Suppression of dissident experts: ideological struggle in Australia

Published in Crime and Social Justice, number 19, Summer 1983, pages 91-99
pdf of published article

Brian Martin

Go to

Brian Martin's publications on experts

Brian Martin's publications on suppression of dissent

Brian Martin's publications

Brian Martin's website

Dr. John Coulter worked for twenty years as a medical researcher at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science (IMVS) in Adelaide, South Australia. During this time he was, in his private capacity, a leading and outspoken environmentalist. On June 30, 1980, Dr. Coulter was dismissed from his position and the mutagens testing unit which he headed was closed down. The Coulter case[1] illustrates well many of the features of cases of suppression against dissident experts, which include cases of dismissal, blocking of appointment or tenure, harassment, blocking of publication, denial of funding, and character assassination.

Although suppression of dissident experts is widespread and commonplace in Australia, evidence concerning it is mostly fragmentary and scattered, and there are few theoretical treatments. Accounts of particular cases easily can and sometimes do reach book length. Here only a brief overview will be attempted, using the Coulter case and a few others to illustrate the general points made. After describing features of suppression cases, some of the general political and organizational factors influencing the use of suppression will be described. Finally, some ways of combating suppression will be assessed.


The following features of suppression cases are drawn from personal study of a range of cases plus reports of many others.[2] The features outlined here serve both to define and characterize the phenomenon of suppression of dissident intellectuals.

1) Threatening research or teaching. A fundamental feature of the suppression cases of concern here is involvement by the individual in research, investigation, or teaching which poses a threat to vested interests, typically corporate, state, or organizational interests - hence the characterization "dissident expert."[3] (Note that no conscious intent to pose a threat to anyone is required to be "dissident.") Dr. Coulter headed the small IMVS mutagens testing unit. By testing substances for their capacity to cause mutations, a good indication of their potential for inducing cancer can be obtained. Occasionally Dr. Coulter tested substances such as polycyclic hydrocarbons to which workers or the public were being exposed. Such testing clearly threatened the interests of the chemical industry and its subservient government bodies.

Other suppression cases involve research or teaching that poses a threat to interest groups within the employing organization. For example, problem-oriented research or teaching in universities can pose a threat to the academic power structure, with its strict adherence to disciplinary approaches and narrow specialization. Such a threat explains why the environmental and interdisciplinary Human Sciences Program at the Australian National University has been under attack for over a decade by proponents of "rigorous" disciplinary approaches, in spite of several highly favorable reviews of the Program.

2) Going public. As long as research or teaching is kept within the relevant specialist community, it poses relatively little threat to the policies or practices of other organizations. But when an individual communicates to a wider audience, especially the general public, this is seen as very serious. Dr. Coulter had been outspoken for many years - always in his private capacity - on topics such as fluoridation, uranium mining, and the hazards of environmental chemicals. Also, and more seriously, on occasion he released results from his mutagen testing directly to the workers exposed or to their trade union. In April 1980, Dr. Coulter produced a report on the mutagenic and potentially cancer-causing properties of ethylene oxide, which was being used in an IMVS lab as a sterilizing agent. He gave copies of the report not only to the appropriate IMVS committee but also to the workers in the lab using ethylene oxide. This was the immediate precipitating factor leading to his dismissal.

Also considered extremely serious by administrators is any public comment about internal problems in the organization in which one is employed. After Cedric Pugh publicly criticized the policies of his employer, the South Australian Institute of Technology, his promotion was held up for nearly a decade in spite of his outstanding record (Smith, 1981). Others suffer worse fates (Eddy, 1961).

3) Attacks. Major suppression cases often involve a series of complaints or other attacks on the activities of the individual, which may be considered as instances of suppression or attempted suppression in themselves, or as precursors of the later suppression. Dr. Coulter was attacked on a number of occasions for his activities. For example, in 1979, Velsicol Australia complained to the Director of the IMVS about a lecture Dr. Coulter had given in a private capacity to a seminar on pesticides. Dr. Coulter had mentioned the way the parent company in the United States had handled information on the cancer-causing properties of two of their products, chlordane and heptachlor.

An important characteristic of such attacks is that they are almost without exception addressed to a superior of the individual being criticized, rather than directly to the individual. A straightforward intellectual or other disagreement can properly be addressed to the individual concerned, or to a forum which permits fair rebuttal. Suppression normally proceeds through the unequal medium of the institutional power hierarchy.

