Gino Perente, NATLFED & the Provisional Party
by Jeff Whitnack
Public Eye, 1984
It's Northern California in early 1971. On an island in the Feather River, about thirteen people are busy with shovels and picks digging a deep hole. The purpose of their endeavor is to enable them all to have a place to hide in case of a feared upcoming police dragnet. Soon the hole becomes so huge that the diggers need to be pulled up from the bottom before they can climb out.
Suddenly a motorboat is heard approaching the island. In the boat are two game wardens. Everyone scrambles and hides in the hole -- except for one man left standing near the island's shore clutching an M-1 rifle in his hand.
Attempting a ruse, he waves to the game wardens and shouts, "Sure hope I can get a big buck!"
"You'd better not, son," yells back one of the game wardens as they putt-putt on down the river, "It isn't deer season yet."
Beware the Ides of March!
This group of California hole-diggers was only one of several paramilitary squads organized during 1970-1971 by West Coast political organizer Gerald William Doeden, who apparently now uses the name Eugenio Perente.
Calling themselves the Liberation Army Revolutionary Group Organization (LARGO), they operated out of the Little Red Bookstore at 3191 Mission St. in San Francisco. According to several former LARGO members, Doeden had told them they were all a part of an organization called Venceremos. (Venceremos Organization was a revolutionary west coast political group active in the early seventies. It disbanded in October, 1973, and had been a prime target of the FBI's COINTELPRO disruption activities.)
Gerald Doeden's group had actually declared war on the State of California. To enunciate this position of armed struggle, LARGO mailed mimeographed proclamations in March of 1970 to several California county governments declaring that a "fully trained, equipped, and manned army of revolution will be operating in Northern California beginning March 15th."
The squad which was to lead the attacks got cold feet and backed out at the last minute. Following the collapse of the scheme to overthrow the government of California with a handful of earnest, but misguided revolutionaries, LARGO's leader--the self-appointed latter-day Lenin of the loose-knit adventurist Left, Gerry Doeden of California--simply vanished. Unlike the real Lenin, Doeden has not yet returned--at least not as Doeden--resurfacing instead as Eugenio Perente in Brooklyn, New York.
While LARGO would have undoubtedly failed to overthrow any government, it was large enough, armed enough, and fanatical enough to do real political and physical damage; not to the government, but to themselves and legitimate social change activists. Had LARGO actually launched its woefully-premature attempt at armed military campaigns, the resulting tragedy might have eclipsed the Symbionese Liberation Army's travails.
Dangerous Deja Vu
Today another Doeden-controlled political group is digging a similar, but far deeper and more dangerous hole. Under the umbrella name of the National Labor Federation (NATLFED), and operating through a large number of front groups, Doeden (as Perente) is secretly collecting naive recruits for what could easily become another LARGO-type fiasco.
NATLFED groups include the California Homemakers Association, Eastern Farm Workers Association, the Western and Eastern Service Workers Association, Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals, Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals, Temporary Workers Organizing Committee, National Equal Justice Association, and so on. A clandestine core group, thinly buried under all these organizations, calls itself the Communist Party USA (Provisional), Provisional Party, Provisional Communist Party, or Order of Lenin.
Most unnerving is the fact that the person who controls this vast web of interlocking organizations--Eugenio (Gino) Perente--is actually Gerald William Doeden; and further, that Perente is up to the same scenario as before, but this time using a sophisticated nationwide recruitment apparatus which has been successful in attracting volunteers, members to its associations, donations, etc., as well as avoiding any serious scrutiny by the progressive forces in this country. Perente has also apparently called himself Gino Savo and Vincente E. M. Perente-Ramos.
Looking Under the Rug
At first glance, the umbrella National Labor Federation may appear to be coordinating just another grass roots organizing drive. And, at first glance, the Provisional Party may appear to be just another communist party in the alphabet soup world of American communist parties. But investigations by several reporters, activists, and volunteer group coordinators suggest otherwise.
There is much evidence to suggest that NATLFED uses consciously implemented, psychologically manipulative techniques as part of its organizing recruitment program; its leadership purposely misrepresents the size, influence, and goals of the group to attract new recruits; it falsely claims to have an official or "special relationship" with several Latin American revolutionary organizations and socialist countries; diverts donations of food, clothing, and cash collected for the needy to the personal use of NATLFED cadre; recruits are required to provide the organization potentially-embarrassing personal information which can--and has--been used to blackmail members into discipline, and former members into silence; death threats are made to members who leave (or attempt to leave) the organization; and that NATLFED circulates false and defamatory information about its critics to community and progressive organizations throughout the country.
The above charges have been made not only by the Public Eye, but by other investigators, journalists, psychological counselors, as well as both former volunteers and volunteer coordinators who have had very negative experiences with NATLFED-controlled agencies engaged in social service activity.
Currently NATLFED is embroiled in a battle over control of a church-related volunteer agency--the Commission on Voluntary Service and Action, publishers of the volunteer service guide Invest Yourself. . . .
The purpose of this article is not to question the right of a revolutionary group to organize, but to examine serious charges of unethical procedures used to recruit individuals into the group, the unsavory and psychologically manipulative methods used to keep members in the group, and the deceptive and fraudulent organizing and fundraising practices of the group both inside and outside of its membership.
Furthermore, the article is intended to expose NATLFED as primarily a self-perpetuating cult, with no legitimate claim to being interested in social activism, Marxism, or revolutionary change.
The National Labor Federation
The National Labor Federation began with the founding of the Eastern Farm Workers Association on Long Island, NY, in 1972. The Association was founded by Perente and other organizers who apparently were unable or unwilling to work with Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers Organizing Committee.
Although the details are unclear, Perente may have spent some time after the LARGO fiasco and prior to organizing the Long Island [Eastern] Farm Workers Association engaged in farmworker organizing. Perente himself claims to have co-chaired the UFW boycott in New York City, although UFW officials deny Perente had any official post in that organization. Nevertheless, 1972 found Perente on the East Coast, having dropped the name Doeden, and involved with the fledgling Long Island association. Since then, Perente and his inner circle have launched other outreach associations which have formed the National Labor Federation.
