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Behind the Boston Busing Crisis: An Analysis of the Political Forces Involved
by The Boston Group on Racism
This article was written by three people in the Boston Group on Racism and the Busing Issue of Science for the People. We are printing this article because of the important points it raises. Science for the People has a special interest in education, the function of racist ideology, and the role of the left which has been decidedly limited in this area. A special impetus to the writing of this article came from interest expressed at the Northeast Regional Conference.
After several hurried rewrites, involving both the authors and members of this editorial collective, and others, the article still retains, in our view, serious deficiencies. Particularly important is the style of language and rhetoric which obscures much of the underlying political content and which itself became a source of political contention.
We think that a common problem of leftist writing is the use of jargon. When new meanings are assigned to old words like “racism” and “imperialism” there is an obligation to explain the new meanings. For example, the concept of imperialism has developed from meaning the colonial rule of one country by another, to international economic exploitation, to its use here to describe the exploitation of women, working people, and minorities by the powerful within their own country.
There is inadequate distinction made between supported statements and unsubstantiated claims. For example, the authors attribute to different sectors of the ruling class specific objectives in support of the pro-and anti-busing positions. We do not necessarily contest these conclusions but insist that the factual basis should have been developed. While the article attempts a comprehensive analysis of the problem,. we feel there are some important omissions. For example, an economic description of South Boston in terms of employment, property and industry would have made the analysis more concrete. Similarly, in discussing organized responses to the racist offensive, they don’t mention racial parents’ groups and biracial student committees that have formed.
The political positions taken in the article also deserve comment as they do not represent a consensus in Science for the People as a whole. Examples are the concept of forced assimilation, the view of integration put forward, and the stated and implied positions on the “national question” which are basic theoretical questions requiring careful consideration before elaborate programmatic consequences can be evolved. We believe moreover, that these theoretical developments need not be completed before a serious program for fighting racism can be created which will involve large numbers of people.
We hope that this article will stimulate constructive discussion within Science for the People on the busing issue, programs to eliminate racism, and the importance of language in political writing.
This Autumn, the City of Boston began the massive busing of school children under a Federal Court order to end forced segregation. A continuing crisis has ensued punctuated by violent attacks on the Black citizens of Boston. This has included the repeated stoning of Black students being bussed and an armed terrorist attack on the Columbia Point housing project. Lynch mob hysteria has resulted in the severe beating of Jean Louis Andre Yvon by a racist mob and the trapping of Black students inside a high school following an incident in which a student was wounded. This sporadic violence has erupted while racist demagogues have been organizing block by block and holding mass rallies. Using racist slanders, they have mobilized sections of the white population into a boycott of schools, primarily in South Boston. Appealing not only to racial prejudice but also to working class militancy, they have drawn in some elements of the working class. No wonder that in this fertile soil of racist reaction, the Nazi party has appeared and the Klu Klux Klan is openly organizing.
In the face of all this, the Black Community, which has been remarkably disciplined, is strengthening its internal organization including, for example, organizing armed self-defense at the Columbia Point Housing Project. White and Black progressives in factories and other work places have put forth anti-racist propaganda and made collections for Yvon, the black person who was beaten. Tenants organizations and other community-based groups have put out leaflets, organized demonstrations and tried to organize biracial parents’ groups. Following several small demonstrations against the boycott, a massive demonstration against racism was called for December 14. On that drizzly day, 20,000 people from a broad spectrum of forces — all classes of the Black, Latin, and Asian community, white liberals, trade unions, progressive working-class organizations, anti-imperialist groups, social-democrats and communists-marched through Boston. Their solidarity, bers, and explicit denunciation of racism dealt a powerful blow to the anti-busing forces. The “anti-busing movement” managed a turnout on the next day, fine and sunny, of at most 5,000.
