Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Class Stand Key In Boston Busing Struggle

First Published: Forward to the Party! Struggle for the Party!, No. 1, [n.d.].
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The key question for communists in the Boston busing struggle has been: what class stand do we take in the fight? The answer is clear in theory. But in practice, applying the correct class stand has been a difficult process of learning. The draft programme, which is clearly written from the outlook and stand of the working class, has helped us to sum up some important lessons of class struggle.

The main thing we are learning is that the multinational working class is the only class that can lead this struggle and all struggles against oppression. The workers learn this in the day to day struggle against attacks from the ruling class and for the things they need in order to live like human beings.

If communists are to help move that struggle forward toward revolution, we must see things from the point of view of the working class. The interests of the working class cannot be subordinated to those of any other class or strata in society. The working class is the only really revolutionary class.

The proletariat will learn more sharply the nature of society and the monopoly capitalists who rule it, as it sees the bourgeoisie attack not only its ranks but the other strata as well. In this way, it sees also the vacillation of the other strata toward the bourgeoisie, their narrowness and self-interest. With the aid of the party, it sums up that none of these other class forces can represent its interests... (p. 33)

This is happening in reality. The struggle for education and equality, which the bourgeoisie has tried to divert with the Boston busing plan, has brought many social forces into the field of battle. The ruling class is faced with a worldwide crisis which is bringing it new defeats. It is confronted by a rising workers’ movement that is forging unity in struggle.

The rulers have responded with intensified attacks on the schools and communities of the working class and oppressed nationalities. They have desperately attempted to use the Boston busing plan to divide the workers and to drive a wedge between the struggles of the working class and the struggles of the oppressed nationalities. They have sought to intensify the historic competition among the masses of people for the things they need to survive, in this case, education.

Vicious Campaign

In carrying out its divide and conquer schemes, the bourgeoisie has waged a vicious campaign to blame the people for the problems in Boston. In this, they have made use of other strata which, while having contradictions with the monopoly capitalists, also “own some of the means of production or stand above the proletariat.” (p. 33)

On the one hand are the forces of the Boston School Committee and ROAR {Restore Our Alienated Rights) which have posed as the defenders and protectors of the “little man” against the Beacon Hill Establishment while in fact organizing around the white chauvinist line that “criminal Black people are taking everything away from hard working white people.”

On the other hand, there are forces led by the NAACP and Black politicians like State Senator Bill Owens, who have pushed the narrow nationalist line that “the racist white people of Boston are keeping Black people from their rights. We’ll just have to take it from them.” Included here are the groups of the morally outraged petty bourgeois movement (OL, YAWF, SWP, Weather Underground, etc.)

These forces have tried to rally the working class and other people to their banner. In the absence of leadership from a revolutionary communist party, ROAR has had some temporary success, while the narrow nationalists have remained isolated from the masses.

The Boston School Committee (BSC) and ROAR

The BSC and the leadership of ROAR come from and represent the last remnants of the old Irish political machine that once ran Boston. It is being smashed by the monopoly capitalists led by Mayor White. ROAR’s base is mainly among the petty bourgeoisie in the city and suburbs.

In South Boston especially, working through the Home and School Associations, they have established tight organizations which enforce a strict discipline in the community based on fear and hatred of all “outsiders.” They are the main force pushing the “Blacks cause all the problems” line.

In the early stage of the busing struggle, many white workers looked to ROAR for leadership and supported the school boycott. Some still do. ROAR was the only organized force offering to lead resistance to the attacks on the schools and neighborhoods of the city. They do all they can to misdirect this resistance and turn it against Black people and away from the ruling class.

The draft programme correctly characterizes ROAR. “As crisis deepens and the revolutionary working class movement develops, the bourgeoisie increasingly attempts to mobilize the petty bourgeoisie against the proletariat and even to use it as a social base for fascism. The bourgeoisie tries to turn the desperation of the ruined petty bourgeoisie into frantic attacks against the working class.” (p. 24)

But in the course of the struggle, the working class is seeing how ROAR cannot lead its fight or serve its interests. For instance, in Southie we hear increasing talk of how all the school boycott has done is to lead to more youth street crime.

One life-long Southie family told us that they had been knifed in the back by ROAR after the mother of the family had appeared on TV (with ROAR’s backing, she thought) calling for Black and white parents to organize to keep the peace at Southie High so that the school would stay open. The husband, a longshoreman, said that ROAR had mounted a smear campaign against the family, even though they have been close friends of Louise Day Hicks. Hicks did nothing to defend them. There are many examples of this kind.

Growing Contention

ROAR’s narrowness and self-interest has been exposed to white workers in the growing contention among its leading politicians who want to use the busing issue to run for office. One of the most popular of these is State Rep. Ray Flynn of Southie, a candidate for mayor. But even he is now being attacked by some in ROAR for upstaging ROAR’s march on Washington by going there a week before the march. The thieves fall out and the workers grow more disgusted.

