Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

Weber Case Tested Two Lines

First Published: The New Voice, Vol. VIII, No. 15, August 20, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Where did communist groups stand and what did they do about the Weber case?

The New Voice participated fully in the spring 1979 campaign to defeat the Weber case.

The Workers Congress (M-L) conducted some activity around the case.

Other groups, such as the League for Proletarian Revolution, produced some literature for the June 2 rallies at the end of the anti-Weber campaign.

The Communist Party (M-L) and the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters did not, to our observation, join the anti-Weber campaign except for some articles in their organizations’ newspapers.

The League for Revolutionary Struggle (M-L) actively opposed the anti-Weber campaign with diversionary maneuvers.

To sum it up, of all these communist groups, the one that advances the slogan of fighting racism and national minority oppression participated most vigorously in the campaign. Of these groups, TNV was the one that made the Weber case its main priority for mass work and anti-racist struggle, helping to build this broad campaign. On the other hand, the group which most strenuously opposes a class analysis of racism and tries to make a mass slogan of “fight national oppression” actually hampered the anti-Weber movement.


The Weber case was undoubtedly the central racist issue during the spring of this year. It came to the Supreme Court after the Bakke ruling and was destined either to continue the attack on affirmative action or to halt the momentum of the reactionary drive. The Bakke case dealt with affirmative action in postgraduate medical school professional education; the Weber case threatened some 30,000 affirmative action plans in industry and commerce. Many an unemployed ghetto youth, many a working person and his or her family would see direct meaning in the Weber case such as was lacking in the Bakke case. These facts both enlarged the importance of the issue and made it one that could be taken in a concrete way to working people in much greater numbers than the narrower student issue of Bakke.

The Weber case was a fruitful focus for local organizing and basebuilding efforts. By linking Weber’s challenge to the plan at Kaiser with patterns of discrimination in specific workplaces, activists could channel local struggle into a central political symbol and, conversely, show fellow workers the importance of struggling for affirmative action in a particular industry, company or works site.


What alternatives were there for a focus in place of the Weber case?

Two were advanced in practice by the League for Revolutionary Struggle. One was support for the United League in Mississippi. Specifically, this meant that LRS sponsored tours of United League officers. LRS felt the United League had the struggle of the day. In practice, LRS in each city organized an evening of speeches and cultural presentations. LRS could have done more for anti-racist struggle by building up the Weber issue, adding more fight to the inspiring United League revival of struggle. Besides, the tours were mostly over as the Weber campaign fired up.

LRS’s other alternative was to push the issue of the Sears Roebuck Co. suit against the government. This was an occasion for diversionary wrecking pure and simple. LRS hypocritically asserted that it was part of the Weber campaign, but it sandwiched the Weber case in between the Bakke and Sears cases, playing up Sears and burying Weber. In its May 1 events and all spring, LRS gave lip service to the Weber case but was not really serious about taking up the issue.

In April and May, the Weber case was moving through the Supreme Court and the campaign for the June 2 anti-Weber rallies was underway. To bring up the Sears suit, to try to switch the movement over to another focus at this time, to compete using Sears against the Weber focus was a diversionary maneuver that objectively undermined the main anti-racist mass work of the period.

As many anti-racist activists know, there is some history behind LRS’s deeds. During the fight against the Bakke case, LRS (in the form of its parent groups, IWK and ATM) set up the Anti-Bakke Decision Coalition (ABDC), which was unable to achieve unity with the National Coalition to overturn the Bakke Decision (NCOBD). This was harmful to the anti-Bakke movement as a whole.

We believe there was sectarianism on the part of the leaders of both ABDC and NCOBD. But who learned what lessons as a result? When the Weber case came up, LRS through the channel of ABDC refused to take up the case, putting up the Sears obstacle whenever it could.

To illustrate its persistent subjective attitude, ABDC leaders came to meetings of the Northern California Coalition to Overturn the Weber Case and asked how it could become part of the steering committee. Its sole concern was to replay the game of failed negotiations among leaders on slogans, dates for marches and speaker lists. But when ABDC was told that it would have to participate in the work in order to earn a place on the steering committee, it had nothing more to say or to contribute to the campaign.


By contrast, The New Voice worked within the Coalition. TNV did this knowing at the time that it did not have the strength to overcome the reformist leaders from NCOBD. TNV worked in the Coalition knowing that its literature, organizing methods and speakers were not what TNV would provide given the mandate.

Yet we maintain that it was correct to work in this Coalition, with its NCOBD leaders, its refusal to advance a class analysis of racism and its reliance on phony leftist politicians (like County Supervisor John George). For only in this way could the greatest number of people be exposed to the Weber case, and only by organizing in support of its marches and other activities could The New Voice take a class analysis of racism and the Weber case to working people. The communist approach is to unite and struggle for a correct line. We used Coalition literature and encouraged activists to produce even better supplementary literature. We helped the Coalition’s work and criticized some leaders’ bad politics.

Was this a mistake on the part of The New Voice? Let LRS say so if that is its view. From Bakke to Weber, LRS withdrew from the principal issue of the day. No amount of attacks on the CPUSA and other bad elements in the anti-Weber coalition, no desire for purity in isolation, can excuse this mistake. TNV rejected this policy. We worked on the anti-Weber campaign through the organizational channel that, for all its defects, was the only way to reach the masses with knowledge of the attack on affirmative action and a call to action against racism, sexism, and national minority oppression.