4) Reasons. In many suppression cases, the reasons for the action taken are not revealed. This is predictable behavior for bureaucracies, which prefer to maintain internal control by tight management of information. For example, when attempts were made in 1977 and several times since to dismiss leading New Zealand environmentalist, Robert Mann, from the University of Auckland, the reasons alleged lacked not only evidence but even prima facie gravity.

The Coulter case is rather unusual in that Dr. Bonnin, then director of the IMVS, offered in the Adelaide Advertiser a whole series of alleged justifications for Dr. Coulter's dismissal. But, as is typical when reasons are offered, these points did not stand up to even casual scrutiny. For example, Dr. Bonnin claimed that Dr. Coulter had not published enough research, when actually his publication record was quite respectable; that Dr. Coulter did not have proper qualifications for his promotion, when actually this requirement postdated Dr. Coulter's promotion by many years; and that there was not enough money to support Dr. Coulter's unit, when actually the IMVS had a huge budget surplus at the time. In suppression cases, reasons are almost always dressed up as proper administrative behavior, such as upholding scholarly standards. Whether the official reasons stand up to scrutiny is clearly a key criterion in assessing whether suppression has indeed occurred.

In many cases suppression is suspected but available evidence is not sufficient to demonstrate or refute this. Ultimately, the existence of suppression, if not openly admitted, can seldom be conclusively proved in particular cases. It is a combination of factors - such as threatening research, going public, prior attacks, and poor reasons - that suggests suppression as a reasonable explanation.

5) The smear campaign. All too often, suppression cases involve attempts to smear the reputation or personal character of the individual concerned. Smear campaigns usually proceed by word of mouth, and typically involve insinuations of incompetence, improper motivation (e.g., malice, ambition), or mental instability. The following quote from a private letter by an academic, a distinguished organic chemist, speaks for itself:

I appreciate your views that it would be desirable to have independent tests on water and plants in the area to see if residues of 2,4,5-T are present. Regretfully, however, I feel that I should not at any price undertake such tests .... My reasons for this stem from my complete lack of faith in certain government people who, in conjunction with their confraternity in the commercial sphere, tried very hard in a thoroughly despicable way last year to bring discredit upon me, following my criticisms of spraying activities ... with 2,4,5-T and with amitrole. If any tests conducted by me or anyone in my Department yielded positive results of an embarrassing nature to the same people, I fear that another smear campaign would be, implemented and that rumours would be concomitantly circulated to the effect that we had 'cooked' our findings (quoted in Manwell, 1980).

6) Focus on dissident experts. The suppression of a dissident expert illustrated here by the Coulter case - a punitive action exercised against an individual who has done research and spoken publicly on topics that pose threat to corporate, state, or organizational vested interests - is only one kind of suppression. Also possible, and common, is suppression against people because of their political affiliation or activity, race, sex, sexual preference, age, religion, speciality, personality, or superior competence.

Suppression can be distinguished from repression, reserving for the latter term instances involving physical violence, such as beatings, imprisonment, torture, and murder. Oppression is institutionalized inequity, often enforced by repression. At the other end of the spectrum, censorship and discrimination can be seen as types of suppression.

Suppression of dissident experts is much more common than generally recognized. Yet compared to the fate of political dissidents in repressive regimes, or of manual workers criticizing a powerful company, dissident intellectuals in Western countries might be said not to suffer greatly for their activities. Nevertheless, suppression of dissident experts is politically as well as humanly important. In South Australia several people had complained about the government's fruit fly spraying program before Clyde Manwell and Ann Baker wrote a letter to the Adelaide Advertiser making some criticisms of the program. No attacks on the earlier critics are known to have occurred, yet the Manwell-Baker letter precipitated an attempt to sack Manwell from his post as Professor of Zoology at the University of Adelaide. Because of Professor Manwell's formal position and presumed greater public authority on the subject, his name on a critical letter constituted a much greater threat than the earlier letters to the interests of the agricultural chemical industry and its subservient government bodies. Let us turn, then, to the reasons for the special significance of suppression of experts.


What is the role of suppression in the wider picture of the reproduction and transformation of society? One way to look at this is in the very simple terms of a historical struggle between the interests of elite power and privilege and the interests of democratization. It is common historically for the mass of people in complex societies to be dominated economically, politically, and ideologically by particular elite groups. In the history of European peoples, the earlier primary elite group of the feudal aristocracy and church hierarchy was supplanted several hundred years ago by capitalist owners and managers. More recently power has been shifting to political and bureaucratic state elites. This shift in the locus of power has resulted partly from economic, political, and social development, and the resulting struggles between interest groups. The other essential component in this process has been the struggles, increasingly self-aware and organized, of the mass of the people, the non-elites. These struggles have waxed and waned, but have been marked by progress in some areas such as the ending of slavery, development of mass literacy, spreading of the franchise, redistribution of some economic benefits to workers, and ending of colonialism. But new struggles are required as new forms of exploitation and oppression arise or expand, such as neocolonialism, technology designed to control workers, and weapons of mass destruction.

