Bulletin N°523


25 March 2012
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

In Volume 4 of his book Science in History (1954-1969), J.D. Bernal begins his history of the social sciences by discussing the scope and character of these "soft" sciences, compared to the natural sciences, which he discusses in the three previous volumes. “The social sciences may be divided into two broad groups,” he writes in his introduction to Chapter 12, “Social Sciences in History” :

the descriptive and the analytic, though naturally neither term is exclusive. The descriptive social sciences, such as archaeology, anthropology, and sociology, describe societies, past and present, their structure, interactions, and development. They can all be grouped together into the much wider category of human history. The analytic social sciences attempt to discover the underlying relations determining aspects of the behavior of societies with special emphasis on the societies of today. Economics, the science of law, political science, and education would normally be taken in this category. For reasons that will be set out later they also include much of psychology and of philosophy, particularly moral philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics.
     All these studies can be classed as sciences only in so far as they employ the scientific methods used in the natural sciences, that is, in so far as they rest on a material basis and their accuracy can be checked by successful prediction and practical use. This has been done in the social sciences only to a very limited extent because of intrinsic and special difficulties . . . .  Consequently many parts of them are sciences only by courtesy or for examination purposes: they merge imperceptibly into the non-scientific forms of religion, literature, and the arts, those human activities concerned with the communication of ideas, images, and feelings, which taken together contribute to the culture of society and assure its vitality and development. Indeed much of the best social science now, as in the past, is found in novels and poems, in plays and films. The relations of social science to practice, that is to say to the control of society, are also vaguer and more derivative than are those of the natural sciences to the control of the material world. Business, industrial organization, administration, law, and politics are all practical social activities, but they are still far from being applied social sciences. In fact, much social science is merely the putting of the current practice of trades and professions into learned languages.
     It is this association with the activities of groups of interested persons, rather than with an indifferent material world, that has, more than any other factor, prevented the social sciences from acquiring the relatively independent character of the natural sciences. In Marxist terms, whereas the natural sciences are primarily concerned with the productive forces of society, the social sciences deal with productive relations and the ideological superstructure built to maintain and justify them.  . . .  They are essentially discursive and classificatory and , though in modern times they have added measurement in its statistical form, they still lack adequately designed or controlled experiments –the test of practice in application—that established the natural sciences on a firm material basis from the seventeenth century onwards. In common language, the social sciences are fine talk, but they don’t work. . . .  Social scientists, however, impressive and ornamental, are not yet as indispensable in the capitalist world as chemists and engineers. (pp.1019-1020)

Compared to the “natural sciences” of biology, physics, mathematics, and chemistry, “the sciences of society are, as a group, the latest and most imperfect of the sciences, and it is doubtful how far in their present form they can be called sciences at all.”

     Just because the social sciences deal with the springs of human social action, they have a more immediate relation with history than have the natural sciences.  . . .  The reason for their backwardness is shown to derive not so much from the intrinsic differences of the mere complexity of subject matter, but from the strong social pressure of established ruling groups to distort, if they cannot prevent, serious discussion of the foundations of society. [This attitude has broken down with social revolutions, and] it has led in our own time to the emergence and development of two rival systems of social science corresponding to the division between capitalism and socialism. The second system began to take shape in the aftermath of the French Revolution, but only found its explicit expression in the Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848.
     From 1848 on it will be necessary to discuss the development of these two different systems. (pp.1017-1018)


The 8 items below will provide CEIMSA readers with a systemic view of important interrelationships in contemporary society, the system of which they are a part. Any understanding of society today requires that we acknowledge the nature of the social system which is part of us, and of which we are a part. The starting point, according to J.D. Bernal, must be a recognition of the role played by social class struggles in our own lives and the influences of this struggle on our perceptions and our behavior.

Item A., from Democracy Now!, is the March 23 interview with ACT UP founding member Peter Staley, one of the longest AIDS survivors in the country, and David France, director of the new documentary film How to Survive a Plague.

Item B., is the Democracy Now!interview with Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan and Meghan Maurus, McMillan’s attorney and mass defense coordinator at the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, speaking about police brutality in New York City and the importance of non-violent training in the art of community organizing.

Item C., sent to us by George Kenney, founder of Electric Politics, is an audio interview with Grant F. Smith, speaking about his new book, "Divert!: NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro and the diversion of US weapons grade uranium into the Israeli nuclear weapons program."

Item D., from The Real News Network, are three video reports edited by Paul Jay on Israeli billionaires and the up-coming US elections.

Item E., from The Real News Network,is an report by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo on the NYPD infiltrating progressive groups in New York City.

Item F., from Jim O’Brien is a list of suggested readings from Historians Against War.

Item G., from Truth Out, is video coverage of a report on the US Department of Homeland Security spying on Occupy Wall Street from the start.

Item H. is "Live Coverage of Occupy Worldwide" sent to us by Reader Supported News.

And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers a video reading of the classic book, The Communist Manifesto (1848), which according to J.D. Bernal introduced a more independent and comprehensive scientific method to social science investigations, which were currently under the influence of the bourgeois ideology of Positivism.

Classic Literature


Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3

from : Democracy Now! :

Date: 15 March 2012
Subject: The 25th Anniversary of ACT UP and their new documentary film, "How to Survive a Plague.”