History of the Struggle Against Forced Segregation
The struggle to end forced segregation in the Boston schools began in the context of a nationwide civil rights movement. In the early 1960’s the NAACP tried unsucessfully to get the existence of de facto segregation in the Boston schools recognized by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. In the spring of 1963 the NAACP, CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) and the Citizens for Boston Schools group were cooperating to demand that the Boston School Committee hold a public hearing on de facto segregation. By the time of the hearing in June 1963 the existence of de facto segregation had been well documented by these groups. The refusal of the School Committee to recognize de facto segregation led to a successful Black boycott of schools on June 19, 1963. It was in this setting that Louise Day Hicks, then a member of the School Committee, began to build her political career on racism. She ran for re-election in the fall of 1963 openly appealing to the racism of Boston’s whites. From that time on the School Commitee has conspired to implement a policy of forced segregation. It was this deliberate practice of segregation that was recognized by the Federal Court order of Judge Arthur Garrity in June 1974 (see box p. 35). The court’s recognition of segregation came after a decade of continuous struggle by Black parents and students. This decade of struggle involved numerous school boycotts, legal battles, tutorial programs, liberation schools, and voluntary busing of Black students to suburban schools.
Garrity’s court order affirmed that Black children have been denied the right to an equal education and that the Boston School Committee had consciously acted to create a separate and inferior school system for Black children, facts long known to Boston’s Black community and to progressives all over the city. Garrity’s order prohibits “racially unbalanced” schools, that is, those having over 50% non-white students (a 100% white school is not “unbalanced” in this definition). To achieve balance in these schools, the Garrity order this fall (Phase I) called for an extensive transfer system involving 18,000 students, about 9,700 Black and 8,300 white. The number of students in integrated schools was to rise from 31% to 71%.
Racist Reaction to Court-Ordered Desegregation
The court-ordered busing to end continued segregation was met with racist reaction. This reaction has occured on three levels — open legal opposition to busing, sporadic violence, and what now appears to be the underground organization of right-wing terrorism. The more violent attacks on Boston’s Black citizens have come under the cover of an anti-busing movement which puts forth the slogans of “quality education” and “neighborhood schools”. This anti-busing movement is led by the same politicians, members and former members of the Boston School Committee, who are directly responsible for the low quality of Boston’s schools and who have conspired for over a decade to maintain and strengthen a system of forced segregation. Chief among these politicians are Louise Day Hicks, former member of the Boston School Committee and presently a member of the City Council, and John Kerrigan, the recent chairman of the Boston School Committee. A white boycott of the schools has been called by the Hicks-led group ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights). This group meets in the city council chambers or as Hicks puts it in defending this practice “the people’s house”. The boycott has been effective in keeping white students out of South Boston, Hyde Park and Roxbury High Schools. (South Boston and Hyde Park are getting Black students bussed in; Roxbury High in the Black community was to receive white students.)
The leaders of the anti-busing movement appeal to unmet needs of Boston’s white working class: needs which they never intend to meet — better education, more adequate community services, lower prices, and acquiring real power in the political system. The appeal to these unmet needs, however, has a single purpose: to direct the anger and frustration of the white working class against Boston’s Blacks and other minorities in order to maintain a system of forced segregation and oppression of minority people, thus perpetuating the exploitation and oppression of Boston’s white working class as well.
It is in this atmosphere that the KKK began openly organizing and the armed attack on Columbia Point occurred. In describing the mob which surrounded South Boston High December 12 after the stabbing of a student the Boston Globe reported “Part of the crowd was organized and the violence was orchestrated.” The same Globe article reported that “Justice Department agents and the police now believe. . .there is an undercover operation for the anti-busing operation which is financed and has an excellent communications network.” In early January the Boston Chief of Police sought to have South Boston High remain closed after Christmas break, citing police intelligence reports that organized violence was planned for when the school reopened. It should be clear that the program of the anti-busing forces has little to do with “quality education”. The real program is the organized violent attacks on Blacks and other minorities and its true causes which will be taken up below.
