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Authoritarian 'cult' organizing at portland universities

an authoritarian 'cult' is organizing in portland universities. These days have seen the rebirth of authoritarian left organizations infultrating leadership roles in the labor, anti-globalization, and anti-war movements. As lovers of freedom, our lives, and justice I think this problem needs to be addressed. Diversity of tactics, but not when it allows these psychos to get power of others to rape abuse & exploit.
In the Reed cafeteria during lunch a group called the Friends of Seasonal and ServiceWorkers has been attempting to organize students. I have spoken with
reedies who have volunteered and they have complained that the group tried
to push them into fairly intense covert activity to subvert the government
via a groundlevel organization. They required extremely high hours and
utilize pyschological pressure.
please view this page
 http://users.rcn.com/xnatlfed/index.html & especially the village voice condemnation of the group
and spread the word to friends and collegues.

Some background (from the site roughly), The main ground is called the
National Labor Federation, aka the Provisional Communist Party, aka the
Formation.
In November 1996 NATLFED's NYC headquarters were raided by police and FBI.
NATLFED actually has been active for over 27 years in dozens of small
fronts across the country. NATLFED fronts, using innocent names like
"Western Service Workers Association," "Eastern Farm Workers Association,"
"Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals," and "Women's Press
Collective," lure liberal volunteers from communities and colleges into
'brainwashed' separation from their families, jobs, and friends. In
portland the front is the friends of seasonal and service workers.
The police discovered an arsenal of weapons, drugs, and stolen goods.
Members had received sustained beatings, psychological, sexual, and verbal
abuse. Members were systematically worker for extremely long hours, and
isolated from outside contacts. The group structure is startling
authoritarian and originally centered around a personality cult of the now
dead leader who declared war on California in the 70's.

In speaking with them they told me they try to organize those who are
unprotected by laws and utilize direct action. It sounded all fine and
dandy but they were forceful and intrusive. They also were pretty into
money. SOme students I spoke with felt assualted. They offer 'organizer
trainings' that span some 7hrs every saturday in their office around
burnside.

from that website (an ex-member)
"I found this site through doing a search on Gino's name. I had a dream about the organization last night, but until today I didn't know the Old Man was dead. I cried. He was a terrible man in so many ways, but there was a time in my life I would have died for him. Even in these dreams I am going back and arguing with him, I want him to admit something, but I'm not sure what...

One of the worst things about leaving, about ever having been there at all, is the sense of disconnection with your own past. There are people I lived with for years whose names I can't even remember, and yet they, better than anyone else in my life, might understand that I still dream of that place, and of Gino, years later. I was surprised to find out Harold was an escaped convict I guess, but towards the end I thought maybe he was too authentic even for NOC. So many of these newspaper stories have little inaccuracies, and sensationalize all the wrong things... It was only one room that was called the Cave, for one thing. Your background work on this site is excellent.

If I might be so brash as to say that people like Jeff Whitnack ("Gino Perente, NATLFED & the Provisional Party," The Public Eye, 1984) get this story all wrong. They get it wrong because they say too much about having done too little. Did Jeff Whitnack join the organization to find something to write about? One can't help but suspect... He misses out because for him it was all a sense of getting in over one's head. But for some of us, we couldn't wait to dive in deeper. We wanted, more than anything, that sense of implication.

I saw reference on this site to the fact that there was no violence at NOC and I want to say that isn't the case. People were beaten, one or two on a fairly regular basis. How long did this go on for? I don't know. At least a year to my knowledge. I think I say this to tell perhaps some of the entity people, current and present, who are thinking -- what harm done, all in all? Black eyes and broken ribs. Plenty of harm done. At NOC to fall into the inner circle (which was not the Central Committee but simply an assortment of people in Gino's favor) was to risk having that happen.

I can't believe now that it was so long ago, at work I still have to remind myself it's OK to go home, it's not required to stay up all night anymore. But I loved him, you know. Even when I knew he was a fraud, even after he made that clear. At the time I thought it wasn't dying I was afraid of, it was living like that for more years. Maybe. I don't know. I used to think that Gino wanted someone to kill him, that that was the only important way he could think of to die. I think that's what he wanted most. To be important. To be at the center of his own world."

more bizarre ties 07.Dec.2002 21:25

anon

It turns out there are ties to the NCLC which was another crazy violent marxist cult that actually launched attacks on the CP USA & the SWP (the trotskyist party). They are also tied to the IWP which yielded the New Alliance Party which merged with Ross Perot inspired Patriot Party. Moreover some members of this group went on to form the SLA, symbionese liberation army who kidnapped patty hearst and conducted bank robberies and murder. WHat is common to all is bizarre political and economic ideology that swings from left to right (many of these groups became reganites in the 80s) to gain more followers.

ooh boy 07.Dec.2002 23:25

duncan

The US Govt is subverting the Constitution anfd I am supposed to be afraid of a bunch of reedies in a lunch room??

Give me a break.

