do it slowly and systematically so the world can’t see. They build settlements in all hilltops and for us we are not allowed to build at all in area C. Where to go? It is my home here; I was born  here; I will die here.

For doing research, we don’t have access to many chemicals and equipments. Yes, many chemicals are being refused, me personally, 2,4-D, a plant hormone is refused.

Gaza is a concentration camp, controlled by sea , land and air. There are 2.2 million peoples in 360 square km.

No clean water, no jobs , no hopes. What to do? Fight back. That’s what they did. They know that this will cost them a lot. But in any case, they are being killed solely in this open prison. What the Israelis are doing is killing children and women, terrorising Gazans so they will leave. Here, their plan is being carried out: kick them out to Sinai. This is not self defense.

No sir. They want Gaza because it has a huge gas revenue and the proposed route (alternative route) to transfer good from East to West that is to pass through Gaza. Americans know this; European know this; that’s why they are silent about the horrific killing of kids and women.

We are living under a brutal regime.

Regards,

—N (Tulkarm, West Bank)

Thank you for your kind solidarity and for being fully aware about what is happening here in Palestine.

I am a professor located in Nablus, West Bank. Despite being quite away of war in Gaza, we are in direct touch an effect of this war. Currently we are facing a full closure in the West Bank which made us living in total isolated cities. Moreover we are experiencing daily military invasions from the Israeli army which made us unable to pursue the academic semester and convert to virtual teaching. In addition to these challenging circumstances we are experiencing the following issues:

1. There is a massive anger towards the Western governments as we now believe that human rights are just private tools for the benefit of white people. The students as well as professors are not being able to exercise their daily routine because of the horrifying news coming from Gaza as well as the current conflict in the West Bank. We simply believe that we are the next target. We believe that is war is not against armed resistance, but also against any civilized existence of Palestinians including hospitals, economy, universities and history.

2. We start believing that the racism in the West turns from individual behavior to a national policy, especially when we see the official promotion of the fake posts and stories about what is happening in Gaza.

3. We feel, especially in the UK, that there is a “Black masking” of racism by putting all Black officials in the front.

4. We simply believe that the West’s colonization of the East is still existing, but instead of being directed by Western governments, they outsourced to Arab governments who are doing that.

5. In simple words,  all Palestinians now are supporting war-based solutions as we now believe that the Israeli and the Western governments will only appreciate peace when they only feel war.

Please stay in solidarity and let the people know that all what we need is be treated as humans.

Kind regards,

—T (Nablus, West Bank)

Notes from Palestine Organizing 11.14

It’s been 38 days of genocide, with no end in sight. Millions of people marching, agitating, and calling for a ceasefire are signs for hope, but class war is a protracted war, and there is much more to be done.

  • Join our organizing teams by filling out this form: https://forms.gle/2NcMzQ6K38AjcVxH6
  •  All SftPers should follow PACBI and join the academic and cultural boycott of Israel both as individuals and as members of your institution (see USACBI) or unions (see Labor 4 Palestine). Please get in touch with us if you’re unsure how to push your institution/union to take a firm stance against genocide.
  • SftP Montreal–Canada will be hosting a forum on November 25 (and see flyer attached) to discuss science and healthcare in Palestine and Cuba. We will be joined by Palestinian medical students from Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Please attend and show solidarity.
  • SftP magazine will be soliciting articles and onboarding editors for a new Science & Palestine issue. Please read our statement and pitch your article ideas.
Here are other sign-on letters, campaigns, and organizing events from our coalition partners:
  • American Medical Association (AMA), a well-known reactionary political entity, unsurprisingly voted against a ceasefire. If you work in healthcare—espeically in light of Israel Occupation Forces attacking hospitals as its military objective—please sign see this open letter.
  • UAW Region 9A’s call for ceasefire.
  • Just Mathematics Collective (JMC) has joined USACBI. If you work in mathematics, consider joining JMC’s campaign.
  • Breakthrough Science Society India is circulating a sign-on letter. They are also organizing an “International Convention Against War and Destructive Use of Science” of which SftP will play a part. Please reach out if you’d like to help with this.
Other resources:

Notes from Palestine Organizing 11.3

It’s been 27 days since the slow genocide perpetrated by Zionists accelerated into a full-on massacre. The contradictions inherent to this unjust system in which we live are brought to the fore for many to see. The responses to the atrocities of those in power vis-a-vis those of ordinary people in the streets are but only one salient example. SftP has not only made a clear stance but also begun mobilizing. While we’re still in the early phase of coordinating, below we’d like to share a few resources, calls to action, and related events in the coming days:

Here are also some other items initiated by our partner orgs. Please consider responding/attending in solidarity:

  • Heathcare Workers for Palestine petition and event. For more on healthcare in Palestine, it’s also worth checking out the health blog from Jewish Voice for Peace
  • People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty sign-on in solidarity with Gaza
  • No Tech for Apartheid and Tech Workers Coalition’s joint media campaign
  • Rank-and-file UAW members sign-on letter to UAW International to issue a statement in support of Palestine. This is of our particular interest for STEM labor agitation.
  • Letter to HHMI (parent company of the journal eLife) regarding its recent Zionist-enabled firing of its chief editor
  • teach-in about the complicity of science in genocide organized by a few planetary scientists in our network
  • Comprehensive analysis of current events from Palestinian perspectives (by the publication Electronic Intifada).

Elsewhere in SftP:

  • Climate change teach-in on Nov 11 in NYC+live stream
  • “Science under Occupation” teach-in on November 25 in Montreal+live stream (detail and link TBD)

Lastly, please consult this calendar, be in the streets, be with the mass, and protest.

La lucha palestina es nuestra lucha: Declaración de SftP

Mientras lamentamos las vidas perdidas debido al recrudecimiento de la violencia contra Palestina y sus gentes nos preguntamos en profundidad, ¿por qué está pasando lo que está pasando en Gaza?

El Ministro de Seguridad Nacional de Israel, un ultranacionalista instigador de la violencia condenado ocho veces, incluso por cargos de disturbios y apoyo a una organización terrorista, a quien en su día se prohibió servir en el ejército israelí, está al mando de su aparato de seguridad.

El Ministro de Finanzas de Israel declaró su intención de “ser cruel”, habló de los palestinos como “animales humanos” y estableció el plan para privar a Gaza de alimentos, combustible y agua.

Gaza, hogar de dos millones de personas, la mitad de ellas niñas y niños, y que desde 2007 es una prisión al aire libre sitiada por el Estado israelí de extrema derecha, está ahora mismo bajo bombardeos aéreos incesantes que exponen a la gente y al medio ambiente a sustancias químicas tóxicas como el fósforo blanco. 

El Primer Ministro de Israel dejó claro el objetivo de su gobierno de evacuar a 1,1 millones de palestinos en el norte de Gaza, lo que, según él, es “sólo el comienzo”. Se trata de una masacre y limpieza étnica premeditadas.

Los gobiernos de Estados Unidos, Reino Unido, Francia, Italia y Alemania rápidamente prometieron su “apoyo firme y unido” a Israel, cuyos líderes ahora están ayudando y apoyando este genocidio.

 Esta injusticia histórica no ha ocurrido de forma aislada. Es la culminación de un proyecto sionista de un siglo de duración facilitado por la clase capitalista en todo el Norte Global a través de la máquina de guerra militar-industrial que se beneficia de la desposesión y destrucción de la tierra palestina. A través de los principales medios de comunicación que se alimentan de la deshumanización del pueblo palestino, borrando su historia y convirtiendo los sentimientos de humanidad en pretextos para la barbarie. A través del desarrollo tecnocientífico (del que todo el aparato científico-tecnológico es cómplice y nosotros y nosotras como trabajadores del mismo, también), financiado y canalizado para reforzar el aparato de apartheid de Israel. Y a través de la hipocresía del mundo académico occidental, que, a pesar de todos sus valores profesados de “antirracismo” y “descolonización”, continúa aceptando y legitimando la colonización.

Por lo tanto, es nuestro deber como miembros de Ciencia para el Pueblo –una organización nacida de la lucha contra las atrocidades estadounidenses en Vietnam, con predecesores que lucharon contra el apartheid en Sudáfrica, contra los regímenes fascistas en toda América Latina y, sobre todo, contra el imperialismo estadounidense– tomar medidas concretas en este terrible momento y plantar las semillas del cambio revolucionario.