NATLFED has expanded steadily, so that current organizing drives are located on the East Coast in New York, (New York City, Brooklyn, Utica, Long Island, Lyons, Northport, Smithtown, Bellport, Rochester) New Jersey(Atlantic City, Trenton, New Brunswick) Pittsfield and Boston, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On the West coast NATLFED is active in Medford, Oregon; and in the California cities of Redding; Sacramento; Oakland; San Francisco; Santa Cruz; Anaheim; and San Diego. [Webmaster note: This article was written in 1984. Check this site's current list of entities.] [This was the original web site's note, not that of anti-fascism.org]
You may have already run into this organization in any one of several ways--their door to door canvassing in low-income neighborhoods in search of members to sign cards and pay dues; their bucket drives in front of shopping centers in search of donations and volunteers; baked goods sales at college campuses; speaking engagements to churches; and their information tables. Or, you may have been the object of one of their drives to target a specific professional group for recruitment, such as has happened with sociologists, lawyers and medical professionals.
To understand NATLFED, one must first be aware that beneath that public reality is a secretive directorate, the "Provisional Party." The organizational structure of the various groups is best illustrated by visualizing onion-like layers.
The outer layer consists of what NATLFED cadre describe as their "mutual benefits associations," such social welfare organizations as the California Homemakers Association or the Eastern Farm Workers Association.
These "mass-based" associations are purportedly organized in the interest of the "unrecognized strata" of the labor force such as farmworkers, domestic workers, attendant care workers, and temporary workers. Cadre and volunteers busy themselves with such tasks as signing up low-income people as members, collecting and distributing various benefits such as food, legal services, and medical aid. This mixture of charity, social work, and advocacy obviously brings a small, but steady stream of both volunteers and needy people into their doors.
Parallel to this outward charitable effort by cadre and volunteers, two aspects are immediately evident insofar as their office style are concerned.
One aspect is the fact that the social work functions primarily as a framework for the collection, recording, and cross-referencing of all new information and names into a large and elaborate system of files and paperwork. NATLFED maintains massive files on the political views of thousands of social change activists across the country, with notations as to the potential for recruitment.
[Ed. Note: This habit led the Public Eye to charge in its first (1977) article on NATLFED that the information being collected by NATLFED was identical to that being collected by government agencies targeting activists, and to speculate as to the possibility of the NATLFED information reaching intelligence agency hands.]
Another notable aspect of NATLFED is the organization of all activity and information according to a pre-coded structure of workflow, hierarchy, abbreviated titles, jargon or special language. (Much of this descriptive language--used by NATLFED itself--is borrowed from regular communist organizational structure and theory.) Commonly, volunteers and cadre work late into the night bolstered by a steady stream of freely supplied coffee and cigarettes.
The next level of organization consists of Sponsors, Volunteer Coordinators, and various "Commissars" who provide the bureaucratic elbow grease to speed the flow of information toward the New York headquarters, and motivate--and sometimes coerce--volunteers and recruits.
The final innermost levels are within the Provisional Party. Many volunteers with NATLFED front organizations are unaware of the existence of the secret "Party."
Most members of the "Party" are expected to quit their jobs, and sever meaningful outside personal ties.
Former members tell of being ordered to "denounce" old friends, receiving letters censored by superiors, and being forced to write return letters to friends that were actually dictated by higher-ups in the organization.
Members are expected to work constantly, often operating at the point of exhaustion with an eighteen hour per day, seven day per week schedule while working both in a NATLFED front organization, as well as attending the various activities connected to the Provisional Party.
Professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and college professors are sometimes allowed to keep their well-paying, influential jobs while turning over money and contacts to NATLFED, but many others are told to quit and devote their time to the "Party." In either case, their time is still accountable to NATLFED on the same eighteen hour/day, seven day/week schedule.
Party members are willing to do this because they sincerely believe the revolution is imminent--so imminent that the Party has decided the date for the revolution to begin is sometime in early 1984.
[Ed. Note: Although the Provisional Party, in fact, had set the exact date for their attempted overthrow of the government, we feared that revealing this date--which we were totally convinced was merely another in a long series of fraudulent boasts used to keep cadre under discipline--would expose the members of the Provisional Party to the type of government repression the Public Eye has historically exposed and denounced.]
A Hidden Agenda
Critics of NATLFED charge it has a hidden agenda: the organizing by the mutual aid associations is not really to solve or address the specific problems of low-income persons, but rather to attract recruits to the Provisional Party. The organizing drives are the bait, which is one explanation for the inability of NATLFED groups to sustain any long-term program beyond the door-to-door level. The outward establishment of the "mutual benefits associations" provides a structure to sign up members in various communities through door-to-door canvassing, the canvassing itself then helps convince potential volunteers they are part of a legitimate grassroots organizing drive, the ongoing social service programs are used to attract well-meaning and idealistic volunteers, as well as to solicit goods and services from merchants--some of which goes to the needy, but much of which goes to the sustenance of the NATLFED cadre.
This merchant solicitation process has become so pressured at times as to be considered extortion by ex-members of NATLFED. One ex-member described a situation where organizing efforts in one area began to fail. The ranks of donating merchants dwindled and NATLFED organizers began to intensify their demands and finally resorted to actual threats. This led to a vicious circle where fewer and fewer merchants donated goods and services, less chance for the cadre to develop new contacts, and an ill-fed, undernourished cadre already short of medical services and unable to work productively for the expected 18-hour days.
Infusing New Blood
NATLFED has been fairly successful in getting college students assigned to projects for college credits in social work and related studies. For example, at Sacramento State College, California students are currently assigned to work with the California Homemakers Association (CHA) for credit. Friends World College in Huntington, Long Island, assigns students to the Eastern Farm Workers.
Antioch College in Ohio used to send students to the California Homemakers Association for course credit, but then canceled the arrangement when the charges of cult-like conditions at CHA started to surface in the mid-'70s.
One Antioch school administrator remarked, "much of what you're telling me about this group I've already heard from students. We canceled the program due to the lack of 'truth in advertising.'"
Another source of recruits for many years was the listing of numerous NATLFED fronts in a legitimate volunteer service catalog published by the church-related Commission on Voluntary Service and Action.
Like an auto-dealership, Perente's group works very hard using a variety of strategies to get interested people coming through the doors of their outlets. Then a pre-planned, stepwise recruitment protocol guarantees a steady influx of those volunteers into the full-time status of members in the Provisional Party.
In pulling in new recruits and keeping them in, a carrot and stick approach is used. The carrot is the slowly acknowledged and revealed projection of a powerful, large, and committed "party of revolution," with gross lies about its true history and strength.
NATLFED offers its volunteers training to become "certified" as "professional organizers" if they, in turn, make a definite commitment of their time. The chance is extended to be a "subject of history, and not just an object." Selected volunteers are given the chance to become "professional revolutionaries" as described in Lenin's "What Is To Be Done?"