Thnak you for enabling the fbi/cia 08.Dec.2002 05:24

John Paul Cupp

This is foolish anti-communism that is enabling the usa government. what you are subjectively fighting for is illrelevant and skeptical at that, but the point is objectively this is reactionary because it enables imperialism and reaction. Also Let me give you a bit of history on the support base. 1. the vencermos organization came out of the same care and movement and while somewhat of an adventurist organization it was never a cult, and played an important role in the pre-rcp era when the pro-cuba and pro-mao lines were not as distinct.
jp

The Learning Curve 08.Dec.2002 06:52

W.B. Reeves, IMC Atlanta

Arguing that criticism of radical groups is "objectively" aiding reaction, Imperialism, etc., is an error that has afflicted us for well over 70 years. It has played a major role in some of the most bloody, shameful and self destructive episodes in the history of the movement for radical social change. Wherever there has been a purge or a violent supression of basic liberties, this particular hobby horse has been ridden by executioners masquerading as revolutionaries.

In my experience the results of this approach have been to disarm the movements for peace and social justice by making them vunerable to the attacks of openly reactionary forces. To remain silent in the face of political criminality, whether petty or egregious,is to be complicit in such crimes. A fact that most people will recognize when the enemies of peace and justice expose such activities and point a hypocritical but accusing finger at our silence.

The Learning Curve 08.Dec.2002 06:52

W.B. Reeves, IMC Atlanta

Arguing that criticism of radical groups is "objectively" aiding reaction, Imperialism, etc., is an error that has afflicted us for well over 70 years. It has played a major role in some of the most bloody, shameful and self destructive episodes in the history of the movement for radical social change. Wherever there has been a purge or a violent supression of basic liberties, this particular hobby horse has been ridden by executioners masquerading as revolutionaries.

In my experience the results of this approach have been to disarm the movements for peace and social justice by making them vunerable to the attacks of openly reactionary forces. To remain silent in the face of political criminality, whether petty or egregious,is to be complicit in such crimes. A fact that most people will recognize when the enemies of peace and justice expose such activities and point a hypocritical but accusing finger at our silence.

The Learning Curve 08.Dec.2002 06:52

W.B. Reeves, IMC Atlanta

Arguing that criticism of radical groups is "objectively" aiding reaction, Imperialism, etc., is an error that has afflicted us for well over 70 years. It has played a major role in some of the most bloody, shameful and self destructive episodes in the history of the movement for radical social change. Wherever there has been a purge or a violent supression of basic liberties, this particular hobby horse has been ridden by executioners masquerading as revolutionaries.

In my experience the results of this approach have been to disarm the movements for peace and social justice by making them vunerable to the attacks of openly reactionary forces. To remain silent in the face of political criminality, whether petty or egregious,is to be complicit in such crimes. A fact that most people will recognize when the enemies of peace and justice expose such activities and point a hypocritical but accusing finger at our silence.

i concur 08.Dec.2002 15:36

anon

Danger is danger. Anytime when people stand to gain authority and power over others is a danger. I think that lovers of freedom need to stand up to those who threaten to do away with such whether they are on the left, right, or wherever. When authoritarian communists abuse people, and commit psychological warfare against their members we ought to speak out and criticize them. This is also true of their totalitarian tendencies in general. Wherever communist nations have sprung up artists, intellectuals, anarchists, and all free thinkers were some of the firsts to meet their brutal execution squads. We can't forget this, not in the face of their covert organizing of large movements. Not after the spanish civil war, makhno, or kronstadt.

why is it that?... 08.Dec.2002 17:24

IMCer

i must first say that i am not a member of any political "party" because i don't care to hold the views that others hold--my views are my own, even if others concur with them, ya dig?

so why is it that no names come up until the *evidentiary* text was listed which starts out "I found this site through doing a search on Gino's name"--who the fuck is "Gino" to me? i ask this because generally, names are referenced *as* or before they are used textually. i'm not a journalist extraordinaire but i do understand why such would be a good rule of thumb in terms of providing "objective" news.

maybe sources are needed ("in speaking with them"); barring source info, an explanation of why such information cannot be provided.

i could just "research" this story for myself. i myself don't post the most well-researched articles so i can understand. at any rate, this is why i stick to posting "opinion-commentary/editorial" crap.

and you should never be "frightened" "anon", that could a/effect your reporting, IMO. maybe try reporting without fear.

IMO, to say the least, this article makes little "sense
(if any?) to me. i am sorry.

The Same Anarchist Hogwash 08.Dec.2002 17:31

Cort Greene

Seems like the main article is the same anti Communist crap we hear from all anarchists. All they do is support the Capitalists at every turn !!!

Bushies Little Helpers 08.Dec.2002 19:51

you're my bitch

When this administration finally gets around to openly waging war on all US commies, Anarchos will proudly assist the Brownshirts in identifying and rounding up the Reds. I wonder if that's why Hitler's Final Solution was such a huge success. The Nazis probably had plenty of petty Anarcos around marching side by side with them through the neighborhoods, secretly naming all the commies they knew and pointing out where they live.