1) Como científicos y científicas, debemos educarnos con análisis profundos y exhaustivos de la historia, las circunstancias y las estructuras. La lucha contra la colonización siempre ha sido librada por personas de todas las etnias y religiones, y al sionismo históricamente se han opuesto líderes, científicos y activistas judíos de izquierda. Nos solidarizamos inequívocamente con el pueblo palestino y condenamos los más de setenta y cinco años de crímenes sionistas que han desembocado en este genocidio.

2) Como trabajadores y trabajadoras dentro del complejo académico-industrial, los productos de nuestro trabajo son subsumidos por fuerzas sistémicas y utilizados para la guerra, lo que nos impulsa a reflexionar sobre nosotros mismos y las instituciones para las que trabajamos. ¿Cuánta financiación ha recibido nuestra institución de fundaciones con objetivos explícitamente sionistas? ¿Se relaciona esto con la insensibilidad hacia estudiantes palestinos que recientemente se han manifestado en sus instituciones universitarias sobre los acontecimientos que se desarrollan en Gaza? ¿Qué técnicas, ideología o ambas simultáneamente (como en el intento de biologización de la raza judía) se han desarrollado en cualquier campo de estudio, bajo las limitaciones impuestas por nuestro propio sistema colonial, para mantener el status quo? ¿Cómo han sostenido el Estado israelí y sus aliados occidentales la noción de “progreso” en nombre de la ciencia para enmascarar el retroceso de su colonialidad? Este momento revela la urgente necesidad y oportunidad de lograr un mayor nivel de conciencia política entre científicas y científicos. Debemos acelerar este proceso.

3) Como activistas y promotores de actividades sociales, la reflexión sobre nuestra complicidad apenas alcanza el mínimo requerido. ¿Qué podemos hacer como organización para apoyar materialmente la causa palestina? ¿Qué podemos aportar a los y las compañeras en primera línea que están resistiendo los abusos racistas y orientalistas? ¿Cómo podemos resistir la apropiación de la ciencia y la tecnología por parte de los colonizadores? Dentro del mundo académico, somos testigos de cómo se ahogan las voces pro Palestina y de que aquellas personas que se atreven a hablar contra el genocidio son procesadas, despedidas o silenciadas en beneficio de los intereses políticos y económicos del Estado de apartheid israelí y de las corporaciones transnacionales que se benefician de la ocupación. ¿Cómo conectamos nuestra propia lucha de clases contra el complejo académico-industrial con la defensa local de los derechos palestinos y los movimientos de liberación global? Existe una necesidad urgente y una oportunidad de educar, movilizar, organizar y proteger a quienes dicen la verdad, de luchar contra el sionismo y de desarrollar la militancia sindical e internacionalista entre las clases oprimidas. 

La lucha palestina es nuestra lucha. La ciencia insurgente exige de sus practicantes claridad de pensamiento y coraje para actuar. SftP hace un llamamiento a todos los miembros y simpatizantes a buscar colectivamente estrategias concretas hacia la liberación de Palestina.

Palestine is Our Struggle: SftP Statement

En Español | يمكنك قرائة هذا البيان بالعربية هنا

As all of us mourn the lives lost to the latest upsurge of violence, how do we appropriately understand what has been happening in the past few days in Gaza?

Israel’s National Security Minister, an ultra-nationalist instigator of violence convicted eight times including on charges of rioting and supporting a terrorist organization, once prohibited from serving in the Israeli military, is now in command of its security apparatus.

Israel’s Finance Minister declared the intent “to be cruel,” spoke of Palestinians as “human animals,” and enunciated the plan to deprive Gaza of food, fuel, and water. 

Gaza, an open-air prison under siege by the extreme-right Israeli state since 2007, home to two million people, half of them children, is now under nonstop aerial bombardment that exposes the people and environment to toxic chemicals like white phosphorus.

Israel’s Prime Minister made clear its government’s aim of emptying out 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza, which he claims is “only the beginning.” 

This is a premeditated massacre and cleansing of an Indigenous population. 

The governments of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany all quickly pledged their “steadfast and united support” of Israel, whose leaders are now stepping up their implementation of genocide.

Such historic injustice has not occurred in isolation. It is the culmination of a century-long Zionist project facilitated by the capitalist class across the Global North: through the military-industrial war machine that profits from dispossession and destruction of Palestinian land; through the mainstream media that feed off dehumanizing the Palestinian people, erasing their history, and turning sentiments of humanity into pretexts for barbarity; through technoscientific development—which we as scientists and engineers are complicit in—funded by and funneled into bolstering the apartheid apparatus of Israel; as well as through the hypocrisy of Western academia, which, for all its professed values of “anti-racism” and “decolonization,” continues to acquiesce to settler-colonialism.