Repression Breeds Resistance
The racists are not the only powerful force in the city. A broad multinational unity of the Black, Latin and Asian communities, progressive organizations and parts of the working class is now being forged. The most visible evidence of this unity was the December 14 March Against Racism in which 20,000 people participated.1 Within the march most of the anti-imperialist organizations in the city including Science for the People, united in the Fred Hampton Contingent2 which was 3,500 strong. Those who marched in the Fred Hampton Contingent recognized that it was not only racism but the imperialist system itself which was the root of the present crisis in Boston. Within the contingent there was strong Third World participation from the African Liberation Support Committee, the Black community newspaper Struggle!, the Organization of Solidarity of Third World Students, the Congress of Afrikan People, as well as other groups. These groups have formed the Third World Coalition on Education specifically to mobilize the Black community and to provide leadership. The coalition sees its tasks as threefold: (1) to defend the gains of the struggle of the 1960’s; (2) to organize and give full support for those Black people who have picked up the gun to defend themselves, as in Columbia Point; and (3) to provide a new leadership in the black community. The organizations which participated in the Fred Hampton Contingent are now forming a broad anti-repression coalition in which we hope Science for the People will take an active part. As the unity of progressive forces has developed, there has been extensive mass work including numerous demonstrations, forums and teach-ins, Black boycotts of schools, the mobilization of trade unions to publicly oppose the racists and do anti-racist work among white factory workers. The NAACP for its part has been taking legal action against the racists and has submitted its own busing plan to Judge Garrity.
Appearances and Reality: The Real Issue
According to the establishment press, most public officials, and the liberals, there is a conflict in Boston between those who are “pro-busing” and those who are For example, Boston’s newspapers ported the massive multinational December 14th March Against Racism as a “pro-busing” demonstration and the all-white demonstration, which Louise Day Hicks and ROAR refused to support because they didn’t want openly to “march for racism”, as an “anti-busing” demonstration. According to Hicks, Kerrigan and their ilk, their opposition to “forced busing” is based on the issues of “neighborhood schools”, “equality education,” and “freedom”. But these are only forms in which the stuggle appears; they do not coincide with the reality — the naked brutality of a concerted vicious attack on the hard-won democratic rights of the minorities. Behind the demagogic slogans of “quality education” and “neighborhood schools” is a continuation of the policy of forced segregation; and behind the pro-vs. anti-busing contest is the same ruling class with its alternative strategies for stopping the development of genuine anti-imperialist struggles.
That the anti-busing movement is a cover for a continuation of the school committee’s segregationist policy is evident by investigation of what they actually say and do. At an anti-busing rally in Hyde Park, the speaker called for “freedom first, education second” — hardly a movement for quality education. The freedom to which they referred was the freedom to keep Boston’s schools segregated and Boston’s third-world citizens in the worst part of that school system. On what basis can the parents and school children in Boston accept the anti-busing forces’ claim that they are not racist, when, in fact, forced segregation has meant poorer educational facilities in the minority communities, racist hiring of minority teachers and administrators, the exclusion of minorities from the three best high schools in Boston (which are 95% white and send almost all graduates to college) and lack of preparation for education after high school? How can the call for quality education through the slogan “Save our neighborhood schools” be seen as anything but a cover for forced segregation, when under this slogan the quality of education has deteriorated not only in the minority community but right at home in Southie High? Three years ago, South Boston High was overcrowded by 676 students, though nearby Girls High in Roxbury had over 500 vacancies. The School tee refused to transfer students from South Boston across racially drawn-up district lines. Lack of space, makeshift portable classrooms, and rescheduling maintained forced segregation at the expense of white students’ education.
The strategy of forced segregation serves to keep oppressed minorities in ghettos and more easily relegated to the reserve army of the unemployed; it benefits local real estate and hence finance capital. Above all it pits segments of the working class against one another when unity is necessary to fight the oppression of the entire class.
Forced assimilation, also known as mandatory integration, has historically been the alternative strategy of the ruling class. Among ruling class elements whose fear of liberation movements among oppressed national minorities is greater than their immediate economic pressures for a low-wage labor pool, forced assimilation is a strategy for defusing a growing liberation movement. The forced assimilation strategy also has its supporters among Boston’s finance capitalists, representatives of whom sit on various state commissions that have contributed to instituting the present plan.
The busing plan is perceived by some in the minority communities as an attempt to forcibly assimilate them. Therefore it has met with resistance from some in the Spanish-speaking community because of the phasing out of bilingual programs. It has also resulted in the busing of Asian-Americans to schools where they are isolated and of Black students to schools where there are no Afro-American programs.