Results of that Commie vs. Anarcho rivalry:

Nazis 1, Commies O

'Authoritarian Cult'? 08.Dec.2002 23:44

blah

could be a descriptive term for most of the faculty, students, and staff at [Rich Kid] Reed College . . .

Please... 09.Dec.2002 04:14

soem dumbass

yeah dude, those mimumun wage-earning immigrants and punks in the cafeteria and janitorial staff are TOTALLy in cahoots with the rich kids and professors! I know, because Cort Greene told me so!

Hey Cort, where have you been? getting re-programmed? Cashing in some of your well-earned government R&R in Costa Rica, maybe?

Don't forget to take your meds, sweetheart!

'Please', indeed 09.Dec.2002 17:07

black

"mimumun [sic] wage-earning immigrants and punks in the cafeteria and janitorial staff"--

are still wage slaves for a rich-kids private school.

Just as everyone working for a hourly-wage living in Amerikkka today, is enslaved--one way or another--by the wealthy classes.

(who are YOUR employment bosses?)
'Please', indeed
'Please', indeed

that picture 10.Dec.2002 01:19

beavis

black-

i'm enjoying my own little private joke re:that picture and this discussion. was that your intent? (in which case I'm guessing you'll know what I'm talking about)

I missed this discussion by a year 26.Mar.2004 04:01

liv liv0815@yahoo.com

Hey, if anyone finds this bizar discussion while trying to find out about Natlfed, ESWA/CCMP,EFWA or whatever, you can write me and ask questions. I was in for over 4 years.

To be brief, it's worth knowing some folks have had real bad experiences in the group. They do a lot of good work, but they have some shit going on in the background that is truly undemocratic, unhealthy and down right counter revolutionary.

xo
liv
 liv0815@yahoo.com

cite sources 11.Jun.2004 07:00

cali

I was doing research on the Western Service Workers Association (WSWA) and found this. This site's article and the article that was copied and pasted have no sources listed. Both articles are grossly misinformed and grotesquely misleading. There used to be (i can't find it anymore) a whole site dedicated to condemning the "National Labor Federation", the umbrella term used for all the organizations throughout the country. That site was full of tabloid sensationalism is probably the one that the former "member" was referring to when he said it was an excellently researched site. To set the record straight from one honest person's experience, this organization, as i know it, is good and does incredibly valuable work in communities. They are run quite literally "for the people and by the people" and instead of just handing out food they get people thinking about the causes of poverty and possible solutions. The cuases are no great mystery if you look around at the world today. The website out there makes everything they do sound spooky, which is really sad. What it conveniently and deliberately doesn't mention is that they help so many people who otherwise would not have had anywhere else to go with such things as legal advice, medical care, dental care, food, clothing, and housing, basic necessities, which this organization maintains should be available to all. Yes, they do keep long hours, but that's because there is lot's of work to be done. And yes, there is lot's of paperwork, but that's because they take care in being accountable and want all info to be accessible to anyone. And yes, they are persuasive, but if you were lived and worked in such needlessly poor areas then you'd feel the need to be persuasive too. And yes, their draw and appeal is strong to someone who cares about humanity, because they offer realistic and doable solutions. And yes, they are political, because how else can you make change in society? And yes they have to talk about capitalism and socialism and communism because you have to understand the world you live in if you are going to improve it. Social movements don't happen by being quiet, or by giving up as soon as bad press gets out, and they have to start somewhere, like on your campus. So, to all those that saw the Friends of Seasonal Workers (who are, you know, the people that pick your food from the fields at wages barely enough to live on) at their school and decided to form opinions without even going for a day or more to volunteer (unless maybe 7 hours is too long for you), if you do want to help the dire situation of the world today (and if you don't believe it's dire, do something really difficult like watch the world news or talk to some of the people from the poor hoods that the organization is in), instead of vascillating if something is right or wrong and throwing terms around like "crazy" and "psycho", get of your ass and do something about it instead by volunteering and finding out for yourself.

follow up 11.Jun.2004 07:53

cali

Just to follow up with what i just wrote... I'm now more aquainted with what this site itself is about, and i'm disappointed that a site with such good intentions would let an unfounded article get published here, especially about a group that in accordance with a lot of the ideals mentioned on this site.

NO WAY! 30.Jul.2004 09:39

imc supporter

I used to volunteer with a group affilated with NATLFED. Let me tell you, they are a cult. They do engage in brainwashing and they do try to split people from their families. I witnessed itself myself, first hand. They have absolutely nothing to do with radical politics or what this website claims to stand for and may even be part of some sort of COINTELPRO operation whether willingly or unwillingly. I fell for their scam and deeply reget it. It almost permanently turned me off to radical politics in this country. But, perhaps that is their goal...

You really need to wonder what's up with political organizations that refuse to work with (any) other organizations and refuse to (ever) use the internet. You really need to wonder about social organizations that claim to be independent "entities" (their term) but are actually controlled by a shady outfit that refuses to go public. You really need to wonder about labor organizations that have not signed a single contract for their members or brought any tangible benefit to their members.