Tidbits of information regarding NATLFED and the Provisional Party are meted out only after commitments are made--they'll tell you what lies inside the cookie jar if you agree with them as to the color of the jar and promise to help them bake the next batch.
But, like a Kafkaesque nightmare, inside the cookie jar lies another cookie jar with more of the same. It is this arrangement of revelation predicted on prior and unquestioning agreement and commitment that is typical of many cult organizations, be they religious or political in nature.
"We have to remember that people who walk in our doors don't know how to make a revolution or they would already be doing what we're doing," an Oakland member of the Provisional Party once told her fellow members in one of their clandestine meetings. "We're looking for people who want a revolution." That's the "Party Line."
On the day of their recruitment into the Provisional Party the cadre are told the tale of NATLFED's "historic genesis" which is claimed to have given rise to the Provisional Party, as well as the group's claims to have their secret headquarters in Cuba.
The "genesis" tale traces a trail from the old Communist Party, through the Progressive Labor groups guerrilla training in Cuba during the early sixties, guerrilla struggles in Guatemala around 1966, the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, United Farmworkers Union, and, just prior to forming the Eastern Farm Workers, the Venceremos Organization.
That's the carrot--a chance to be part of an historic struggle in an organization with real credentials and history.
The stick is the physical harm threatened to any one who would challenge or leave the Provisional Party. While there has not been any documented case of violence on this group's part, threats of both an overt and implied nature are common practice. Many ex-members go underground and fear for their personal safety. Many of the sources for this article agreed to talk to the Public Eye only if we absolutely guaranteed their anonymity.
The author himself received a direct threat when the Oakland leader warned him, "Whatever you have, you'll lose it." She then pointedly inquired as to my personal relationships with certain other persons she listed by name.
What distinguishes the Provisional Party from many other groups using the name of a communist party is not only that they lie about their past and present activities, but that the entire organization is actually a brilliantly conceived and self-sustaining cult community. The cult aspects start with the recruitment program and become increasingly evident as one scales up their hierarchical ladder.
The whole question of what makes a group a cult is a difficult and controversial topic, but in this case I speak from my own experience.
My Life and Times with NATLFED
I first ran into NATLFED in early 1981. Prior to that I had worked hauling garbage for six years in Chico, Fairfield and Richmond, California. Hauling garbage had been good money and exercise. I was used to the work and we would run through the route in 4-5 hours and still get paid for eight hours work. I liked the work outdoors and felt good about the fact that I could get up and go anywhere in the country and, without too much trouble, find a job making a living wage.
In addition to this work, I had recently been taking nursing prerequisites at a local community college, in anticipation of maybe someday entering the nursing program there.
But a back injury on the job soon changed my life. One day, while at work, I lifted a particularly heavy can. Suddenly it felt as if someone had plugged my lower back into a live wire. Thus began an Alice in Wonderland type journey into the reality of Workman's Compensation--waiting for months for late checks from the insurance company, constant and demeaning visits to various doctors and lawyers offices with constant innuendo from these professionals, as well as casual acquaintances, that I was perhaps faking my back injury.
Finally, after a year of going back to work, repeated back injuries, etc., it was medically decided that I would be unable to continue hauling garbage for a living. I was then eligible for a rehabilitation program and opted for a career in respiratory therapy--a field I had never heard of before, but since nursing wasn't offered to me, respiratory therapy seemed a related field where I could use my accumulation of knowledge gained from my nursing prerequisite classes.
In my classes and at hospital clinical rotations, I soon began to learn the high technology practice of ventilator management in intensive care units. While giving breathing treatments to patients with emphysema and bronchitis, and certain other aspects, were rewarding, I saw many people being kept "alive" on ventilators after every organ save the heart had failed. I began to witness capitalistic medicine carried to the extreme. Whereas I had started my career in nursing filled with idealistic notions about my possible role in the health care field, I began to find myself trained for what often were bizarre and cruel situations.
Both my frustration over my back injury and the subsequent loss of my job, along with my revulsion over certain aspects of medicine I was being trained for, spurred on another problem--the growing state of profound alienation I was developing with the local Bay Area left political scene.
It seemed to me that "respectable leftists" did their "political work" in trendy, short-term support groups for Gays, the Third World, prisoners, whales. Or they would travel to the latest mecca of revolution, returning to talk only to each other in endless forums and cafes, where the best of coffee and the richest of chocolates were served. I felt this "let them eat theory" perspective probably had more to do with the addition of croissants on the menu of Jack-In-the-Box that with any real political impact in this country.
To sum up--I was in a state of personal, economic, and ideological crisis. (I used to joke to my friends that I should sue over my back injury for developing a secondary disease called "Pol Potitis"--affecting the politically sensitive areas of the brain and leading to chronic outbreaks against the bourgeoisie and their professional henchmen.)
So, when NATLFED called, I was ready to answer.
The Recruitment Pitch
I had been involved with a political group collecting medical supplies from the East Bay to be sent to aid Nicaragua. One Saturday afternoon in early 1981, I was busy sorting through some of the supplies which had been stored in the basement of a Berkeley church. Several other people were also there helping out, among them an old acquaintance of mine, a Dr. Garth Shirnbaum. [Ed. note: all names of NATLFED cadre other than Perente's name have been altered.]
Towards the end of the sorting session, Shirnbaum called me aside and in private, with an air of great importance, told me he had something to talk to me about alone after the work was done. I was very curious as to what he had to say.
As soon as the sorting of medical supplies was over for the day, we both walked out the back door of the church and went and sat in his new Volkswagen Rabbit to talk. On the way out of the church, he asked me if I was cadre to any organization. When I said, "No," he seemed relieved and began talking.
It took two hours to hear him out. Shirnbaum started out by referring to the recent trip he had made to Nicaragua. He then moved on to painting a picture of the Nicaraguan revolution as one instigated by a super-clandestine group (the Sandinistas) who operated helpful associations to aid the poor of Nicaragua (like mutual benefits associations).
Then came the dares from Dr. Shirnbaum, "Would you have joined the Sandinistas if you had lived in Nicaragua then?
"I maintain that such an organization of revolutionary intent exists in this country now," asserted Shirnbaum with an air of total seriousness.
