US Supreme Court Recertifies Capitalism’s Need for Racism


On June 30, 2023, the US Supreme Court struck down affirmative action at colleges, except for military ones. Justice Sotomayor says it’s “arbitrary” that affirmative action can continue only at military academies; Justice Gorsuch chastised the continued tolerance for “preferences for the children of donors, alumni, and faculty….”  But there is nothing new or shocking about this ruling. It is simply the latest blatant reaffirmation of the basic principles on which the US was founded: the protection of rights of white men with property and the super-exploitation of black and immigrant workers in order to maximize profits. As many articles on this blog have reiterated, as is our underlying premise, US capitalism cannot survive without racism, whose ideas and practices need to be periodically reinforced. (see specifically   and –part-2/)

As the US became wealthier and more powerful in the mid-20th century, it was possible to begin to ameliorate some of its great injustices. Indeed, the mass organizing of the 1930s, the anti-Vietnam war protests and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s necessitated some concessions. Not too many, but a few. The absurd contradiction of fighting fascism in Europe while maintaining a segregated military necessitated the end of that practice. Then came the ability to vote for black citizens, the right to choose between various representatives of the capitalist class; the right to attend integrated (but actually largely segregated) schools; the right to sit anywhere on the bus. That was the beginning of the impetus to empower black politicians – fool us good. Parts of the trade union movement became more integrated and the stronger for it. The mass anti-racist student movement led to demands for affirmative action. Nonetheless, financial disadvantage and poor secondary schools led to a maximum of 14% black and Latin enrollment at Harvard, which is now predicted to fall by more than half (

The US is now in a perilous period of relative economic and political weakness, falling behind China in productivity, wracked by inflation and subject to a strike wave by many workers. Internationally, not only is the US seriously having to compete for control of resources and markets from South America to Asia and Africa to the Middle East, but it has lost all its recent wars of conquest in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and is spending billions in the going nowhere war in Ukraine. How better to keep profits up than lowering wages and increasing unemployment – the method underlying capitalism. And how better to make that more acceptable than building racism, the historic way to grow wedges between workers. The only wrinkle in this plan is the need to maintain a military that scoops up the underpaid and underemployed workers. To do that you must assure that they don’t hate the system too much to fight for it. Thus, keep the military as a place for more equality and opportunity. See those black Defense Secretary and Generals? See that you can still get into the military academies with relatively less discrimination? Good plan.

The only really surprising thing about this reinforcement of historic racism is that it is so overt, but we must respect the Supreme Court after all. Such a sacrosanct institution.  And since it seems that its make up is due to a fluke of too many appointments under Republican presidents, let’s just elect more Democrats. That is the dangerous conclusion that liberals would have us draw. But we must remember that this nation was built on racism and has never made much progress in overcoming it because the rulers, the liberal and conservative capitalists, still need it. Racism keeps workers weak and divided. Racism lowers the standard of wages, schools, housing, the environment, health and health care for all by lowering the floor from which we all strive to climb, even as some are kept in the basement.

So let us struggle with all our fellow workers, of all colors and origins, to destroy this system and implement one that we run in our own interests, one without profits, one in which goods and services are produced as needed, not for sale.  We can do this while we wage the immediate battles for the reforms we need. But let us not rely on laws and institutions built by capitalists to define our goals or methods. We can and must fight back, as one, dividing ourselves only by class instead of nationality or race or gender. We have a world to win.

Ellen Isaacs is an MD and an anti-racist and anti-capitalism activist. She is co-editor of and can be reached at [email protected]m

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