It is therefore our duty as members of Science for the People—an organization born out of the struggle against US atrocities in Vietnam, with predecessors who fought against apartheid South Africa, fascist regimes across Latin America, and above all, US imperialism—to take concrete steps in this dark moment and plant the seeds of revolutionary change.

1) As scientists, we must inform our politics through deep and thorough analyses of history, circumstances, and structures. The struggle against colonization has always been fought by people of all ethnicities and religions, and Zionism has historically been opposed by left-wing Jewish leaders, scientists, and activists. We stand unequivocally in solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemn the seventy-five plus years of Zionist crimes that led to this genocide. 

2) As workers within the academic-industrial complex, the products of our labor are subsumed by systemic forces and co-opted for war, which prompts us to reflect on ourselves and the institutions we work for. How much funding has an institution received from foundations with explicitly Zionist aims, and does this correlate with the callousness toward Palestinian students in recent university statements on the events unfolding in Gaza? What techniques, ideology, or both concurrently (as in the attempted biologization of the Jewish race) have been developed in any given field of study, under constraints set by our own settler-colonial system, to uphold the status quo? How has the notion of “progress” in the name of science been propped up by the Israeli state and its Western allies to mask the retrogression of their coloniality? This moment reveals the urgent need and opportunity to achieve a higher level of political consciousness among scientists. We must accelerate this process.

3) As activists and organizers, reflection on our complicity barely reaches the minimum of what’s required. What can we do as an organization to materially support the Palestinian cause? What can we contribute to our coalition partners at the frontline that are weathering racist and Orientalist abuses? How to resist the appropriation of science and technology by the colonizers? Within academia, we witness pro-Palestine voices being drowned out and those that dare speak out against genocide being prosecuted, fired, or silenced at the behest of political and economic interests of the Israeli apartheid state and transnational corporations that profit from the Occupation. How do we connect our own class struggle against the academic-industrial complex with local advocacy for Palestinian rights and the global liberation movements? There is an urgent need and opportunity to educate, agitate, organize, protect those who speak the truth, push back against Zionism, build labor militancy and internationalism among oppressed classes.

The Palestinian struggle is our struggle. Radical science demands of its practitioners clarity of thought and courage for action. SftP calls on all members and supporters to collectively pursue concrete strategies toward the liberation of Palestine.

Get involved and act now.

Free Cuba to Free Ourselves

Report from SftP Delegation to Cuba

We left Havana on May 3. Tired after days of seminars, meetings with locals, and cultural activities, I was able to begin unpacking and relax, unlike many others returning home to the United States who ended up being detained at the airports of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Newark. They were granted special permission to visit Cuba under the US blockade that has been in place for more than sixty years (except for a short reprieve from 2014–2017). Yet, despite legal documents and US citizenship, the border agents harassed, threatened, and abused them like criminals. Freedom of movement does not apply to people in the land of the free.

With the recent addition of Cuba to the “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list under the Biden administration, the economic barrier erected by the most comprehensive blockade in history serves more than to asphyxiate Cuba into submission; its primary goal is to prevent the world from seeing and believing in an alternative to capitalism. Fredric Jameson once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. He must have not visited Cuba.

Don’t get me wrong. Cuba is not a utopia. It is visibly struggling; infrastructure is crumbling; economic inequality exists; Cuban people are far from happy or content and some aspire to find new lives abroad. Nevertheless, what we learned in our ten-day trip in Cuba is that the left in the Global North cannot address the various issues facing us today without learning from the Cuban experience. To do this, and to concurrently strengthen anticapitalist struggles across the world, we must first and foremost break the US blockade on Cuba.