What is the role in this historical process of intellectuals and institutions for cultivating intellectual skills? One primary function for centuries has been the ideological legitimation of current social arrangements. This legitimation has at various times included religious certification of the god-givenness of the social order, the alleged social and biological necessity of capitalist competition (social Darwinism), and the alleged necessity to have experts to manage all aspects of society (technocracy). This sort of legitimation has been important because ruling groups have usually been a tiny minority numerically, and have depended for their power and privilege on the support and acquiescence of the bulk of the population (Sharp, 1973). Besides legitimation, in the past century or two schools and universities have increasingly played a role in training a growing body of people in intellectual skills useful for the maintenance and expansion of industrial society.

Intellectual skills are indeed used primarily for justifying power structures and for ensuring the normal functioning of modem society, but they also contain the seeds of liberation, for supporting the struggles for democratization. It is this potential for the ideological unmasking of the present order that makes universities periodically become hotbeds of dissent, and leads to attempts by interest groups to throttle these movements. Institutions for intellectual training and knowledge production are protected both by their own service in the maintenance of society, and by the intellectual tradition of liberal education and freedom of opinion. This tradition - which represents the intellectual self-justification of higher learning, and which often masks the reality of intellectual service to vested interests - is also used to defend the existence of dissent.

Suppression as characterized here is an attempt by vested interest groups or their servants to squash the expression of undesirable views in institutions of knowledge creation or transmission. It is part of the struggle between those who wish these institutions to serve vested interests and those who are pushing in the direction of democratization.

The large expansion of institutions of intellectual activity - tertiary education, scientific research bodies, professions, portions of state bureaucracies, and the media - has created a new locus of power and privilege, and a new source of suppression, the interests of elite intellectuals themselves. Whether one sees the possessors of intellectual expertise as primarily servants of power (Elliott and Elliott, 1976), as a new class between ruling elites and the working class (Ehrenreich and Ehrenreich, 1979), or as a potential ruling group in their own right (Konrad and Szelenyi, 1979), there is no doubt that intellectuals act to protect their own interests as well as serving those of others. Their own particular interests are linked to monopolization of expertise and certification of knowledge and expertise, as well as to the organizational structures through which this monopoly is maintained, such as universities and other bureaucracies. Politically influential intellectuals attempt to discourage, and will often actively try to suppress, threats to this monopoly, including those who question the experts, who spread intellectual skills indiscriminately, or who question the power structure of intellectual institutions.

These general points can provide a framework for understanding the role of suppression of dissident experts in terms of the sociopolitical climate and features of organizations. These two areas, plus the specific details of particular cases, will now be discussed in a bit more detail, emphasizing the forces encouraging or discouraging dissident research and tolerance or suppression of it.

1) Sociopolitical climate. One of the key factors stimulating or inhibiting critical research is the prevailing social, political, and economic climate. Perhaps the most important stimulus is the existence of a strong social movement, such as workers', feminist, and gay movements. For example, in countries and times when workers' action and socialist parties are strong, the stimulus to and legitimacy of Marxist studies is usually much greater. In times when public interest in social issues is great and when peers are tolerant or supportive, intellectuals find it easy and natural, and sometimes of great personal benefit, to turn their attention to social problems.

In other periods, the forces of vested interests dominate, and there is little incentive and indeed often severe penalties for undertaking research or teaching that in any way questions prevailing policies, practices, or beliefs. Such periods are often quite recognizable. War brings in the most severe pressures: chauvinism rules the day and researchers who do not turn their attention to the needs of the state have much to lose (Gruber, 1975). In the United States, the periods following World Wars I and II were times of severe repression against social movements and cleansing of intellectual institutions (Wolfe, 1973). This was especially the case in the late 1940s and early 1950s during so-called McCarthyism (Caute, 1978; Belfrage, 1973). During such periods the incentive for conformist, apologist, or esoteric research and teaching is strong, and the encouragement for critical thinking very small. Overt suppression is often not necessary, since few intellectuals offer resistance to the constraints on expression. Most notorious in this regard was the compliant behavior of the German scientific community, and especially the scientific elite, under Nazism, termed "prudential acquiescence" by Joseph Haberer (1969) who has elucidated this phenomenon.

