Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Vanguard

Donkey Work for the Democrats: CWP Caboose on the Jesse Jackson Train

First Published: Workers Vanguard, No. 347, February 3, 1984.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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You cannot serve the age of those who sat in, you cannot serve the age of those who rode the flaming buses, you cannot serve the age of those who fought the Vietnam War....

We need not explode through riots as we had to in ’63 to be heard... We can use the ballot to bring about change and transition through elections and not bloody revolution.

Thus speaks the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Among his converts can be counted the ex-radicals who populate the reformist American left. From the Communist Party to Workers World to the Communist Workers Party, Jackson’s campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination has been hailed as a symbol of “resistance” and “unity” for all good progressive people. When Jackson preaches to the angry and hideously oppressed black people of this country, “There’s a freedom train a comin’, but you got to register to ride,” these fake-lefts respond with “Amen.”

That Jackson is Mr. Black Capitalism himself–Coca-Cola’s man in the ghetto–that he is a strikebreaker, a purveyor of chauvinist “protectionism” and an anti-Soviet “patriot” who is hustling black votes for the party of George Wallace presents no problem of “principle” for the reformists. The more practiced sellouts simply assume that support to the black front man for Walter “Fritz” Mondale’s race against Reagan is the correct “communist” thing to do. After all, the Communist Party has been electorally supporting the class enemy for over 40 years. (And look where it’s gotten them–nowhere).

The ex-Maoist Communist Workers Party (CWP) is having a rougher go in justifying their overt support to Jackson. A national tour this fall by CWP leader Phil Thompson seemed mainly pitched at lining up the CWP membership. Kicking off the tour at Laney College in Oakland, Thompson remarked, “A year ago...if you had told us that we would be sitting here discussing the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign, we would have thought you were crazy.” What has changed?

“Tens of thousands of people are getting involved” and “if the masses of people are around Jesse Jackson that’s where we have to be.” In other words, if J.J. can hustle the black vote by selling them a bill of goods, these pseudo-socialists want to get rich quick by feeding the illusions. Hungry? Jobless? Illiterate? Ghettoized? The CWP’s program for black America is: let them eat lies.

The CWP wants to get “in on the ground floor of what is becoming a mass movement for Black political power.” Since when has the Democratic Party had anything to do with black political power? As Malcolm X put it in 1964: “When you keep the Democrats in power, you’re keeping the Dixiecrats in power.” In fact, selling your political soul to the racist. Democratic Party means betraying the aspirations and struggles of black people in the most crass ways. The CWP is for that reason quite touchy about Jackson’s well-publicized glad-handing of George “Segregation Forever” Wallace. As Thompson writes in his article on support to Jackson (The Eighties, Fall 1983):

A wholly obnoxious and useless poster was printed by the African Peoples Socialist Party showing a picture of Jesse Jackson shaking hands with George Wallace. The poster says that Jackson will lead Black people back to the plantation.

Thompson continues, “Such opposition would be more understandable if the various mass movements were in high gear and tearing up the streets.” At Laney College, he remarked that “nobody is going to jump up and grab guns and start shooting and stuff, unless they’re absolutely convinced that there is no other way.” So for the CWP the alternative is ghetto riots or the Democrats. Here the CWP shows its fundamental pessimism on the possibility for mobilizing the working class and oppressed in social struggle against Reagan reaction. The criterion for their support to Jackson is that he’s popular, “is doing an effective job of arousing the grassroots.” Denouncing the “ultra-left” critics of Jackson and all the “quibbling over Jesse Jackson’s program” the CWP adopts the famous watchword of German social democrat Eduard Bernstein: “The movement is everything, the goal is nothing.” Bernstein coined this three quarters of a century ago to accommodate the workers movement in Germany to small-change parliamentarism.