Then, without revealing much more, Dr. Shirnbaum gave me two phone numbers--one was for the Oakland chapter of California Homemakers Association (CHA). The other for the Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals (CCMP), also in Oakland. I was to call either number and use a code to signify that I had had the introductory lecture. Using the code meant saying that I was of "friend of Carlos" and then ask to speak to a woman named "Brook." (Looking back now, this code routine didn't seem to serve any real purpose of security, rather it acts as another screening filter. If, after having the canned rap, you then call up their office and use the code, it signifies that you accept their game of intrigue. But, if the person is too skeptical or scared, well then, there are other fish in the area.)
I had never heard anything negative about either CHA or CCMP before. That, combined with my knowing Shirnbaum personally, made it seem like a reasonable (and intriguing) thing to check out. That week, during a lunch break at one of my hospital clinical sites, I called up the CHA office and used the code, saying that I was a "friend of Carlos." That week, I casually asked several friends what they had ever heard of either CHA or CCMP. All I got back in reply was, "California Homemakers--aren't they the people that organize domestic workers? I think I hear them talking over KPFA (local radio station) a few years ago."
Sizing Things Up
So, the next Saturday I toured both the CHA and CCMP offices, went on a neighborhood canvass to sign up and collect dues from members in the low income neighborhoods of Oakland.
I was impressed. The volunteers and cadre I met seemed real sincere, dedicated and interested in their projects. These people, combined with the intrigue created by the talk with Dr. Shirnbaum and the vast array of activities--canvassing, housemeetings, outreach phoning, bucket drives, general medical sessions, well-child sessions, combined with the vast membership base in low income areas from coast to coast, all seemed to give them more legitimacy in my eyes. "What a contrast," I thought, "with the let's-talk-to-each-other nature of other left groups in the Bay Area."
Part of the bait that really hooked me was their Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals. Since I had been studying nursing earlier and most recently had entered respiratory therapy, this aspect of their organization held particular appeal. The CCMP held weekly General Medical Sessions and bi-weekly Well Child Sessions. At these sessions, community members receive "free comprehensive medical care" from medical professionals, supplies, and volunteers that had been organized by NATLFED.
Providing medical services is a much needed service in the Oakland community. More than enough cases of TB, anemia, malnutrition, idiotic health regimens, etc. came to my attention to contrast starkly with my study of spinning dials on ventilators.
Against this background of projected community organizing drive, developed the pitch to join the Provisional Party. Every other Sunday, they hold huge (two hundred people approximately) revivalist-style meetings, which they call the National Labor College. After a few weeks of volunteering with NATLFED, I was invited to join with them at one of these affairs.
These meetings are arranged to have a clandestine, serious and intriguing air. As one leader later remarked to me, "We want to hit them (new recruits) with formality." One Sunday, prior to leaving the CHA office, I gathered with several other new recruits and waited to set off. We were given a speech on the secretive nature of the upcoming meeting. Envelopes were handed to the NATLFED drivers which contained the address of the meeting. These envelopes were opened only after we had all gotten in the car. We drove across the Bay to San Francisco and entered a hall at the UCSF campus which had been reserved for the occasion. Prior to entering, you signed in and had to sign out before going to the bathroom.
The speaker at these meetings on the West Coast was Dr. Marcus Selene, a former sociology professor from a college in Ohio, who is now "Western Regional Political Commissar." At one National Labor College, Dr. Selene claimed to the audience that a Provisional Party member had just recently been killed in El Salvador after having been sent there "on assignment" from the Provisional Party to fight alongside their purported sister organization, the FMLN of El Salvador. This lent an air of importance and seriousness to the group.
At another of these meetings, held in May of 1981, one of their Hispanic leaders, a medical student named Alfred Damu, got up dressed in full military uniform and spoke to the assembled crowd. He proceeded to claim that he knew for a fact that a revolution would occur in Chile within two years. This tidbit of alleged internationalist knowledge was dropped on us to bolster the group's claim of ties to the international revolutionary movement.
Two weeks earlier, another NATLFED leader claimed, "This organization has just placed one of our members on the Teamsters' Union Executive Council." The idea was that NATLFED and the Provisional Party was a large and growing movement with increasing power and influence, both domestically and internationally.
During my Easter break from Respiratory Therapy school, I worked full time with NATLFED in Oakland. Working over eighteen hours a day and participating in many of their activities (and meeting their organizers), I became more enthused about the organization. At the end of my one week vacation, I dropped out of my Respiratory Therapy classes, as requested by NATLFED, and became a full-time "organizer" for NATLFED.
The 'Genesis Rap'
Just prior to the decision I made to join NATLFED, I was taken to a secret screening meeting in San Francisco with their West Coast leadership. It was here that, finally, their purported history (or "genesis" as they refer to it), along with the name "Provisional Party" was revealed to me by Dr. Marcus Selene. I paraphrase it here:
In 1958 our people were active in the CPUSA . . . then we were part of the Progressive Labor Movement . . . some 18 of our people went to Cuba in the 1960's (with Phillip Abott Luce) and were signatories to the founding OSPAAL accords. [Ed. note: OSPAAL is a Cuban solidarity agency.] These same people went to Guatemala where they participated in, and learned from, a disastrous Cuban- sponsored foco attempt at guerrilla warfare. . . . By 1968, our people returned from Guatemala and we were then active in the Bay Area Revolutionary Union on the West Coast. During the San Francisco State strike, the Progressive Labor Party set up a picket against our activities, so we shot seven of them to prove that we were serious . . . our tendency then became the Venceremos Organization. We sprang Ron Beatty from a prison van and hid him in Venceremos safehouses. . . . He turned state's evidence and so Venceremos had to be officially disbanded . . . but we formed "columns of forty" and later recontacted many of these former Venceremos members . . . this is how our present organization came to be.
Helping to substantiate their claims of "genesis" in my mind was an article I vaguely remembered from an old issue of The Nation. Rummaging through my old copies, I found it--May 17, 1980, "What's Left--A View of the Sectarian Left," by George Vickers.
The article contained the following sketch:
Within the BARU, however, a major rift appeared over the role of armed struggle in the party-building process. While one faction emphasized party-building, and changed its name to the Revolutionary Union (RU), Stanford Prof. Bruce Franklin, and others who advocated greater emphasis on armed struggle, broke off to form a new group called Venceremos. Many of the most militant Venceremos members were soon underground or in jail, and within a year those remaining in Venceremos dissolved the organization.
Unofficially, however, many of these former Venceremos members formed a clandestine group called the Communist Party USA (Provisional), which continues to organize through a front body, the National Labor Federation, which in turn is comprised of groups like the Eastern Farm Workers Assoc., Calif. Homemakers Assoc., and other projects set up to organize seasonal workers, temporary workers, and the unemployed. These groups currently have a total of perhaps 200 party members nationally.