I too was a member of Natlfed (Eastern Farmworkers) 27.Nov.2004 00:13

Mitchel Cohen mitchelcohen@mindspring.com

One cannot dismiss the appeal of the so-called "National Labor Federation" by simply saying it was a "cult."

I met Gino Perente in 1972 when he, and Polly Gardner, and Mary Seeber (all dead now), and Elizabeth Logan (where is she?) came by one of the Red Balloon Collective suites in the dorms at SUNY Stony Brook, and we'd have all-night sessions.

I went with Mary and Polly (who was 16 at the time!) to organize farmworkers in the migrant shacks in the East end of Long Island, New York. We got shot at by the crew chiefs and their hirelings; we moved evicted farmworker back into their "homes" with all their meager belongings. And, yes, we built a free medical clinic in the town of Riverhead NY.

So there were indeed stalinist and cult-like aspects to this organization. But unlike other cults, it did solid (if nerve-wracking, and unnecessarily authoritarian) work.

As to its alleged ties with LaRouche, this is one of the funniest parts of the history. I was there for all of that. I remember going with Gino, Mary, Polly and several others to a talk by the LaRouchies at Columbia University around 1975. This was when LaRouche (aka "Lyn Marcus") was in his "Women as Vampire" phase (his wife had run off with another member to England -- that was the basis for years and years of political psychobabble from LaRouche), and everything was being blamed on "the Mother" for sucking the energy and politics out of kids.

The LaRouchies used this as a way to bypass sticky arguments.

Anyway, we were in a first-floor classroom jammed with 50 or 60 people, the EFWA (Eastern Farmworkers Association) organizers including me standing in the back, and Gino, in his black leather jacket, says to the speaker from US Labor Party (LaRouche): "Punk, you don't say anything about what you're going to actually DO to make the revolution."

The guy prattles about something, Gino cuts him off with some witty reparte, and the guy shoots back: "You're only saying that because you, like all of us, had an unnatural attachment to your mother."

Gino, a master at cutting through academic bullshit, rips his own jacket off as he climbs over people to get to the front, hissing, "Dat's my mudder your tawkin' about!" and flattens the guy. And the room full of Larouchies and potential recruits goes flying out the windows (first floor). I never saw a room clear out so fast, as Gino, Mary, Polly and I laughed and laughed.

There's a lot more, a lot to hate too, but we'll never understand the DRAW if we try to pigeon-hole the organization and its leader into a typified psych-study, the way Chip Berlet and others do. They miss the things that were so powerful about being there, that made you WANT TO stay up all night round the clock, do stupid paperwork all day long, to be IMMEDIATELY RELEVANT, to work under an actual longterm strategy (however delusional it may have turned out).

My friend Van and I had long been out of the group by the time Gino died in 1995, but we felt the need to go together to his funeral in Staten Island (of all places) to see old comrades (some enemies), and basically to MAKE SURE GINO WAS ACTUALLY DEAD, and this wasn't yet another trick he was pulling on us!

Write to me if you want to discuss this further .... It's been a long time since I've thought much about it.

Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens / Green Party of NY

Brooklyn, NY

Another Comment from an Ex-cadre 18.Jun.2005 10:40

Robin Spellman Fahlberg 5Fahlber@stu.jmls.edu

I worked with the National Labor Federation and was a member of CPUSA, Provisional (the Formation) which built the organizations that make up naltfed for 14 years. There is nothing sinister about the theory of how mutual benefits associations, like Eastern Farm Workers Association, Eastern Service Workers Association, etc., work. In fact, if implemented they provide a way for low income workers in our communities to have a voice - something that is sorely lacking in our society today. They also provide for basic needs for many who could not go elsewhere. And they do things as elaborated on in Mitch Cohen's stories. There are some very dedicated, good people who run these organizations. Although I am no longer a communist or socialist, I see nothing wrong with having a party, even a clandestine party, espousing these beliefs. I would disagree with the beliefs, but that is part of what makes this country strong. We can all believe as we want. What was sinister, wrong, and hurt many people in the Formation when I was there, was that at it's head was a genious who was also power-hungry and probably mentally unstable, Gino Perente. He had a small inner circle who were equally power hungry. They undermined anything that got started by an entity that threatened their power base. If you built to good a benefits program, if you got involved in a fight on behalf of your membership and started winning, or did anything successful, something would be done to make sure it did not continue. When I left, and for a long time after, I thought this was inadvertent. But, from conversations and thinking about different incidents, I believe it was purposeful and conscious. You could not believe a word Gino said. He told lies with half-truths constantly. If he got caught lying by someone he would admit it and then have some reason that the lie had to be told and would tell the person catching him that they were now part of the select few who understood. He used to say he could sell ice to an Eskimo - I believe he probably could have. He got rid of anyone who became a threat to him having power. The manipulations and lies included physical abuse, mental abuse and anything else that would keep the power with him. If you were working in the entity, things were manipulated so that everything that went wrong was your fault, regardless if it had been directed through NOC. Your confidence was so eroded that you would never think of splitting from the national organization. I never met Margaret Ribar who took over the top spot after Gino died. But, those I know who do say she is just as bad. The irony of this is that the entities do things that no one else will for low income people, in spite of the national leadership. Those who saw the results and knew the problems facing the membership of these organizations hate to criticise the national administration because you don't want the local work to stop. You remember those you helped and who became your friends.

