Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

August Twenty-Ninth Movement

Which Road for the Anti-Bakke Movement?

First Published: Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On October 8 and 15, 1977 roughly 12,000, people nationwide demonstrated against the Bakke decision. This clearly shows the growing anger of students, oppressed nationalities and workers against the racist Bakke decision. But the demonstrations were split into two different coalitions with different sets of demands. Again the two coalitions are planning separate demonstrations for Spring, 1978. Why can’t the anti-Bakke movement unite? Aren’t we all fighting for the same goal? Both coalitions oppose the Bakke decision, but there are entirely two different views on how to defeat it. These differing views aren’t just squabbles among left groups, but represent two fundamentally different lines on the future of the anti-Bakke movement. They represent the difference between victory or defeat.

Many honest individuals and groups have joined the National Committee to Defeat the Bakke Decision (NCOBD). They have worked hard to defeat the Bakke decision. But the leadership of the NCOBD have led that organization into reformism–that is into preserving the system. They liquidate the special oppression of the oppressed nationalities. To better understand these differences, we will examine the history, political line and practice of the two coalitions: the National Committee to Overturn the Bakke Decision and the Anti-Bakke Decision Coalition (ABDC).

California statewide MEChA’s initiated the call to form ABDC in June 1977. At the founding conference in San Jose, California there were 300 people and 70 organizations from all over the state. MEChAs, Asian Student Unions, and other student groups attended. Others attending included caucuses within the Steelworkers Union, within the United Autoworkers, and individual members from the Butchers Union, ILWU, glassworkers, culinary workers and many more. Representatives from several women’s organizations and community groups came. What is significant is that through democratic discussion all of these groups UNITED on a single program to fight Bakke. The principles of unity developed at the conference upheld the firm principle that Bakke will be defeated only through reliance on the masses of oppressed people – rather than reliance on liberal politicians or lawyers.

The principles uphold BOTH the Supreme AND the UC regents as equal targets of the struggle (and not just the Supreme Court). The body united on the analysis that Bakke is mainly an attack on the oppress nationalities. It is part of the history of national oppression under imperialism and ABDC upheld the principle of opposing the “systematic oppression of Third World people.” The body also correctly saw Bakke as part of an attempt to further divide the working class along national lines; and divide men from women. The ABDC took up as one of its slogans “End Women’s Oppression, Full Equality for Women.”

Groups who were leading the NCOBD also attended the conference: the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and CASA. On June 26 the ABDC chose Oct. 15 for its National Day of Solidarity. This was before the National Committee convened to select their date. Members of the NCOBD, CPUSA and CASA were present and later chose to wreck the unity of the anti-Bakke movement by calling for separate demonstrations. In fact at both the July 26 ABDC Conference and at the Statewide MEChA Conference the day before, the NCOBD leadership did everything in their power to subvert the organizing efforts of the MEChAs. They challenged the right of MEChA Central in San Jose to call the conference (despite the fact that San Jose had been sleeved at the previous statewide conference to organize the June 26th conference). This opportunist bloc claimed that they had not been notified in enough time before the conference – despite the fact that South Bay Central forces actually produced copies of materials they sent out in advance! Everyone else attending had plenty of time to mobilize student and community groups: 70 groups and 300 people attended.

This opportunist bloc repeatedly tried to win the conference to its reformist line. They only wanted to make the US Supreme Court the target of struggle, instead of exposing the UC Regents as well. When they failed to politically convince anyone and their procedural gimmicks were exposed, the opportunists walked out – isolated from the masses.


The NCOBD formed at a closed conference in 1977. The leadership of NCOBD today consists of KDP (Union of Democratic Philipinos), CASA, CPUSA, and Socialist Workers Party. Their history of opportunism in the anti-Bake movement goes back over a year.

