affirmative action

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Sun Aug 29 22:31:44 MDT 1999

Kevin Dean:
>Let us not let bleeding heart liberals call the shots.  Lets not lose sight
>that AA is for the free market.  Let us not think that simply because 'right
>wingers oppose AA' we should say the opposite.

Yes, indeed.  The smart money in the ruling class set out to create a black
middle class back in the mid 1960s.  Affirmative action is a key mechanism
for doing this.

It's interesting to see how this has been subsequently taken up in
countries like Australia and New Zealand.  Because the racially oppressed
minorities in this part of the world - Aboriginal and Maori - haven't had
urban rebellions like blacks in the USA (Watts etc), the pressure hasn't
been so great and so quota systems are largely absent here.

But there certainly have been major moves to create a Maori middle class in
NZ.  In fact, it has long been an open topic of conversation in elite
circles.  It has largely been done through the Treaty industry, and the
encouragement of Maori business in general, than through formal affirmative
action programmes.  But it amounts to the same thing.

The role this plays is two-fold.  On the one hand you get a Maori layer
with a vested interested in capitalism to 'manage' the majority of Maori
who will remain at the bottom of the heap.  Maori managing/socially
controlling Maori is far m,ore effective than police truncheons.  Secondly,
it holds out the illusion to the rest of Maori that there is hope for them
within the system.

It's quite interesting to see the large chunks of former Maori activists
who have been swallowed by the state.  This happened to probably an even
greater degree with feminism.  Feminists are to be found in all areas of
the state here, pursuing anti-working class policies with a vengeance and
arguing for the strengthening of various aspects of the repressive
apparatus of the state.

There was actually a very good paper written by two long-time Australian
left-wing activists and academics, Verity Burgmann and Andrew Milner,
called "The Intelligentsia and the New Social Movements" (published in Rick
Kuhn and Tom Bramble, eds, 'Class and Class Conflict in Australia', Sydney,
Longmans, 1996) which looks at how the 'new social movements' have
furnished a lot of the ideas and personnel required by capitalism in the
stormy seas of the last 20 years or so.  As Verity and Andrew note,
affirmative action is all very nice for middle class feminists but doesn't
mean much on the chicken-gutting line.

One of the things which most impresses me about Australia is that there is
a significant layer of Marxists there, of different political origins, who
have not been swept up in the trendy/liberal middle class onslaught which
has refashioned (and gutted) left-wing thinking in many other places,
including the USA and New Zealand.

Philip Ferguson

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