A relief 21.Jun.2005 14:32

Bob

Thank you to those above who have had direct experience with Gino Perente and have taken the time to say a lot about their experiences. If any of you read this and want to correspond a bit about it, I'd like to. I haven't been able to really talk to anyone about this since I joined for a couple of months back in '84 or so. Yesterday was the first time it occurred to me to check the Internet and I am so relieved to find out that so many others shared my impressions of Gino and his organizations. My own experience was that it split me very deeply in the way that the previous writer pointed out. We were doing things for people that nobody else would do. Bringing food to hungry people and helping them learn to advocate for themselves. We became their friends in a way that no one else was interested in doing. It was a unique experience. But it took only a couple of months for me to become more exposed to the darker, power-hungry side of this organization. When I told them I didn't want to continue, it became a little scary. I got out after some time, but it left an indelible impression on me. I was in groups where Gino spoke to us and had a private interview with him in order to be permitted to leave. He was extremely gifted in his ability to connect with people and bring them under his influence. He had intense perception into people. But all in all, I found him pretty scary and didn't like him. He was just too intense about things.

knew Gino 26.Jun.2005 09:07

Gnomon I_gnomon@excite.com

I want to share a first person story about Gino's broken leg. When a leg brakes it becomes weaker and more easily brakes again and his leg broke on more than one occasion. What I witness was a result of the mid 80's raid. Gino leg was broken from a 2-3 story fall while he was trying to vacate the area. The police questioned him for hours without allowing him medical care, this led to gangrene and eventual amputation as well as whatever contribution the deterioration added to his death. I helped take care of him some afterwards and when his life was in danger he asked that I take charge of organizing his funeral. I had many strong disagreements with Gino and would have many more today but I do not doubt he was genuine in his base desire to train revolutionaries and I think he succeeded in this. My understanding of Marxist Leninism on a practice oriented level included a fair amount of anarchist understanding in relationship to taking responsibility for ones own actions and for the last 3 or 4 years of association with Gino I had clearly stated disagreements. This included objecting to his taking on the position of field command as I felt it's role description inherently alienated individual cadre from their responsibility and desire to make the revolution. I also objected to the structure of NOC that I felt violated the requirement of party members to do party work and created a influential block of cadre who where inexperienced and easily manipulated. I finally broke with Gino completely because I felt he sabotages some field entities because he felt they might become powerful enough to split off from national leadership. If nothing else my work with Gino gave me a complete understanding of the inherent disabling effects of the hierarchal structure that does not amount to name calling. I feel there is something essentially classist underlining folks like Jeff Witnack and Chip Berlet who go around bad mouthing a man who has been dead many years because of the theory he taught. Although I am an anarchist I find Marx's study of capital to be important to my political theory. With Gino it's very much the same with his understanding of how to formulate a political analysis and understand what's going on in the world. Gino educational analysis factored in an understanding of the effects political repression in the 30' and 40' (the same political oppression that took father's from both Gino and my mother as a child) on U.S. higher educational system and his classes underlining content was an attack on the basic para dyne held by those system, someone as invested into that para dyne as Jeff witnack (and quite frankly most of both the anarchist and communist movements) could not listen to them honestly without facing the contradictions around the education to which their social and economic status is founded.

Gino was Destructive - Despite any Contrary Motivation 27.Jun.2005 07:34

Robin Spellman Fahlberg

I did not spend a great deal of time at NOC, so I did not know Gino that well, or his motivations, especially in later years. I could however see the results. Let's start with the raids in February 1984. Although I did not put everything together until years later, the facts lead to a conclusion that Gino brought these on the organization on purpose. When I first started in Wayne County, a fellow cadre, who was there when Abraham Rodriguez was evicted in Lyons, told me that Gino orchestrated the police action on purpose. He had the "cold" phone calls say something like "we're planning something big", and other indications of an action on our part. He knew the FBI was listening and he knew the result would be multiple police officers at the eviction. Before the February raid he did the same thing. The calls from NOC to the entities were full of statements like "get loans because we'll be in power in a week". The last NLC was held across the street from NOC with field cadre rotating through NOC. He had to know these actions along with the announcement of TWOC organizing temp workers and ex-cadre affidavits and statements would bring police action at NOC and in New Brunswick. Then after the raids he said we had to have this pre-emptive stirke and withstand it because of a new conference which happened in Upstate NY. The so-called news conference about Rodriguez's case was initiated from his end. David Shapiro, Kit Decious and Mark Heimbach were in upstate and directed to do this. He then blamed the failure of the insurrection on the actions of Shapiro and Heimbach (surprise! these were 2 of his main rivals for power) and claimed victory after the raids. This does not sound like very revolutionary action. It stinks of power mongering and wanting to retain the head position in the organization.
Then there were his exit interview procedures. He would bully people, lock them in rooms, and what not. Then there were his victoms of physical abuse, either directly or indirectly at NOC. At some point in time, he may have really believed in a revolution and winning power for working people. But his actions in later years overshadow this. Instead, his motives seem to have been to simply stay in power.

