Affirmative Action and reform

Scott Marshall Scott at
Mon Apr 10 13:16:09 MDT 1995

>Scott, I'm a little bit irritated. I did not offer my observations as
>arguments against AA. As I said quite clearly, I support AA and I think it
>must be defended. The points I raised I take to difficulties that
>defenders of AA, like me, have to address and not ignore or deny.

Sorry I misunderstood your way of putting things.

>I agree that we need militant fight for specific reforms, like AA. The
>rest of this stuff seems to go right by me, unless it its symptomatic of
>the usual anti-intellectualism that one finds among too many movement
>folks. I'm not going to apologize for getting a Ph.D. After all, Marx got
>one too.

Please don't apologize and I in turn won't apologize for my lack of formal
education. But it does seem to me that every time someone raises issues
about intellectuals a great defensive cloud appears. Marxist intellectuals
have always had a problem relating to workers in this country - mainly
because of the class baggage that the ruling class has managed to attach to
brain work.

>Look, Scott. In 1996 California will bring up a proposition to outlaw AA
>in the state. It will pass by a wider margin than 187. It will have deep
>and broad support from the working class. That's almost certain. Unless,
>of course, and this is unlikely, workers can come to believe by one means
>or another that AA is fair and good for them. Which I do not regard as
>very probable.

I don't know what will happen, but the real question is will the left mount
and effective campaign to fight for affirmative action. (I see many signs
that a better fight will be made v. the anti-aa initiative than was made v.
prop 187.) Didn't Marx have a lot to say about what he called "popular
public opinion" and how unreliable it was a measure of working class
thinking? Will labor be involved in the fight. I think so. It is of no small
significance that the Calif. AFL-CIO took a lead in fighting prop. 187. We
aren't just observers in this fight, yet you see the fight as forgone and
impossible - not at all a winning way.

>Well, the ruling class uses the attitudes of white workers. But the
>attitudes are there and they are a problem. If they weren't there, the
>ruling calss couldn't use them. And as with religion, racism springs out
>of the material situation and history of the class itself. It's not
>somkething the rich merely brainwash the workers into accepting. I'm not
>suggesting that it is fruitful to spend a lot of time blaming white
>workers and condemning them morally. But we have to figure out, as
>activists, how to deal with the problem created by their morally
>deplorable attitudes, how to fight these attitudes and get support for
>militant reforms.

As you point out the attitudes of white workers don't come out of nowhere.
They are taught and ingrained, not by some inner weakness or propensity for
racism on the part of workers, but by a system that profits everyday from
racism and discrimination. There is a material base for racism in the
capitalist system. All I'm sying is that has to be the starting point for


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