These two seemingly conflicting strategies both function to maintain the control of the monopoly-capitalist ruling class. Because they foster continued oppression, neither strategy can be supported. The concrete effects of the implementation of either strategy are not equivalent. At present the sharpest attack on the oppressed nationalities comes from the segregationist forces. This attack is against Blacks, Latins and Asians alike, and it is a two-pronged attack on the working class as a whole: (1) an attack on its multi-national unity and (2) a deflection of the class from fighting the hardships imposed by imperialism’s current crisis. It is intimately linked to the crisis U.S. imperialism is presently undergoing. Successful liberation movements in many parts of the world (Asia, Africa), and high inflation and soaring unemployment rates are examples. Massachusetts in general and Boston in particular are especially hard-hit by unemployment and the high cost of living. The other aspect of this crisis is the quantitative and qualitative growth of ialist forces, i.e. organized resistance among minorities is mounting. The Fred Hampton Contingent is a good example of the level of anti-imperialist militancy and multi-national unity.
|GARRITY’S FINDING AGAINST THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE
(1) The members of the Boston School tee “took many actions in their official capacities with the purpose and intent to segregate the Boston public schools and such actions caused current conditions of segregation in the Boston public schools. A few of these actions are as follows:
a. The defendants “have made districting changes for the purposes of perpetuating racial segregation;” Since at least 1966 feeder patterns “have been manipulated with segregatory effect”, creating “a dual system of secondary education, one for each race,” and this was done by the defendants “for the purpose of promoting racial segregation.”
b. The defendants have deliberately incorporated residential segregation by race into the school system.
c. The defendants have knowingly caused “racial segregation of teachers and administrative personnel… less qualified, less experienced and lower paid teachers in predominately black schools”; and “racial discrimination in the recruiting, employment and promotion of teachers and staff.”
(2) “Substantial portions of the system have been intentionally segregated by the defendants…. The defendants intentionally segregated schools at all levels… built new schools for a decade with sizes and locations designed to promote segregation; maintained patterns of overcrowding and under-utilization which promoted segration at 26 schools; and expanded the capacity of approximately 40 schools by means of portables and additions when students could have been assigned to other schools with the effect of reducing racial imbalance.”
(3) The students “intentionally separated on a racial basis” totalled “thousands, including graduates of nine K-8 elementary schools and four middle schools by means of feeder patterns manipulated by the defendants, students attending most high schools and several junior highs by the same means, students making imbalancing transfers under the open enrollment policy and exceptions to the controlled transfer policy, students transported to perpetuate segregation, and students at schools identifiably black by means of assignment and transfer policies regarding faculty and staff.”
(4) Boston does not really have a neighborhood school system. “The ‘neighborhood school’ policy was no impediment to segregatory districting, re-districting, use of facilities and feeder patterns,” and in changing neighborhoods “was subordinated to the white students’ presumed right to escape to safely white out-of-district schools…. The neighborhood school has been a reality only in areas of the city where residential segregation is firmly entrenched.”
Reprinted from Docket
It is precisely at such a conjuncture — when a crisis is impending and the forces of resistance are still weak but showing great vitality — that the ruling class will test one of the weapons in its arsenal, fascism. Fascism is resorted to by the capitalists when parliamentary forms of control are no longer able to contain a crisis. But fascism does not spring upon the scene full-fledged. Rather, the ruling class, always evaluating its options, takes note of the success or failure, acceptance or rejection of the fascist fringe (the KKK, John Birch Society, American Nazi Party, American Party, etc.). Early recognition of a fascist tendency and decisive resistance to it are essential in its defeat.
The Fascist Tendency
In the absence of progressive organizing it is the racist politicians who have been addressing the particular frustrations, though cynically, of Boston’s white workers. They have drawn together a broad alliance ranging from landlords, lawyers, politicians and petty bureaucrats to South Boston’s working class· youth and their angry mothers and fathers. Bridging the gap between the bourgeois politicians and the working class are the trade union bureaucrats of the most backward, racist unions, for example, the Building Trades and Firemen. Each of these forces has entered the alliance because of its own special interests. Working class and petty bourgeois home-owners are victims of rising taxes and rising fuel bills while real wages are declining. Ordinary city services like street cleaning and repairs are being reduced in Mayor White’s austerity program. The youth, especially, see no future: no jobs, no chance for college and no relief from abuse by the police. Even patronage opportunities are fewer as Brahmins (the traditional ruling class) squeeze out formerly dominant local Irish politicos.