In short, during periods or in topics without supportive social movements, few intellectuals feel encouraged to undertake critical research, and those who do are quite likely to be suppressed, while during periods of supportive social ferment, critical research is stimulated and suppression less likely. For example, in the 1950s and early 1960s only a small number of scientists studied environmental issues: encouragement was minimal, penalties formidable. When Rachel Carson - significantly a person outside the normal scientific career structure - published Silent Spring in 1962, the attacks on her and the book were extensive (Graham, 1970). Yet within a decade, with the rise of widespread public concern about the environment - stimulated in part by people such as Carson - environmental research had become acceptable in many places and even fashionable in the United States.

2) Organizational features. Critical research and teaching are much more likely if suitable organizational locations exist for it, such as women's studies departments. When such locations exist, tradition and peer support can encourage critical research and teaching even when the sociopolitical climate is cool. On the other hand, when few organizational locations exist in an area, as in the case of peace studies and workers' control, intellectual attention to problems may be minimal. In such areas there is little need for overt suppression, since no one is doing anything to be suppressed. This situation may be called institutionalized suppression.

The most obvious organizational factor influencing the incidence of critical research and of suppression is the type of organization: university, independent institute, government department, or corporation. Within corporations the opportunities for undertaking critical research or speaking out are virtually nonexistent: those who try are often sacked unceremoniously (Nader, et al., 1972; Lublin, 1976). Many of the intellectual workers in corporations or other autocratic organizations are amazingly conformist and compliant (Scott, 1974; Kriegler, 1980), as indeed they must be to survive. It is no surprise, for example, that of the studies on the effect of supersonic transport aircraft upon the upper atmosphere, none which emphasized danger were authored by aircraft corporation scientists (Martin, 1979: 63). When legislation exists to protect the rights of corporate or government "whistle-blowers," as in the United States, such activity is more common though still quite risky (Holden, 1980; Chalk and von Hippel, 1979).

Disincentives for critical research in corporate and government employment are so obvious that such research is seldom undertaken, and suppression often is so predictable as to be unremarked. This explains why so many of the suppression cases which come to public attention arise in universities, where corporate and government influences are more indirect and where means for resisting suppression are more readily available.

Supportive organizational locations for critical intellectual activity often are set up in periods of social ferment. For example, all the holistic environmental studies programs in U.S. universities were set up after the environment had become of widespread public concern and after the basic questions had been formulated (Rose, 1976). Programs set up in these times can serve both critical and cooptive functions. On the one hand, they provide an opportunity for critical research, but on the other, they may serve to channel social concerns into technocratic or academic molds which give the appearance of treating social problems but which actually only address symptoms (Martin, 1977; Livingstone and Mason, 1978; Schnaiberg, 1980).

If the strength of a social movement fades away and vested interests increase their power, organizational locations for critical research and teaching may suffer varying fates. Many will adapt by reducing their critical activities and join those coopted from the start. For those maintaining their critical activities, suppression is likely to be intense. The gathering of anti-environmentalist forces since the mid-1970s explains the closure of or squeeze on many environmental research or teaching programs and the incidence of suppression against those remaining both critical and active in the area.

3) Particular case details. The sociopolitical climate and organizational features can suggest reasons for the general patterns of critical research and of suppression, but particular cases usually depend on local and individual factors. Critical research and teaching may continue untroubled if no group is offended by it (for example, if its audience is restricted to the intellectuals). Suppression is also less likely, and less likely to succeed, if attempted against people in protected locations. For example, critics of forestry policies and practices who wish to pursue a career in forestry are very vulnerable. Three Australian critics, against whom unsuccessful suppression attempts were made, are protected by their tenured university positions in departments of philosophy, botany, and zoology, where the influence of corporate and government forestry vested interest groups is much less telling than in forestry departments and commissions (Martin, 1981a: 37).

Also vitally important in initiation and continuation of critical research and in its suppression is the nitty-gritty of personalities, local power struggles, and chance factors. A sympathetic boss can protect critical research and teaching, or make it impossible. A pleasant personality may help stave off suppression attempts. Often these case-specific factors are used to explain away suppression as merely due to a personality conflict or to bad luck. It is quite true that personal factors play a role in most suppression cases, but this in no way means that wider social and political factors are absent. While a portion of the individuals who are suppressed are abrasive and openly contemptuous of bootlicking, this provides no excuse for suppression. After all, many nasty and offensive individuals are promoted to high positions in reward for their loyal service, while others with the most pleasant personalities, such as John Coulter, still encounter severe suppression.


