affirmative action

Kenny Mostern kennym at
Sat Apr 8 23:07:41 MDT 1995

It seems to me we need a distinction here in talking about the attacks on
affirmative action.  The left--and I emphasize that I mean, in
particular, the left of color--never asked for affirmative action, nor
wanted it.  In place of an adequate model of political/eceonomic/cultural
self-determination, in place of full employment, in place of reparations
and other redistributive models, and (of course) to stave
off the possibility of a real revolution, affirmative action was the
policy of the white liberals (which is to include Nixon, in this case) to
give a few crumbs while holding onto power and maintaining the economy as
is.  So, no, affirmative action is not
what we want, and when we are advocating positive solutions we need to
advocate all of the above as being better than affirmative action.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't oppose the attacks on affirmative
action, which are part of the broader strategy of the racist right, and
serve as an important diversionary tactic to discussions of what is going
on with the economy.  Provisionally we need to say, affirmative action is
better than nothing (even if we don't believe it) in order to get to the
real point, which is that all workers, immigrants, and people of color
are under attack, and the grounds of the attack are damned lies.  Given
the present scary state of U.S. politics, only such a defensive maneuver
even potentially opens the space for the discussion of positive alternatives.

Kenny Mostern
UC-Berkeley Ethnic Studies Graduate Group

Against:  racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, militarism
For:  the truth--and the funk!

On Fri, 7 Apr 1995, Tom Meisenhelder wrote:

> With reference to Louis comments on how a good reading of Lenin leads us
> to support the so-called "nationalist" struggles of people of color and
> with reference to the often stated idea that a focus on race is somehow  a
> diversion from class analysis, and in the interest to bringing the
> discussion "down" to an immediate practical concern . .. . ., how should
> we (the marxist left) speak when asked to respond to the current and
> growing attacks on affirmative action?  Should we disown the idea by
> saying we support revolution not reform?  Should we discount AA by
> pointing out that it is not a class-based progrm?  Or perhaps argue that
> AA is good, does work for some, but needs to be braodened to include class
> as well as other avenues for the redistribution of opportunity and
> resources.  While it is perhaps most tempting to remain "pure" by refusing
> to promote AA because it is reformist and coopting and remains fully
> within capitalism, wouldn't --as is often the case, it seems-- such
> theoretical purity be practical political suicide for the socialist left?
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