ROAR’s recent March on Washington has further exposed it to white workers. First, the march was a $57.50 holiday which few workers could afford. Second, it was part of ROAR’s attempts to get a constitutional amendment against forced busing. Few workers support this. And so, even though it was ROAR’s only mobilization since early December, only 1500 people from around the country “marched” on Washington.

One more example. When the Nazis opened an office in Sothie recently, ROAR, realizing that most people in Sothie are sickened by the Nazis, sponsored a picket line outside their office “to distinguish itself from the Nazis.” But it is clear to more and more workers that the line of ROAR and the Nazis is essentially the same and that therefore ROAR will not build a campaign against the Nazis.

This is not to say that ROAR and the Boston School Committee have lost all influence among the white workers. It does show that the petty bourgeoisie can’t lead their struggles and that the workers are seeing this in the course of the struggle.

Black bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces

The Boston busing plan is an attempt by the bourgeoisie to turn around the struggle of Black people for education and equality. The bourgeoisie is trying to turn this struggle from an attack on itself into an attack on the multinational working class. In this they are making use of narrow nationalist forces.

The Boston busing plan is the immediate result of a suit brought against the Boston School Committee by the NAACP in 1972. The court’s decision “proved” what everybody knew: the BSC has consciously kept Boston schools segregated. Boston’s Black students, overall, go to the worst of Boston’s lousy schools and are discriminated against in many ways.

In the 60s and early 70s, the Black people of Boston filled the streets in their struggle for decent and equal education and against discrimination. That struggle suffered greatly from the lack of workers involved and leading it.

The draft programme says, “During this period, the ruling class, panicked by the powerful upsurge of the Black people and bringing down more savage repression against them, also rushed to build up bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces among them to put a brake on their struggle, and lead it into a dead end. But because this could in no way change the basic conditions of the Black masses, it has mainly served to intensify class contradictions among Black people, as it becomes all the more clear that the Black bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie cannot lead the Black people to liberation.” (p. 36) This describes the situation in Boston.

Role of NAACP

The NAACP leads an array of forces that is helping the bourgeoisie to attack the working class and the masses of oppressed people. They are united behind the bourgeois line that “after all times are tough. There’s not enough to go around. So since Black people suffer more than white people do, we should spread the suffering more equally. If white workers resist this, they are automatically racist and should be smashed.”

During the height of the violence in Boston, these narrow nationalists were able to spread some confusion. Their greatest influence was on the groups of the petty bourgeois “left.”

The NAACP, Senator Bill Owens and their symps appealed to the most narrow self-interest of Black people, saying “these racist white people in Southie are the same people who have kept Black people down for years.” But even then the masses of Black people remained indifferent to their hysteria. Only one time did they get Boston’s Black people to demonstrate in any numbers, 800-1000 during the Oct. violence.

The NAACP has never had a base in Boston. They have tried like hell to build themselves with the busing plan. But they are more isolated now than ever. They have shown that they cannot lead the struggle of Black people for emancipation.

The basic contradictions among the Black people have been intensified in the busing struggle. Black workers are seeing that they have little in common with the NAACP and the other bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalists. The NAACP shows its contradiction with Black workers by helping Fed. Judge Garrity push the line, “Busing for de-segregation first, education second,” when Black workers clearly want education first. They will tolerate busing if it means better schools. But experience is showing that this isn’t the case.

Every day the busing con game is more exposed and with it the hustlers who have been pushing it on the people. The political line of the Dec. 14 “March Against Racism” was exposed for the isolated garbage it is when it failed to bring out Black people from Boston. The march completely exposed Bill Owens as the agent he is when the newspapers reported how he had arranged with the cops to have himself arrested as a martyr in order to avoid any militant confrontations.

Black Parents Organize

At Hyde Park High School, where there has been a lot of racial fighting, some Black parents organized themselves to help keep the peace inside the school. Recently, the principal kicked them out. The parents called a meeting to discuss the situation in the school and over 50 angry Black parents and students showed up. The NAACP sent its lawyers to the meeting saying that they would be glad to take the case to court. They were attacked by some and ignored by most of the parents.

At the next meeting half as many people showed up. A Black Muslim speaker put people to sleep with a long speech about how Black people shouldn’t go to the white man’s schools. The next meeting still fewer people showed. Despite the efforts of a poverty pimp to stifle any real discussion, the workers and communists at the meeting talked about the need to take the fight to the community.

The struggle continues around how to do this, as well as for a position on the busing plan in general. Meanwhile, several students have initiated a petition in the high school. It demands that the parents’ group be brought back into the school and the cops be kicked out. Over 500 Black and white students signed the petition. This provides a beginning on which to build the struggle from the perspective of the proletariat and further expose the role of the bourgeois nationalists.

