Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

TNV’s 200th Issue: The 1970’s: A Decade Reviewed

Published: The New Voice, Vol. IX, No. 3, March 3, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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With the 1980’s only three months old The New Voice publishes its 200th issue. This newspaper and organization first appeared in the early 1970’s. We have been part of the political and economic struggles of the working class in the past decade, years that provided valuable lessons and experience for struggle to come in the 1980’s.


The fight against racism and national minority oppression entered the 1970’s fresh from the ghetto rebellions, campus uprisings and civil rights struggles which marked the 1960’s. The ruling class tried various tactics to blunt the anger of the masses and turn back the victories won earlier.

State power viciously attacked the anti-racist movement in the 1970’s. A protest at Jackson State University in Mississippi (May 1970) left two dead and 13 wounded. The next year, inmates at New York’s Attica State Penitentiary staged a five-day rebellion against blatantly racist conditions; 39 inmates and nine prison guards died when state troopers counterattacked.

Instead of turning anti-racist struggle around, the brutality of the state became a new issue which brought workers and students into the street. Demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins against police killings and frame-ups dotted the second half of the 70’s; they continue today.

Capitalists and their government stooges also tried to cripple the civil rights movement by dividing minority and white workers. Various school busing schemes–the most famous in Boston, 1974–tested the unity of parents in fighting educational discrimination and shrinking school financing. Although the rulers scored some political gains with busing, the working class regained much of its unity in fights for affirmative action later in the decade.

In California, 32-year old engineer Allan Bakke filed a federal suit charging “reverse discrimination.” His claim: affirmative action programs and quota systems for women, blacks and national minorities had kept him out of U.C. Davis medical school. Workers and students took to the streets to protest Bakke’s charges. Bakke won his case, but in 1979 when Brian Weber, a white worker in Kaiser Aluminum’s Gramercy, Louisiana plant, tried to destroy affirmative action in the workplace with a similar suit, mass protest was victorious. Weber’s case was overturned by the Supreme Court.

Alongside the anti-racist struggle the 1970’s saw the increasing power of the women’s movement, which resulted in some victories: the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion; the 1972 Congressional approval of the Equal Rights Amendment, allowing state-by-state ratification to begin; and the 1979 extension of the ERA deadline which was won after mass protest in Washington, D.C.

And there were other issues, like Native American rights (Wounded Knee rebellion, 1973); anti-nuclear demonstrations, and protests aimed at the Ku Klux Klan (the Pendleton 14; Greensboro) and the Nazis (Skokie, Illinois; San Francisco, California). The working class showed it was willing to take up struggle on many fronts. But it was the antiwar movement which united the broadest possible group of people and gained the most decisive victory of the decade.


By the beginning of 1970, the seemingly endless escalation of the war in Vietnam set off protests across the country and increased students action on the campuses. On May 4 at Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen opened fire on students at an antiwar rally, killing four and wounding 11. On May 9 and 10, 100,000 demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest the government’s increased aggression in Vietnam and Cambodia. By June, 415 campuses were involved in protests against the bombing of Cambodia. It was accurately described as “the first general student strike in U.S. history.”

On May Day, 1971 an antiwar protest at the nation’s Capital ended with the largest arrest in U.S. history when 13,400 protesters were thrown in jail.

During the early 70’s American workers and students were unswerving in their militant protest against U.S. imperialist aggression. Their unity in struggle exposed the real causes of the Vietnam wars monopoly capitalism at home. On March 29, 1973 U.S. troops began to leave Vietnam.

The 1970’s saw three successive recessions, each one worse than the one before. In 1972, with the country in the midst of the first downturn, President Nixon ordered a freeze on wages and prices. With wages frozen at 1972 levels, prices and profits soared. A little later the term “energy crisis” was first used to cover up a major consolidation of power by the oil monopolies. Gas stations closed by the hundreds, and prices at the gas pumps went sky high while the oil companies doubled their profits in a matter of months.

By 1975 inflation was a household word. Unemployment stood at 9.5%, the highest it had been since 1941. New York City went bankrupt; pleas to the federal government for bailout funds failed, and big business openly took over the running of a major city for the first time.

Union misleaders tried to steer workers down the wrong path. The United Mine Workers fought back. In 1978 the longest coal miners’ strike in history occurred. But the gap between the rank and file and union mis-leaders led to setbacks, too, as shown by the tactics of United Auto Workers president Douglas Fraser in the recent auto negotiations. For the first time in 14 years the UAW settled its master auto contract without a strike. Union president Fraser now sits on the Board of Directors of Chrysler Corporation, after giving away approximately $400 million in workers’ pay to buy that position.


The U.S. ruling class was exposed for its political corruption in the 1970’s. It began to look as if the capitalists could not rule in the old way. The 1972 Watergate break-in exposed high level official involvement in crime. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned after public disclosure of serious income tax evasion. And on August 9, 1974 President Nixon quit office rather than face impeachment.

The 1976 presidential election reflected the extent of the contradictions between working people and phony democracy. The voter turnout was only 54% of those eligible. In the same year the Senate introduced Senate Bill 1, a “recodification of the criminal code.” It was, in fact, legalized fascism which would have attacked what little democratic rights still remain in this country. Mass protest sent S.B. 1 packing. In 1978 the ruling class tried again with S.B. 1437, “the son of S.B. 1.” This version was even more blatant in its attacks on workers’ rights. It too fell under the heels of militant protest. Now it is back as S.B. 1722, sponsored like the earlier bills by Senator Edward Kennedy.


Workers learned in the 1970’s that the ruling class will try to put the burden of economic crisis on their backs every time. Oil shortages, inflation, unemployment and wage controls have proven that over and over again.

The growth of the Marxist-Leninist movement in the past decade has helped give clarity to workers’ tactics and consciousness. The struggle to build a genuine communist party has given birth to several organizations which participate in the battles of the working class. The New Voice is one of these.

The system is in crisis, both economically and politically; the capitalist class is to blame. Trade union and other misleaders managed to blunt workers’ struggle as the decade ended, but contradictions are building up in every arena of class conflict. Struggle is not at the peak level of the late 1960’s, but neither is it at the low point of the 1950’s.

As the economic crisis deepens and a third world war approaches, workers are preparing for even bigger mass struggles in the 1980’s. Conditions today remind us of the early 1930’s when class collaboration, economic hardship and poor leadership held back the workers’ movement. But, again like the 30’s, this is the calm before the storm. The lessons and struggles of the 1970’s have taken the working class forward.