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News :: Politics
Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
05 May 2004
I was approached by three people from a group called the "Eastern Service Workers Association" at the Wake Up The Earth fest in JP this weekend. They said they were organizing a "mutual-benefits" network for non-union precarious and service workers. But something seemed off. When I asked direct questions about their structure and the size of their organization, they were deflected with totally non sequitur bits of pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric. I half-assed a commitment to buy time and logged on to the internet. Ten google-seconds later, a bunch of "cult-watch" type sites came up. Turns out the "Eastern Service Workers Association" is a branch of the "National Labor Federation" (NATLFED), in turn a front group for the "Communist Party USA (Provisional)". This is a serious, cut-you-off-from-your-friends, work-you-18-hour-days cult.
This may come as old news to folks who've been in the area for a while, but if it's not, spread the word, because this shit is hazardous to our communities.

I was approached by three people from a group called the "Eastern Service Workers Association" at the Wake Up The Earth fest in JP this weekend. They said they were organizing a "mutual-benefits" network for non-union precarious and service workers. Being a class-struggle anarchist who believes in building dual power organizations, and more to the point being a temporary worker, this caught my interest (though I was suspicious from the start--I've been in town for a short time, but long enough that I should've heard of this effort...).

Thinking that they were, at worst, an ISO-type group, crippled by a Leninist belief that they could "represent" a sector of the working class, and at best a little clueless about approach, I made the mistake of giving them my phone number, thinking that I would at least get a better chance to study their organization and take a couple lessons away. After all, they probably had some kind of experience I could apply in the long run to building mutual-aid networks; among their literature was a "sponsors' guide" with the names of local dentists, workers' comp lawyers, exterminators, caterers, etc. who have apparently donated (discounted?) services through their network. While I wouldn't join, I'd talk to the organizers a bit and gain another incomplete fragment of knowledge possibly relevant to class recomposition (or whatever).

But something seemed off. When I asked direct questions about their structure and the size of their organization, they were deflected with totally non sequitur bits of pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric. And the two sunglassed hippies doing most of the talking seemed to not be talking, but rather performing for the third, a middle-aged woman who remained mostly silent but occasionally nodded her approval or steered their answers.

Hmmm.

But it was far, far worse than I guessed. The woman called me back tonight (Monday) to try to get me to agree to "canvass" (!) for them. I tried asking direct questions about their organization, but she again brushed them aside, muttering something about them being of "academic" concern and about how learning while working was better, each one teach one. What?

Uh-oh.

I half-assed a commitment to buy time and logged on to the internet. Ten google-seconds later, a bunch of "cult-watch" type sites came up.

SHIT.

Turns out the "Eastern Service Workers Association" is, like the Northwest Seasonal Workers Association, the National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals, the Women's Press Collective, the California Homemakers Association, etc., etc., a branch of the "National Labor Federation" (NATLFED), in turn a front group for the "Communist Party USA (Provisional)". This is no run-of-the-mill RCP/ISO/ANSWER type group, sustaining itself by recruiting college kids to sell papers for the bureaucracy. This is a serious, cut-you-off-from-your-friends, work-you-18-hour-days cult.

There was a big bust in their headquarters in Brooklyn back in 1996; cops responding to child-abuse complaints happened upon their stash. Fifty guns and a shitload of ammo. I guess the group was all started by one charismatic leader in San Francisco in the early '70s; they were pretty much a failed version of the SLA. There's a collection of articles on them here, but the most informative one is this one.

Those links are all from one site, but tool around on the net a bit and more comes up.

So anyway, I called the woman back and told her on no uncertain terms that I was uninterested and that she did not have permission to call me back. Why? Because your organization is a front for a democratic-centralist Stalinist organization. (Grounds enough for me anyway!) What? what? Where did you hear that? Huh? It's publicly available information. You looked on the internet. Of course I did! Well, there's so much trash on the internet... just anybody can write and, well, I've seen what's on there, I know exactly what's on there. Well, then you know why I'm not interested. I'm sorry you believe that crap. I'm sorry you believe that crap. Don't call me back. I don't know why I would. Good.