If suppression is part of the process of maintaining intellectual hegemony and an unequal distribution of power and wealth, then resisting suppression can be an important component in efforts to challenge this hegemony and move towards greater equity and democracy. There is no doubt that dissident experts can be an incredibly potent thorn in the side of the institutions they criticize, which explains the persistence and ruthlessness of many suppression attempts. The less tolerant the employing organization and the more conformist the intellectual workforce, the more crucial are individual instances of dissent in cracking ideological unity. Criticizing the nuclear weapons laboratory which provides one's employment is both courageous and effective in a way no outside criticism can be (DeWitt, 1982). More widely, resisting suppression can play an important role in encouraging and enlarging challenges to the intellectual status quo.

There are several ways of responding to suppression.[4] These can be assessed in terms of their likelihood of achieving some justice for the suppressed individual or at least an end to harassment, and of achieving wider social and political goals.

1) Leave quietly. Probably in the majority of suppression cases the suppressed individual makes no attempt to challenge the actions taken. This may be because there is not enough overt evidence to mount a challenge, because the person does not want to become a focus of attention, or because the person wrongly accepts some of the blame. In some cases, silence or a quiet exit may allow an individual's career to continue otherwise uninterrupted. But nonresistance may also allow or even encourage further suppression, such as blacklisting, as in some cases known to me.

The wider consequences of nonresistance to suppression is a reinforcement of acquiescence to the status quo and discouragement of critical scholarship (Fels, 1979). Also, the power structures which generated suppression are allowed to continue intact. When indication was given to John Hookey - who had introduced the first Australian course on environmental and resources law, among other things - that he would be denied tenure at the Australian National University, he took another job without making a full challenge to the decision. Several years later, attempts were made to deny tenure to Jeremy Evans, who had helped set up the environmental Human Sciences Program, in very similar circumstances.

2) Use formal procedures. Resisting suppression by use of formal procedures - review and appeal procedures, inside the organization or in the courts - offers a chance to obtain justice for the individual if there is a strong case and the system rules are respected by all parties. Especially when the suppression is initiated from top levels within the employing organization, formal procedures may provide only a travesty of justice (Eddy, 1961). More importantly, formal procedures are entirely inadequate to counter many types of suppression, such as harassment, and blocking of publications and appointments.

One positive wider consequence of using formal procedures - or indeed of any open resistance to suppression - is encouragement of others to resist when appropriate. In addition, some improvement in formal procedures may result if they are shown by the challenge to be inadequate. Australian National University tenure review procedures were changed after both the Hookey and Evans cases, though the reasons for the changes can only be inferred. One difficulty with formal challenges is that the problem of structures - such as the entrenched power of particular groups - is not undermined or publicized. Another is that the formal procedures, however inadequate, may be legitimized.

The legal system is often the final resort in formal challenges to suppression, and use of this system epitomizes the positive and negative features of using formal procedures. If one has a strong legal case, even the threat of legal action may serve to induce a favorable settlement. The courts often provide a partially independent locus of power to corporations, governments, and universities, and sometimes this power can be used to restrain suppression.

Some of the negative consequences of using the legal system are illustrated by the Coulter case. Early in July, 1980, Dr. Coulter initiated a case against the IMVS in the South Australian Industrial Court, alleging wrongful dismissal. Such cases often require two years to complete. After 18 sitting days in court and over a thousand pages of evidence, the hearing was adjourned while Dr. Coulter tried to obtain superannuation. This was done in the hope of a quicker settlement, since it seemed likely that any decision would be appealed, and because it was clear from the vehemence of IMVS witnesses that there was no possibility that Dr. Coulter would be able to continue his previous work even if he won the case. Also, the case for dismissal was not standing up in court, so the IMVS was willing to say Dr. Coulter had been retrenched rather than dismissed. The Superannuation Board initially rejected Dr. Coulter's application. This decision was appealed to the Superannuation Tribunal, which in December, 1981, ruled that Dr. Coulter had been retrenched and hence was entitled to superannuation. This result vindicated Dr. Coulter in the sense that the arguments originally advanced for his dismissal were shown to be without substance.

This resolution of the Coulter case raises several familiar points. First, the court procedure is heavily weighted against the victim. Dr. Coulter, without income, was legally pitted against the IMVS, which had by comparison virtually unlimited financial support, and whose executive members had nothing at risk financially. Nor, indeed, in principle did they risk anything morally, since the dismissal/retrenchment was the responsibility of a corporate body, namely the IMVS. (In practice bureaucrats who carry out suppression do risk themselves morally, since given their rules - which are connected to power and institutional prestige - they cannot admit error, and their behavior in suppression and covering up mistakes is one reason for their unpopularity.)

