Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

Views Changing: Does Busing Fight Racism?

Published: The New Voice, Vol. IX, No. 9, August 18, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A court-ordered plan for school integration in Boston, Mass. commanded countrywide attention beginning in 1974. Struggle raged over the issue of “Boston busing,” and several trends emerged in the left movement in response to the problem.

The majority of the left supported the program of forced busing, defending it as a democratic right of minorities. Frequently, the support was expressed in terms of self-determination for black people as a nation. When people took up this advocacy of forced busing, they also took up a more or less explicit alliance with the so-called liberal wing of the capitalist class, people like Senator Edward Kennedy and Judge Arthur Garrity.

Some in the left movement–notably the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Workers Viewpoint Organization (the latter now called the Communist Workers Party)–allied themselves directly with the reactionary racists like Louise Day Hicks when they made the demand “Stop forced busing” the focal point of their campaign. These groups had no program to deal with the superexploitation of minorities. Significantly, both the RCP and CWP today are isolated, adventuristic sects despised by the masses.

The New Voice among others approached the question of fighting the discriminatory, substandard schools imposed on black people by making a consistent analysis of class interests. We pointed out that the real issues were the Boston School Committee’s racist operation of minority ghetto schools and the lack of resources for education in general. We said:

People are misled by hearing that the issue is racial imbalance and forced integration. Focusing on these issues plays down or ignores the demand for better schools for all children, especially where the worst conditions exist–in the black ghettos. (TNV, Dec. 2, 1974)

Under the general heading of “Busing–Capitalists’ Racist Tactic” TNV summarized its position in five slogans on the issue:
Workers Unite to Fight for Better Schools
Put the Money Where It’s Needed
All Workers Support Self-Defense for Black Communities
Smash the Garrity-Hicks Duet
Oppose Racism–The Capitalists’ Tool


Busing and other forms of mandatory integration have become a topic again within the anti-racist movement. Honest people learn from experience, and views inevitably change and grow. A major development is the decision by some who once supported busing that in many cases, if not all cases, forced integration does not fight racism at all.

In The Call, publication of the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist, John Martin has taken a thoughtful second look at forced school integration. He offers a re-evaluation of the CPML’s earlier unequivocal support for the Boston program of 1974:

Since then [1974] in many cities, including Boston, desegregation plans have resulted in Black schools being closed, long bus rides of Black and white kids, continued racial hostility, and educational levels not being raised. (June 30, 1980, page 8)

In a similar vein, the League for Revolutionary Struggle reported on various racist incidents still going on in Boston five years after the busing plan went into effect. LRS also observes the longterm impact forced busing had on education in that city: many minority schools closed, bilingual programs slashed, minority teachers and staff dispersed, students bounced from school to school to maintain “balance.” (Unity, Nov. 2-15, 1979) Contrary to assumptions made five years ago, the program of forced busing did nothing to improve the lot of minorities. LRS points this out very clearly.

Other activists express similar thoughts. A northern California leader of the National Coalition to Overturn the Bakke Decision wrote in a community newsletter last year that liberals and progressives should take a close look at all plans for forced integration; they may do more harm than good.


The New Voice has examined its anti-racist work more closely in the same period, too. In calling for working-class unity, “Sometimes we did not pay enough attention to superexploitation ...” (TNV’s Struggle Against Racism: Analysis and Self-Criticism, issued in 1979) TNV also broadened its understanding of racism by recognizing the national minority oppression of Chicanos, which is manifested in repression of their language and the official terrorism of the “migra” police forces on the U.S.-Mexico border.

During TNV’s continued, increasing experience in the anti-racist struggle, practice confirmed our 1974 position: mandatory busing and other forms of forced integration implemented by the liberal bourgeoisie do not alleviate the superexploitation of minority people.

This is especially clear when bilingual education is involved. Often such programs arise because there is a concentrated need and a concentrated force of parents to demand them in their community’s schools. “Balancing” jeopardizes the programs by dispersing the children and hiding them among larger bodies of children who do not need a bilingual curriculum. Dispersal also hinders parents’ ability to organize effectively to defend and expand the programs, (See “Parents Fight to Save Schools,” TNV, Sept. 17, 1979)

This practice of criticism and self-criticism on all sides indicates willingness to seek truth from facts. This is the most positive development of the recent period. The programs of left trends have changed when they do not survive a careful examination of facts. As John Martin writes in The Call, “Our understanding of desegregation must start with the facts and examine both the policies of the avowed segregationist and the ’integrationist’ liberals.” All fair-minded anti-racist people can agree with this statement.

In particular, we find it best to listen to the masses and give less weight to leaders. While the NAACP leaders filed the lawsuits that brought forced busing to Boston, in our talks with black parents in San Francisco, for example, we found no enthusiasm for busing. Our work in defense of bilingual education and our general recognition of Chicano national minority oppression came from ties with the masses, not from coalition links with government-financed leaders. We must deal with everyone, but give more weight to the masses’ views.


Many who re-evaluated their stand on busing did so because they realized it did not help minority people. But in most cases the left still does not acknowledge that busing is also a capitalist tool to split the working class and impose worse conditions on all. In Boston the ruling class got away with slashing educational resources in all parts of town. Racist division stirred up by forced busing made the cutbacks possible. It is a classic example of a point Marxist-Leninists make over and over: racism hurts minorities the worst, but it hurts all other workers, too, and therein lies the material basis for unity against it.

Busing is now seen as an attack on community control of institutions by minority people. We must stand for black political power in black communities. While we support reforms in this direction, The New Voice as a Marxist-Leninist organization asserts that black liberation requires revolution and socialism under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Monopoly capitalism cannot meet the needs of minority people, neither economically, politically nor socially. Capitalism’s entire house of cards rests on discrimination, superexploitation and oppression.


The changing positions on forced busing under the impact of events can be generalized in three lessons.

First, integrate the two aspects of anti-racist struggle. Fight against the superexploitation of minority people and strive to unite the working class in this fight and the general struggle. Concentrating on one aspect to the exclusion of the other is a mistake.

Second, seek truth from facts and make concrete analysis of actual conditions. This is the source of new insights and sharper fighting programs. General theories, too, must find confirmation in facts and practice. The experience around busing over the last five years proves the value of this lesson.

Third, fight for socialism. No reformist approach will gain equality or political power for minority people. People know this is true because, despite the victories that have been won in battles, racist and national oppression still exists. We cannot confine ourselves to fighting for reforms; we must aim for socialism.

The progress made toward a common, correct response to busing programs speaks well for potential unity of the left movement. Let us draw together all fight racism.