no disagreement with bad effects 27.Jun.2005 10:44

Gnomon I_gnomon@excite.com

As I stated I had strong disagreements with Gino, I am aware of several times field entities had made a great deal of progress and then become sabotage by a hiearchal structure that was afraid of lossing control. This is not unussual with M-L history, more often than not the official parties got settled into thier institutional patterns of stagnation and it was a regional brake off group that actually got things moving. TWOC is a fine example, they had made significant progress through pick-lines on the trenton commons back in '79 that set up the pentential of a law case that could have created a challenged to the National Labors relations laws. I know before this in trenton a smaller campaign in Hightstown had obviously been sabotaged. Within two years the operations manager left after releasing an interrior statement very critical of the national office, this is one of just of dozens of cases. The power struggles at the top is inherent, i beleave, in a hiearchal system. It really is the same with Marx, he calls for the DOP right in the manifesto and it leads to this shit just like if you really look at Niche he leads to Nazi's, if you reduce it to a cult it's just not possible to understand an analysis the cause and effects. I had exit interviews, and yeah Gino set people up and was heavy handed, and it happened around the time Jeff witnacks artical came out. It did anything but help because it was so full of shit, it just is not at all helpful, it discredits valid critism as well as whatever was valuable in what Gino did. Some of those things I did with him and i know they where of value. But like I said, even though marx leads to this I still look toward his works on understanding capitalism as vital, and like I said his teachings on understanding the historical analysis of a situation was valuable too. look at the crap some of these accusations made, they ask for money, half the anarchist info shops stated today fall apart because they can't pay rent while dozens of activists play jet setter play acto-tourist. You know where the money went, where the turkeys went. This is the same kind of thinking that gave us the united way, political groups do have to get money from those who have it. Spreading this kind of crap will never slow natlfed down, because they have a strong institution and they can show up thier lies but what it can and does do is stop people who have learned skills and madfe sacrifices from braking away from natlfed without giving up thier history and thier experiences. Just convincing them they were part of a cult as much steals thier opportunity, I have disagreements that I made to gino face, and if you have heard stories about exit interviews you know how intense that could be. But People like Jeff and Chip will never be on my side, and in the end I have to feel that although he was wrong in many points Gino was on myside and he did give me somethings I could use toward my profit. This is something that is often forgotten today, "which side or you on" is very real because when thier is oppression and war and people being hurt you have to be on sides. People who realise this move a little bit away some of the more petty aspects of idiology. Gino was no saint, he was fucked up and part of being poltically aware as a member of a species heading rapidly toward extincktion that will hopefully not include the rest of the planet is that we are all fucked up. Did he do things wrong, yes. Are you saying that he did nothing right? That thier is no value in what he did do? He is dead, I beleave he intentionally left structual designs within the organization that guaranttees it will contenue to fail while it prolonged in someways his educational system. Slanders and petty critisisms will in no way slow down his efforts because they do not speak to people who know facts that discredit the positions of those who depend on slanders. All they hurt are the people who want to convert hard won skills and long term commitments to struggle from entering into other areas than those controled by natlfed. I understand that you want to help X cadre heal and prevent others from being sucked into the natlfed system, my interest is not to let valuable people with a proven commitment from struggle to be cut off by the ego trips of loosers like Jeff and Chis. I felt very betrade by Gino, but part of healing is really understanding that not everything he did was evil and fucked up. I am not looking for an argument with you, and i don't think we have any disagreements, but you say you where an ops manager for over a decade and I dan't beleave you really are going to say nothing real was being accomplished in that time. T

