The Supreme Court has delivered a double-barreled shot at the right to equal opportunities for Blacks, other oppressed nationalities, and women. The Court's June 12 rulings on affirmative action and school desegregation are part of the rulers' efforts to chip away at the conquests working people have won through massive struggles in the fight for equal rights.
While rightists are crowing about "affirmative action's death knell," the wealthy class and its political servants are not so confident about launching a frontal assault. Millions of people depend on these programs. Under current law, the U.S. Labor Department monitors more than 100,000 companies and universities with federal contracts stipulating that they must set "goals and timetables" for hiring and promoting minorities and women.
The half-hearted, murky decisions of the Supreme Court reflect the rulers' hesitancy in confronting these programs head on. Both cases are referred back to the lower courts for further review and are testimony to the fact that the rulers will not be able to dismantle affirmative action without a fight.
U.S. president Bill Clinton, who pretends to champion the rights of Blacks and working people as election time draws near, said the Court's decision was "not inconsistent" with his views on affirmative action. Clinton has set up a task force to conduct a review of federal affirmative action programs. His "review" opens the door for further assaults against social gains of Blacks, Latinos, women, and the labor movement.
The attacks on set-aside programs seem like an easier target for the bosses. Workers don't quite identify with the small business people who will be affected by this directly. But, like the attacks on desegregation, rulings aimed against set-asides are part of a package.
The desegregation plan for the Kansas City, Missouri, school district was a timid measure to begin with. The big- business politicians and the media cry crocodile tears over low test scores among students in urban schools. This notion is tossed out the window, though, when it comes to spending money to improve schools for the children of working people in Kansas City.
The top capitalist court is preparing other probes against affirmative action. The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on cases in Louisiana and Georgia where voting districts were drawn to advance Blacks rights. This was one of the gains from the fight against the Jim Crow system of legalized segregation in the South.
Some high court justices are also making noises about changing the standard set by the 1979 decision United Steelworkers v. Weber, which upheld affirmative action training programs in the steel industry.
Affirmative action programs are a conquest of mighty battles waged by the working-class movement. By cutting across the inequality that the bosses use to divide and weaken the working class, these programs strengthen the unity of the entire class. The labor movement should defend affirmative action programs and lead a fight for jobs for all. Working people need to reject reactionary concepts like "reverse discrimination" and join any fight to resist the rulers' assault on our hard-fought rights.
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