Included in the "genesis" initiation lecture of the Provisional party is the claim that Perente's group is the officially recognized representative of Cuban solidarity in the United States, supposedly through the Organization of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (OSPAAL) in Havana, Cuba. The Provisional Party tells its members that, like the old Comintern based in Moscow, OSPAAL is now the centralized Western Hemisphere communist clearinghouse, based in Cuba. They further claim that their sister organizations in OSPAAL include the Cuban Communist Party, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, El Salvador's FMLN, Chile's MIR, etc.
At the end of this recruitment session, I agreed to join with them. While enthusiasm did play a major role in my decision, after hearing the grisly "genesis" lecture, I was more than a little afraid of what would happen to me had I refused. I was already in so deep and besides, no one else knew where I was that afternoon.
Two months after joining this group, I left it. One day, while returning from taking some new volunteers out on a canvass, I asked a woman volunteer to pull her car over, whereupon I opened the door and got out. I walked to a nearby BART station and escaped. I never went back. It was for the following reasons that I left:
1) While it was bad enough that we all had to work over 18 hours per day, I became even more angry and suspicious when I was expected to accomplish about eighty hours of work in those 18 hours. I slowly began to suspect that the whole situation was purposefully set up to create a pressure cooker, "boot camp"-type atmosphere where people had neither the physical or emotional energy to question their assignments, much less engage in meaningful ideological discussions.
2) I witnessed how Provisional Party members go around passing themselves off as actual members of the Nicaraguan FSLN on assignment in the USA. I happened to know that these people didn't belong to the FSLN and, so, it made me wonder about the other claims I had heard. It was just another total fabrication designed to impress members and potential recruits.
3) It began to dawn on me that these people's idea of what it meant to be a cadre in their organization was somewhat a mixture of a con-artist and a hitman. I began to wonder if they had learned their style from reading J. Edgar Hoover's Masters of Deceit.
4) At first, the Provisional Party's deadline for revolution (33 months as of mid-1981) was downplayed to me since I was skeptical. When I first hear of this deadline, I told my Oakland leader that I thought it all a little unrealistic. "While I am impressed with this organization and its potential for growth, I don't expect to see us holding power that soon," I told her during one meeting I had where just the two of us were present.
Seeing my skepticism, she replied that the deadline was nothing really definite, but was rather an adjustable guideline to keep them from becoming too complacent. Then, a month-and-a-half later, I was at a National Labor College meeting and one of the national leaders blusters out: "The 33-month deadline is real! The leadership of this organization has their theoretical and real necks on the line! So if you've been just an irregular volunteer on some half-assed schedule--GET REAL!" I began to consider the potential for both physical and political disaster implicit in the execution of this deadline. I began to trust nothing and suspect everything regarding the Provisional Party.
5) While in NATLFED, I had never met its leader, Gino Perente However, an old friend of mine had read the earlier 1977 issue of the Public Eye, which named Gino Perente as the leader of NATLFED. This friend of mine had known a "Gino Perente" from back in 1971 as actually being Gerald Doeden. This friend had heard Doeden go by the name "Gino Perente" on several occasions.
Over the years, I had heard bizarre and harrowing tales from several old friends about the old LARGO group and its leader, "Gino." When members of the SLA died in the LA shootout, one of them commented to me, "That's how we almost ended up." Now, ten years later, the circle was completed when my friend stopped by the NATLFED office I worked at and told me, "It's the same guy--the same Gino you've heard of from us before!"
"Gulp," I thought to myself, "You've been had."
6) I caught a bad case of the flu and was very sick for a few days. This gave me a rare opportunity, for a cadre in NATLFED, to think things over thoroughly. It seemed ridiculous and dangerous to me, at the time, to bring up my fears and concerns to NATLFED leaders. I resolved to leave and did so at the first available opportunity.
I have since become convinced that deception was used to attract me to NATLFED, and cultic techniques were used to keep me in. My welfare and destiny was controlled by a group in New York I really knew nothing about--other than the lies I had been told. I resolved to find out the truth.
After discussing NATLFED over the phone with Public Eye editor Chip Berlet, he asked me if I would be willing to write an article for publication. Upon agreeing to do so, I launched an investigation into NATLFED, its claims, and its leader, Gino Perente.
At first, my research centered around their tales of historic "genesis" and claimed international ties. Not really knowing about, or feeling secure with, the cult issue, I wanted to pin down some purely "political" issues.
If one stands back and looks at their whole "genesis" story, it does begin to make sense from one angle. If you wanted to make something up which would be almost impossible to disprove totally (groups such as Progressive Labor Movement, BARU, and Venceremos have since disbanded and former members are somewhat reluctant to discuss past activities), would impress new recruits with a picture of a wise, and an experienced leadership and, perhaps most importantly, would instill fear into new recruits of ever crossing or leaving the organization, then the NATLFED/Provisional Party's tale is perfect--except research proves it to be a fabrication.
As one ex-member who helped to found CHA in Sacramento in 1973 remarked to me, "I heard people claim that they were in Venceremos when I knew they weren't. I don't doubt they would lie if they thought they could use it to their advantage."
In researching their claims, I talked with several people who went to Cuba in the early 60's with the Progressive Labor tour at the same time as Phillip Abbott Luce. None knew of any such political tendency or OSPAAL signatures, as claimed by the Provisional Party.
I spoke with an ex-BARU and Venceremos members who felt that the Provisional Party's genesis tale was unfounded in fact. One of these people was H. Bruce Franklin, former Central Committee member of Venceremos Organization. Franklin explained to me that he doesn't claim to know everyone who was or wasn't in Venceremos, nor does he usually like to talk about other people's involvement in that organization. But, Franklin did know the Gino Perente who ran the Little Red Bookstore in San Francisco in 1971. Franklin emphatically denied to me that Gino was ever a member, or involved with, Venceremos Organization. I believe him.
Then I contacted George Vickers, the author of The Nation article which gave credence to NATLFED Provisional Party's claim of having descended from Venceremos. It seems that Vickers made an honest mistake and merely took on faith what Gino Perente told him. He had no other source of information. Vickers now disbelieves the tale of the Provisional Party springing from Venceremos.
Claimed International Ties
As part of the introduction to the Provisional Party, Nicaragua's revolutionary history was twisted around to parallel the present efforts and projected organizing drives of the Provisional Party. After researching Nicaragua's road to revolution it became patently obvious that the Provisional Party's rendition of history was a fairy tale. The prestige of the recent Nicaraguan revolution was used to impress potential recruits and lead them into the Provisional Party.
