An opening for struggle

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding the principle of affirmative action is an important victory for the labor and people’s movements. These days, with the Bush administration and its far-right cohorts winning too many struggles, it is sweet to know they can be defeated. It is also important to note the broad coalition that came together in support of affirmative action programs designed to ensure racial diversity and equal opportunity for African Americans, Latinos, Native American Indians and other people of color.

With civil rights organizations, the African American and Latino communities, students, educators, women and the labor movement in the lead, a diverse coalition, including elected officials, universities and even the military and Fortune 500 companies, opposed the Bush plan to overturn any program considering race as a factor. Grassroots pressure over a number of years, culminating with thousands demonstrating in Washington, D.C., on the day of opening arguments, was also key to the victory.

The struggle isn’t over. The 6-3 ruling against awarding points for under-represented groups undermines affirmative action by removing a specific remedy for past and present discrimination. But with affirmative action upheld as the law of the land, the political space has opened to continue the fight for a civil rights agenda and equality in education and jobs. This fight is a vital part of the “take back America” movement to defeat George W. Bush and the far right in the 2004 elections. It can’t be an afterthought.

The White House is trying to cover up the fact that it sided with the anti-affirmative action plaintiffs, because it knows the vast majority of Americans are for equal opportunity. But the Bush agenda is to roll back civil rights and democracy.

Like a fish needs water, the far right needs racism and division to survive. Already it is gearing up to make opposition to affirmative action an ideological litmus test for any Supreme Court nominee. But a broad, united grassroots movement can defeat Bush and his ultra-right friends.

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A foot in the door or a kick in the pants

The foot is a handy part of the human anatomy. It enables people to stand, walk, run or kick a soccer ball.

It also has meaning when it comes to legislative/political struggle.

People settle for “a foot in the door” when they don’t have the muscle to win a full and decisive victory. That compromise is supposed to set the stage for future struggle. A case in point is the current struggle over prescription drugs for 40 million Medicare beneficiaries where, we are told by Senator Kennedy, “It’s a start. We may not have gotten everything. But we’ve got our foot in the door.”

We have a question for the Senator from Massachusetts: Whose foot is in whose door? Do we have our collective foot in their door or do they – and we all know who “they” are – have their collective foot on our collective neck? We think it’s the latter. For our part, S-1, which is currently working its way through the Senate, is a bummer. And the way we see it, a bum bill is worse than no bill.

Consider just two numbers: S-1 provides $400 billion to pay for prescription drugs over the next 10 years – the same ten years that will see the cost of these same drugs increase to $1.8 trillion. In other words, S-1 will pay for less than 25 percent of the cost of drugs for seniors!

Another number: S-1 subsidizes drugs for those who choose to remain in traditional Medicare to the tune of some 85 percent. For those who opt for private plans, the feds will pick up nearly 95 per cent of the cost, certainly an incentive for seniors to make that choice – and a giant step toward privatization of the entire Medicare system.

Senator Kennedy: Why the rush to judgment? If you back off, others may follow. Why not try it and see?