For what is Jackson “arousing the grassroots”? Certainly not for even a minimal fight against the brutal racist oppression endemic to capitalism: he doesn’t even support school busing to achieve integration (but then, come to think of it, neither did the CWP). He can hardly be credited with the absurd, Utopian “butter not guns” pipe dream of reformists who believe capitalism’s “priorities” can be altered through rational argument; Jackson calls only for freezing military spending at its current astronomical level. Thompson gives Jackson credit for the “objectively revolutionary“ demand for full employment. But Jackson is in fact an antiunion scabherder whose main answer to unemployment is racist, chauvinist protectionism, railing at “Honda and Toyota, Suzuki and Yamaha, Sony and Panasonic, being unloaded at the docks and replacing Buick and Chrysler in the American market” (Washington Post, 25 May 1983). When the majority black Chicago Teachers Union struck in 1976 and 1983, Jackson attempted to organize “alternate” scab schools and sued the union, cynically claiming the strikes were against the black community (see “Jesse Jackson: Front Man for the Racist Democrats,” WV No. 344, 16 December 1983).

Some of J.J.’s attitudes may be rubbing off on the CWP. At the Laney College talk, Richard Bradley–black Spartacist candidate for San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1982–called on the audience to support Lauren Mozee, a black phone worker, and her companion Ray Palmiero. The two militants were victimized for defending themselves and their union picket line during last August’s national phone strike. Even though CWP leader Nelson Johnson has endorsed the Lauren and Ray defense case, a CWP spokesman sneeringly replied from the platform, “That issue was one the sister got emotional about–people were out on the line and they called her a nigger and you grab that.” But not Thompson & Co.–they’re into “a movement here that’s a little bit more sophisticated”– too “sophisticated” to defend a former Black Panther victimized in a racist, anti-labor frame-up!

From Greensboro to Jesse Jackson

The CWP needs to hide the political reality of Jackson’s gambit, i.e., locking up those black Southern votes for the Democrats in 1984. Defensively, Thompson insisted in his New York talk on November 19 that “Supporting Jackson just to get black people....to hoodwink them into supporting Mon-dale is racist, it’s treacherous, it’s a sellout of what the movement is all about.” Sure it’s racist and treacherous– qualities not lacking within the Democratic Party. A Spartacist spokesman countered Thompson from the floor during the discussion period:

Well, that comes to the crux of it. I think that is in fact the purpose of the Jesse Jackson campaign, and that has to be your purpose whether or not that is your subjective desire. The Democrats need the South to defeat Reagan. To get .the South they need the black vote. And they know they’re not going to vote for Mondale; they know he was the vice president of Jimmy ’Ethnic Purity’ Carter. Therefore they need Jesse Jackson to go out there and make that voter registration campaign and stump for votes in order to turn them over to Mondale at the Democratic convention. That is the political reality.

This is a particularly bitter pill for the CWP. Mondale was Carter’s vice president and Democrat Carter was in office when the Klan/Nazi murderers shot in cold blood and in broad daylight five CWP members protesting the Klan in Greensboro, North Carolina. Carter/Mondale were in office when these fascist scum were acquitted by an all-white jury, giving the green light to racist terror all over the country. Greensboro was racist murder, aided and abetted by the government: from the planning of the attack on the CWP demonstration right through the kangaroo court which acquitted the killers. Undoubtedly there are those among the CWP membership who gag at the sight of Jackson yucking it up with George Wallace, who find it disconcerting to cover up for the very party which worked hand-in-glove with the murderers of their comrades.

To overcome this, the CWP tries to build up Jesse Jackson’s “movement” credentials. Jackson is the man who smeared his shirt with Martin Luther King’s blood to claim the mantle of MLK, and now Thompson claims “King was developing into a revolutionary who was beginning to define a socialist party for the U.S.” At his New York talk the SL spokesman exposed this cynical attempt to rewrite the history of the civil rights movement: “You play the same role as the Communist Party did 20 years ago when it stood with King against the left wing of the movement, against the masses of blacks in the ghettos who broke with King when he called the cops to go into Watts to smash the ghetto rebellion, against the left wing in SNCC, who in Lowndes County organized the Black Panther Party against the policies of King for support to the Democrats.”