I also had come to learn that the two-hour "first person rap" I had heard detailing the Provisional Party's ties to the Nicaraguan revolution had first been prepared and taped by someone else, then later memorized by various NATLFED cadre, including Dr. Shirnbaum. A few months after joining the Provisional Party I witnessed another NATLFED cadre, this one having never been to Nicaragua, giving the same canned rap to several other targeted recruits, It was all a cheap, yet sophisticated trick.
As for the claims of a headquarters in Cuba, the claim that The Provisional Party is given special status through the OSPAAL accords, and all the other claims regarding a so-called "special relationship with the government and Party in Cuba--they are all false. When the Public Eye contacted the Cuban government regarding this investigation, the proper agency for coordinating international friendship and support work (ICAP-not OSPAAL) supplied an official document outlining their policies which include the stated decision not to recognize any political formation or group in the United States as having a "special" or superior status. . . .
Leaders in several groups who regularly send support and friendship delegations to Cuba called the Provisional Party's claims not only false but also dangerous to Cuban-American Friendship work.
Deception as Practice
One former NATLFED organizer admits the organizing and distribution of benefits was not primarily aimed at those people who needed assistance, but was aimed at providing as context from which discipline and commitment would be instilled in the cadre. He insists this was a conscious organization-building policy and justifies those occasions when cadre used donations for their own food, travel and lodging needs.
The theory seems to be that since a successful Marxist revolution will in the long run greatly benefit the working class and disadvantaged, it's OK to rip off a few poor people and workers along the way in order to build the "true" revolutionary party. In short: The ends justify the means--any means.
Most Marxists and Leninists interviewed for this article found such rationalizations obnoxious and a distortion of the writings of Marx and Lenin. Several pointed out that this type of distortion was popularized by anti-communist and right-wing groups who pull quotes out of context and ignore the large number of statements which contradict this inference in the voluminous writings of Marx and Lenin.
As far as I'm concerned, calling NATLFED a Marxist organization is like calling the "Moonies" a Christian organization. Just because they claim to be Marxists and revolutionaries doesn't make it so.
Are other distortions and deceptions commonplace within NATLFED? This is how one former Volunteer with NATLFED's Oakland branch phrased it:
At first sight the work here seems ideal--Low income people have an organization which is working in their interest. . . . You read about this positive impression in my previous reports. After three months of experience with this project [however, I must report that] reality is very different.
Members are told that this is their organization. To the contrary, most members [outside New York] do not even know about the National Labor Federation. The structure is ambiguously organized from top to bottom. Members are at the [bottom] of the hierarchy. . . . No decisions are made collectively, members do not have any power of decision. . . . It is a lie if they are told that they themselves are deciding about the organization. . . . I have been told that volunteers are not supposed to be thinking about what they are doing.
Volunteers and members are not taken seriously, but [are being] used. They are being lied to if it is useful to the organization. I have experienced [these lies] often. . . .
Financial matters are totally obscure. Some money goes to the top, but almost nobody knows where to--particularly not the members. . . .
As soon as a volunteer criticizes anything he will be interviewed by a trained co-worker . . . [it appears to be] just like an interrogation. Systematically, he will be driven into defense. Nobody will listen to the problem, he is just a 'stupid' volunteer. I have never [known] criticism [to be] really listened to.
Contacts to the outside are [severely limited], I do not know anything but work. You may ask why I do not face my conflicts here--the militarist structure and the way in which conflicts are dealt with are incompatible with [raising criticisms internally]. It is assumed that anyone who does not like [the way things are] leaves. All who are of different opinions are stupid [and] ridiculous. . . . One who does not cooperate is a murderer because he allows [poor people to] continue to starve. [I am told that] the only way for real change is [through] this organization.
I do not want to cause any panic, but this organization is dangerous, at least incalculable.
The above excerpt not only discusses the conscious deception that is integral to the NATLFED organizing style, but makes several references concerning enforced allegiance techniques which some critics charge make NATLFED a cult group.
Is NATLFED a Cult?
Now that I look back at my experience in NATLFED, it sure seems to fit all the criteria for being a dangerous cult:
�a schedule designed to produce chronic exhaustion,
�long droning lectures while followers are already exhausted,
�wild ideas and beliefs which attain the force of psychotic delusion,
�predictions of change or doom around the corner,
�the POW camp-type atmosphere,
�followers quitting their jobs and severing outside personal and economic ties,
�the historic sense of mission,
�the operating under tight discipline and secrecy,
�the extolment of qualities of ruthlessness and fanatical determination,
�a "Triumph of Will" approach, eventually pushing cult members to adopt a "beyond good and evil" mentality,
�the kneejerk calling of any critics "government agents."
This is Gino Perente's National Labor Federation.
Being a political cult, the Provisional Party distorts Marxist classics much the same way the Moonies distort Biblical passages. Religious cults prey upon the guilt feelings of recruits who are systematically made to be ashamed of not living up to Christian or other religious ideals. In the Provisional Party, recruits who sincerely want to be involved in social change are psychologically manipulated into believing that they would be traitors to the "Cause" if they rejected the discipline of the only "true" revolutionary party in America.
To ensure that recruits never successfully challenge the carefully orchestrated apocalyptic reality within NATLFED, emotionally disruptive and fatigue-producing techniques are used. Writing in the religious magazine Christian Century, associate editor Jean Caffrey Lyles put it this way:
Some former recruits describe NATLFED as both militaristic and cult-like ("like the Moonies," said one), an organization that works recruits up to 18 hours a day, keeping them in a state of chronic fatigue, subjects them to droning sessions of indoctrination, and discourages critical thinking. New arrivals at the local units are given books by Marx, Lenin and Stalin as assigned reading.
Volunteers have no permanent base but are moved from place to place, sleeping in a different location each night. Two volunteers are rarely left alone together, and are told only as much as they need to know to carry out an assignment. One former volunteer recalled: "A lot of the time you wanted to go up to somebody and ask them, 'What are we doing?' but there was no one to go up to.
Another former member described being shuttled from house to house, sometimes sleeping on the floor of the local NATLFED office, or even a garage. Food was plentiful when visitors and potential recruits were around, but other times cadre would go whole days without food depending on the success of local solicitations and organizing drives. Ideological discussion was not available since the cadre were simply lectured to and were ordered to work from pre-written instructions given political questions and situations. Copies of some of these instruction sheets obtained by the Public Eye show attempts to control behavior in virtually any situation cadre would encounter.