In February 1977, the Third World Coalition at S.F. State held a rally and marched to the office of the University Administration where students presented demands concerning special admissions programs on the campus. The future leaders of the NCOBD went so far as to subvert the struggle by actively boycotting and urging others to boycott a march against the administration. What was their political rationale? The courts are the main target of the Bakke struggle, they reasoned, not the university administration. This line was later more fully developed as seeing the UC Regents as “tactical allies” in the struggle against Bakke.

The UC Regents are direct representatives of the capitalist class. Regents include major capitalist themselves (i.e. directors of IBM, AT&T, the state governor and other top politicians). The Regents insure that the University curriculum carries out the capitalists’ needs for trained intellectuals and managers and that the research policies benefit big businesses. UC Davis, for example, helped invent a tomato picking machine which thousands of farmworkers out of work. UC Berkeley Biology Department helped develop defoliants for use in the Viet Name War. The Regents manage a multi-million dollar fund which continues to invent in corporations exploiting the people of South Africa. The Regents have historically defended racist admissions practices. During the 1960’s the Regents consistently opposed Third World studies departments and often called out police against student demonstrators. It is not surprising that the UC administration directly collaborated with Alan Bakke in filing his court suit.

To see the Regents as “tactical allies” is more than a mistake. It is asking students and workers to side with their oppressor – the capitalist class. It is consistent with the right opportunist political line of the CPUSA, CASA, KDP and the SWP. While claiming to be for socialist revolution, in fact these groups collaborate with the capitalists in order to reform the system. The anti-Bakke struggle must unite as many forces as possible against our common enemy; but we can never sally with our enemy in hopes of defeating him!

When the NCOBD formed, they continued to uphold only the Supreme Court as the target of struggle. Only after the anti-Bakke movement as a whole denounced the role of the UC Regents did the NCOBD formally change its position on its “tactical allies.” But even here, their position changes depending on when and to whom you are talking. The NCOBD officially broke their silence with a pamphlet called “A Case of Collusion.” Instead of showing a change in line, however, it reveals a continuance of their reformist views.

The NCOBD writes, “The fairness of any decision is based on the complete disclosure of all relevant facts. In theory, all the important facts, pro and con in any case will be brought to the court’s attention because the opposing side will do everything they can to win the case. So when one side doesn’t care about winning, or when both sides want the same result – the American system of justice doesn’t work, in theory or in practice.” Clearly, they are saying if the Regents gave a good defense, then justice would work. It then goes on to “expose” the courts as “dominated by conservative Nixon and Ford appointees.“ Finally, the pamphlet ends with a list of demands to the UC system including the demand that the Regents “make available to the NCOBD its resources and facilities for build-up activities for Oct. 3 and Oct. 8.” The NCOBD still views the Regents as possible allies in the struggle!

Their pamphlet shows that not only does the NCOBD seek to collaborate with the capitalists, but also to spread illusions about the capitalist state. The state – including the courts, legislators, police, etc. – is bought and paid for by the capitalists. The Supreme Court will never “fairly” make a decision favorable to the working class simply by hearing both sides of a case. Workers and oppressed nationalities can force concessions through mass struggle, but the revisionists of the CPUSA and CASA and the right opportunist KDP see it differently. They see the state as “neutral”, capable of weighing both sides fairly. Thus the rallies and petition campaigns called by the NCOBD are not part of a larger campaign of revolutionary education about imperialism; they are simply attempts at pressuring the “neutral” capitalist state.

The leadership of the NCOBD not only objectively supports the US imperialists, they unite with the Soviet social imperialists as well. The CPUSA, CASA and KDP have all consistently supported Soviet aggression in Angola and Zaire. They praise the USSR as a “socialist𔄭 country. Within the Bakke struggle, the CPUSA and CASA particularly act in the interest of Soviet social imperialism. At numerous anti-Bakke events, they praised the USSR for eliminating racism and providing “socialist” education. In fact, since the restoration of capitalism in the USSR in the 1960’s, national oppression has once again flourished. The educational system is geared to turning out privileged bureaucrats and managers. Soviet revisionism offers to real alternative to the US masses; we must thoroughly expose not only US imperialism, but those who would replace it with another form of imperialism.