Gnomon

A Positive Outcome from This Discussion 27.Jun.2005 13:48

Robin Spellman Fahlberg 5Fahlber@stu.jmls.edu

I agree with you on many points. One is that when you have a centralist structure with no checks and balances on power, it leads to the type of situation that existed with Gino and at NOC. In addition to training organizers, this type of structure destroys them. I believe this is the first time in 12 years I've wanted to have a political discussion with anyone. I'm still confined to writing because I suffer anxiety attacks when I get into heated verbal discussions. I instend to overcome this, but Natlfed left alot of very good organizers with a bad taste in their mouth for anything remotely political. I went back to school for engineering of all things because it was remote from politics.
I do not want a dictatorship of the proletariot, a dictatorship of the bourgeosie, or any dictatorship of any kind in this country. I do want a government that make policies and promotes programs that benefit all interest groups in the country. There are many competing and sometimes contradictory interests in this nation and for that part the world. Labor, for instance, needs good, steady jobs with decent pay and benefits. The rest of the country has an interest in seeing this because we need a stable reliable workforce and a consumer base. Capital needs a return on investment. We need capital to be invested into the economic infrastructure of the country and the world to provide the things that people need and want. If there is no return on investment, people stop investing in new companies, new technologies and other enterprises that promote a healthy economy for all.
why should I invest my money instead of spending it on what I want now if I'm not going to get a return? There are additional interest groups as well. We all need each other and we need a government that works out policies and programs that take into account and advance the interests of ALL citizens. A country (and a world) is in real trouble if a significant portion of it's populace is completely unrepresented in the government and is not a productive part of the society.
Unfortunately, in this country, lower income, unrecognized workers are such a group. This country will never be well until they are represented along with everyone else. But, I do not think it is a matter of class struggle. One class gets to win and the other loses. Call me an optimist, but I think there is enough intelligent and innovative minds in this country, that if given the chance we can find solutions that will advance everyone. Again, this won't happen unless everyone has a voice. This is the struggle I see.
I don't like labels and cult is one. But, any organization that uses mind control and manipulation to control it's member - instead of utilizing a free flow of ideas and dialogue to move forward is not good (for want of a better word).
For the record, I liked Gino. You could hardly help liking him. I also respected him for what he did do and had a good healthy fear of him as well. But, I cannot ignore what happened.

whatever happened to.... 01.Aug.2005 18:10

Another former Natlfed'er caveatmptr@yahoo.com

I was there too - What happened to Mary and Polly?
Personally I wouldn't be surprised if they died from lung cancer.
There was so fricking much cigarette smoke in those places.

Polly died--Mary split, last I heard 26.Oct.2005 01:27

Bill Abendroth billaben@teleport.com

Christ almighty, it's been a long time.....I was cadre for four years, from 1980-84. I mainly worked in San Diego, but did stints in Orange County, Santa Cruz, Oakland, and at Coshad--the west coast office. Friends of Seasonal & Service Workers has a store front, not too far from my office. I'm always tempted to stop in & see just what the new Party line is.

I can't believe that people are still keeping that operation running. It's amazing to me. As to whether they are actually dangerous...I know I felt that way when I left lo these twenty years ago. But that was a time.

another rambling reminiscence 18.Mar.2006 08:34

another old comrade

Well... where to begin?
I was one of the few local folks to get recruited into this thing, just a few months after the beginning in 1972. Because I still had nearby community, friends, and family, I didn't get as isolated as most. Unlike others, I had some political experience and ideas of my own that I took in with me and never forgot.
In the early days, the organization was wildly imaginative and interesting. This was largely Gino's influence, but there were some other brilliant minds around, notably David Shapiro's, who probably would have done a far better job if he'd been in charge. We were out on migrant labor camps every day, agitating and making promises we couldn't keep, but giving hope to lost souls who probably had never experienced hope in their sorry lives.
When I first met Gino, I learned his birthday was 20 November; at various times her claimed 1938 or 1939. At various times I demanded to know if it wasn't 1934 - which would have given him a birthday next to Charlie Manson's. This was one of the few times I unnverved him, but he assured me it wasn't 1934. At his death, guess what? It was 1934 after all.

Speaking of his death, how many individuals can claim that later corrections to their New York Times obituary took up more space than the actual obit? Of course none can, since they're dead, but I suspect there would be only one in the history of the newspaper. And the original obit was a big one, too, all fed to the paper by the loyal acolytes. Gino's ex-wife was responsible for most of the corrections.

I started catching Gino in lies almost as soon as we met, and didn't like the experience much. I didn't like a guy who often seemed to be a genuine best friend and good buddy revealing that he held me in such total contempt. However, I kept coming back, for a lot of reasons. One was that I saw everything else that was supposed to radical wither away or prove completely inept, sold-out, etc., while the Eastern Farmworkers, the Californbia Service Workers (where Shapiro had a free hand for a while and whipped up an amazing campaign, briefly), and the newly-announced National Labor Federation were actually becoming what Gino had promised they would be - a national liberation movement, rooted in the underclass but involving all sorts of other folks as well. By 1975 or so, a lot of the migrant farm workers were loyal, active members, not only getting most of their basic needs met through a thriving (although chaotic) benefits program, but also exercising brains that had never been offered exercise before. Meanwhile, talks by Gino, Shapiro and others on labor history, dialectical materialism, commie strategy, etc., were absolutely alive with theoretical audacity and practical insights.
So I went back in full time for a while, and eventually found myself becoming a true believer. I was doing brilliant things too, and making a lot happen in the real world, which felt good. Best of all was the experience of finding and unleashing other people's creative energies and fighting spirit. Then, on January first 1976, we had a big meeting. It was announced that everything would come to a complete stop while all 'cadre' spent all their time, for as long as it took, cleaning the offices. It was true the offices needed cleaning badly, but this meant that projects would be lost, volunteers would depart, and our momentum in the outside world would waste away. At the time I had a brilliant photographer working with me to produce a slide show, with a sound track that included elderly members singing blues and spirituals as beautifully as anything you'll hear on historic recordings - the photographer realized we were insane and stopped returning my phone calls. The arbitrary, destructive, whimsical, and humiliating way the office-cleaning order was imposed did not bode well. I left in March, and returned later as a part-timer with my own projects, but the pointless lunacy and cultism were rapidly displacing all vestiges of the movement that had genuinely given meaning to many lives during the early 1970s.

