Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

I Wor Kuen

Thousands protest Bakke Decision on April 15 in D.C.

First Published: Getting Together, Vol. IX, No. 5, May 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The national spring offensive against the Bakke Decision moved ahead with a mass protest in Washington, DC on. April 15. Over 10,000 people – students, oppressed nationalities and workers of all nationalities – came from throughout the East Coast as well as the Midwest and South to the steps of the Supreme Court building to demand, Overturn the Bakke Decision!

The mass turnout reflects the widespread and militant opposition to the Bakke Decision and the system of national oppression which it strengthens. Based on the racist myth of “reverse discrimination,” the Bakke Decision is aimed at wiping out all special admissions, affirmative action and other gains won by the mass struggles against national oppression in the 1960’s. It also represents a serious attack on programs and special services for millions of women in the U.S.

ABDC militant contingents

The Anti-Bakke Decision Coalition (ABDC) organized a militant contingent of over 1,000 people who marched under the banners, Smash the Bakke Decision, End National Oppression, Full Equality for Women; and Defend and Expand Affirmative Action on the Job and in Education!

ABDC chapters in New York, New England, Atlanta, Ohio, and Chicago mobilized broadly for the event, bringing buses from as far away as the Midwest. Among the many groups that marched in the ABDC contingent were various campus anti-Bakke committees such as those at the City College of New York and Essex County (New Jersey) College; the Progressive Chinatown People’s Assoc.; the Comision Coordinador de la Union Patriotica (a patriotic Dominican group); Habitantes Unidos (a Brooklyn tenants group); the Communist Youth Organization; the Student Mobilization Committee at Paterson (NJ) College; and many students from NYC Community College, Harvard, Boston State Univ., Oberlin (Ohio) College, and many others.

ABDC banners, picket signs, chants and leaflets brought out that the struggle to overturn the Bakke Decision is part of the overall struggle against the system of national oppression. An ABDC leaflet pointed out, “The fight to overturn the formal court ruling on the Bakke case must be combined with the ongoing day to day resistance by the masses of people against all forms of discrimination and national oppression! ... With the “National Spring Offensive,” we can build the power, strength, and unity of the masses of people. It will be by relying on the broadest sections of students, workers, oppressed nationalities, and women – not the benevolence of liberal politicians and the court justices – that we can defeat the Bakke decision.”

On the whole, the April 15 event was positive and helped further the spring offensive. Unfortunately, the program failed to reflect the genuine mass character of the anti-Bakke movement, and did not link the anti-Bakke fight to the overall struggle against national oppression. Instead, the program was dominated by politicians and liberal-reformist speakers, which failed to link the anti-Bakke joint struggle to the daily fight against national oppression.

The NCOBD leadership’s line that denies that the Bakke Decision is an instance of national oppression, but instead says it is just “racism,” was evident in the program and their slogan, “Say no to racism.” This line narrows and misdirects the anti-Bakke movement into fighting against the racist ideas of white people and fails to target the system of national oppression as the real enemy. The program also made little mention of the special oppression of women and the serious impact that the Bakke Decision would have on women’s programs.

Also prominent in the program were forces grouped around the revisionist Communist Party USA and the Trotskyite Workers World Party, which promote the same reformism and have done nothing to build the anti-Bakke movement among the masses of people. And yet of the many honest and progressive groups that have made many contributions to the struggle, and which actively built for the event, such as the National Lawyers Guild, the East Coast Asian Student Union, the Black American Law Students Assoc. (BALSA), and the ABDC, none were represented in the main program of the event.

The demonstration was originally called as a unified, coordinated effort of the April 15 Anti-Bakke Planning Committee, which included the ABDC, the BALSA, the National Lawyers Guild, the NCOBD, and other anti-Bakke groups. But when the ABDC struggled to expand the planning committee in a broad democratic way that would openly involve local and regional organizations into the joint planning, the NCOBD forced the dissolution of the planning committee, and broke off all further attempts to organize the event as a jointly coordinated, unified action.

Instead, the NCOBD leadership proceeded to unilaterally seize full control over all aspects of the event. Many anti-Bakke groups, including the NCOBD’s Washington, DC chapter, struggled to maintain the unity of the planning committee, but the NCOBD leadership used the fact that it held all the parade and rally permits for the event to ignore this. It has become increasingly criticized for its refusal to work with other forces in a principled manner.

Many militant, progressive and revolutionary-minded people came to the April 15 demonstration, with the objective of building the mass struggle against the Bakke Decision in a way connected to the fight against the whole system of discrimination and oppression. This positive sentiment that exists among the masses of people made the April 15 demonstration an overall success, and it is this militancy that will clearly push the anti-Bakke movement forward, beyond the narrow confines of the NCOBD leadership’s liberal-reformism and sectarianism.

Week of Struggle

Hundreds of activists are now gearing up for the May 6-13 “Week of Struggle” events across the U.S. That week, marches and demonstrations will be held throughout the country, targetting the Bakke Decision and related attacks on minorities and women.

The Week of Struggle will include major events on May 6 and 7 in New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, and a West Coast mobilization on May 13 in San Francisco. These events will bring forth a militant display of mass resistance to the continuing attacks on affirmative action, special admission, community services and other special programs for oppressed nationalities and women.

In bringing forth the struggles of the masses – from fighting against police repression in Chicago and poor housing conditions in Atlanta, to defending bi-lingual education in New York and the rights of farmworkers in California – the Week of Struggle events will strike down the racist myth of “reverse discrimination,” point out that the outcome of the Bakke Decision does not rest with the Supreme Court ruling, and lay the basis for intensifying the ongoing battle against the Bakke Decision and all attempts by the courts, employers and campus administrators and other sectors of the capitalist class to attack minorities and women.

Many forces throughout the country are working together on the Week of Struggle events, which were mapped out at a national anti-Bakke conference initiated by the ABDC in February. Although the NCOBD leadership was present at the February conference, they have refused to work within the Week of Struggle events and have rejected the ABDC’s calls for joint work.

To counter the Week of Struggle activities, the NCOBD has recently called for a separate demonstration in San Francisco, and for a NCOBD conference to take place in New York on May 6, the date of the Week of Struggle march there. ABDC and other forces, recognizing that there are long-standing differences between the NCOBD leadership and other forces, are continuing to call for unified actions. They are calling upon the NCOBD, particularly those honest elements and organizations that work in and with the NCOBD, to break with the NCOBD leadership’s sectarianism and join in the democratic planning and advisory committees and work under the same slogans that were agreed upon for the April 15 event.

The April 15 event demonstrated the vast mass sentiment against the Bakke Decision, and the upcoming Week of Struggle events are sure to advance this sentiment into a torrent of mass struggle, furthering the anti-Bakke fight and strengthening the battle against the entire capitalist system of racial discrimination and national oppression.