Phenomena do not exist in isolation. The US blockade must be recognized as a manifestation of the same colonial project that existed long before the Cuban revolution of 1959 and the Cuban independence movement of 1902, as this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine. One misconception about Cuba is the association with a singular figure of Fidel Castro. While many ordinary Cubans profess their love for their Comandante el Jefe, Fidel’s name or image is hardly seen in Havana—it was Castro’s own wish that public commemoration be discouraged. If there were to be a personification of the Cuban psyche, it is poet and anticolonial fighter Jose Martí. More than anything, Cubans pride themselves with the progress they made in anticolonial, anti-imperialist struggles since Martí. Seeing from the outside, the Cuban people today objectively retain degrees of sovereignty above neighboring states like Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico (which remains a US colony). In real terms, while Hurricane Maria left nearly three thousands people dead in Puerto Rico and devastated the island for years, Cuba suffered few casualties and quickly rebuilt—a fact undeniable even by the Washington Post. Thus, the question of whether Cuba is a socialist country matters less than whether Cuba is able to overcome centuries of colonialism. At the same time, the former is directly related to the latter: its socialist principles are in lockstep with its national liberation project.

If you are an astute observer, you may pick out these principles traveling through Cuba. We did not need government officials, union representatives, or prominent intellectuals to tell us what they are. The lack of advertisement even at the busiest tourist corner of Havana reflects the social constraints exerted on market forces. The complete lack of police presence, even at 2 a.m. in an area with vibrant nightlife, the absence of homelessness, loitering youth, panhandling, and general wretchedness speak loud and clear about human welfare and security. Even when the buildings and sidewalks are in disrepair, music, art, and people in the community filled the public spaces. And of course, the hospitals—the successes of the Cuban healthcare system in taking care of its own people need no further elaboration. Lesser known is Cuba’s leading role in global health. We visited Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) and met students from Congo, Chile, Palestine, and the United States (who came from underserved communities) on full scholarships; these students are trained with the socialist philosophy that sees health not as a mere biological problem but also a social issue, which prepares them to be able to serve their own community upon completion of training by gaining an understanding of their own geographical, political, and cultural contexts. This act of internationalism is but a small part of the renowned Cuban medical brigade that provides humanitarian aid to all corners of the world—to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Africa during the Ebola outbreak, Syria after the recent earthquake, to name only a few.

Claudia, a young woman we met during the visit to Centro de Inmunología Molecular (CIM), was among the medical volunteers at the peak of COVID-19 infection. She was not a physician but a scientist working on the now-approved SOBERANA vaccine. As the US blockade deprived Cuba access to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, they had to develop their own. After devoting hundreds of hours in the labs producing the basic research before vaccines can be mass manufactured, she spent months in Venezuela educating local communities on public health measures and helped distribute the million doses of SOBERANA donated from Cuba. We were deeply moved by such an embodiment of science in the service of humanity. It’s important to acknowledge that not every Cuban medical or science student is like Claudia—she told me as much; many trainees have left the country in pursuit of higher pays as physicians and scientists, and many are quitting their education to earn hard currency from the nascent tourist industry. The realization that we are the tourists still haunts the memory of this encounter. Meanwhile, Cuba’s pharmaceutical development is not entirely humanitarian, as SOBERANA under international patent rights allow for its sales and distributions in higher income countries to boost Cuba’s export. The market still dictates many facets of Cuban life.

I am reminded of Huey Newton’s famous phrase: revolution is a process. If we simply take Cuba’s achievements in medical internationalism, scientific achievement, as well as the new 2022 Family Code that granted unprecedented rights to women, elderly, and LGBTQ+ communities—a demonstration of popular democracy through which millions of votes were casted and thousands of debates, consultations, and public events were held—as discrete victories of progress, we may find exemplary counterparts in Western Europe. But seeing the Cuban society as an agent in world history, we can draw a few unique lessons for our own struggle to overcome capitalism.

First, we must study and understand how Cuba survived adversity, not just building a national and cultural identity on a resource-deprived island ninety miles off the coast of a settler-colonial empire, but actively resisting continued imperial aggression after centuries of slavery and extraction from the United States. In prioritizing human development as official policy, Cuba stands out among countries in the world for its education, medicine, science, sport, and arts. We may disagree on the verity of its socialism, but none can deny the contribution to humanity that the Cuban people have made since 1959 in healing and defending the world against colonists in Algeria, Angola, and Vietnam, etc.

Second, in studying the contradictions, problems, and challenges of Cuban society, the effect of the US blockade cannot be underplayed. Any commodities that comprise 10 percent or more manufacturing in the United States are restricted to enter Cuba; third party countries or private firms that attempt to establish trade with Cuba will need to constantly tiptoe around sanctions and fines from unilateral US law, the content of which changes regularly to discourage capital influx to Cuba. As a result of economic suffocation, Cuba’s energy and food supply are in tight balance, always in conflict with social expenditure. We experienced several blackouts during our stay, and by the end of the trip became accustomed to sudden changes of itinerary due to logistical issues. While it is all the more impressive of what Cuba was able to achieve under the blockade, it should lead us to contemplate what more would Cuba have provided to the world if it is freed from the US stranglehold?