In its cross-class constituency, its form, and its appeal in the wake of general social and economic instability the antibusing front appears not unlike the fascist movement that whipped the German working class into subservience several decades ago. It is not hysterical wolf-crying to relate the lessons of that historical pattern to movements of another time. There is no unique form of fascism; it assumes different forms in different countries according to national, economic and social particularities. Economic decline and social instability are necessary soil for the cultivation of fascism which appeals to the prejudices and jingoism which often infect the masses. Most often social demagoguery is used to obscure the true imperialist interests of fascism, thus ing the movement to draw to itself the allegiance of the petty bourgeois and sectors of the working class. Dimitroff3 instructed that fascism out of power, is “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” Although the racist-led antibusing coalition is by no means a fully matured fascist mobilization of the masses, it is in certain respects akin to fascism out of power:
Fascism is able to attract the masses because it demagogically appeals to their most urgent needs and demands. It not only inflames prejudices that are deeply engrained in the masses, but it also plays on the better sentiments of the masses, on their sense of justice, and sometimes even on their lutionary traditions. (Dimitroff, The United Front, 1935)
In the absence of sustained political activity with white workers by progressives, it is the fascists who have been speaking to the “most urgent needs and demands of the masses.” A leaflet complains of “poor MBTA (Boston’s transit system) service during rush hour at temperatures below zero” and “We are now denied a middle school” and “children here need good medical and dental attention.” It can be no comfort to progressives that these are raised cynically, that, in fact, it is the leaders of the fascist front who are responsible for the deterioration of the schools. The appeal they have is because (as a leaflet says) “no one in Hyde Park takes a stand… ” So the fascist demagoguery takes root.
“It is not racism that’s the issue” claims a leaflet that then goes on to put forth the most inflammatory racist -trash: “Up until recently the town has been largely white… ” and “take note that when it was a Jewish-Irish community there was no welfare office.” Racist terror against the minorities supplements the white school boycott. Anti-busing like Pixie Palladino make no bones about it; in referring to the pending order to bus minorities into the white communities of East Boston and Charlestown next school year, she warned at a November 3rd rally: “We got some bricklayers who will shut off the tunnel and some bridge wreckers who will blow up the bridges if these kids are bused into our communities.”
Topping off this racist appeal is a cynical call to the best sentiments of the working class, to their best qualities and to their revolutionary heritage. The very name ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights) used by the central coordinating group in the front is an appeal to Jefferson’s phrase “inalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence. Tea bags were carried at an ing march in reference to the Boston Tea Party. Speakers talk of “rights,” of “justice,” of “democracy.”
More dangerous, however, is the harnessing of the militancy of the working class. These fascists are no primitives. Organization is extensive. Pyramid telephone chains are used. Neighborhood groups wear different colored armbands and march in prescribed order. The angered adherents of the anti-busing movement have been tightly organized block by block since 1965.
The ideology of the front is characteristically American populist. Fascism is not a word they like. They were angry and embarrassed when the National Socialist White People’s Party (Nazis) came to town with their swasticas — how unamerican. The Klu Klux Klan is more acceptable; the walls of South Boston are scribbled over with “Southie is KKK Country,” “Nigger Go Home!” More representative of the dominant ideology is the following: “The issue is the government versus the individual. Should government interfere with the rights of the individual?”
In spreading their influence within the working class the leaders of the anti-busing movement rely on the most reactionary leaders of the trade unions. These parasites and class traitors have historically shared in the sion of the minorities. They are the main vehicle for the spread of white chauvinism within the labor movement and have little in common with the interests of the workers, white or Black.
Back in early October, the Boston fire-fighters (known for their policy of excluding minority workers) were the March, 1975 first to give their support to the anti-busing leaders. They were followed by the Mass. Construction Trades council, with a membership of 7,000 mainly white construction workers and Local 25 of the Teamsters. Discrimination in the construction trades is so deeply rooted that Black and Latin workers have been compelled to form their own dual union, the United Community Construction Workers. Another voice of support for the racist drive is the Boston Policeman’s Association whose official cation, Pax Centurion is used as agitational literature at every rally and meeting of the white school boycott forces.