Who's In Charge Here?
The innermost onion core behind the Provisional Party is controlled by Gino Perente and a handful of his very trusted followers. Several of these followers joined with Perente as adolescents over ten years ago, and have subsequently spent their entire adult lives with him and his cause. Headquarters for the Provisional Party is a Brooklyn brownstone house referred to as "the Cave." Maps are on the wall, desks are crowded with members busily filing and doing correspondence and research, walkie-talkies are used for communication between the floors of the "Cave." A former member of NATLFED on the East Coast: "You asked me why I left the organization. The reason was Gino. Before you ever met him there is a big buildup that you're going to meet 'The Old,' as they refer to him. You're taken to a room where he sits alone with you and reads from a book." She assumed that she was expected to be in awe of Gino. She was not sufficiently impressed to remain in the organization. Many members are.
As for what Gino gets out of all this--another former member who knew Gino well remarked, "Look, he gets a following, he's comfortable, and the culture and intrigue are exciting to him." Yet Gino Perente is a far more complex person than that description implies.
Perente as Doeden
Gerald William Doeden was born in 1937, reportedly in Twin Falls, Idaho. Gerald's father was an old Wobblie (member of the activist International Workers of the World, IWW) who died when Gerald was a young boy.
By 1957, Gerald and his mother, Irene, moved to Marysville, California--a Northern California agricultural town situated near the juncture of the Feather and Yuba Rivers.
This author interviewed over a dozen Marysville residents who remember Doeden well, and confirm each other's accounts. One interviewee asked, "Is he still calling himself Gino Perente?" He is remembered as somewhat of a town character. From all these interviews, one common picture emerges of Doeden--that of an extremely brilliant, well-read con artist with a reputation among friends for heavy drinking and a difficulty handling recreational drug use. He is said to have lived by a cynical twist of the Biblical saying, "A stranger came along and I 'took him' (in)."
When Gerald Doeden was offered a scholarship to Yuba College, he refused it, telling his friends, "If I can't steal it, then I don't want it."
Several of Doeden's old friends related a tale of how when they all once went out drinking together with Doeden, he actually paid for drinks with a check he'd signed, "Jesus H. Christ." Doeden was never prosecuted, apparently because the merchant did not wish to appear in court and publicly admit he'd actually accepted such a check.
Hearing this story reminded me of a taped lecture by Perente that I had heard while a member of NATLFED, when Perente exclaimed, "Joe Hill was guilty as hell. After he died, every socialist cocksucker wrote a book about him. What about the guy who helped him rob the market? That's our hero--he robbed a capitalist and got away with it." Perente seems to consider such activities to be salutary and romantic.
Doeden's physical impairment is a result of his tendency to drive like a maniac, according to several old friends. Once he was involved in a serious car accident and fractured his leg in several places as well as sustaining other major injuries to his legs. The doctors wanted to amputate, but Doeden refused and had his leg in a cast for several years, developing osteomyelitis.
"He refused to wear crutches. I remember him always hopping around with that bad leg," said Milt Carland of the Marysville Appeal Democrat. Doeden carries that limp to this day and some reports say his leg continues to deteriorate.
One woman who was very close to Doeden in the late sixties described him as an "extraordinarily sensitive, sad, crippled genius, with an enormous amount of anger."
Once, while out drinking coffee at an all-night Marysville restaurant, a fellow customer called Doeden "uncouth."
"What do you mean, uncouth?" replied Doeden, who then proceeded to recite, from memory, entire sections from Shakespeare's play As You Like It.
Doeden worked in Marysville as a disc jockey and newscaster for local radio station KAGR, as well as doing some freelance advertising sales for the station. He also moonlighted as a local Shakespearean actor. Toward the late sixties, Doeden sought help for his drinking and drug problems. Friends say he went first to Alcoholics Anonymous and later to Synanon.
I raise this issue not to smear Doeden by mentioning his personal problems, which he apparently successfully overcame, but because there are some troubling and important similarities between the style and practice of Perente's Provisional Party cult and the picture of Synanon portrayed in David Gerstel's account of his experience in Synanon: Paradise, Inc.
Paradise, Inc. -- Paradise Lost
In Gerstel's account, Synanon leader Charles Dederich is referred to as "The Old Man" by Synanon followers. In the Provisional Party, Gino is referred to as "The Old." In both Synanon and the Provisional Party, members are exhorted to "walk the walk, not just talk the talk."
Doeden's exact activities from 1969 to early 1970 are still a mystery. But, by late 1970, Gerald Doeden, recently rehabilitated Shakespeare enthusiast, with the blood of his Wobblie father coursing through his veins, apparently discovered his political self when he created LARGO. Amidst the sub-culture and intrigue of militant politics, Doeden found he could gather a following, thereby encapsulating himself from reality. He got the first real taste of the potential power of his charismatic leadership.
So, by 1971, Doeden had opened the Little Red Bookstore in San Francisco. Going by the name Gino Savo, he proceeded to organize local activists throughout Northern California into his LARGO group. They proceeded with plans of launching military war against the government beginning March 15, 1970.
The plans collapsed. Gerry Doeden faded away.
In 1972, Doeden turns up on Long Island to organize the Long Island Association, now the Eastern Farmworkers' Association (EFWA).
According to two ex-NATLFED members I talked with, Perente started the EFWA after being fired by the United Farm Workers from his job as co-coordinator of the UFW New York boycott office. The United Farm Workers have denied to me that Perente (or Doeden) was ever on the staff of the UFW. There is agreement that there never have been any formal working ties between the UFW and any part of NATLFED.
Whatever the technical truth may be about Perente's claimed relationship in the past to the UFW, several things of interest do stand out regarding Synanon and UFW. Synanon did have a relationship with UFW. Charles Dederich and Cesar Chavez apparently were personal friends. For awhile, Chavez incorporated a Synanon group activity called "The Game" into the UFW's internal structure. It is perhaps in this milieu of relationships that Doeden further consolidated his development and style.
Tactics used by NATLFED, such as housemeetings and canvassing, as well as the name "Eastern Farm Workers" and other organizational paraphernalia, certainly point to the possibility that Perente was exposed enough to the UFW in order to copy and later project some of its appealing organizational style. Unlike the UFW, however, Perente's group seldom achieves anything of lasting significance for the membership base they maintain in their "mass based association." Those people only serve as a fly-paper used to attract new cult members. Any long-term successful struggle for real gains would focus attention on NATLFED's activities, and public scrutiny is not something Perente values.