Anyway, this is just a "head's up" to anyone out there who might be new to town or just hasn't run across these people. They're worse than they look. I'm positively seething at the idea of them going door-to-door in Roxbury trying to dupe working-class folks into giving them their names and information, and ultimately paying them dues to keep their cult running. Fucking poison, and arguably some of the only living examples of true "red fash" in today's USA. Fortunately, they mentioned several times that they're in dire need of volunteer labor. Let's make sure they don't get a foothold again--spread the word.

This work is in the public domain.
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Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
03 May 2004
OOPS! None of my HTML tags worked (my fault!)

These are the links:

There was a big BUST in their headquarters in Brooklyn back in 1996:
http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/groups/n/natlfed/rayman.htm

There's a collection of articles on them HERE:
http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/groups/n/natlfed/

...but the most informative is THIS one:
http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/groups/n/natlfed/bestwhitnac

Again, if you don't trust this one cult resource site look around the internet for yourself.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
03 May 2004
what's even more funny is that the idiots at Harvest Coop let them run a table at Thanksgiving and Xmas for their "turkey drives" for poor families. . .doubt anyone ever sees a turkey, but more hapless college kids get sucked up into their cult thanks to the great tabling op
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
03 May 2004
Yea, them and their crew have been around for a while . Just barely existing. I have lived in Mission Hill/Roxbury for 10 years and never actually seen them in the 'hood.

Anyway, no one is going to trust a white wierdo Stalinist psuedo-cultist knocking on the doors or Black and Latino Roxbury.

Solidarity and thanks for the heads up!
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
04 May 2004
after we "systemically canvassed" a neighborhood, knocking on doors and handing out flyers in a robotic way, we went back to HQ, where one of the cadre members gave us a congratulations speech on our first revolutionary action.

i looked at the book she had in front of her, she was reading the speech, and in the book, there was text indicating to the middle aged woman reading when to smile, when to laugh, and when to use various other facial expressions and inflections.

and so the speech went, for a half hour.

needless to say, i got the hell out of there.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
04 May 2004
it is explained when you work in the group, you are not to learn all of the specific details of what's going on unless you become a cadre member. you don't have a vote or say in the organization unless you are a cadre member. there are areas in the office that are off limits unless you become a cadre member.

what does being a cadre member involve? well, you live entirely in the offices. every second of your waking life is dedicated to working for them. there's no time to read non-related books, see non-related movies, or socialize at all, when there is serious work to be done! in fact, there is no reason one should selfishly sleep more then 6 hours a night! and of course, they'll supply your cigarettes for you.

this is a straight up cult. however, they are doing something right now that i have never seen them do before. they never used to go to political events, they would always remain completely secluded in their neighborhood, with occasional turkey drive type things (and to be fair, they did distribute turkeys to low income family, and their food and clothing drives did benefit a fair amount of lower income families (it's just ashame that they are stalinist freaks)).

but now i'm seeing them in, what phyllis (that middle aged woman you speak of) used to call "pointless youthful indulgences". so they are enacting a new tactic.

i think people should actively engage the younger folk that are in this group, as they are most likely brand new to the group. if they are seen at events, we should confront them, and call them on their cult like shit, and try and get the younger members to leave. the ESWA generally targets young people who are trying to break away from arm chair activism, and are looking for some organization to give them answers.

the younger folk in the group are not bad people, but victims of the ESWA, and they really need to be rescued from it.

although the ESWA can't really retain members, since they are just SO OBVIOUSLY A TERRIBLE STALINIST CULT, hehe
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
04 May 2004
Yeah, I'm not sure how Stalinist they actually are, but by all accoutns, these fokls are a cult. And while their retention probably is horrible, some peopel do get sucked in--that's what's kept some form of the group going for over 30 years now, it seems, even after the death of their founder.

