Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Reflection on the 'March for Science' and Scientific Literacy

With the recent ‘March for Science’ events over the weekend, there has been much talk in the left press about science, mostly relating to how this or that reactionary politician is anti-science. However, while many left writers make a great show of supporting science over rightist ignorance, scientific literacy on the left is actually quite lacking. It is clear that many on the left who write about science do not really understand it at all, particularly those writers that employ phrases such as “scientific consensus”, “the science is settled”, and the puerile “scientists say”; that is to say, nearly all of them. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what scientists say, it matters what the empirically valid, independently verifiable results of their experiments are. Science runs on the testing of hypotheses, not consensus, and it is certainly never settled. Even the law of gravitation, widely thought of as the most immutable of scientific laws, has undergone periodic testing and revision; the most notable instance being the advent of the theory of relativity, which led to the conclusion that gravity may not be a ‘force’ at all, but merely the observable effect of the warping of spacetime by mass. Conversely, the elusive graviton (force-carrying particle of gravity), were it ever found, would prove that gravity is indeed a true ‘force’ like the electromagnetic forces. If so fundamental a theory as that of gravity can be mutable, what, then of other, less well-tested theories? Leftists, especially Marxists, should strive not merely to know what “scientists say”, but to be able to critically assess, even if at a most basic level, scientific theories and arguments. Any scientific conclusion which resists such critical inquiry, whether via appeal to authority or other form of obfuscation, should be regarded as suspect. Marxists ought to have no ‘articles of faith’ on any topic, least of all the physical sciences. It is the material world that determines our ideology, never the other way round!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

CeCe McDonald, LGBTQ+ prison abolition activist, will speak in Corvallis on Wednesday, April. 26,

Wednesday, Apr. 26, 6pm - 8pm: CeCe McDonald Keynote
LaSells Stewart Center, 875 SW 26th St, Corvallis
CeCe McDonald, LGBTQ+ prison abolition activist, will be on campus to give a keynote address. Admission for this event is free and open to the public (no tickets or RSVP needed). Doors will open at 5:45pm.
This event was put together by: Rainbow Continuum, The Pride Center, The Office of Institutional Diversity, and SOL: LGBTQ+ Multicultural Support Network.

Note: the keynote and the workshop are two separate events happening at different times. To RSVP for the workshop please visit the event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/229214510892633/

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Reflection On Salem's March For Science---Is Science A Liberal Conspiracy?

Photo from Facebook

Some of us attended Salem's March for Science today and participated in the rally and march. I came away hopeful, but with mixed feelings as well.

It seemed to me that much of the signage and the speeches were defensive and were attempting to put science above politics and lived human experience, as an academic experience rather than as a fruit of human labor, practice, critical thinking and passion. The mostly white crowd had no clear relationships to other struggles, and many people we encountered did not want to hear much about these struggles or about the all-important upcoming May Day rally and march. And holding any rally downtown on a weekend means that people who don't have cars can't attend, meaning that, say, people of color in northeast Salem can't participate.

On the other hand, if this wasn't a lead-up to May Day and engagement with immigrant rights struggles, it was a continuation of the spirit of the womens' marches, a first-time-out for many people, a strong show of indignation against the far-right, and evidence that a multigenerational movement is in place which is opposed to Trump and capable of countering the right-wing with facts and bodies. The march and rally were well-organized and drew in many people who are not a part of the local liberal and progressive circles. It was a family-friendly and comfortable event.

Prior to the march someone posted a piece on the organizing Facebook page by Neil deGrasse Tyson asking how it was that the U.S. moved from being a rural and slowly-developing society to an advanced industrial country and answering that this happened because of science. When you ask us the question we're more likely to answer that the U.S. became a world power through slavery, exploitation, war and imperialism. There is "science" to slavery, exploitation, war and imperialism, of course, but the capitalists took power first and then wrote the books after they were safely protected by state power.

I understand the defensive line which argues that science is not a liberal conspiracy. Trump and his supporters argue to the contrary, saying in effect that we have it all wrong and that we are being misled by alternate facts and bad science. In fact, the traditional far-right disdain for intellectuals continues and deepens ever day.