Third, capitalism and imperialism are coevolutionary processes. We cannot win class struggle in the advanced capitalist countries at home without solidarity from the Global South—the majority of the world. This is where Cuba stands tall as a beacon of anti-imperialism since the beginning of the revolution, with its illustrious legacies of vanguarding the formations of Organización de Solidaridad de los Pueblos de Asia, África y América Latina (OSPAAAL) and the Non-aligned Movement. As the blockade not only hinders social/socialist development of Cuba and the rest of the Third World, it is a detriment to our struggles in the metropoles. On a superficial level, we ask how many lives would be saved if the Cuban Heberprot-P treatment for diabetic foot ulcer or CIMAvax-EGF for lung cancer are allowed for the hundred million poor people in the United States? At a deeper level, if the US rulers can continue to disregard the will of the world’s people and commit to carry out this crime against humanity, what would they do to nascent revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world (e.g., Venezuela, Palestine), or under its own belly (e.g., Black and Indigenous liberation)? The Cuban sovereign project, socialist or not, is at the forefront of a totality of world struggle against capitalism and empire.

At the end of this write-up, our comrades detained at the US border are now released. They told us that their phones were immediately seized, broken into, while being denied legal consultation. We went on a trip to learn about Cuban society. Perhaps we learned just as much if not more about our own society. In order to free ourselves from repression in our own country, we must stand in solidarity with the Cuban people suffering from the same repression manifested abroad. The blockade against Cuba is a blockade against our own future, a shared vision by the people of the world fighting for peace, justice, and all that is good of humanity.

Presentation at CIM

In the coming months, SftP will produce more content related to our trip to Cuba as we launch campaigns to #EndtheBlockade.

Resource Radicals Reading Group

Between January and April 2021, Science for the People co-organized a reading group along with DSA Ecosocialists and The Dig podcast of Thea Riofranco’s “Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador,” a thoughtful and generous analysis of the history and politics of ongoing dynamic debates within the diverse Ecuadorian lefts. If you would like to organize future reading groups with Science for the People, please contact us at sftp.revitalization[at]gmail.

Below we have done our best to summarize some of the take-aways of the reading group experience in three sections:
1. Guiding/Discussion questions
2. Reading group reflections
3. Supplemental reading and materials

 

GUIDING/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Marcha Plurinacional por el Agua y la Vida

Session 1: Introduction + Chapter 1 (From Neoliberalismo to Extractivismo)

  • How did anti-extractivism emerge as a political demand to organize around under a Left government in power?
  • What are the central tensions between the left in power and the left on the streets? Do these tensions still play out in current day Americas (both North and South)? If yes, how so?
  • What is the “extractive model” and what are its trappings for an ascendent Leftist movement? What have been its concrete achievements? What were the alternative means proposed for similar objectives by the anti-extractivist left?
  • Was resource nationalism a definitive break from neoliberalism? Discuss your arguments (for/against) within the context of global capital.

Session 2: Chapter 2 (Extractivismo as Grand Narrative of Resistance)

  • How does extractivismo as an organizing principle differ from the mainstream environmental movement in the Global North? Are there any similar principles in the Global North? If not, how can organizers/activists raise such a consciousness?
  • Discuss the technocratic framing of a neoliberal state as “weak” and “inefficient” as compared to a socialist “regulatory” state – how does this framing compare with the conception of an anti-capitalist state? How does this framing compare with actually existing socialist states such as Cuba and the USSR?
  • What functions did bureaucrats like Maria Belen serve in the Correa administration? How did their roles influence the tensions between the anti-extractivist activists and the Correa govt?
  • How does the dichotomy of anti-extractivism vs resource nationalism play out in terms of anti-imperialist politics?

Session 3: Chapter 3 (Consulta Previa)

  • Where did Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution originate from and how did it shape the coming battles between anti-extractive activists and the government
  • What lessons can be learned from Ecuadorean activists practicing constituent politics and how can they be applied to local environmental fights in the Global North, especially the US and/or Canada?
  • In Abel Arpi’s formulation of state ownership of non-renewable resources and anti-extractivism, is there room for developmentalism? Discuss Arpi’s proposal as a path towards wielding state power for socialist goals.
  • Are there parallels to the use of 1040 Decree by government bureaucrats, such as in the Mirador project, to the use of information by US governments when justifying extractive operations?