So be careful and stay away. They have a number of other front groups elsewhere--I believe that in Western Mass they go by (or have gone by) the name At Wake Up the Earth, were they tabling? Spontaneous should NOT give them that kind of a platform. I'm also disturbed that the Harvest Co-op gives them space--any members who want to raise the issue there?
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
04 May 2004
Ooops--had a number of typos above. The biggest was that I accidently deleted the name they go by in Western Mass--"Western Massachusetts Labor Action." Be wary.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
05 May 2004
Probably Spontaneous Celebrations and the Harvest Co-op have no idea how screwy this group is. There's also always the problem of being accused of red-baiting if you don't let a group like this in, although these folks seem to like to keep their political beliefs under wraps.

I had an encounter with them a few years back when they were tabling at Wake Up the Earth. I was temping for a living at the time and they sounded interesting. I met with one of their organizers at their office and had a conversation. I though they sounded a little odd--the organizer was saying that there is one right way to engage in a labor-organizing campaign or something like that--but I didn't think much of it. Forunately, I mentioned the group to a friend and he warned me about them.

It's unfortunate that there's so many groups that aren't honest about their intentions out there. ANSWER, while no where near as bad as this group, is also deceptive--it's not clear to a lot of people that they're a front for Workers World, that they're undemocratic, and that they've taken a number of questionable political positions (most recently, apologetics for Hussein and Milsoevic). I worry that new comers to the progressive community see these groups, think they look good, join them, get turned off after a while--and not just to the group in question, but to the entire left.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
05 May 2004
Yeah, I'm a big critic of ANSWER and their deceptive ways and multiple front groups--not to mention their self-righteousness. But they are nothing compared to a group like this. Reading testimonies from former members, they're not just turned off from the left--some are trying to reclaim their lives after spending years in this group. People need to know to stay far, far away. And I doubt that they'd even accuse anyone of red-baiting, since they aren't upfront about being connected to the "Provisional Communist Party."

I guess that I react strongly because they tried to approach me, too, back in 2000. I bought a paper and signed smoething at a conference, andthey started calling repeatedly (perhaps fortunately, I was rarely at home, so I kept missing their calls. When I finally ended up talking with someone, I told them how busy I was, and that a contnigent job I was workign (and making VERY little money in) was likely to end soon, so things were very up in the air. The person I was talking to didn't pursue it further, to her credit (or perhaps becauase I didn't sound like a good prospect). We hung up cordially. But I was terrified to learn a year or two later what they were really about, and to consider the possibility that had I had more time and fewer commitments, I might well have volunteered with them.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
05 May 2004
Reading people's comments, I'm considering making a couple documents and distributing them. One photocopiable, one-sided paper directed at potential recruits, and one brochure directed at people giving them resources & platform (e.g. Harvest, and the "sponsors" listed in their literature).

If anyone else who's come across them wants to help me out, or thinks it's a bad idea, email me at the above address.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
05 May 2004
I didn't mean to imply that ANSWER was as bad as this group. ANSWER actually does do some constructive stuff--like organizing protests--along with their more problematic behavior, but the ESWA/Provisional Communist Party sounds totally predatory.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
06 May 2004
Just to be clear, this group isn't associated with the CPUSA - the Communist Party that split off from the Socialist Party of America to support the Bolshevik revolution and tow the Comintern line up until the fall of the USSR. They've really mellowed out since the fall of the USSR (and unfortunately fallen into the orbit of the Democratic Party). As far as I can tell, the CPUSA doesn't maintain the strict discipline that they once had. According to one of the referenced articles, "Many devote practically every waking hour to the group's inner circle, called the Communist Party Provisional Wing, although it has no connection to the American Communist Party." I've never heard of the "Communist Party Provisional Wing" before.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
06 May 2004
No, definitely no connection to the CPUSA. Actually, after their Brooklyn HQ was raided in 1996, I remember that the CPUSA got a letter published in the New York Times saying that they had no connection to them. One can criticize the CP for plenty, esp in their historical support for the USSR's totalitarianism (I think they denounced Stalin, but only after Kruschev did). But again, the Eastern Service Worker's/Naqtional Labor Federation/Provisional Communist Party are a whole different kettle of fish.
Another article
06 May 2004
This article is from the New York Times around the time that the group was busted in NYC. I'm reprinting it here under fair use guidelines (etc etc). Obviouslym, the Times can distort things, but Chip Berlet, whom the article references, is based around here and is widely respected.

