Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Spartacist League

Revolution in 2, 3, 5 Years Says Frenzied Mao Cult

CWP Careens into the ’80s

First Published: Workers Vanguard No. 261, July 26, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Jerry Tung, would-be “Great Helmsman” of the Communist Workers Party (CWP), is steering his highly unstable and eclectic Maoist-Stalinist sect straight for disaster. Kicking off a national tour on “Which Way Forward in the 80s” in New York City on June 27, the General Secretary delivered a two-and-a-half hour monotonic, rambling discourse promising great things. In the next “two, three, five years a nationwide spontaneous revolutionary situation may develop at any time” he claimed. We’re supposedly already in a pre-revolutionary situation with the bourgeoisie trying to impose fascism. As “proof” that revolution is around the corner, Tung points to the recent anti-cop ghetto outburst in Miami and white motorists’ attack on gas stations in Levittown, Pennsylvania during last summer’s contrived “oil shortage.”

Even though the meeting hall was draped with banners hailing the “CWP Five” martyred by the Klan in Greensboro, Tung’s presentation was no memorial to these fallen comrades. Instead he sought with emotional hype to rally a membership disoriented by the CWP’s wild zigzags between adventurism and rotten liberalism. “Run the line from morning to evening,” Tung exhorted the membership, we’re in a “fire framework, so we have to start the fires now.” And it doesn’t matter if the masses don’t understand communism, all they need to make the revolution is to see the CWP in action.

The CWP’s recent “actions” have had a bizarre schizophrenic quality. Compare their rotten liberal, timid legalistic San Francisco anti-Klan rally to what they did in Kokomo, Indiana a few months ago. Last May the KKK held a much publicized march in downtown Kokomo, heavily protected by riot-equipped cops, with police sharpshooters on building roofs and a helicopter overhead. After the Klan left, a CWP car careened into town, where the Maoists proceeded to get into a scuffle directly with the cops. Not a blow was struck against the Klan. ”Kokomo Defines Class Struggle of the 80’s,” declared the CWP’s Workers Viewpoint, describing themselves heroically as leading an action “unprecedented in the glorious revolutionary history of the U.S.”

As for Tung’s “Apocalypse Now” scenario, to describe it as wildly out of whack with reality is merely to state the obvious. The CWP telescopes the long-term decay of U.S. capitalism with the present sharp conjunctural downturn to project an immediate collapse. No capitalist economic crisis is “terminal” in and of itself. The proletariat must be organized under the leadership of a Leninist vanguard party to overthrow the bourgeoisie. The CWP cannot explain how a “pre-revolutionary” situation can exist when what has characterized the present period is the absence of a militant class-struggle response to runaway inflation and the onset of a depression leading to mass unemployment.

The main result of the CWP’s “fire framework” is not even a serious perspective of trying to break the working class from its current misleaders. Rather it has embarked on a series of publicity stunts, recalling the Avakianite RCP. (In fact, the RCP is so incensed that a recent issue of its Revolutionary Worker complained about the numerous ways the CWP is copying it.) Under the slogan of “putting the politicians on notice–no business as usual,” the CWP has gone into a frenzy of disrupting bourgeois political-electoral events, usually resulting mainly in the arrest of its own members.

In recent weeks this campaign has included attempting to disrupt a Democratic Party fundraiser hosted by Rosalynn Carter by egg-throwing, trying to chant down Jimmy Carter at a National Education Association convention in Los Angeles, throwing a five-pound bolt through a plate glass window at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York while picketing Ronald Reagan, spray-painting walls of Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti’s office (numerous articles on how to spray-paint and poster professionally appear in the CWP press). And the grand finale: the CWP intends to “crash the garden party” at the Democratic convention in August.

A significant part of Tung’s tour speech is devoted to denouncing “electoralism”: “...anytime they mention electoral politics, the CWP is on the opposite side.” Pretty categorical. Meanwhile, Nelson Johnson, the CWP leader wounded in the Greensboro massacre, is running for governor of North Carolina. It’s interesting, too, that from November until May stories focusing on Nelson Johnson appeared in almost every issue of Workers Viewpoint and his picture was frequently on the front page. Since May, however, there has regularly appeared a photo of Tung flanked by two Chinese bureaucrats and there has been a noticeable downgrading of attention paid to Johnson. The 12 May issue explains that they had skipped an issue because of “evaluation of the form and content of the newspaper...The deep significance of the present decade...has not been reflected in the pages of the WV [Workers Viewpoint] in the last few issues.”

Some internal dissidence in the CWP? Whatever is going on, though, it certainly is not a serious search for Marxist clarity or a Leninist program. Eventual exhaustion from zigzagging between adventurist stunts and chasing after bourgeois allies may help convince some CWP cadres that the road to the American proletariat does not lie in crisis-mongering and substitutionism. Surprisingly, the CWP is making a show of “debating” politics with Trotskyists–Tung’s meeting was billed as a debate open to other tendencies. But no one should be lulled into believing that this is anything but a temporary unstable exercise, probably born of Tung’s overweaning egotism. The CWP’s normal practice is to beat up its left-wing opponents.

Nonetheless, supporters of the Spartacist League at the meeting made a sharp impact on the audience. Particularly powerful was the intervention of a black auto worker, recently laid off from the big Ford plant in Mahwah, New Jersey after ten years on the production line, who is a long-time spokesman for the Militant Solidarity Caucus there. He spoke of his experiences growing up in the South and the need for union-organized defense guards to stop racist and fascist attacks. He counterposed to the CWP’s substitutionism the successful strategy of the SL in building mass labor-centered rallies to stop the Klan, like the one which drew 500 mainly black workers in Detroit in the wake of the Greensboro massacre. And he attacked the CWP’s abstention from a similar SL-initiated and backed trade-union rally that stopped the Nazis in San Francisco April 19.

Workers Viewpoint (5 July) devoted most of its report on Tung’s speech and the “great debate” to a polemic against the “Trotskyites” (meaning the Spartacist League), which might well be termed “In Defense of Revolutionary Phrasemongering”:

The Trotskyites, flowing from their view that revolution is far away, do not see the immediate need to give a communist solution to every American... The Trotskyites are locked into the reformist framework of chasing after immediate issues, thinking that these are the workers’ main concern.

Typical of New Left Maoists, Tung dismisses concern for the material interests and needs of the working masses as mere reformism and projects revolution as an apocalypse having no relation to the actual life and struggles of the proletariat. It’s as if he takes the fairy tales of the Peking Opera under Chiang Ch’ing as the real thing.

Conversely, when the CWP does involve itself in what it considers “immediate issues,” its practice is sub-economist penny-ante reformism laced with large doses of liberal class collaboration. Only the Trotskyist Transitional Program, linking the present struggles of the working class to the seizure of state power, offers a way out of the polar dead ends of adventurism/phrasemongering and economism/class collaboration which characterize Tung’s CWP. Imprisoned by the straitjacket of Stalinism, it is doomed to go the way of other frenzied Maoist sects–Progressive Labor and now Avakian’s RCP– toward irrelevance and oblivion, spinning off burnt-out and cynical ex-members with its apocalyptic playacting.