First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 4, January 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On November 19-20 a conference was held by professionals and students to “forge a common road forward in response to the attack that Bakke represents.” (Referring to the Bakke Decision, see Revolution, January and October 1977) The National Conference on the Bakke Case, Affirmative Action and the Professions was held at the College of Medicine, Howard University and attended by several hundred people. The major issues included both an analysis of how Bakke is an attack on affirmative action and the problem of fighting for a correct line and building unity in the movement to fight the Bakke decision.
Over 40 professional and political organizations sponsored the conference. This included Black professional organizations such as Black American Law Students Association, Black Psychiatrists of America and the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and other organizations, including Lawyers for the People and the Medical Committee for Human Rights.
A major focus of the discussions was to smash the charge that affirmative action is a form of “reverse discrimination” against white people. This charge is a blatant expression of national oppression and as such a “divide and rule” tactic in the interests of the ruling class trying to pit whites against Blacks, Chicanos and other minority nationalities. The actual court case of Allan Bakke presents reverse discrimination as the key issue.
In 1974, when Bakke applied to UCD (medical school at the University of California at Davis), there were 3000 applications for 100 first year placements. At that time 16 of the 100 positions were set aside for minority applicants. Bakke charges that people were admitted to the 16 positions with lower scores than his and therefore he was the victim of discrimination. What he doesn’t explain is that there were whites admitted with lower scores, that some of the 100 positions, are also set aside for wealthy alumni of UCD, or that he (Bakke) had been turned down by 13 other medical schools in 1973-74.
The Bakke case turns the facts of national oppression on their head. Bakke makes it seem that Blacks and Chicanos are on “Easy Street” now that they are allegedly given preferential treatment over whites. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the fight has been to defend the victories won by Blacks and other minorities during the ’60s which the ruling class has been chipping away at and attacking–intensifying national oppression. This applies not only to the areas of health care and education, but to every area of life, especially jobs.
The conference united on the correct view that Bakke is part of the overall attack on Blacks and other minorities. The source of the attack is the ruling class ploy to dump the crisis they face on the masses, to divide the masses by nationality and promote conflict, and to reverse all progressive reforms won in the 1960s by the struggles against national oppression. However, the unity achieved at this conference is not shared by other forces taking up the struggle against the Bakke decision.
The main forces that conference participants were concerned with were the National Committee to Overturn the Bakke Decision (NCOBD) and the Anti-Bakke Decision Coalition (ABDC). In the main, the conference focused on how to build unity with NCOBD while at the same time reserving the right of the organizations involved to put forward their analyses of the issues and plan independent actions. The conference passed a resolution that, in part,
1. Calls upon the NCOBD and the ABDC to undertake to organize a meeting of the major national organizations involved in building this fight with the purpose of forming a new democratic coalition to build for a major demonstration in Washington, D.C. in early April. This national coalition should exist so as not to interfere with the autonomy of any of the organizations involved, yet builds the greatest possible unity among all forces.
;2. Calls upon all organizations involved in the fight against Bakke to participate in such a meeting.
3. Mandates the creation of a continuations committee representative of those persons and organizations attending this conference to facilitate the implementation of this resolution and communicate the success of this effort to all conferees.
The continuations committee was composed of 14 people from as many organizations.
The NCOBD refused to hear the two people chosen to represent the continuations committee. This is not surprising if the political line of NCOBD is analyzed as the basis for their sectarian stance toward this conference.
NCOBD holds that “The Carter administration has .. . taken a slightly anti-Bakke stand ... the position is basically a middle of the road argument.” This is misleading, and incorrect. They base this on their view that “within the federal government there has been and still is lots of controversy and struggle on the Carter position.” The correct view is that Carter and Co.’s move is only based on the President’s views of what will serve the overall interests of the capitalists.
This incorrect NCOBD line also includes other key points: 1) They make racism the central question, rather than correctly understanding national oppression, its relation to the overall class struggle, and the source of the Bakke attack–U.S. capitalism and its crisis. 2) The key forces to unite with according to this line are the NAACP, PUSH, Congressional Black Caucus, etc. This clearly reveals a limited reformist orientation that ignores the history of mass struggle that won affirmative action in the first place and sells out the masses in favor of tailing reformist bourgeois nationalist forces.
There are many other issues incorrectly put forward by NCOBD. A blatant one is their view of how to make the Bakke case an international issue: “In the UN context, we could also pressure the U.S. ambassador to the UN and former civil rights activist, Andrew Young, to raise this issue.”
This is a reactionary and ridiculous line that takes the initiative away from the masses and places it in the hands of a major flunkey of the U.S. imperialist ruling class. If, for example, this line were adopted by forces working in support of African liberation, then rather than building mass struggle, work would be to get behind Young to work through the UN and the U.S. State Department to contribute to African liberation. No, this is a backward approach that must be rejected and denounced.
At this time the forces fighting against the Bakke decision are growing and the conditions for making the anti-Bakke struggle a big battle are excellent. The key task is to fight for a correct political line on this question while building unity in the course of waging the Bakke battle. The interest of the masses of people can be served best by one united movement against the Bakke decision, but only if the unity is guided by a correct political line. The development of this struggle can be pushed forward if NCOBD abandons the reactionary position it now holds and unites to take up the struggle with those upholding a correct line.
The main way the struggle will move forward, however, is for honest and genuine forces, such as those who participated in the November anti-Bakke conference, to unite around the correct political line and fan the flames of mass struggle in the heat of battle.