Group's Leader Is Said to Have Used Cult Tactics

By Richard Perez-Pena
New York Times, 11/13/96

NEW YORK -- The people arrested in Monday night's raid on a Brooklyn building were followers, police say, of a labor organizer turned cult leader who died last year, a man whose past is clouded by aliases, murky organizations and questionable claims.

Gerald William Doeden, known for much of his life as Eugenio Perente-Ramos, was the founder and leader of the National Labor Federation, a group that, according to cult experts and police, operated through a series of front organizations around the country. Some of the federation's front groups were based at 1107 Carroll St., the Crown Heights building where police arrested 28 people and seized weapons.

On his death last year, Perente-Ramos -- who was also, at times, known by the name Gino Perenti -- was hailed by his followers in a handbill as "America's most experienced and successful labor leader." He and his organizations held themselves up as important labor groups and revolutionaries, but neither labor leaders nor more prominent radicals knew of them.

"I've never heard of these guys," said Stanley Cohen, a lawyer whose clients range from East Village squatters to Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, the political leader of Hamas, the Palestinian political group.

The police and people who investigate cults contend that Perente-Ramos' many groups were, in fact, nothing more than cults posing as radical political organizations. Chip Berlet, who has written extensively on cults and is a senior analyst for Political Research Associates in Cambridge, Mass., which studies extremist groups, said that Perente-Ramos' groups sought out troubled young people, housed them in communal quarters, deprived them of sleep and convinced them that they were the true leftist underground. Others also questioned the group's legitimacy.

"He was a small-time operator who obviously got kicks out of controlling 40 to 100 people," said Janja A. Lalich, a California researcher who writes about cults and has studied Perente-Ramos' followers. "I don't think money was the big thing for him. Power was the big thing, power and sex."

In the 1970s and early 1980s, she said, female members of Perente-Ramos' organization were expected to sleep with him. She said the members were cut off from the outside world, and that Perente-Ramos would give hours-long lectures, beginning at 2 a.m.

In his later years, Perente-Ramos had a leg amputated and used a wheelchair, Ms. Lalich said.

Perente-Ramos adopted a partly Spanish surname, said he was of Mexican heritage and that he was born in Montana, in 1935. Cult researchers contend that he was not Hispanic, and that he was born in Minnesota, in 1935 or 1937.

Ruth Mikkelsen, who was married to Perente-Ramos from 1960 to 1962, said after his death that he had changed his name several times. She described him as mentally unstable. There seems to be agreement that in the 1960's, he worked as a disc jockey in San Francisco and ran a book store that sold Communist literature.

He often said he played a prominent role during the same period in the United Farm Workers, the union founded by Cesar Chavez, but Ms. Mikkelsen said those claims were greatly exaggerated. The farm workers union did not return telephone calls Tuesday.

In the early 1970s, he moved to Long Island and organized the Eastern Farm Workers Association, and in 1972, led the group in a strike against I. M. Young Co., a major potato processor.

After that strike, he largely receded from public view, but over the years he drew the attention of law enforcement. The Carroll Street building that was raided this week was also raided in 1984, by the FBI, which claimed it had evidence that the Provisional Party of Communists, led by Perente-Ramos, "planned a series of violent acts."

But police officials said Tuesday that none of the related groups was known to have a history of violence.
Workers fighting workers
07 May 2004
No matter how distorted they may be, they are working class people. Direct your struggle at capitalists, not fellow workers. Christ, religious fuckers go door to door duping workers into joining the church, giving money, and volunteering their time for that. Why the fuck don't you direct your energy into that? Those people have institutions that actively support the ruling class, instead of urging others to fight within the working class. Talk to the people of the cult, try to convince them, that is well and good, but raising alarm as you do is wrong.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
07 May 2004
Musides, I would question whether the folks working for this group are working class. Some probably are, some are probably middle-to-upper-class college students who got sucked in because they wanted to help.