Like their political view of the enemy and their proven inconsistencies regarding the role of the UC Regents, the National Committee differs from the ABDC in its attitude toward the masses. While the ABDC upholds the principle of ’rely on the masses’ in organizing the anti-Bakke struggle, the National Committee, like all opportunists, in practice rejects the principle.

Their fear of the masses is shown in the organizing efforts of the NCOBD. Prior to October 15th the ABDC held many community forums, attended union meetings to speak to the rank and file, leafletted communities, and in general made great efforts to take the anti-Bakke struggle to the masses. Similar efforts were made by many individuals working within the NCOBD. However, as a whole the NCOBD approached not rank-and-file caucuses and union meetings, but spoke before the executive boards of unions attempting to win the trade union bureaucrats to their side. Rather than speaking at church masses or before congregations, they contacted individual ministers. Rather than speaking before students of job training programs they approached the administrators of those programs. In short their approach to organizing reflects their political perspective; no faith in the masses but faith in the bureaucrats and administrators. They don’t try to forge a revolutionary alliance of the working class and oppressed nationalities, but an alliance of reformist ’leaders.’


In all its literature the NCOBD refuses to fight all-sidedly against national oppression – instead limiting it to only a question of racism. They put forward demands for affirmative action programs – which is correct as far as it goes. But the discrimination faced by minority people in the US goes much deeper. The system of imperialism systematically oppresses Blacks, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Asians and other minorities in order to make the greatest possible profits. They deny minorities their native language, culture, decent housing, health care, etc. Most particularly, they keep the Black and Chicano nations in bondage, refusing to grant them the right of self-determination. But the leadership of the NCOBD does not agree, they see only “racist ideas” – the wrong ideas in white people’s heads. Thus they limit the struggle to immediate reforms, failing to get at the roots of the problem: imperialism.

How does this line effect the practice of the NCOBD? The CPUSA, CASA and KDP attended a state-wide MEChA conference in Fresno, California in May 1977. In discussing principles of unity for the anti-Bakke movement, they specifically argued that it was not a question of national oppression. They wanted to liquidate the demand that Bakke was an attack on Third World people.“ They proposed to substitute a motion saying that Bakke was mainly an attack on all workers. In this way they falsely counterposed the interests of the working class and oppressed nationalities. The bourgeoisie picked up the Bakke case precisely in order to attack national minorities, increase national oppression by spreading myths about “reverse discrimination.” In essence, the NCOBD leadership position denies the special oppression of minority people – which flows from the system of imperialism.


We have shown briefly how the revisionist and right opportunist leadership of the NCOBD has tried to split the anti-Bakke struggle and lead it towards reformism. The ABDC is now mapping out plans for nation-wide anti-Bakke work; we urge activists to unify the movement by joining ABDC. The fight to defeat Bakke must be seen as part of the broader struggle against imperialism. And to defeat imperialism we must defeat the opportunists like CPUSA, CASA, KDP and the SWP. We must expose the NCOBD leadership in the course of practical struggle. Only in this way will the masses see from their own experience the uselessness of reformism and the necessity of revolution.

We must intensify work among students. The MEChAs in California initiated the anti-Bakke struggle; they were joined by thousands of Asian, Black and white students. We must help build the progressive student organizations like MEChAs, Black Student Unions, Asian Student Unions and others. It is important to link the anti-Bakke struggle to local campus issues against cutbacks, for women’s rights, etc. We must make the anti-Bakke movement truly multi-national by consistently reaching out to involve Black and Anglo students.

The ABDC and Marxist-Leninist groups have made initial steps in reaching out to workers. We must intensify these efforts by organizing workers to attend demonstrations, organize against Bakke in their plants, and take active leadership in the anti-Bakke movement. The anti-Bakke movement will surely deepen its ties with the masses. Despite the efforts of the opportunists in the NCOBD leadership, the working class and oppressed nationalities will come to see the anti-Bakke struggle as one part of a common struggle for the overthrow of imperialism.