Affirmative Action and reform

Scott Marshall Scott at
Sun Apr 9 20:39:47 MDT 1995

Those who can't see the relationship of reform to revolution are often
doomed to sitting on the sidelines throwing rhetorical stones. A pursuit
particularly suited to the vagueness and abstraction of cyberspace.

In any case I would heartily disagree with the notion that affirmative
action is devisive. It is an important tool in the fight against racism and
chauvanism in the US. While it is true that affirmative action can be used
in a devisive way by companies and the ruling class - when affirmative
action has been the result of struggle it has often had a very uniting
effect on the working class in particular.

My background is in steel. Like many affirmative action struggles the
struggle for the concent decree in steel was directed in the first place
against the steel companies and fought for in ways that made the capitalist
pay for it's implementation. In fact all steelworkers soon found themselves
benefiting from the gains of the concent decree. In the first place in order
to end discriminatory lines of progression (open seniority and break down
narrow promotion channels to allow wider bidding on better jobs) the concent
decree opened new opportunities for all steelworkers Black, Brown and white.

In order to comply with the goals of the concent decree the companies were
forced to implement new and bigger apprenticeship programs and end somewhat
their practice of hiring "off the street". This meant that all workers in a
particular shop had opportunities to advance into the skilled trades and
that the company could no longer pick and choose at will.

The struggle against the "reverse discrimination" suit of Brian Weber
(Kaiser Steel) in the late 1970's helped turn the tide in many unions back
towards an appreciation for the need to fight for unity and against
discrimination - much like the struggle against the Bakke discission did for
the student movement.

The militant fight for reforms is fundemental to exposing the limitations
and the inequality of the capitalist system. It is basic to building up the
coalitions and the class forces that can defeat the system. It's only
reformism if you don't ruthlessly expose the system in the reform struggle.
While we militantly fight to defend affirmative action we have to show that
it will never solve the problem of inequality because it is based on getting
us to accept notions that we have to fight over the limited jobs that are
available. The most reformist thing I've heard said in this discussion is
that there can not be enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a
job etc. This is acceptance of the capitalist system.

 Many of us on the left opposed the concent decree in steel in the beginning
in a way that strengthened it when it was finally negotiated. Today most
steelworkers can see that affirmative action was only useful until the
crisis of capitalist restructuring hit. While the program still helps
African American workers to advance to better jobs to this day - it is very
apparent to everyone that affrimative action did little to save the jobs of
minority workers or to prevent the "last hired, first fired" discrimination
of the steel companies. Now steelworkers are engaged in trying to figure out
how to fight for equality and against racism in the current crisis. This
will build on the lessons of the concent decree struggle - struggles that
helped to define unity among steelworkers.

Lastly every tool in the fight against racism in the US is critical to the
final defeat of the system. In the US the relationship of class and race are
of particular and special importance because of the overwhelmingly working
class compostion of the nationaly and racially oppressed. The trade unions
in the US are the largest and **most** integrated mass organizations of
working people that exist. Winning them to ever greater struggles against
racism and discimination is critical to uniting the class and winning.


Scott Marshall                             *
3116 S. Halsted                              *
Chicago, Il. 60608                            **
(312) 842-5854                                 **
*************************                       **
e-mail: Scott at                   ****  **
Ask me about the Communist Party, USA      *****  **
********************************            *   **
"An ounce of action is worth                * **
a ton of theory."   -Freddy Engels          **

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