The point of all this is that the bourgeoisie has been able to play upon the contradictions among the people and to build up to some degree its agents in order to mislead the working class and oppressed nationalities. But the working class is learning in the course of the day to day struggle who its friends and enemies are. “With the aid of the party, it sums up that none of these other class forces can represent its interests.” (P. 33)

The role of communists

The Boston busing struggle clearly shows how the absence of a revolutionary communist party has held back the struggle of the working class. We need a communist party that is based on the outlook of the working class and relies on the masses.

Our efforts to develop a program for the day to day struggle of the working class for education and equality in Boston have revealed certain tendencies which must be struggled against as we move forward to the party.

Our main weakness was our tendency to underestimate the working class and to look to other strata for leadership in the struggle. We tended to adopt the outlook of the petty bourgeoisie and especially to view things from the perspective of the Black bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie.

Ignoring the historical development of the single multinational U.S. working class, we didn’t grasp that we are in a new period when the principal contradiction is once again between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat–when that contradiction is more influencing than influenced by every other contradiction in society. We didn’t understand what it means to say the proletariat must lead. This held back work in several ways.

Initially, we correctly summed up the Busing plan as an attack by the bourgeoisie. This was in part due to discussion with several workers, Black, Latin and white, who either had kids in school or had themselves gone through the Boston schools. We did not see, however, that this was primarily an attack on the working class. Further, we didn’t understand just how important education is to the working class.

Our failure to see the busing attack in the context of the struggle of the working class for better schools and against discrimination resulted in a one-sided acceptance of the bourgeoisie’s terms. We put forward the slogan, “People Must Unite to Smash the Boston Busing Plan.” This put the working class in a defensive position by not seeking the most favorable ground on which to fight.

Main Error

But then for a while it was “freak out city,” as our old “friends” from the moral movement mounted their attacks on the working class and on our line. The roar from the left that “the RU and the working class is racist” caused us to look over our shoulders to our petty bourgeois past and to lose sight of the future and its class.

Our main error in this period was to look to the bourgeois nationalists for leadership. Some of us began to think maybe the main thing behind the school boycott was white workers’ racism. We struggled over whether Southie was built on “privilege” and thus should be smashed so that Black people could exercise their “democratic right to go to any school they choose.”

We put out a one-sided line that implied support for the NAACP and CORE. When we finally did attack the NAACP as bourgeois agents, some comrades said we were breaking the united front. Our Bundism came out in a tendency to see Black workers as Black, but not as workers. We underestimated Black workers and tended not to struggle with them on the basis of their being part of the working class.

All of this was clearly exposed in our approach to the Dec. 14 March Against Racism. We didn’t grasp that the line of that demo was a bourgeois line in clear contradiction with the views and interests of the working class. Our line was “yes, the essential thing is to fight racism and aim it at the ruling class which is its source.”

We tried to unite with the line of the narrow nationalists when we should have attacked it. We dropped “Fight the Boston Busing Plan” as a slogan for the contingent we were leading. Then we didn’t even bring signs or banners putting out the slogan at all. This was mainly out of fear that we would be attacked by the nationalists and their movement allies.

Another way that a bourgeois outlook has held back the struggle was our misunderstanding of the relationship between struggle and consciousness. We failed for a long time to develop a fighting program that was based in an understanding that the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is material.

Our tendency has been to think that if only the working class and oppressed nationalities understood that the ruling class is the real enemy, then we could unite and fight. Before we would unite with workers to fight, they had to agree with our slogan “Fight the Ruling Class Divide and Rule Attacks.” This reflected a subjective idealist approach to how the working class moves and learns in struggle.

Basing Ourselves on Proletariat

We are learning that the struggles of the working class are objectively against the ruling class. That communists must build these struggles on the basis of summing up the ideas, needs and desires of the masses, not on what we wish the level of consciousness would be. We are learning that the working class learns, in the day to day struggle who its friends and enemies are. We must persist in building the mass struggle and develop unity and consciousness in the struggle.

By basing ourselves in the outlook of the proletariat we are now more patiently concentrating on building the fight for education and equality. Our slogans “Fight for Decent and Equal Education, Fight the Boston Busing Plan, Stop Police Attacks–Organize Self Defense,” reflect the reality of the struggle in Boston and provide the basis for developing unity and consciousness in the struggle.

These slogans are being taken out to the working class and oppressed nationalities with leafleting, picket lines, rallies, marches and motorcades. We have taken them to particular fights–to kick Kerrigan (BSC pig) out at Boston State College, to throw the Nazis out of Boston, to expose Garrity and the Gillette Co.’s role in the schools and busing plan, to kick the cops out of Hyde Park High and get the parent groups back in.

A firmer grasp of the proletarian class stand is being developed in the mass struggle and in turn is releasing the initiative of communists in leading the masses in struggle.