In an attempt to gain respectability, the CWP has recently been making a show of democracy. But the fist of Stalinist thuggery emerged from behind the red roses in the ushers’ lapels when a second SL supporter and trade-union militant spoke:

My name is David Brewer. I’m a member of Local 100 of the transport Workers Union here in New York City. We’re the guys that run the subways. “First of all, we’re in a time called November. And November... will be an important month in the future American workers government. One, we’ll have a holiday of mourning for the martyred comrades in the CWP in the Greensboro massacre. And two, we’ll have a holiday of celebration-November 27–when the Ku Klux Klan was stopped from marching in Washington.

Now I was reading this [CWP] statement on why we should support the Jackson campaign, and I noticed a quote from Lenin, from ’Left-Wing Communism.’ And I think the quote is misleading. [He says] you must not sink to the level of the masses, to the level of the most backward strata of the class, says you must tell them the bitter truth. And I believe, comrade Phil, you’re not telling the masses the bitter truth about Jesse Jackson...

We can debate [Martin Luther] King’s trajectory if he had lived... forever. That’s not important. What is important is at the crucial time of the 1963 march, when you had masses of black people converging on Washington, D.C., the role that Martin Luther King played. You said in your speech that King got his dream from the grassroots movement. He got his dream in the Oval Office, arm-in-arm with Robert Kennedy. Jack Kennedy. “Listen, this is the bitter truth, like Lenin said you have to tell. He [JFK] said [to King], you better get out there and control this thing. And it’s the same reason that the national Democratic Party went into Chicago and told those racist Democrats out there, let’s cool it, we got to have the black vote to get elected in this country and you better shake hands with Harold Washington. And it’s the same reason that Jesse Jackson...[Chair: ”Sum up and sit down! You got a new point to make, a new point, it’s the same one; don’t repeat the same one....”]

The point is, you claim to be the vanguard of the American working class, the only people who fight against oppression. That after Greensboro everybody ran and hid. That’s not true. It was the Spartacist-initiated demonstration that stopped the Klan from ’celebrating’ the massacre of your comrades. We stopped them in Detroit, we stopped them in Washington. But it’s based on the labor movement. That’s what you guys miss. So you go from Greensboro to Jesse Jackson....” [Pandemonium. CWPers shout, “One Trotskyite is enough!” Others in the crowd demand. “Let him speak!”]

At this point, the TWU brother was surrounded by goons, grabbed from the mike and thrown out of the hall. A walkout by several Spartacists and other disgusted leftists followed thereafter. Political struggle was not over for the evening, however. A black unionist demanded the floor, announcing himself as “a member of the Committee for a Fighting TWU, from the island colony of Puerto Rico, and a supporter of the Spartacist League.” After denouncing the CWP’s cowardly exclusion, he concluded:

I’ve been sitting here a long time, listening to your logic...Jesse Jackson...he went and shook hands with George ’Segregation’ Wallace. The great Jesse Jackson–he’s anti-abortion, he’s into protectionism... We blacks are sick and tired of Republicans and Democrats and Democrats and Republicans. We need our own organization.

Whereupon he, too, stomped out of the room, fist high in the air, shouting “Viva Puerto Rico Libre!”

