Continuing the Discussion of Gino Perente and NATLFED
On December 7, 2002, an anonymous letter was posted on Portland IndyMedia about Gino Perente and the National Labor Federation, decrying the organization as a "cult".
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?) regularly 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.
Brooklyn Greens / Green Party of NY
address: Brooklyn, NY
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