Integrally characteristic of fascism is the instability caused by its cross-class constituency. The alliance behind the white boycott is fundamentally unstable. Organized on a populist basis rather than a class basis it contains within it the fundamental class antagonisms of capitalist society. There can be no long-term unity between the bourgeosie and the workers. The basic demands of the workers for jobs, for an end to inflation, and for quality education for their children contradict the capitalist necessity for profit maximization. Less fundamental but more apparent is the disparity between the most vocal leaders and the people they seek to represent. The workers of South Boston live in run-down homes or places like the decrepit D-Street projects, while landlady Hicks lives in a fine house near the Yacht Club. Hicks’ and Kerrigan’s children go to private schools while the working class youth suffer the inferior education of South Boston High.
The perpetuation of capitalism is a key element in fascism. Leo Kahian, gubernatorial candidate of the American Party, which campaigns against the conspiracy “to destroy the free enterprise system in favor of socialism… ” polled the largest vote in Southie. In an interview with Pax Centurion he attacks OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Act) and EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) claiming they are “destructive of our free enterprise system.”4
If Kahian would do away with even these weak government agencies, what can workers expect for their health and safety on the job and in the community? But Kahian isn’t the only one. The demagoguery of the other leaders is similar. When they speak of restoring “our alienated rights” and “freedom” they are referring primarily to property rights.
The important point is that the ideology of these small businessmen and petty politicians serves the interests of the bankers and big businessmen. It constitutes a threat to the most fundamental rights of not only the national minorities they directly attack, but the white workers they are trying to mobilize and also of many of the petty bourgeois to whom they are appealing. As a result, the white workers’ needs remain unmet and their fighting spirit is channeled into organizations and programs which not only fail to meet their needs but in fact, are undermining what rights they do have. The fact that South Boston’s nonunionized Gillete Co., for example, can keep the wage demands of the white workers in check follows in part from the high unemployment among Black and Latinos. In effect the white workers of South Boston, who support the white boycott are decreasing their ability to defend and advance their own interests. This serves the interests of the finance capitalists.
The anti-busing movement is already beginning to show signs of instability. The coalition is starting to repel many whites as it is being exposed more and more as blatantly racist and not the mobilization for quality cation that it pretends to be. Parents across the city are beginning to send their children back to school as they recognize the inetfectiveness of the white boycott. And, in another section of the city, Brighton, ROAR has been able to rally little support at all.
The fascist character-of the anti-busing movement has not been understood by progressives. This is because the antibusing groups appeal to the same kind of populist and libertarian· slogans that permeated the New Left a few years ago (community control, rights of the individual, anti-big government, etc.) and because they are not obviously like Nazis or Spanish Falangists. But the opinion that the soil for fascism does not exist in countries with strong democratic traditions is erroneous. Dimitroff warned in 1935 that “such opinions have served and may serve to relax vigilance toward the fascist danger and render the mobilization of the proletariat in the struggle against fascism more difficult.”
The Boston anti-busing movement has emerged alongside a broader pattern of manipulation and repression reflecting the desperate response of the most reactionary sectors of the bourgeoisie to the deepening economic crisis caused by the disruption of U.S. imperialism all over the world. The bourgeoisie have their agents in the trade unions. Labor lieutenants like Abel of the Steelworkers have tried to systematically divide the workers by means such as the racist Consent Decree and the mental Negotiation Agreement, which forbids the right to strike.5 Fitzsimmons of the Teamsters has called for wage and price controls and has led the attack on the farmworkers. Another visible segment of this offensive is the federally funded police terrorism, like the Swat squad headed by police Chief Inman in Atlanta and the STRESS squad of Detroit. Fomenting division among the workers through racist hysteria and violently attacking the minorities are desperate strategies to save a crumbling capitalist system.
The ruling class is tolerant of the fascist demagoguery because they are becoming desperate. The capitalist economy is in ahistorical period of severe decline. The masses are everyday hit by the burdens of the energy and food crises, the gutting of productive employment, and austerity measure responses to those crises. So far, neither Ford nor any of the capitalist leaders have been able to solve the problems of inflation, unemployment and industrial stagnation. The capitalists’ historical precedent is imperialist war and fascism. The daily sabre rattling is evidence of their propensity for war, and their support or tolerance of racist demagogues illustrates their willingness to turn to fascism.
