Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

How CWP isolated the left and hurt the NASSCO strike

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 33, October 6-19, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

San Diego–Two members and a sympathizer of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) were arrested and charged with conspiracy to pipe bomb the electrical transformers which supply the NASSCO shipyard here Sept. 16.

The three had allegedly planned the bombing with an admitted informant who was working with the San Diego police and the FBI.

According to the official indictments, Ray Barton, the informant, had a transmitter strapped to his body while he and the others bought materials for the pipe bomb, while they tested some bombs in the desert, and while they planned the transformer bombing. The police and FBI also followed them by car and airplane.

The incident has led to the convening of a grand jury which subpoenaed 11 NASSCO workers who were fired during job actions in August. Several of these have nothing to do with the CWP.

Support for the “San Diego 3,” as they are calling themselves, is scant. Most shipyard workers have seen that the CWP is capable of such adventurist behavior.

A month ago the spotlight of public attention had been focused on NASSCO because of its responsibility for the deaths of two workers from argon gas suffocation. The deaths came not long after a wildcat strike, in which unsafe conditions were a key issue. The wildcat lasted three days and involved 6,000 workers.

Twenty-eight workers were fired after the strike, including the four involved in the alleged firebombing attempt.

Today many shipyard workers here wonder whether the company or the CWP is more dangerous to the union. The CWP’s ultra-left behavior during and after the wildcat opened the door to further repression of the workers’ cause.

The following is the view, as told to The Call, of several workers who were active in the struggle and who have had experience with the CWP’s line and practice.

* * *

At one time CWP members were highly respected and held various important union positions in the Ironworkers Union. But in the course of the last few months, they have become isolated in the yard. Their ultra-leftism came out in a number of ways:

l) They project a “ripe for revolution” assessment of today’s conditions. The CWP believes that revolutionary insurrection is around the corner and will bring “workers’ rule in the ’80s.” They agitate for militant confrontation in every situation as an example to the “whole class.”

During the wildcat, they pushed confrontation with the SWAT squad that neither the workers nor the CWP were prepared for. They spray-painted slogans in the Labor Relations office “F - - k NASSCO” and “Pay Back Time.” NASSCO got video tapes of the whole thing.

Workers are angry at the bad publicity this incident gave the union in the local media.

The CWP is generally “open” about their organizational affiliation, sell their paper at every chance, and drop all concern for security. They tried to recruit people they barely knew, leaving themselves wide open to informants.

2) They substitute their self-proclaimed vanguard for the action of the people. CWP pushed themselves and their brand of “communism” constantly during the strike. They did everything they could to be the ones interviewed by the press. They gave speeches about the union one minute and speeches about the CWP the next, using the same bull horn.

They ignored many of the day-today kinds of organizing needed to keep the strike going. Instead they talked a lot about revolution. They spray painted near the yard “NASSCO on strike = CWP = Workers’ Rule in the ’80s.”

Many workers were outraged when the CWP claimed the strike was against war preparations. Many in the yard personally support war preparations.

3) They stifled democracy and tried to dictate what the workers should do. The CWP had a policy of no-compromise around tactics. This led to squabbling that turned workers off. It also built suspicion that the CWP was more out for itself than for the workers.

Leaflets produced by the CWP were long on rhetoric and short on information. They did not trust anyone to arrive at obvious conclusions based on blatant facts. People who disagreed with the contents were harangued until they either agreed or gave in. CWP called this democratic debate “ultra-democracy.”

While the antics of ultra-left groups like the CWP may be laughable at times, the effect has been to undermine some important struggles. At NASSCO, the CWP obscured the pressing issues of safety and union busting in the yard. Because of their self-serving ultra-leftism, the CWP transformed one of the largest wildcat strikes in southern California into a situation of confusion and repression. Now the door is open for FBI snooping and repression in other sections of the San Diego defense industry as well.