You say that these institutions actively support the working class. Is that true? Read some of the articles that mj offers links to. These folks take in lots of money and materials in donations, and it's very unclear how much of it has gotten to those they purport to serve. Does directing resources--not to mention people's time--away from the working class somehow help the working class?

I have a feeling that we actually agree. You suggest in your last sentence to, "Talk to the people of the cult, try to convince them." How is it different to also try to get the truth about the group out to potential cult members? Once one is involved with a group like this, especially if one has gotten in pretty deep and cut ties with friends, it's very hard for others to talk to them.

I consider myself lucky that I was too busy to get involved when they tried to recruit me. I would very much have liked it if someone had approached me to let me know that their stories of their founders' exploits were false, that they had little to show tfor their accomplishments, and that many people had experiences of isolation, overwork, and other mind control techniques with them.

I don't see how it's wrong to "raise the alarm," as you say, about this. I think it's wrong for this group to be deceptive and waste so many people's time, money, and energy.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
07 May 2004
I also had the chance to talk with these folks at the WUTE Festival. I remember thinking how odd it was that they seemed to have an objection to using the internet for anything. No website, no email. hmm. Anyway, if any one wants to investigate, their phone number is 617-541-8600 and their address is ESWA, 48 Blue Hill Ave, Roxbury, MA 02119. If anyone happens to check them out and gets a fair idea of their operations in Boston, please post it to the newswire...
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
07 May 2004
Musides, I have a feeling you made that comment without reading this article:
http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/groups/n/natlfed/bestwhitnac

Just because people are working class doesn't mean they're not a class enemy. Lots of cops are working class. Lots of white supremacists are working class. I'm not exaggerating; read the article. This isn't just a group whose analysis and praxis I disagree with--it's a group that is actively, currently, dangerous to people.

Pete Stideman, I'd hold off on calling them and harassing them, unless you really want to. If people want to discuss actions email me at the above address.

Indymedia collective: can you please fix the third link above? the "k.htm" was cut off. thx friends.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
07 May 2004
When I went into the Edit page to fix the link, the whole thing was there. I guess the URL is too long for the whole to show up on the page, odd as that may sound. In any case, the link does seem to work.

I don't know what to make of that little quirk, but I'll pass the word along to our tech team.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
10 May 2004
http://www.naz.edu/dept/campus_ministry/communityservice.html
Nice stalinist cult?

Oh, and on another note, I haven't seen any college students selling the Worker's World newspaper.
Also, their paper is free.


Maybe you should target the Sparticus League with all the time you obviously have on your hands.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
10 May 2004
Get-a-life, I don't see the point of your post. You include a link to a college in New York State that includes this group among their community service listings. If you do a quick google seazrch, you can find a similar link for Northeastern. And the articles for which mj provided links include stories of colleges and at least one church that have given this group free publicity. Some have stopped doing so upon hearing stories from students who worked with them; some have not. But you're not dropping any bombshells. I'd actually saying that you're reinforcing the point that people need to know what this group is about.

Did you read the articles to which mj provided links?

As for your comment about Workers' World papers--who said that students sell them? I can't find any references to that in this thread. Creating a straw man just to tear it down is not much of a debating technique.


I'm not sure who it is you say has too much time on their hands. If it's me, I can tell you that it's taken me very little time to post a few things here. How long did it take you to find the link you posted? Either way, it's not especially relevant--since we don't even know the real names of most people involved here, we don't know how many jobs they hold, what their social life is like, etc. And it doesn't much matter. I'm not clear why you feel like insulting people you don't know, but it doesn't make your argument stronger.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
11 May 2004
Oh man, this is that stupidest thing I've ever seen. You guys are a bunch of loonies.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
11 May 2004
Looks like the ESWA has finally come across this thread.

You hole up with an arsenal of weapons, waiting to be the vanguard of stalinist revolution, and make the subordinate members of your cadre put in 18-hour work days, then you come here and call us "loony" for trying to spread the word?
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
13 May 2004
The existence of a group like this tends to demonstrate the differences between real cults and sects and the way words like that get thrown around loosely to apply to groups actually in the left.

