Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

New Voice

Continue the Anti-Bakke Struggle

First Published: The New Voice, Vol. VII, No. 16, August 7, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The U.S. Supreme Court admitted Allan Bakke to the University of California medical school and endorsed his claim of “reverse discrimination.” How shall the anti-Bakke decision movement carry on the struggle against racism and for affirmative action?

Two issues face people. One is whether or not to rely on the masses and fight racism with militant action – rejecting legalism. The other issue is whether to involve new masses of workers in the struggle – or split the working class.

These issues have a vital bearing on building an even broader and deeper movement. On both issues there is contention within the National Committee to Overturn the Bakke Decision (NCOBD).

The issue of militancy versus legalism is tied up with the history of the movement. When Allan Bakke filed a lawsuit against the minority admissions program at the University of California medical school, anti-racist forces turned the case into a political symbol. Using the case, they raised wide-ranging issues of racism, stimulated discussion among the people and focused a protest against all racism on a specific target.


While the strength of the people’s movement against the Bakke case was the essential thing, some people within NCOBD have treated the issue mainly as a Iegal one that must be beaten in the courts.

For example:

–In their proposal on the future of the NCOBD, three national coordinators made it clear that they want to make the upcoming Weber case (another lawsuit based on the charge of “reverse discrimination”) a major focus of work.

–These coordinators fear that the Supreme Court’s Bakke ruling “will not put to rest the issue of constitutionality of special programs for minorities.” Of course! The important thing was never a legal judgment of constitutionality, but the class struggle. Corporations, schools and other institutions will continue to oppose anti-racist programs, and working people need to continue the struggle for such programs.

–The coordinators’ proposal seeks to focus what militant action it foresees into legal battles. But specific struggles already show the error of emphasizing court cases. It is better to struggle at the base. For example, students at two law schools in San Francisco are fighting administration attempts to slash the number of minority admissions and remove minority students and community people from participation in the schools’ admissions processes.


The legalism of some NCOBD leaders flows from a reformist view of the state. Instead of fighting against the capitalist state, they really feel that the state is too powerful for this and that we can only try to pressure the state onto our side. They cringe before “the immense political-moral- ideological forces of law” as they wrote in a paper on the differences with the other anti-Bakke decision group (the Anti-Bakke Decision Coalition, or ABDC), They want to find a way to get that law on our side.

For example, these leaders wrote, “And while the essence of the state is that of continuing the capitalist system, it is not some monolithic bloc. Instead it too is to some degree subject to the power of the people’s struggle – through mass actions, elections, strikes, international pressure, etc. ”

What a slick piece of illogic! The last sentiment in the quotation reluctantly expresses the fact that people can force concessions in struggle. True. However, such concessions are won by struggle against the capitalist class, of which the state is a tool. Winning the concessions does not alter the nature of the state. In the basic class sense, the state is a “monolithic bloc.” Yet the reformist view asserts that the state changes in struggle, that it “is to some degree subject to the power of the people’s struggle” through elections and international pressure as well as mass actions and strikes.

The state is a tool of the capitalist class. In this society it is the enemy of the working class. It is wrong to see the state as a neutral object which the two classes can contend for, divide up and each win some portion of for themselves. Particular reforms – which should be fought for – represent no change in the class nature and control of the state. The onIy way to change the capitalist state is to smash it and substitute the dictatorship of the proletariat. By focusing hopes on changing the capitalist state while it remains basically the capitalist state, the reformist view leads to the strategy of seeking court rulings and focusing mass action on this goal.

To sum up: We should fight for affirmative action programs in the factories, offices and schools, and in community movements supporting each others’ struggles and Iinking them to each other. We should link grassroots, militant action for such programs with political symbols like the Bakke case. We should not use the energy of the mass movement mainly to build pressure on a court.


The second issue is that of involving new masses of workers in the anti-racist struggle. So far, the anti-Bakke struggle has aroused some minority people and some white activists. In order to fight the false claim that minorities’ gains are “reverse discrimination,” it is essential to know how to build even broader unity based on working people’s real interests. As anti-racist activists, we must know why all workers are our potential friends and we must know how to rally more and more workers in the anti-racist struggle.

