Jeffrey Schevitz (1962)

Family Therapist, Germany

After years of combining anti-Vietnam war activities and graduate school, I was finally able to bring academics and politics together enough to finish my dissertation on the personal and professional crises of scientists and engineers in the military industries in the Stanford area. In the process, I helped make two documentary films to aid their efforts to organize fellow scientists and engineers. I left Berkeley in September 1969, dissertation unfinished, to join Dave Colfax and George Rawick as new members of the Washington University "radical" sociology department. Unfortunately, Al Gouldner and the others who recruited us thought we were just radical scholars. But our scholarship served to point our way politically. With my students, I helped produce "The McDonnell Film" which did not endear me to Sanford McDonnell, a member  of the Board of Trustees. In the course of making the film, the McDonnell workers in the film were threatened by Naval Intelligence. Dave Colfax and I had the same friendly undercover agent of the St. Louis police watching us. We frequently chatted with him, standing bored by one of our houses. With a professor of Asian history, I started "War and Peace Report" on a local radio station. After unrelenting support for Dave Colfax in his tenure battle, I was denied a contract renewal. Although I had not completed my dissertation, I was told I would receive a renewal if I would stop publicly speaking on Colfax's behalf. I did not and soon I was on my way to Cortland State College in the SUNY system, a big intellectual drop, I must say. But as soon as my dissertation was accepted (on the condition that the political history creating the huge pool of science warriors in the labs be cut, including my political economic analysis) I applied to the State College of Buffalo, because it was in an industrial city. I tried to teach at night there as much as possible to reach working people.  

While at Buffalo, I received a notice (over the radical sociology group) of an opening for an assistant professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University of Berlin. I applied and received the position. I started teaching in West Berlin in April 1976. It took several months before I went over to East Berlin to talk with Americans and non-Germans living there. From watching GDR television, I had been very impressed with the achievements of the GDR in the area of full employment, institutional equality for women (and thus, for men), child care, and (high) culture, also for factory workers, who could not only attend opera and theater for almost nothing, but who went as collectives, if they wished. There was universal health insurance, almost free child care by trained personnel, from six weeks onward, union or company-owned vacation facilities that cost very little. The GDR was supporting Cuba and Vietnam with tools and training. Just as important, I was enthused by the fact that the leading members of the GDR government, army, courts, and cultural life, had been anti-fascists, many having spent years in the concentration camps. On the other hand, West Germany's leaders were credited with their earlier loyalty to their fatherland. Older judges and law school teachers served the Nazi regime and were allowed to train the next generation of judges and diplomats.  

Until this time, I had been an anti-communist, self-labeled American "socialist revolutionary" with neither academic nor direct experience with a functioning advanced socialist society. I was taken aback by my first media impressions of the GDR; they did not jibe with my prejudices. To try to understand this seemingly impressive society, my wife and I visited a famous novelist, Walter Kaufmann, now an Australian, but a Jew born into a "bourgeois" Düsseldorf family. We visited an American Communist journalist and TV personality Victor Grossmann, who told me he was in the same CP cell at Harvard with Robert Bellah. We talked with a female American playwright, Edith Anderson. And we became friends with an Irish English lit professor who translated Brecht and organized the annual  political song festival.  I attended the world-famous Leipzig Documentary Film Festival, where I wept when I embraced the Vietnam delegation and when I saw a Cuban documentary in which workers were marching, holding up as though they were weapons the drills provided by the GDR ? weapons of peaceful construction. None of those living in the GDR spared us their criticisms but all were united in saying that there was no other place to live if one wanted to live in Germany.  

As a result of all of this, I thought I would like to live in the GDR and experience so-called "real socialism" first hand. Well, it came differently. As a result of my Princeton background, I was an ideal candidate to be more helpful to the protection and improvement of the existing form of socialism, if I stayed in the West, gave up my Berkeley-acquired ways and appearance to return to my earlier potential - a Princeton graduate headed into the policy arena.  

I became a specialist in nuclear non-proliferation policy, spending a year at the research institute of the German Society for Foreign Affairs in Bonn. In my next position at a West German National nuclear lab, I was asked to became advisor to West German conservative politicians, a liaison between the German government and various U.S. Congressional and executive government agencies, and a Senior Associate Consultant for a Watergate-based energy policy consultant firm that did a great deal of work for government agencies, including intelligence agencies. I was, I have to admit, delighted to have myself on a list of consultants with retired generals and admirals.  

With Berkeley in my head and Princeton on my face and suits (Richard Burt, U.S. Ambassador to Germany and a Cornell graduate, accused me of having the Princeton seal of my buttocks) after a number of years, I came to the point that I knew a lot about of what went on in the German Chancellor's office and why, not to speak of other German ministries and large German firms producing energy or energy-generating equipment, including nuclear reprocessing facilities.  

I am proud to have been part of a group of "Agents for Peace" as we call ourselves, still meeting annually with Markus Wolff and others in Berlin to discuss the political situation and to raise money for those who have spent much more time in jail than I have, and to work on our second book. We gave the GDR breathing space and we helped to prevent NATO military aggression against the socialist countries. With my comrades at the top of the NATO policy planning staff, in high positions in the German foreign service and defense ministries, and as head engineer of the advanced German fighter, Tornado, we learned first-hand of the first-strike plans of NATO's 150 nuclear missiles onto the Soviet Union, two onto the GDR. Knowing exactly what was planned enabled actions, both political and military, to counter them.  

I am proud that the education and convictions I acquired in Berkeley were put to the service of preserving the peace in Europe, which, according to U.S. plans, would have been sacrificed in balls of fire in a limited nuclear war.  

I am still active in anti-war politics, in the Munich-American Peace Committee, speaking in front of the famous Munich City Hall, where I first stood over 40 years ago as a Princeton senior.

And I am putting my sociology education to good use as a systemic family therapist - the only kind that a sociologist could become, I believe.  

Dissertation Title
Weaponsmakers: role Orientatons and Behavior of Scientists & Engineers in the Aerospace Industries
Dissertation Book Title
The weaponsmakers, personal and professional crisis during the Vietnam war
Cambridge, Mass.
Entry Year