These guys have as much to do with leftism as the LaRouche people have to do with it. In other words, nothing.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
16 May 2004
I volunteered for over a year an a half for ESWA. I volunteered almost every saturday (for the canvass) and some nights during the week for legal advice meetings and such. After a while there, I was asked to become a full-time volunteer organizer--"don't worry about your bills, school loans, food, etc. we'll find a place for you to live and all our resources are donated from the community." still in college, and worried about going a summer without working full time, i refused their offer.
i always had a funny feeling about this organization, but i usually felt better when I remembered how much support they had from community organizations, pro-bono lefty type lawyers, and others. they did do some good things, and some community members were really involved on a regular basis--they held clothes and food distributions, thanksgiving drives (and yes, the turkeys WERE given to families), halloween, easter and other holiday parties for kids, etc.
however, i did not feel that ESWA was building anything sustainable or effective.
as far as the lack of technology goes, phyllis and drew, the two full-time organizers explained to me that a website can't substitute for a face-to-face conversation. this makes sense, and it is true. on the same token, i was told that web sites did exist that listed ESWA as a cult, on a list with such groups as the KKK and other extremist groups, but that was completely nonsense. i didn't know whether or not to believe them, and i did look up ESWA in google, did come up with the site, looked at it shortly, but i didn't do further investigation. it looks like i should have.
another thing, ESWA did seem to be rather isolated in that it did not reach out to other political, labor, social justice, progressive organizations, which would actually help to build an organization and a movement. when i asked about this, i was not given an answer. the work i did with other groups, such as the student labor action project, was constantly criticized as armchair activism, ineffective academic nonsense.
another tid bit: one day, there was a reading of one of fidel castro's speeches. afterwards, there was a conversation, and i brought up such things as political repression in cuba, and was told that all that mattered was that their economics were right. any question i had was answered with some convaluted marxist line.
so, one day, feeling that what i was doing with ESWA was not productive or conducive to building a true social movement, i decided to stop going. this was about 2 years ago, and until very recently, i still received phone calls constantly. they wouldn't give up on me--they wouldn't leave me alone.
anyway, i am going to stop here. i could go on and on and on about this, but i'd rather leave further discussion for later.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
23 May 2004
my conclusion from reading this thread? there's a paradigm chasm separating "mj" and the target of his attentions: "Eastern Service Workers Association". But instead of simply chalking that up to anti-communism we get "invasion of the body snatchers":

"...When I asked direct questions about their structure and the size of their organization, they were deflected with totally non sequitur bits of pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric. And the two sunglassed hippies doing most of the talking seemed to not be talking, but rather performing for the third, a middle-aged woman who remained mostly silent but occasionally nodded her approval or steered their answers..."; "This is a serious, cut-you-off-from-your-friends, work-you-18-hour-days cult", etc.

Surely they eat babies, too

First define your terms. What is a "cult"? What is a "political organization"? The links provided by mj in the first comment on this post are all from the website of Steven Alan Hassan, "cult counselor and mind control expert". He apparently bases his definition of "cult" on a cold war [ie: anti-communist] paradigm [first articulated by Robert Jay Lifton in his work on "brainwashing" of US POWs during the Korean War, most recently refined by the Berkeley psychologist Margaret Thaler Singer]. In short, "cult" is here a perjorative used to express an anti-communist worldview. NOT a universally-valid & objective classification.

Because many communist organizations functioning in the world today would deflect or be reluctant to answer "direct questions about their structure and the size of their organization". Wonder why?
Because they fear government attacks on their organizations. For very good reason.

And many are also "serious, cut-you-off-from-your-friends, work-you-18-hour-days" organisations. In fact,they all are.