Back to the Outhouse

In its Maoist heyday, the CWP was verbally far to the left of today’s CWP’s parliamentary cretins who now write that ’if the working class and oppressed people were to gain a fair share– consistent democracy, it would be possible to transform the U.S. into a socialist U.S.A. through peaceful means” (Thompson, The Eighties). This is worthy of the ex-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP), notorious for their imbecilic “consistent whatever leads to socialism.” Thompson himself–who could often be recognized in Cambridge by the fact that he was tossed out of as many Maoist meetings as the SL, who was instrumental in recruiting leftist black youth to a supposedly “hard” “Marxist-Leninist Mao Tse-tung Thought” group–now indeed sounds like some SWPer when he writes:

If Black people could truly elect their representatives to positions of power in government in a fair proportion to their numbers. Black people could bring the functioning of state monopoly government to a standstill. – The Eighties

This is not only anti-Marxist to the core–but the arithmetic is all wrong. Just how does comrade Thompson envision a minority of 20 percent bringing the state to a standstill, “fair proportion” or not?

Racist oppression is integral to the functioning of capitalism, and the struggle against it–the quest for black freedom–has been a motor force for social progress and social revolution in this country. Thompson writes that “At one point, Martin Luther King believed, and Jesse Jackson today believes, they are saving Blacks from communism. However, the process of struggle itself inevitably leads to communist conclusions.” Genuine struggle for black liberation does, in fact, require an attack on the fundamental social structure of capitalist society. But the tailing of those forces who seek to derail and defuse the fight for black liberation only serves to perpetuate the racist status quo.

After Greensboro, the CWP has desperately sought to end its isolation by joining–or even inventing, if necessary–a popular front with the Democrats. Seeing there was no longer any mileage in being a Maoist, “ex” or otherwise, they abruptly switched their line on the Soviet Union (see “Why CWP Flip-Flopped on Russia,” WV No. 283, 19 June 1981). From adventurist substitutionism, the CWP has zigzagged to liberal electoralism. So, in San Francisco in April 1980 when some home-grown Nazi punks wanted to come out on Hitler’s birthday, the CWP sought the endorsement of San Francisco mayor Feinstein and held a “peaceful, legal” rally of a few hundred some blocks away while the Trotskyists of the Spartacist League mobilized militants from two dozen unions in a crowd of more than 1,200 that occupied the site where the fascists had intended to goose-step. (CWP leader Nelson Johnson also accepted our invitation to speak at the militant rally.)

Similarly, in Washington, D.C. on November 27, 1982, the CWP and its front group PARK appealed to D.C. mayor Barry to “ban the Klan” while the SL initiated the Labor/Black Mobilization to occupy the area of Capitol Hill where the Klan had threatened to begin its march. Five thousand overwhelmingly black workers and youth–the best of Washington’s black and labor militants–turned out to the SL-initiated call and stopped the nightriding Klan terrorists cold. But the CWP and a few dozen supporters were meanwhile reduced to wandering from our Labor/Black Mobilization to the popular-front palaver at McPherson Square, designed for the Democrats as a diversion from a massive, labor-centered confrontation with the Klan.

Eschewing the necessary communist duty of mobilizing the working class and its allies among the oppressed, the CWP has come full circle from New Left/ Maoist adventures back to the Democrats. It is the Trotskyist Spartacist League that has sought to avenge the Greensboro massacre through the successful mobilization of blacks and labor to stop the fascists’ provocations in the black industrial centers. These mobilizations break the masses from their Democratic Party bosses in action and give them a taste of workers’ power on the streets. The black Democrats are not halfway to somewhere. They are a necessary pillar in the racist capitalist status quo–there to keep the lid on black struggle.

The CWP wants to “get in on the ground floor” of the anti-Reagan popular front, and that’s where they’ll be, all right. While Jackson makes a show of running for the White House, munching pecan rolls with Wallace at the Alabama State House, the CWP’s going to be back at the outhouse, shoveling the shit for the Democrats while chanting. “Run, Jesse, run!” Until the red-baiting begins, as happened to CWPer Nelson Johnson as soon as he raised his head as a lefty in the National Black Independent Party a few years ago. Anyone who wants to go “all the way with J.J.” will soon get rid of all the “red” trappings anyhow. So while the CWP campaigns earnestly for Mondale’s black front man, we will continue to defeat the racist terrorists–and their bosses in Washington–through the program of integrated class straggle.