The ideological root of LRS’s failure to fight racism and even diversionary undermining of anti-racist activity is its bitter opposition to the class analysis of racism. LRS hides this opposition under slogans on national oppression and its advocacy of the idea of a black nation, but the essence of the matter is the class analysis.

Marxist-Leninists make a class analysis of social questions. They grasp the particular issue and form of oppression, take up the fight against it, and give it the most militant and steadfast assistance on the basis of the proletariat’s class interests in the issue. It is this revolutionary course that requires an understanding and use of a class analysis of racism in the U.S.

Racism is a form of superexploitation and extra oppression against black and other people. Its effect is to produce superprofits for the capitalist class and furthermore to divide the working class and mislead workers into thinking they have separate and even opposite interests depending on whether they are white or black. Yet where a racist differential exists and where workers think in terms of “race” instead of class, the class struggle is weakened to the loss of all workers, although to different degrees. The white worker is worse off where strikes are lost, or where unions do not exist at all, because of racism; the even worse situation of black workers is no compensation. The fight against racism is in the immediate material interest of all members of the working class, as well as the path to unity and revolutionary strength.

LRS reiterated its opposition to the class analysis of racism in the June 29 issue of its newspaper Unity. In a two-part series on “The Fight for Affirmative Action in Labor,” a fighting front on which LRS had just accomplished nothing in the matter of the Weber case, the group attacks the class analysis of racism.

LRS uses the device of making accusations against the reformist Communist Party USA. It attacks the statement that companies “make billions in extra profits because when workers are divided, everybody’s wages are held down.” This statement happens to be true. LRS goes on to assert that the CPUSA “promotes the view that whites and minorities suffer equally from divisions in the working class.” (Unity, p. 8; emphasis added) But LRS never quotes any evidence to bring out the point about equal oppression. Under the cover of an attack on the CPUSA, LRS is really concentrating its fire on any statement that that brings out the interest of all workers in fighting racism.

When the CPUSA says that “white men workers directly benefit from affirmative action because it creates new job rights and fresh training opportunities that didn’t exist before,” LRS calls this a “chauvinist...appeal to white workers.” (Unity, p. 8) LRS forbids a class fight against racism, lamely substituting moralistic appeals or the longterm view that unity would be helpful for revolution. LRS does not realize that the class struggle includes the fight against exploitation now, that racism increases the capitalists’ exploitation of all workers, and that the path to class unity and revolutionary action requires winning workers on the basis of both immediate and longterm interest, both moral solidarity and economic interest. There is no conflict in real life here, only in the minds of the LRS writers.

LRS then brands the CPUSA’s sin as its failure to use the terms and half-baked analysis of “national oppression” promoted by LRS. In fact, the CPUSA showed that it rejects the class analysis of racism and does not believe it is possible to arouse white workers to fight racism. The CPUSA looked for some opportunist way to attract trade union bureaucrats to the anti-Weber campaign.

Both the CPUSA and LRS reject the class outlook. Both have no confidence in taking a class outlook to the proletarian masses. The difference is the CPUSA says this openly while LRS batters its head against the wall with its “national oppression” slogans. The CPUSA is openly opportunist; LRS is running into trouble, maneuvering in a sectarian way in the anti-racist movement, under the grand but, in its hands, empty directive, “We must root this struggle [for affirmative action] among the masses and bring their full initiative into play.” The masses would be happier if LRS would simply have brought its own initiative into play against the Weber case.


LRS was the most determined opponent of anti-racist work around the Weber case. Other groups simply failed to take it up. The Revolutionary Workers Headquarters concentrated instead on support work for Kampuchea, asking other communist groups to join it. We could not do this where we had to concentrate on the Weber case (and conversely, RWHq chose to devote little of its energy to the Weber case). The Communist Party (M-L) has been somewhat inactive in mass struggle recently, and it is conducting an internal discussion over how to do work on the national question, that is, on how to fight racism and national minority oppression (see its Class Struggle #11).

We suggest that the consequences of different outlooks on fighting racism became apparent in the Weber campaign. The New Voice was able to enter the campaign wholeheartedly because the class analysis of racism reflects objective reality, allows an approach to the working masses, and can unite a current issue with communist educational work. TNV is by no means a master of how to use the class analysis of racism, but the line can be applied, and we can learn to use it. We contributed to the anti-racist struggle more concretely in the Weber case than in the Bakke case because the basic line does allow us to sum up. and advance. The opponents of the class analysis of racism have maintained a sectarian method of work, developing in the case of LRS from infighting between ABDC and NCOBD on the Bakke case to simply inactivity and then diversionary tactics in the Weber case.

We do agree on this: the NCOBD leaders and the CPUSA are reformist not revolutionary. Marxism-Leninism and revolution are the only way out for black people and for the working class. If the communist movement can draw the ideological lessons from experiences like the Weber campaign, then we can unite our strength to make the struggle against revisionism and reformism a burning question in the anti-racist movement. This is a struggle to be waged on the grounds of effectively fighting racism, really reaching out and awakening ever wider circles of workers, and uniting the working class to fight racism, overthrow capitalism and build a liberated socialist society.