Session 4: Chapter 4 (The Demos in Dispute)

  • How did the question around the Quimsacocha gold mine bring up the question of who “the people” are? How did the idea of “the people” differ in the communities compared to that held by state functionaries?
  • What role did plurinationality, as incorporated in the 2008 constitution, play in shaping the exercise of constituent power by UNAGUA members?
  • What risks underlie the use of democratic exercises as resistance? 
  • In a socialist state, can a national interest ever be fully aligned with local interests?

Session 5: Chapter 5 (Governing the Future)

  • Does the dichotomy of Left-in-Power vs the Left-in-Resistance serve a useful lens to view future socialist politics? Discuss why or why not. 
  • How can questions of national sovereignty be resolved in a plurinational state? 
  • Within radical resource nationalism, is there room for internationalist solidarity? 
  • Given the short window of time to enact meaningful changes to combat the climate crisis, which is planetary in nature, how can the Left-in-Power vs the Left-in-Resistance dialectic be resolved?

Session 6: Chapter 6 (Conclusion)

  • Does the dichotomy of Left-in-Power vs the Left-in-Resistance serve a useful lens to view future socialist politics? Discuss why or why not. 
  • How can questions of national sovereignty be resolved in a plurinational state? 
  • Within radical resource nationalism, is there room for internationalist solidarity? 
  • Given the short window of time to enact meaningful changes to combat the climate crisis, which is planetary in nature, how can the Left-in-Power vs the Left-in-Resistance dialectic be resolved?

READING GROUP REFLECTIONS 

  • Quote – Coming Soon
  • Quote – Coming Soon
  • Quote – Coming Soon

SUPPLEMENTAL READING + MATERIALS

SPANISH UNIVERSITY & RESEARCH STAFF GOING ON STRIKE ON OCTOBER 21st

Read a news commentary about the successful first action (Spanish only).


The Spanish labor union CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo) organizes a strike of University and Research staff for the next 21st of October 2020. This is the first time that this sector is calling for industrial action at the national level, and will hopefully establish the first of many fights aiming at winning decent working conditions for all members of staff and the end of neoliberalization of education and research—we fight towards university and science for the people. We build on internationalism to strengthen our position; the recent wildcat strikes of the University of California, and the strikes all over higher education in the UK by the UCU union are important references to follow. The current health crisis, due to COVID-19, shows that the working class cannot wait in order to organize the struggle. The many climate crisis that are to come must find a strong labor movement. Let us unite. Let us fight.

Why are University and Research sectors striking?

Over the past years, employees at universities and research centers have seen how working conditions deteriorate. The current COVID crisis made the situation even worse; employers are rapidly worsening labor conditions, intensifying job insecurity including safety measures.

Our inability to act strongly during the lockdown and after has allowed the Government, along with management teams at universities and research centers, to rule against workers. For example, staff were not involved in drafting plans for returning to work, negotiations on ongoing conflicts were suspended and causal contracts not renewed. This came in a moment in which institutions need more staff, and in better working conditions, in order to guarantee health and safety—let alone high quality of education and research.

This is not a time to be patient, as we are told from above, but a time to fight against the marketization of education and research. Time to fight for our working conditions.

Serious conflicts in these sectors remain as relevant today as ever: illegal and casual contracts, not a single upgrade in job stability demands, outsourcing, absurd staff hierarchies, increasingly higher fees for students, and evaluation criteria for staff still promotes levels of competitiveness that are harmful for both staff and education/research.

We need to stop the neoliberalization of higher education and research. We demand a model for the benefit of the working class. We fight for:

  • Funding 100% public and managed by staff.
  • Free education. Reduce student fees by 100%.
  • No staff hierarchies. Equal pay for equal work.
  • End casualization.
  • Work-life balance.
  • End outsourcing.
  • Change evaluation criteria to promote cooperation over competition.
  • Prioritize health and safety concerning COVID-19.

These are some of the most urgent demands, but there are plenty reasons for organizing the struggle. Let all members of staff unite and fight. Let’s start. Many voices; one fight.

We call all members of staff of universities and research centers for strike action on the 21st of October.