Second, the court is not a forum for getting at the truth. In the Coulter court case, anything that did not apply specifically to the issue of whether the alleged dismissal was harsh, unjust, or unreasonable was not considered. Once the case was taken before the Superannuation Board the underlying issues were submerged even further.

Dr. Coulter now no longer has access to IMVS facilities. Superannuation provides him a comfortable income and he is free to carry out research on his own and to speak freely on environmental and health issues. But even this outcome, far short of what many would consider full justice, probably would not have been achieved by use of the legal system alone. Also involved in the Coulter case was wide publicity and public support.

3) Mobilize wider support. Another way of resisting suppression is to mobilize publicity and support both inside and outside the employing organization. Methods include letters or articles for organization publications, letters, articles, or stories for non-organization media such as newspapers or television, and public statements by supportive individuals and organizations, petitions, meetings, canvassing, rallies, and occupations. The essential requirement for mobilizing wider support is a strong public case, rather than a strong formal case. For example, a sacking, even if done according to all the rules, is cause for public outrage if reasons for victimization are obvious.

For the suppressed individual, public campaigns hold a reasonable chance for obtaining justice, and indeed in many cases the only chance. But public campaigns need to be carried out in a politically effective way, and appropriate campaigning experience is often outside the understanding or against the grain of intellectuals. Some important principles are:

* Emphasize consistently and relentlessly the key issues and especially the injustices involved, and do not get bogged down in technicalities.

* If possible, allow the main activities to be carried out by supporters, not oneself, but do not be hesitant in actively seeking support and promoting one's own case if necessary.

* Focus on people with power and public responsibility, and while avoiding personal attacks, do not be restrained by fears of damaging the reputation of the organization or of prominent individuals.

*Organize a plan of action, and be prepared for contingencies such as ruthless attacks.

* Do not be enticed by minor concessions.

*Develop the public campaign according to its own momentum, and do not become enmeshed in organizational timetables.

* Be original and not too predictable.

* Be persistent and prepare for a long struggle if necessary.

It can be useful to obtain campaign advice from activists in community groups.

Leading bureaucrats detest public campaigns, and often have no idea how to handle the situation. The initial response is usually to ignore publicity, but if this is not effective then everything possible will be done to squash the campaign or divert it into formal procedures. Public campaigns have several positive wider consequences: they delegitimize inadequate formal procedures and organizations; they encourage similar action by others, especially by making many people aware that suppression has institutional roots; they can sometimes induce organizational change, or result in imposition of controls from the outside; and they promote solidarity between critical scholars and their supporters. On the negative side, public campaigns may result in greater cohesion amongst vested interests against challenges, depending on how the campaign is run.

An extensive public campaign played a big role in the Coulter case, though it is hard to assess its precise impact. Many letters were written to newspapers, to the South Australian Minister of Health and to parliamentary leaders in the state. Stories appeared in the local and national press and on television. Trade unions, led by the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia, expressed their concern about the removal of the mutagens testing service which had frequently benefited their members. The opposition Labor Party in South Australia called for a public inquiry into the IMVS, and questions were asked in state parliament by members of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats. Three inquiries into the IMVS were indeed held, and though these were mostly concerned with issues besides the Coulter case, they were instigated in part by activities in relation to Dr. Coulter. Each of the reports of the inquiries contains serious criticisms of the IMVS. All these activities may have encouraged the IMVS to support Dr. Coulter's application for superannuation. They certainly encouraged Dr. Coulter in his personal efforts for justice, and encouraged Dr. Coulter and others to continue in their environmental activities.

4) Build links with action groups. Challenges against particular instances of suppression can be valuable, but do not fully address the problem of transforming the institutional roots of suppression. One way to respond to this problem is for intellectuals employed in hierarchical organizations to build links with action groups such as trade unions, feminists, and environmentalists. This approach is not a substitute for action against particular instances of suppression, but offers hope for a long-term challenge to intellectual hegemony and the suppression used to maintain it. When intellectuals employed by universities, scientific research organizations, state bureaucracies, and corporations join or keep in contact with social activists, and when activists organize in these areas, several wider benefits can result. First, critical research and teaching is encouraged and will be more useful to activists as intellectuals come in contact with social issues directly, rather than as refracted through academic frameworks. Second, stronger activist-insider links will strengthen the pressures for legitimizing at least some "alternative" research and teaching, either through organizational tolerance or efforts at cooption. Just as organizational elites strengthen their power by links with other elites, so critical researchers can strengthen countervailing power by links with community activists - though barriers of professionalization and elitism must be overcome to achieve success in this. Finally, if hierarchical and undemocratic organizations - including universities, government bureaucracies, and corporations - are ever to be transformed or dissolved into democratic worker- and community-controlled structures, then cooperation of both insiders and outsiders is essential.


