An Interview with Stavros Tassos

Zuhal Okuyan

Our guest in this issue is a scientist, a geophysicist and seismologist from Greece, Stavros Tassos (1948). A son of a fisherman from Lesbos Island having roots from Erdek, he has been involved in the communist movement since his early ages. Stavros Tassos has come to Turkey several times mostly for regional peace meetings. He is the president of EEDYE (Greek Committee for International Détente and Peace) and MP of KKE from Lesbos region. We wish to know him better with his scientist identity.

We know you as the president of EEDYE and you have come to Turkey several times for this purpose. You also represent KKE in the Greek Parliament.  Can you tell something about yourself?

I struggle for peace and I struggle for social justice, because I know the one is a prerequisite and a result of the other. Social justice is a prerequisite for real peace, and real peace is a result of social justice, and vice-versa.  

These convictions and especially the struggle for social justice have marked me since my early age. I remember my self at the age of 4-5 years old to visit with my mother the mother of her first cousin, who was mourning for her daughter who was executed at the age of 26 only because for being a communist. The sorrow I felt at this age became a commitment at maturity to insist for what I thought was right, both politically and scientifically.      

We would like to learn more about Stavros Tassos as a scientist. What did you teach in the university and what are the fields you are mostly interested in? Do you still deal with your field?

The fight for peace and social justice is the one pillar of my personality. The other one is science. This means to understand, and if not explained to my satisfaction, to try to reveal myself the laws of motion of nature and society. Since we are talking about laws, we are talking about finding the omnipresent cause and effect relationship, because it is one thing not knowing this relationship, and another the nonexistence of this relationship.

My University of Athens diploma is in Natural Sciences (Geology and Biology). I hold an MSc degree in Marine Geology and Geophysics from the University of Minnesota and a PhD degree in Geophysics -Seismology from the University of Thessaloniki. Most of my work in science was as a research scientist in seismology-geophysics at the Institute of Geodynamics of the National Observatory of Athens. I have also taught as a Teaching Assistant and as a Lecturer at the Universities of Minnesota, Maryland and LaVerne.

As in politics, being convinced that dialectical and historical materialism is the only scientific approach, I feel as an outsider from the mainstream theoretical science which is based on the idealistic and metaphysical approach. Also  in the context of capitalism, the progress of applied science and technology is used for increasing profit and not for diffusing it in the society by reducing the working hours, by increasing hygiene and safety in the working environment, and securing an income for the workers so that can satisfy all their contemporary needs.

My interests in science include geophysics, seismology and cosmology. With time this became to be done in the context of the rejection of main-stream theories such as plate-tectonics and big-bang because I was convinced that being idealistic and metaphysical in their approach are unscientific in the end.

In my mind the translation of observation shows that space is not composed of discrete particles chaotically moving in vacuum, but an infinite waving material continuum; absolutely elastic and open up to the speed of light c, and absolutely rigid and closed at the limit of maximum linear deformation c, and it is exactly this property that makes space to wave. Vacuum is nonexistent as a physical entity, and the material continuum is under constant stretching due to the gravitational constant G. This constant energy input results not to an ever increasing linear speed, which cannot exceed c, but to an ever increasing angular speed, i.e., frequency. The material, i.e., with mass-inertia, continuum, gives the meaning of space and time and of the cause and effect relationship. It also gives the physical meaning of evolution and increased complexity with time, since due to its response to its constant stretching there is an ever increasing number of waves, i.e., increased frequency, in the same absolute space, in a process of multiplication by division, without violating the conservation principle. That because each wave, regardless of its wavelength can be analyzed into an infinite number of waves of shorter wavelength/higher frequency, which means that infinity is not only quality, but quantity too. These ever shorter wavelength waves can resonate forming entities that are more complex than the preexisting ones, and are going to be obsolete in the future, in a progressive process of constant transformation, which human beings have the ability to accelerate or decelerate, i.e., dialectical and historical materialism.      

If you wish let us talk of a more practical issue, earthquakes.

As for earthquakes, and given the rejection of plate tectonics from my part on which I can elaborate on another occasion, I can stay on some practical matters. Greece and Turkey are among the countries with high seismicity; actually Greece has higher seismicity than Turkey, the highest in Europe. On the other hand the seismic hazard, i.e., the consequences of earthquakes, in Turkey is much higher than in Greece. For example in the 20th century the death toll from earthquakes in Turkey was about 80000 people, whereas in Greece did not exceed 1500, the main reason for that being the proximity of earthquakes in Turkey to inhabited areas, whereas in Greece many big earthquakes occur in the sea, far away from inhabited areas.

Given the impossibility of accurate earthquake prediction, a comprehensive earthquake mitigation policy for both countries includes the supposition that the next destructive earthquake will occur the next moment below our feet, and the undertaking of all measures that minimize earthquake hazard, like good constructions, escape routes and open spaces for temporary housing, quick rehabilitation and reimbursement of earthquake stricken areas, buildings and people. Of course such a policy in its complete application requires another organization of society in which the goal of human labor is to satisfy social needs and not the maximization of profit.          

How is it to be a communist and also a scientist? Can scientists be neutral?

Scientists will be neutral, only when classes will cease to exist. In the class societies scientists cannot be neutral because how science and its applications are being used depends on which class you belong and/or which class’s interests you promote.  

Tell us something about your work in the Parliament. What is KKE’s view on higher education and science in Greece?

Being a member of a bourgeois parliament is not the most effective way to promote the interests of the working class, because the legislative work that the government and the bourgeois parties promote serves the interests of the bourgeois class, and that includes of course as a primary issue education and science. Our role in such a parliament is to reveal that, to present our proposition that serves the interests of the working class, and to elicit whatever positive measures is possible in the context of capitalism for the workers, the popular strata, peace, education, science, the environment etc.    

Some words about EEDYE and relations with Turkish Peace Committee, as well as for the trilateral peace meetings and other international events on peace.

The relations of our two Peace Committees reflect the deep sentiments of our two peoples. We want to live in peace and social justice, and based on that we have common positions on these matters. We know that the real enemy of the two peoples, that have nothing to divide, is imperialism and the bourgeois class in each country. We fight against imperialism and imperialist organizations, like NATO and EU. We strive for the respect of the borders of the two countries and the international treaties that determine them. In that context, the two Peace Committees along with the Cyprus Peace Committee organize every year the Trilateral Peace Meeting which is accompanied with cultural events that promote friendship and understanding between our peoples.  We also participate with our Turkish comrades in various international events on peace, in the context of the World Peace Council - WPC.  

During your last visit to Turkey, we have talked about mutual meetings and work of Greek and Turkish progressive scientists on cultural, historical, scientific issues and on problematic areas like environment etc. Can you share your view on this issue with our readers?

It is the common struggle for good life, for peace and friendship among greek and turkish people. It is how people are used by the ruling classes in both countries to align behind their economic interests. Progressive scientists in both countries have to be in the forefront of working together for social justice, peace, scientific and technological progress, learning each other’s culture, language, traditions, considering whatever differences as complementary and not antagonistic.

Can we have future relations with Greece? Mutual meetings, young people meeting each other, thematic conferences…

It is a must!

Thank you very much, hope to meet again in our mutual work in enlightment and science.