But it's also true that science is indeed a liberal (or radical) conspiracy of sorts. First Nations peoples, Africans, peoples from Asia and from the far reaches of Europe, and LGBTQIA+ people had good grasps of early scientific principles and practices. The destruction of their societies by kings and capitalists often destroyed much of this science or drove it underground, preventing it from reaching its full potential. The scientific method, which is at its heart dialectical and materialist, developed under conditions of oppression and implicitly opposed pre-feudal superstitions, the feudal aristocracies and the new capitalist bosses, pushing the bourgeois-democratic revolutions further than their leaderships wanted to go. Karl Marx and the best traditions within Marxism codified what the peoples of pre-feudal societies had developed and what later militant democrats had attempted into dialectical materialism, the scientific understanding of how the real world functions without abstraction. We understood from the earliest days of the socialist movement that we are a part of nature and that nature has a dialectic of which we are an expression. And dialectical materialism is indeed biased, as is all intellectual effort. Dialectical materialism is our science, the one we use effectively against Trump, fascism and the folks who are invested in obscuring the nature of real human progress and ecology.

Given the history of revolutionary movements, revolutionary science has indeed sometimes had to function as a conspiracy. The feudal powers were threatened by a science which posited that human power is its own end; likewise, the capitalists do everything to bury this fact. The capitalists understandably object to anything which argues from facts, observation and criticism that everything is in motion, that contradictory forces create movement and development, and that each new thing bears the traces of the old even as it exists as the new and will eventually give way to contradiction. After all, if this is applied scientifically to bourgeois relations the system will fall apart. The very method of observation, experimentation, critique and criticism, reexamination and critique threatens capitalism and fascism. It is anathema to Trump. The bourgeois governments and institutions lose patience with our insistence on the dialectical-scientific method and force us underground or to the margins. Only in socialist societies is science firmly established.

We ask our friends at the march to examine their notions from a scientific point of view, look at history scientifically, look at what the scientific method means to them in real terms, and to apply this to our resistance to Trump. In short, we ask them to be consciously on the anti-racist, anti-imperialist and class-struggle left.

“There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.”--Karl Marx

Today is Lenin's birthday. Let's celebrate it by marching for a scientific view of the world and of our struggles!

"Those who are really convinced that they have made progress in science would not demand freedom for the new views to continue side by side with the old, but the substitution of the new views for the old."---Lenin

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Leading up to May Day in Salem, May Day, and after May Day

Yesterday we had the Rally for Water and Wildlife in Salem and today we had the healthcare rally. There is the March for Science on Saturday, a DACA support event at Chemeketa Community College on the 26th, the Beyond Toxics community event on the 29th---and there is May Day.

May Day is all-important for us this year.

The beat goes on with the May 3 lobby day in support of Oregon's pending Fair Work Week legislation and the Cover All Kids lobby day on May 12. Meanwhile, local anti-racist and immigrant rights organizing is continuing. Causa is doing much-needed fundraising. Mano a Mano is doing the youth organizing and youth sex ed work. The next Racial Justice Organizing Committee meeting is on May 15. The NAACP meetings are now so large here that we are meeting in a new location at Chemeketa Community College. The School Board elections are the best opportunity we have right now to organize in our community, fight the far-right and elect 3 progressive people---Kathleen Harder, Sherrone Blasi and Levi Herrrera-Lopez. All three races need help, but Levi Herrrera-Lopez should get special attention, help and contributions.

Today's healthcare rally drew its strength from intersectionality: the emcee is a union activist who comes from the LGBTQIA+ and HIV-positive community and the speaker from the coalition working on getting all kids healthcare coverage made it all very real. Last night I attended an interesting meeting at a church in Woodburn concerned with how people of faith are responding to ICE interference in the community. It hit me during the meeting that we don't often expect the churches to have financial resources at this point: I looked at the working-class, multigenerational and multiracial crowd sharing a meal at the church---several union members in the crowd---and felt the intersectionality of our people in a new way.

The Beyond Toxics event builds on the advice we got from Jo Ann Hardesty when she came to Salem: build with people of color and from the base up around issues which touch people's lives. For several generations now, since the Russian and Chinese revolutions, we have called this the "serve the people" model and ideology.

We're not in a situation now where we can afford to work separately or under white and male leadership or rely on liberal leaders. And if we hesitate or turn back, our opposition will take full advantage and try to turn it into a rout.