Watergate has taught us that the capitalists will not hesitate to violate their own constitution or attack tions of their own class if necessary to maintain their dictatorship. Nixon is out. Banking and oil millionaire Rockefeller is in. President Ford talks one day of maintaining the delicate balance of the economy and tightening our belts and the next day of how unfortunate is Judge Garrity’s decision. This is the voice of a dying class. If it becomes necessary to use the fascist base of demagogue Hicks for the finance capitalists to maintain their rule, they will not hesitate!
The Strategy in Response
Since the main issue is the crisis of imperialism, this particular manifestation should not deflect Science for the People from the main strategy of participating in the struggle against imperialism. At the same time the particular form in which imperialism is most sharply revealed at present is in the fascist tendency, which in Boston is orchestrated by the racist violence that prevents anti-imperialist unity. In spite of the offensive form of the fascist tendency it is in essence defensive, since only a desperate ruling class needs to consider alternatives to its traditional form of rule. Consequently to attack the forced segregation movement, to rip off its antibusing cover and show it up as a haven for fascists with finance capitalist ties, is to attack imperialism where it is essentially weak while at the same time strengthening anti-imperialist unity. The unity will follow from the nature of our attack, namely the mobilization of whites (especially white workers) to take up, as an integral part of their own struggle for liberation, the struggle for the democratic rights of national minorities.
This has to be taken up in Science for the People by the formation of other groups like the Boston Group on Racism and the Busing Issue and by their linking up with one another. These groups should also link up with groups outside Science for the People and try to mobilize the membership to participate. They should also participate in coalitions and mass demonstrations.
Much investigation is necessary because the fascist tendency in the imperialist response to their crisis takes different forms. In some areas the busing question may take an entirely different character and the question of the meaning of “community control” in a non-racist context and of “quality education” under capitalism will have to be addressed. In other instances the labor bureaucracy component of the fascist front may be the prime or most accesible target. Other forms that are evident are the “right-to-life” movements and populist puritanism in school textbooks (the KKK appeared publicly in January on the state house steps in West Virginia. They were applauded for their support of the “Godly textbook” campaign.).
Investigative work and production of exposes and explanatory pamphlets seem suited to a large fraction of the members of Science for the People since most of us are educated if not actually intellectual workers. We can produce material and propaganda for the movement especially for community and factory groups trying to win racist white workers away from the fascists. The struggle is to expose and isolate the demagogic leaders. The exposes should show that they serve the establishment and show also that they are not serving the needs of the people. The needs should be investigated, systematized and exposed to the people themselves. For example, the all-white D-Street project in South Boston is the worst in the city. A Boston newspaper reports it has the most vandalism.
Of course, all of this cannot be done unless the confusion that has thus far been characteristic of Science for the People is removed. Simple education might be the place to begin. Study groups or discussion sessions of Georgi Dimitroff’s The United Front Against War and Fascism and of exposes of American groups would be good. Members should read and discuss John Birch Society literature and American Party literature to see first hand the particularly populist character of American fascism. (The weaknesses of some of the more fuzzy New Left and libertarian slogans will be clearer when they are seen in fascist literature). Other good materials are available from the Black Liberation Movement, Struggle! an anti-imperialist Black Newspaper in Boston, Unity and Struggle the newspaper of the Congress of Afrikan People (CAP), The African World newspaper of the February First Movement (FFM), and the African Liberation Support Committee’s (ALSC) Principles of Unity and discussion notes.
Simple study will not dispel the confusion. Ideological struggle is necessary and until a period of discussion and struggle has been undergone we will not be able to mobilize ourselves to play a strong constructive role in defeating the racism and fascist tendencies. Because the Boston Group on Racism and the Busing Issue has gone thorugh part of this already, we believe the best way to bring this, the first article in our series, to a close is to begin the discussion by putting forth what we believe to be the main contending positions on racism. On the previous section we put forward a position of fascism).