Success depends on taking a class analysis of racism to the working class. The key is to point out: “The whole working class is hurt by this racism. Only capitalists benefit. Racism is based on the difference in income and standard of living between white and minority workers. It is big business’s divide-and-conquer tactic to fragment the working class and weaken our struggles. Where racism succeeds, unions are weakest, wages lowest, and schools and public services the worst for all workers. The entire working class has as much interest in fighting racism as the capitalists have promoting it.” (TNV Friends’ leaflet, “Continue the Struggle Against the Bakke Decision! ”)

The class analysis of racism combines demands against racist oppression and discrimination with demands that will expand resources for the working class at the capitalist class’s expense. Thus, underneath the basic slogan, Smash the Bakke Decision!, TNV raised a pair of demands: Expand Admissions, More Doctors! and Defeat Racist Admissions Policies! For education in general, we demand Quality Education for All! and Put the Money Where It’s Needed!, recognizing that more money must go to worse-off schools where it is needed more urgently.

Instead of uniting the working class to fight racist oppression of minorities, some leaders within NCOBD push the view that white workers profit from racist treatment of minority people. The view that racism benefits white workers today (although perhaps at the cost of long term progress) is liberal racism. Its presentation within NCOBD is clever. It says the economic crisis is hurting the working class, and “The myth of ’reverse-discrimination’ has quickly taken root in the more stable predominately white, sectors of the labor force… As the economic crisis increases and workers are forced to fight for fewer and fewer jobs and educational opportunities, the stiff ’dog eat dog’ competition fosters a rise in racist ideology,” (Ang Katipunan, Feb. 1-15, 1978) The Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP) speaker said the same thing at the April 15 rally in Washington.

In defending their livelihoods, workers under attack face two paths: the individualist path of trying to beat down someone else, and the collective path of struggle in unity against the source of the attack on the working class-the capitalists. Within NCOBD, some KDP and other leaders describe only the individualist path. Such talk stimulates the thought in the mind of the worker hearing it, yes, I better protect myself.

To combat racist disunity, it is necessary to tell workers that pushing each other down gets no advantage. If “they” are laid off, you will be sped up and subject to layoff, too. If “they” must take low-wage jobs, your wages will be dragged down. It is in the interest of all workers to fight racist oppression, to join together in struggle against this divisive differential within the working class. Together, fight for equal wages and higher wages for all. Together, fight for more scholarships and against general tuition hikes. Make the capitalists pay!


The pessimistic view that an economic crisis brings only competition for jobs and a rise in anti-racist ideology is one-sided and false. Workers respond to a clear analysis of their class interest. That is why they join trade unions, for example. And workers can see that fighting the oppression of minorities is essential to unity against the capitalist class.

In the depression of the 1930’s, unemployed and employed workers united, industrial unions were created, and social welfare measures were achieved. In these great movements, workers understood the need to fight racism. The industrial unions of the CIO were also the ones that took many measures against Jim Crow, separatist practices of the rotten AFL craft union leaders. If most workers had been out for themselves and ready to scab, such victories against racism and for the whole working class could not have been won!

This is a far cry from the view that “workers are forced to fight for fewer and fewer jobs and educational opportunities” against each other. We should reject such false descriptions, and explain instead the interest of all workers in fighting racism, confident that unity among the working class can be built, can withstand the divisive message of the capitalists, and can strike blows against racism and win gains for all workers.

The New Voice finds that the class analysis of racism builds anti-racist struggles. We joined the defense of a black student framed by the police, John Middleton, and the movement won some gains for him. In anti-racist marches and mass activities, people have always received our literature well. We have united both white and black activists on the job by using a class analysis of racism. We are firmly convinced that this is the way to build anti-racist struggles. Pessimism and a line that writes off the possibility of arousing and uniting most workers to the anti-racist movement will only limit our successes and our base within narrow bounds.

Militant action and the involvement of new waves of people by use of a class analysis of movement following the Bakke decision. A clear choice for militancy and a class analysis is needed. At this juncture in the movement, we must reject tendencies toward legalism and toward pessimism about involving all workers.

By charting a clear and militant course, we can continue the great tradition of the U. S. working class, a tradition of battles against racist oppression and of unity of all workers forged in class struggle against the capitalist class!