Arblaster, Anthony 1974 Academic Freedom. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Belfrage, Cedric 1973 The American Inquisition 1945-1960. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

Blackstock, Nelson 1976 Cointelpro: The FBI's Secret War on Political Freedom. New York: Vintage.

Caute, David 1978 The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower. London: Secker and Warburg.

Chalk, Rosemary and Frank von Hippel 1979 "Due Process for Dissenting Whistle-blowers." Technology Review 81, 7 (June-July), pp. 49-55.

Colfax, J. David 1973 "Repression and Academic Radicalism." New Politics 10 (Spring), pp. 14-27.

DeWitt, Hugh E. 1982 "The Nuclear Arms Race Seen From Within an American Weapons Laboratory." Science and Public Policy 9, 2 (April), pp. 58-63.

Dixon, Marlene 1976a Things Which Are Done in Secret. Montreal: Black Rose Books.

Dixon, Marlene 1976b "Professionalism in the Social Sciences: Institutionalized Repression." Sociological Inquiry 46, 3-4, pp. 251-62.

Eddy, W.H.C. 1961 Orr. Brisbane: Jacaranda Publishers.

Ehrenreich, Barbara and John Ehrenreich 1979 "The Professional-Managerial Class." In Pat Walker (ed.), Between Labour and Capital. Brighton: Harvester Press, pp. 5-45.

Elliott, David and Ruth Elliott 1976 The Control of Technology. London: Wykeham Publications.

Epstein, Samuel S. 1978 The Politics of Cancer. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

Fels, Bernie 1979 "The Academy and Its Discontents." Telos 40 (Summer), pp. 173-76.

Fitzgerald, A. Ernest 1972 The High Priests of Waste. New York: W.W. Norton.

Goldstein, Robert Justin 1978 Political Repression in Modern America From 1870 to the Present. Cambridge: Schenkman.

Graham, Jr., Frank 1970 Since Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Gruber, Carol S. 1975 Mars and Minerva: World War I and the Uses of the Higher Learning in America. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

Haberer, Joseph 1969 Politics and the Community of Science. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Holden, Constance 1980 "Scientist With Unpopular Data Loses Job." Science 210 (November 14), pp. 749-50.

Horowitz, David 1969 "Sinews of Empire." Ramparts 8 (October), pp. 32-42.

Knightley, Phillip, Harold Evans, Elaine Potter, and Marjorie Wallace 1979 Suffer the Children: The Story of Thalidomide. London: Andre Deutsch.

Konrad, George and Szelenyi, Ivan 1979 The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power. Brighton: Harvester Press.

Kriegler, Roy J. 1980 Working for the Company: Work and Control in the Whyalla Shipyard. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Leggett, John C. 1973 Taking State Power: The Sources and Consequences of Political Challenge. New York: Harper and Row.

Lifshultz, Lawrence S. 1974 "Could Karl Marx Teach Economics in America?" Ramparts 12 (April), pp. 27-30; 52-59.

Livingstone, David W. and Richard V. Mason 1978 "Ecological Crisis and the Autonomy of Science in Capitalist Society: A Canadian Case Study." Alternatives 8, 1 (Winter), pp. 3-10, 32.

Lublin, Joann S. 1976 "Spilling the Beans: Disclosing Misdeeds of Corporations Can Backfire on Tattlers." Wall Street Journal (May 21), pp. 1, 19.

Manwell, Clyde 1980 "Toxic Substances: The Dangers Persist in a Cloud of Silence." Canberra Times (August 3), p. 9.

Manwell, Clyde 1978 "Dissident Scientists: Hard Versus Soft Science." Physics Bulletin 29, pp. 267-68.

Martin, Brian 1982 "A Case of Suppression?" (letter). Search 13, 3-4 (April-May), pp. 59-60.

Martin, Brian 1981a "The Scientific Straightjacket: The Power Structure of Science and the Suppression of Environmental Scholarship." Ecologist 11, 1 (January-February), pp. 33-43.

Martin, Brian 1981b "The Coulter Case." Probe (Adelaide) 4 (October), p. 5.