At present the main obstacles among progressives in our stratum to a consistent stand on the role of the oppressed are the theories of “white skin privilege” and theories that put forth some variant of “all nationalism is bad”. Both of these ideological stands weaken the movement by breaking its unity. In fact both are objectively racist. The “white skin privilege” ideology, which calls upon white workers to give up their privileges” as a preconditon for unity of the class, is expressed most often in Science for the People by its variant, Worldism. In this form, which also is based on the assumption that white workers of the U.S. working class are abandoned — the white petty bourgeois calls upon the Third World to liberate them offer their intellectual assistance.
White skin privilege ideology breaks anti-imperialist and general working-class unity by getting whites to consider white workers as the enemy and getting white workers to consider themselves the enemy. This of course stimulates narrow nationalism among the oppressed nationalities. As a result oppressed people of color and white workers do not become allies in struggles against a common enemy entered into in their own interest. “All nationalism is bad” separates the general working-class movement from its most powerful allies — the movements for national liberation and for democratic rights for all oppressed people. The “all-nationalism-is-bad” strain of middle-class ideology has many variants. One equates “black racism” to white racism. Another only supports the democratic rights of Black or Latin or Asian workers but not of oppressed Third World people of all classes. (The logic of “all nationalism is bad” usually is carried over into attitudes on the struggles for the democratic rights of women, i.e. refusing to take up the oppression of women unless the women involved are also “workers”.)
White chauvinism within the working class represents penetration of the working-class movement by the bourgeoisie. Among petite bourgeois progressives like ourselves the chauvinist ideology is also often evident, although the practice takes different forms from that exhibited in the working class. Like all ideologies, it is rooted in material circumstances, mainly in the special oppression and superexploitation of Third World persons. Foremost, because labor is a commodity under capitalism, the devaluation of the labor of any category devalues the persons themselves. (Other examples are old persons and women). Then the devalued labor is put upon the market to compete with white labor and thus drives down its price. This leads directly to more exploitation of white workers who perceive Blacks and Latins, etc. as the cause of their lowered wage. The resulting disunity inhibits collective action (unions typically) and further depresses wages of all workers, directly and by enabling the capitalist to continue their superexploitation of the Third World workers. It follows then that white workers are themselves oppressed by white chauvinism and that they can only throw off this yoke of oppression by taking up the struggle against the special oppression of Blacks, Latins, and Asians. In doing so they enlist a powerful force in their liberation, not simply because minority workers are added to the ranks of white workers (an obviously opportunist approach), but because all workers, white and minority, become the champions of almost all classes of the oppressed minorities. The resultant merging of the general working-class struggle and the struggles for the liberation of the national minorities is a powerful force that makes the liberation of both possible under working-class leadership. As for “relative” white skin privileges, oppression will indeed be equalized, but not because white workers subject themselves to the additional oppression of the minorities, rather because the additional oppression of the minorities is made impossible because the white workers have also taken up their struggle.
“A nation that oppresses another nation forges its own chains…” (Karl Marx)
The Boston Group on Racism and the Busing Issue is actively seeking new members. We see our tasks as (1) investigating and writing about issues related to busing, (2) mobilizing the members of Science for the People and others in our constituency in anti-racist and anti-imperialist activity, (3) deepening Science for the People’s understanding of racism and its relationship to working class struggles, fascism, and the national question, and (4) building alliances with other organizations. For more information call 617-427-8331 or write c/o Science for the People.
- Among the representatives of the labor movement who joined the march were contingents from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners; Teamsters Local 10; Hotel, Restaurant and Cafeteria Workers; Southern Tenant Union; Communication Workers of America; Retail Store Employees; United Electrical Workers and the Coalition of Labor Union Women.
- Named for the Black Panther leader murdered by police in Chicago on December 4, 1969.
- Militant Bulgarian communist who analyzed the danger and forms of fascism in the 1930’s.
- The Boston Globe (Feb. 2, 1975) outlined Kahian’s platform which includes opposition to rent control for much the same reasons as he opposes the OSHA and EPA.
- The Consent Degree is an agreement between the workers’ Union, the steel companies, and the Government which denies to minority and women workers the right to sue over discrimination in return for token payments of back wages lost because of discrimination. See Guardian Labor Supplement, Fall 1974.