I could write dozens more anecdotes, about Mary and Polly, about some genuinely heroic members (Godfrey Holmes, Eddie Rodriguez, Rastus Harris, Preacher Leo Tyler), adventures with guns and picket lines and infiltrators, the truth about the alleged LaRouche connection... but why bother?

Anyway, it's nice to see this discussion exists, and may it long continue. Maybe I'll check back and throw in some more anecdotes eventually, if anyone asks. Greetings to anyone who remembers me. Let's close with a prayer for the souls of those departed, may they find their torments entertaining and the flames illuminating.

http://www.writersartists.net
disconnected
far away

Continuing Discussion 07.Apr.2006 08:31

Robin Fahlberg

There is a continuing discussion on another board at: portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304593.shtml
You might want to add some comments for a mother who is looking for infomation.

remembering natlfed - and Gino [& struggler, polly and others) 03.May.2006 14:12

ex natlfed cdr

thanks to "another old comrade" for his "rambling reminiscence". I came several years later, but know your work well (passed out many leaflets and hawked many calendars with your quirky humorous artwork) and know of you by reputation (anecdote that sticks in my mind is something about you losing all the artwork for a calendar on the bus or subway, so that a rush substitute was required and the tradition of really ugly calendars began...)

i hope that you can find the time to reminiscence further.

personally i think that gino --& Natlfed -- deserves book-length treatment, by those of us who were actually there. Anyone else interested in an "oral history", assembling scattered reminiscences?

announcing a natlfed discussion group 07.May.2006 07:02

ex-natlfed cdr natlfed@yahoo.com

Hi, I just want to invite ex-Natlfed cadre to join the ex-natlfed cadre discussion group [this has no official connection with natlfed whatsoever]
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/natlfed/

and there's also a natlfed discussion group open to everyone who wants to discuss one of the most controversial organizations of the American left:
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/natlfed2/

ex -cadre 17.May.2006 15:41

ohwellian

On 9/11/2005 an ex-cadre was murdered by another ex-cadre in Medford OR. The dead was a manic-depressive and the perpetrator was/is schizophrenic, and both were essentially untreated. Remember them in your reunions would you? Thank You

Sad news 22.May.2006 01:50

Jeff Whitnack whitnack@pacbell.net

Ugh that is sad news from Medford. Do you know the names of the people involved? Was it Natlfed related somehow?

Mitch Cohen has stated that you can't dismiss the appeal of Natlfed by saying it's just a cult. How true, people whom don't try to understand Natlfed AND dismiss it as "just a cult" (i.e. the people ensnared aren't deserving of concern) miss an opportunity to at least expose and help.

But also you can't dismiss the cultic fundamental basis of Natlfed by saying it's just another political organization.

If I could make a dialectical coin to resemble Natlfed members one side would be labeled "Cult Member" and the other side labeled "Cadre". People ensnared in Natlfed operated out of a crude but well crafted cultic matrix, and also out of subjective beliefs as dedicated cadre fighting for change.

But at the end of the day, the only real way to understand Natlfed is to compare it to Scientology and the Moonies as opposed to real revolutionary groups. But to understand the personal motivations and beliefs of ex-members you look to those revolutionary groups.

My email is  whitnack@pacbell.net if anyone wishes to contact me.

Sad event in Medford 27.May.2006 13:57

Jeff Whitnack whitnack@pacbell.net

 http://www.mailtribune.com/archive/2005/0912/local/stories/06local.htm
or

 http://www.mailtribune.com/archive/2005/0918/local/stories/01local.htm

Jay Safley was a member of Natlfed. I remember talking to him both while he and I were members and also after we had both gotten out (I spoke with him over the phone at least once). I remember sitting across from him at a National Labor College in SF and getting instructions to "bring to Formation" a recruit (Dan Decious and I walked the person around the church during a break). Jay was a big burly guy and it seemed Natlfed liked to use him as their military fraction guy. At the Hayward murder trial (Faye McCabe) Jay was apparently ordered to stand at attention near the defense table (until a bailiff told him to sit down--which he did).

He described to me how he had been one of those sent to track me during the early 1980's, etc. It is sad that a man with so much potential had his own problems then also had them complicated with Natlfed membership. But he was stabbed by another person and it's unclear to me if Anthony Clubb was ever a member of Natlfed. I wouldn't read more into this than that.