Martin, Brian 1980 "Dismissed Australian Scientist" (letter). Science 209 (September 12), p. 1182.

Martin, Brian 1979 The Bias of Science. Canberra: Society for Social Responsibility in Science (A.C.T.).

Martin, Brian 1977 "Academics and the Environment: A Critique of the Australian National University's Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies." Ecologist 7, 6 (June), pp. 224-32.

Miles, Michael 1972-73 "The Triumph of Reaction." Change 4 (Winter), pp. 30-36.

Nader, Ralph, Peter J. Petkas, and Kate Blackwell (eds.) 1972 Whistle Blowing: The Report of the Conference on Professional Responsibility. New York: Grossman.

Parenti, Michael 1971 "Repression in Academia: A Report From the Field." Politics and Society 1 (August), pp. 527-37.

Perrucci, Robert, Robert M. Anderson, Dan E. Schendel, and Leon E. Trachtman 1980 "Whistle-Blowing: Professionals' Resistance to Organizational Authority." Social Problems 28, 2 (December), pp. 149-64.

Peters, Charles and Taylor Branch 1972 Blowing the Whistle: Dissent in the Public Interest. New York: Praeger.

Rose, David J. 1976 "New Laboratories for Old." In Gerald Holton and William A. Blanpied (eds.), Science and Its Publics: The Changing Relationship. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 143-55.

Schnaiberg, Allan 1980 The Environment: From Surplus to Scarcity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schwendinger, Herman and Julia R. Schwendinger 1974 The Sociologists of the Chair: A Radical Analysis of the Formative Years of North American Sociology (1883-1922). New York: Basic Books.

Scott, Rachel 1974 Muscle and Blood. New York: E.P. Dutton.

Sharp, Gene 1973 The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Boston: [Porter Sargent].

Smith, Deborah 1981 "A Victory for Academic Freedom." National Times (October 18-24), p. 47.

Smith, Deborah 1980 "Labor Promises an Inquiry Into SA Medical Institute." National Times (July 20-26), p. 36.

Triesman, David 1977 "The Institute of Psychiatry Sackings." Radical Science Journal 5, pp. 9-36.

van den Bosch, Robert 1978 The Pesticide Conspiracy. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.

Weinstein, Deena 1979 Bureaucratic Opposition: Challenging Abuses at the Workplace. Elmsford, New York: Pergamon Press.

Weinstein, Deena 1977 "Bureaucratic Opposition: The Challenge to Authoritarian Abuses at the Workplace." Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 1, 2 (Spring-Summer), pp. 31-46.

Wolfe, Alan 1973 The Seamy Side of Democracy: Repression in America. New York: David McKay.


1. Further details and documentation on the Coulter case are available in Smith (1980) and Martin (1980, 1981b, 1982).

2. For further details on cases mentioned without documentation in this article see Martin (1981a). Some other similar suppression cases in the U.S. are discussed in Nader et al. (1972), Peters and Branch (1972), Fitzgerald (1972: 96, 108, 133, 152, 171, 270, 283-84), van den Bosch (1978: 61-67, 86, 102, 136), Epstein (1978), Graham (1970: 29, 37, 168, 170-71), Knightley et al. (1979), Chalk and von Hippel (1979). Some overt cases of political suppression in the U.S. are presented in Blackstock (1976), Leggett (1973: 234-43), Lifshultz (1974), Miles (1972-73), Colfax (1973), Parenti (1971), and the newsletter Zedek (19329 Monte Vista Drive, Detroit, Michigan 48221). Two instances of suppression of organizations are given in Horowitz (1969) and Triesman (1977). The two most highly documented and detailed case studies known to me are Eddy (1961) and Dixon (1976a). For U.S. historical perspectives see Schwendinger and Schwendinger (1974: 490-548), Goldstein (1978), and Wolfe (1973). See also Arblaster (1974), Dixon (1976b), and Manwell (1978).

3. The concept of "expertise" is not analyzed here, but should not be used uncritically. Expertise is never neutral or objective, but is inevitably politicized and is selectively useful to particular groups in society. See for example Elliott and Elliott (1976: 239).

4. For a valuable treatment of dissent within bureaucracies, analyzed as a form of political opposition, see Weinstein (1977, 1979). See also Perrucci et al. (1980).

* Dr. Brian Martin is a research assistant in the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, Australian National University. He is active in environmental, peace, and radical science groups, and has written widely in these areas. The author acknowledges John Coulter, Richard Curtain, Hugh DeWitt, and Cedric Pugh for their valuable comments on this article.