While Perente's exposure to the UFW may have provided him with an appealing model, it seems that his dealings with other groups in addition to Synanon have provided him with models of more concrete internal cult-like structures. I am now speaking of Fred Newman's International Worker's Party (IWP) and Lyndon LaRouche's National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC), both based in New York City.
Newman is now best known for his work with the New Alliance Party and the New York Institute for Social Therapy, both labeled cultic by some critics. LaRouche is currently once again seeking the Presidency of the United States, this time as the Democratic Party nominee, but using the organization front: The National Democratic Policy Committee.
NATLFED's preposterous claim of having placed one of their members on the Teamster's Union Executive Council does actually parallel a real achievement of LaRouche's NCLC who did see one of their close Teamster allies reach that office. This Teamster/NCLC relationship was detailed in Dennis King's December 1981 article in High Times magazine: "Hippocrites -- Anti-Drug Cult Linked to Mob Cronies."
According to King, NATLFED's relationship with LaRouche was shorted-lived. "Much more significant was NATLFED's relationship with the Newmanites [IWP]. That relationship went on at least through 1977, and still to this day there is some communication between them. In 1976 fusion talks were held between NATLFED and IWP."
Says King, "Although Gino worked with Fred Newman, he had a certain contempt for him--referring to him as 'Fat Freddy' and regarding Newman's group as not altogether reliable." [Ed. Note: Fat Freddy is a disheveled underground comic character].
Specific similarities can still be seen between the style of NATLFED and the IWP, which now uses the name New Alliance Party; the use of bucket drives to solicit funds and pitch for volunteers; the vast amount of mindless paperwork that followers must devote themselves to; and, according to King, "the surfacing of selected cult members to participate in the normal life of the community while keeping their real agenda hidden."
For both the old IWP and NATLFED, says King, the use of what they call "strata organizing" exists "merely to give a sense of mission to the cult, feed the vanity of the cult leaders, and provide a cover for various fund-raising and recruitment rip-offs."
[Ed. Note: [T]he Public Eye no longer feels it is accurate to call Newman's political network a cult. We do feel that at one point in its development it was fair to characterize the group as a cult, and we still have strong criticisms of the group's organizing style and the relationship between Newman's Therapy Institute and his political organizing.]
While the possibility of an ongoing relationship between NATLFED and NCLC has long been a matter of speculation and concern, this relationship seems doubtful. Unfortunately, most concern about NATLFED has revolved around this point to the exclusion of other concerns. No matter their past or resent ties to LaRouche-- Perente's group is a potentially dangerous cult in its own right. There are some critics of NATLFED who strongly feel that the whole organization is part of an FBI COINTELPRO-type operation designed to gather information on, and disrupt, the American left. While not dismissing this as a possibility, I have found no direct evidence to support this view. But NATLFED is so far over the edge that it really may not matter whether or not they are part of any pre-planned plot or conspiracy in terms of the potential for disaster. They are dangerous to themselves, the progressive movement and the real interests of poor and working people.
Perente appears to be extending his political influence. Using the name Eugenio Vincente Perente-Ramos, Perente is listed as the business agent of the Texas Farm Workers Union, and his cadre are involved in producing literature for that group. Already this relationship has further isolated the Texas Farm Workers from broad- based support from labor unions and the progressive community.
The Texas Farm Worker connection provides NATLFED with yet another cover to rope in more recruits and connections. NATLFED is currently organizing TFWU Support Committees on the East Coast.
Further, it would be callous to disregard the plight of those sincere individuals who have been snared by NATLFED and the Provisional Party through the use of psychologically-manipulative techniques--and more potential cult members continue to be fed into Perente's operation through the reputation it gained while publishing the Commission on Voluntary Service and Action's guide Invest Yourself, which NATLFED continues to publish unilaterally. . . . Another group which appears to be a source of volunteers is the legitimate Hispanic law student organization, La Raza Legal Alliance.
Perente also seems to be moving in the direction of penetrating organized labor in the role of a consultant and through the provision of legal and support services.
Where Perente is heading is difficult to predict. It is ludicrous to expect that the timetable for "revolution" in early 1984 will be adhered to; but Perente shows no signs of fading away; rather he shows signs of extending his influence.
As one sociologist whom Gino tried to recruit said, "I think that Gino sees himself as some kind of modern-day American version of Lenin, who plans to rise to power by playing off one group against the other--a kind of double, double agent."
Cleaning Our Own Dirty Linen
So, how can we, the progressives of this country, allow this group to operate in our midst unchallenged? Part of the reason Perente's group may appear to be part of the left political spectrum is that we allow them to do so. Any group may label itself a communist party, or have a progressive exterior front, and seek to operate clandestinely. But, this group is not really hiding from the government, but rather from the public in general and the left in particular.
Look at the history of any past revolutionary movement forced to struggle through a clandestine organization. What was clandestine has usually been only the identity of local members, the location of leadership, and very specific strategy or tactics. But the long-term goals of the organizations, and the group's ideology are usually public knowledge, so that there can be discussion, feedback, and trust from all sectors of the people seeking the revolutionary transformation of society. And real revolutionaries are often willing to risk paying a heavy price for making such information available to the working class because they know it is an indispensable part of the process.
Nor should we hesitate to challenge NATLFED on the basis of its claims to be a labor organization. NATLFED itself has denied being a labor organization to the Department of Labor and there is no evidence to suggest that NATLFED represents workers before management anywhere in the United States. The only labor NATLFED is truly organizing is the hard labor of its exploited cadre and volunteers.
The organizations described in the church-related volunteer guide Invest Yourself are neither labor organizations nor "mutual benefit" associations. They are in fact local service organizations where free legal and medical help is traded for the recipients' signed pledge of "membership" in the organization. These one-time benefits recipients are the source of NATLFED's claims of vast numbers of members and supporters.
Although it is admittedly somewhat embarrassing, it has not been really too hard for me to face up to the fact that I was stupid enough to be conned by this cult group. I've been conned before and will probably be conned again. There are far more intelligent people than I, with fine motivations, still trapped in the NATLFED cult.
What profoundly disturbs me is this group has been out canvassing in poor neighborhoods across the country and drawing in young (and some old) people with idealistic, progressive ideas for over ten years now. And, for the most part, they have gone unchallenged, unexposed, and in some cased, even aided by the progressive movement.