Do we really mean "The people, united, will never be divided!" when we chant this at rallies or not?


BEYOND TOXICS presentation in Salem on Saturday, April 29

Taller y Presentacion llevada por Beyond Toxics y organizada por Latinos Unidos Siempre, para dar informacio sobre pesticidas peligrosos.

Aprenda a protegerse y a su familia cuando este trabajando en el campo.

Aprenda sus derechos como trabajador/a agricola.

Evento gratis--- Comida incluida---- OPCIONAL: Comparta un platillo de cassa para el evento!!!

Saturday, April 29 at 11 AM - 3 PM
2921 Saddle Club St SE, Salem, OR

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Salem's March for Science is coming---And there are many other events taking place this week. Please join in!

Besides the March for Science next Saturday, April 22, there are many other important events taking place across the Mid-Willamette Valley. A few of these events are listed below. Please attend an event, pitch in and join an organization. 

March for Science
11:00 AM
State Capitol

Wednesday, Apr. 19, 5pm - 7pm: What is Rape Culture and How Do We Uphold It?

Oregon State Women's Center, 1700 SW Pioneer Place, Corvallis
Brave discussions surrounding rape culture, how it shows itself through media and society and an analysis of how we uphold it. Rape culture is pervasive but it is also important to take actions to dismantle it daily and imagine what a world without rape culture would look like.
FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1332418136843601/

Wednesday, Apr. 19, 5:30pm: Cuban Dinner in support of Pastors for Peace
First United Methodist Church, Martha Room, 1165 NW Monroe Ave, Corvallis
Pastors for Peace staff member and seminary student Manolo De Los Santos will report on the state of US-Cuban relations and the effort to end US imperial designs on the island.
A Cuban style dinner of ropa vieja, frijoles y arroz (pulled beef, beans and rice, salad) will be followed by De Los Santos presentation.
All interested people are invited. The dinner is at no cost. Donations to Pastors for Peace will be accepted. The dinner is hosted by the Corvallis chapter of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.
Further information at www.pastorsforpeace.org. Contact Mike Beilstein at 541 602 1007 or mikebeilstein[at]yahoo.com for details about the dinner.

Thursday, Apr. 20, 9:30am - 4:30pm: Rally for Health Care for All Oregon
State Capitol Bldg, 900 Court St NE, Salem
Tentative Schedule:
--9 a.m, to 4 p.m.: Registration and Legislative Packet pick up, Room 243 Oregon State Capitol
--9 a.m, to 4 p.m.: Legislative Visits (set visits with your Senator and Representative in advance.)
--Noon to 12:30 p.m.: Rally on the WEST Capitol steps (by the circle of state flags); wear t-shirts, bring signs and banners (no signs or banners allowed inside Capitol).
1 p.m.: Senate Committee on Health Care Hearing, Hearing Room E, (we will have scheduled individuals to testify).
We expect several hundred statewide HCAO activists carrying signs and banners while they listen to inspiring speakers at a noon West steps rally. There will also be the opportunity for you to organize visits with your legislators. There is nothing like sharing your personal story with your legislators to educate and move them on this issue!The hearing will be from 1:00 to 3:00 in Hearing Room E. It will consider the RAND report – an Oregon-commissioned report on financial costs of 4 types of systems: single-payer; a plan using public funds and commercial insurance; a plan involving a public as well as commercial insurance option; and the existing system. The hearing will also consider the single-payer bill universal health care SB1046 (formerly SB 631).
For more details about the rally and hearing, visit: http://www.mvhca.org/

Thursday, Apr. 20, 6pm - 8pm: The Frontline is Everywhere: NoDAPL Resisting Grand Juries (Eugene)
2520 Harris St, Eugene, OR
The Frontlines are everywhere, from pipelines to courtrooms to prisons, building strong movement defense.
As extraction becomes the norm and the government ramps up its repression against those who stand in resistance, this workshop holds valuable information for those who struggle for Indigenous sovereignty, earth liberation and a future without oppression.
This two-hour workshop is open to all who have participated in the movement at Standing Rock; those who have supported the efforts on the ground from their homes and territories elsewhere; as well as all those who wish to continue fighting on the many frontlines that continue emerging across Turtle Island.
Hosted by The Civil Liberties Defense Center (cldc.org), Eugene.
FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1238417922943348/