Communist Workers' Party (United States)

Communist Workers' Party
LeaderJerry Tung
Founded1973 (1973)
Dissolved1985; 34 years ago (1985)
Succeeded byNew Democratic Movement
Youth wingRevolutionary Youth League
Political positionFar-left

The Communist Workers' Party (CWP) was a Maoist group in the United States. It had its origin in 1973 as the Asian Study Group (renamed the Workers' Viewpoint Organization in 1976) established by Jerry Tung, a former member of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP)[1] who had grown disenchanted with the group and disagreed with changes taking place in the party line. The party is mainly remembered as the victim of the Greensboro Massacre of 1979.

The CWP followed the policies of Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.[2] The CWP also incorporated aspects of the CPUSA's anti-racist pre-Popular Front program. In particular the CWP emphasized unionization and self-determination for African Americans.



The CWP enjoyed some success in textile cities of North Carolina. The new party established branches in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Greensboro, West Virginia, Colorado and other locations. Before forming itself into a party in October 1979 (the founding congress was held in the backroom of a discothèque in New York City), the group was known as the Workers Viewpoint Organization. Under its umbrella, it directed groups as the Revolutionary Youth League, the African Liberation Support Committee, and the Trade Union Education League.

1979 Greensboro Massacre

Confrontations with the Ku Klux Klan ("Klan", or "KKK") were particularly acute in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the Klan attempted to disrupt the work of the CWP and vice versa. In July 1979, the Klan held a rally and viewing of The Birth of a Nation in China Grove, near Charlotte, which was disrupted by CWP members who burned a Confederate flag and taunted members of the KKK. There were also challenges in the press. "The KKK is one of the most treacherous scum elements produced by the dying system of capitalism. "We challenge you," CWP leader Paul Bermanzohn taunted the Klan, "to attend our rally in Greensboro." The CWP named the event the "Death to the Klan" rally, as part of their larger effort to unionize poor and black mill workers in the Greensboro area. These provocations taunted the KKK, and set the stage for the coming violent showdown.

On November 3, 1979 members of the KKK, including a police informant, and the American Nazi Party drove up to the rally organized by the CWP.[3] Members of both the Klan and the CWP were armed, and an exchange of gunfire soon ensued. Two members of the CWP and three rally participants were killed by the KKK.[3] These deaths became known as the "Greensboro Massacre".[3] Two subsequent trials of KKK and ANP members resulted in acquittals, when jurors found that the defendants acted in self defense, and were motivated by a political ideology opposed to the white communists, rather than racial animus. In response to the acquittals of the accused killers, the CWP attempted to storm the 1980 Democratic National Convention and succeeded in setting off firecrackers in Madison Square Garden.[4]


From its earliest phase as the Workers' Viewpoint Organization, the CWP had considered itself as Maoist and supported the so-called Gang of Four after Mao's death. Following the line of Mao, it considered the Soviet Union and its bloc as restored capitalist countries. For some time after the arrest of the Gang of Four, the group remained silent about the events in China but later accused China also of having taken the capitalist road.

In 1980, there was a dramatic reversal of this line. In his book The Socialist Road, CWP Chairman Jerry Tung announced that both the Soviet Union and China were socialist, although an unhealthy bureaucracy had taken shape in the governments of both countries.

An article published in the Workers Viewpoint in 1976 criticised a social liberal and libertine view of sexuality as "the bourgeoisie’s attempts to dope us with degenerate culture and fascist ideology." The article opposed pornography as representing anti-woman American bourgeois hedonism (it singled out the film Snuff) and argued that homosexuality "is a form of social sickness, a form of social perversion. It is a form of bourgeois ideology which appeals especially to the petty bourgeoisie because of its appearance as sexual freedom."[5]


Subsequent to the Greensboro massacre, the group gave up its Leninist structure and moved towards a social democratic formation that would work for peaceful transition to socialism; it dissolved the Communist Workers' Party and formed the New Democratic Movement in 1985. The New Democratic Movement lasted only a few years. The most important remnant of the CWP/NDM can be found in the Greensboro Justice Fund which continues to this day and promotes groups struggling for social justice.

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