This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of ACT UP — the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power — an international direct action advocacy group formed by a coalition of activists outraged over the government’s mismanagement of the AIDS crisis. We speak with ACT UP founding member Peter Staley, one of the longest AIDS survivors in the country; and David France, director of the new documentary "How to Survive a Plague," which tells a remarkable history of AIDS activism and how it changed the country. "I’m alive because of that activism," Staley says of the triple drug therapy he was able to take. "This was a major victory this movie tells about getting these therapies. But that was only the beginning of the battle. Now we have these treatments that can keep people alive, and there are still two to three million dying every year. There are more dying now than when we actually got the therapies to save people. So it’s a huge failure of leadership internationally. And it shows a failure of our own healthcare system."

"How to Survive a Plague": As ACT UP Turns 25, New Film Chronicles History of AIDS Activism in U.S.

from : Democracy Now! :
Date: 15 March 2012

Subject: Occupy Wall Street and testimony on how to survive police brutality in New York City.


Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan suffered a seizure when New York City police officers pulled her from the crowd and arrested her as hundreds attempted to re-occupy Zuccotti Park on Saturday to mark six months since the launch of the movement. In her first interview since her arrest, McMillan says she has decided to speak out because of an outpouring of public support. "I have received so many emails and twitters and messages and phone calls, and people [are] just really horrified about what happened to me." McMillan has a black eye, and her body is covered in bruises, at least one in the shape of a handprint. She says she was not allowed to contact an attorney while she was taken to the hospital and transferred to a jail cell along with some of the 72 other detained protesters. Facing charges of police assault and obstructing governmental administration, she was released Monday after a judge denied a request that her bail be set at $20,000. McMillan is Northeast regional organizer for Young Democratic Socialists of America and a graduate student at the New School for Social Research. We’re also joined by Meghan Maurus, McMillan’s attorney and mass defense coordinator at the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. 

Exclusive: OWS Activist Cecily McMillan Describes Seizure, Bodily Injuries in Arrest by NYPD

from George Kenney :

Date: 23 March 2012
Subject: Stealing enriched uranian: the double standard in Israel.


Dear Francis,
The U.S. goes ballistic over Iran enriching its own uranium but continues to turn a blind eye to the sordid history of Israel having stolen highly enriched uranium from a plant in Pennsylvania for use in its first nuclear bombs. Talk about a double standard! It's not proven but it's not just speculation, either. As Grant F. Smith puts it, there's no smoking gun but the scene of the crime is littered with shell casings. If you're interested, the good news is that a ton of original documents are available online. In my opinion it's a conclusive case but you should decide for yourself.
Grant's latest book Divert!: NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro and the diversion of US weapons grade uranium into the Israeli nuclear weapons program (Institute for Research, 2012) tells the story. Readers benefit also from an epilogue by Col. Pat Lang -- who, as some of you may know, once he went civilian rose in the Pentagon's senior executive service, managing intelligence products, to where his final protocol equivalent rank was Lieutenant General. To my mind, anyhow, getting such an implicit endorsement from Col. Lang is a real coup! Hopefully, Divert will help inspire further investigations…
As always, if you like the podcast please forward the link.


from : The Real News Network :

Date: 23 March 2012
Subject: Foreign influences in US Elections and US Foreign Policy.

Israel, the US Elections and the 'Jewish Swing Vote'

March 23, 2012

from Reader Supported News :
Date: 23 March 2012
Subject: Police Inflitrate Progessive Groups in New York City.

Undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.

Documents Show NYPD Infiltrated Liberal Groups
by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo

from Historians Against War :
Date: 22 March 2012
Subject: Links to Recent Articles of Interest.


"Obama, GOP Won't Tell Americans That Iran Sanctions Drive Gas Prices"

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment blog, posted March 21
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan

"Robots Kill, But the Blood is on Our Hands"
By David Swanson, War Is a Crime.org, posted March 21

"Try a Little Nuclear Sanity"

By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted March 20
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany

"Afghanistan: A Gathering Menace: Traveling with U.S. Troops Gives Insights into the Recent Massacre"
By Neil Shea, American Scholar blog, posted March 16

"The Enigma of Israel"
By Gabriel Kolko, CounterPunch.org, posted March 16
The author is a professor of history emeritus at York University, Toronto

"Massacres Are the Inevitable Result of Foreign Occupations"
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian, posted March 14

"Supreme Court Likely to Endorse Obama's War on Whistleblowers"
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig.org, posted March 12
Includes historical information on uses of the 1917 Espionage Act

"The 0% Doctrine: Obama Breaks New Ground When It Comes to War with Iran"
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, posted March 11

"America Gets Stupid, Again, on Iran"
By Lawrence Davidson, CommonDreams.org, posted March 10
The author teaches history at West Chester University

"America's Death Squads"
By Nicolas J. S. Davies, Z Magazine, March issue

Suggestions for these lists can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.  Thanks to James Swarts, Tam Robert Beeler, and Nicolas Davies for suggesting articles that are included in the above list.


from Truth Out :

Date: 23 March 2012
Subject: The US Department of Homeland Security Spys on Occupy Wall Street Movement.


DHS Monitoring OWS
by Alyona Minkovski, RT America | Video


from Reader Supported News :
Date: 23 March 2012
Subject: Live Coverage: Occupy Worldwide.

The seed planted on September 17th in New York City has grown into a national and international movement. Occupy Wall Street has branched out with hundreds of groups organizing Occupy protests in their own communities. Reader Supported News highlights some of the more significant actions from around the country here. Share this page with your friends and associates and check back often for the latest developments.

Live Coverage of Occupy Worldwide