Is the New Peoples Army (Philippines) a cult? Is the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) a cult? In the People's War Group (Andhra Pradesh) a cult? The Maoist Communist Centre (Bihar / Jharkhand)? The FARC? Or the Tamil Tigers? Because all of those organisations use front groups for similar methods of recruitment & impose similar discipline on their members.

in short: what if there really was a revolutionary communist organization in the USA? wouldn't it probably look & behave a lot like those above-mentioned organizations? Whose practice is not merely handing out newspapers & engaging in empty sloganering but in quietly & slowly attempting to "build a base" among the masses as a prelude to a revolutionary insurgency? And using every conceivable recruitment ploy to expand their cadre base. Perhaps some of the "lefties" on this thread need to dig a little bit deeper & broaden their perspective a bit by doing some comparative studies of contemporary revolutionary movements. Instead of taking their cue from hysterical "anti-cult" crusaders
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
26 May 2004
This is a fascinating conversation for me, being an ex-cadre. I left the group in the early 80’s and have spoken very little of it since. There used to be a web site called “the truth about Natlfed” that must have closed down in the last year after not being updated for years. A letter in the feedback section by former cadre Robin Spellman put this group into a better perspective. We all entered it for a reason, and stayed for a reason.

I had worked a long time in politics on the left, raised in a family very active on the left, and was sick of countless meetings and coalition building exercises, factionalizing and policy “line” struggles resulting in low turnouts at marginalized events where our only hope was that we might get some media coverage. Natlfed was an entirely new approach to me and in my excitement I made allowances for their weirdness and quirks.

For two years I worked my butt off and was isolated from my friends and family – but, as “watching out and digging deeper” (who may well be toeing the Natlfed line) points out, certainly no harder than cadre of other organizations who are passionately serious about their agenda. The articles and exposes listed fail to mention that the catholic church has cadre, the democratic and republican parties have their cadre who sleep in the office, are constantly on the phone and out of touch with their families. Capitalism has its cadre. Stockbrokers work unbelievably long hours. Of course, in those cases they are compensated with more than free cigarettes and thin rations because they are cadre of successful and powerful groups.

But in that period of time I was in regular contact with many impoverished and hard working people who relied on us for supplemental food (even turkeys and Christmas baskets), clothing and what little medical and legal advocacy we could supply. There were many people who looked to ESWA as “their organization”. I built some very solid friendships with people I would never have come to meet or care about otherwise. I learned a lot about organizing, and eventually, learned a lot about B.S. and what you can hide behind smoke and mirrors. All of it, in retrospect, was valuable. Painful, but valuable.

I left for my physical and mental health, and I left because I lost faith in the group’s ability to accomplish its goals. I did not want to end up like “Phyllis” years later still pushing an old line. I did not want to be beholden to a leader, Gino, who was satisfied boffing the females among his recruits and central committee and ensuring a continued supply of private narcotics. He was a genius, but he delighted in abusing his “subjects. ”Nor did I want to end up always sneaking a drink to keep up a stoic dedicated appearance. I am not impressed with Stalinism and the fall of the USSR has thankfully left us free of the need to constantly apologize for a bad system that fell under its own weight.

Would I go back to Natlfed? Never. Would I recommend it to anyone else? Never. But keep their work in perspective. I would like to see a functional non-abusive group that works that hard and has established even some tenuous roots in working class communities emerge on the political scene. I think the powers that be would be afraid and would do whatever they could to squash it.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
30 Jul 2004
They are a cult, or worse. I know, I was a voounteer for three years. Never became "cadre" but they sure did try. I was a guest at a number of indoctrination sessions at their West Coast hq in San Francisco. I still am not sure whether they are simply a cult or part of a larger COINTELPRO type effort to turn people off to radical politics. It almost worked...

You can see the ex-NATLFED site at:

http://web.archive.org/web/20030624185932/users.rcn.com/xnatlfed
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
05 Aug 2004
I was a cadre with Natlfed for 14 years and Operations Manager of EFWA in Upstate New York. Although I have not had contact with Natlfed for over 10 years, at that time every Operations Manager was required to be a member of Provisional Party. It also went by other names. After leaving Natlfed, I went back to school and earned a degree in Electrical Engineering. I am now pursuing a law degree while working with a Fortune 100 Company.
I think that everyone should be very careful about blindly believing what he or she read on the Internet. There is no requirement of truth to post something. Some of the articles and sites posted in this discussion are true, some are not and some have a mixture of truth and misinformation.
In my opinion, one of the reasons that Natlfed initiates such controversy is because the practice of the "front groups" (although they don't really fit that definition) can be very beneficial. The most disenfranchised in our communities are helped when they have nowhere else to go. There is also a hidden, for want of a better description, evil, side of Natlfed. When I was there, and from what I've heard continues to be the case, there were manipulative people in powerful positions. Full-timers were subjected to an increasingly severe mental abuse and subjugation. Many did not and could not leave after an extended period of abuse. They felt the only way to help poor people was through Natlfed, that there was no possible success for them after leaving, and/or they were subject to physical threats if they did. In pursuit of the “mission” they neglected their health and some paid the ultimate price – death.
One woman I know of was locked in a room for 2 days when she informed the national leadership she was leaving. She was very concerned about the low-income membership and wanted to make sure someone took her place. Crimes were tolerated and covered up. This included sexual abuse of cadre's children, rape, and physical abuse of other cadre. This was not widespread but it did happen. I would analogize the abuse with spousal mental abuse (not physical). The same reluctance to leave occurs.
Many of us got involved during our youthful rebellious days. Everything should go to the "mission" and we neglected family and friends. To be fair however, that happens with college students and people in other situations during their late teens and 20s. Many run away from problems or towards what they believe to be their dreams.
But, it is not correct to call the work in the community predatory or to say food and clothing go to no one. In fact, Natlfed probably provides more benefit to the communities where they organize dollar for dollar than most organizations. The benefit however, comes at a high price to the full-timers. Many of us who have left feel an aversion to any political activity. The benefit those working full time could provide through other organizations and means would be incredible.
Those who say Natlfed does nothing are misinformed and this fuels the opinions that they are simply political enemies trying to destroy a good organization.
I don't know if I would classify Natlfed as a cult. I've seen various definitions of "cult" and from my experience it fits those definitions about as well as the Republican Party faithful. That does not mean I think it's a good group to get involved in on a full time basis.
In my opinion, most people look for a way to "make a difference". It is very rare that you find an organization of more than one person that completely meets your beliefs of how to do this. Many volunteer or work with organizations whose philosophy they do not fully endorse, but part of the practice is in line with what they do believe. Practice with ESWA may meet some people's expectations. You can gain experience in providing legal, medical and other benefits to the community, establish friendships with people different from yourself and learn about some of the realities of those on the bottom of the economic ladder. If you choose this, I would advise to be wary of getting involved. Maintain your own residence and support, maintain other relationships and keep site of your own beliefs and values. I strongly advise never to work full-time at the national or regional headquarters.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
25 Aug 2004
To "watching out, digging deeper":

I consider myself a communist and a revolutionary. I am certainly not "anti-communist" and my use of the word "cult" has nothing to do with my feelings about communism.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
11 Nov 2004
I'm in law school in Brooklyn, and students have been approached by the Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals. After reading all this internet history and feeling as though someone was trying to take advantage of the goodwill of our public interest students, I approached them at their office in Brooklyn Heights. I got them to talking, and it does seem that they try to do some good things. But, when I asked them about their connection to NATFLED, the woman I talked to flat out denied any history with them. I then brought up a case in federal court that talked about the searches of 1107 Carroll Street in Crown Heights. In discussing the case, she asked, "And, do you know how the case turned out?" I said, "It was dismissed because the search was illegal or something." She replied, "They didn't find anything." That was quite an informed response from someone who claims that there was no connection. I also have a copy of their magazine, Verdict. I did a public records name search to find that some of those people lived or do still live in 1107, 1111, and 1115 Carroll Street. [For those of you who missed the info in the prior postings, those were the houses that were raided.]
So, whether they do some good work for a few people or not, there is something they are trying to hide. I'm not aware of many volunteer organizations that are not forthcoming about what the specifics of what they do.

There are those of us on the left who don't think it's necessary to act like we are doing something wrong when we try to help others out. Everyone else in New York is loud and proud about the public work they do. I don't know what these people have to hide, but they can take it elsewhere.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
25 Nov 2004
I am so freaked out right now. I have been doing some research this night and I beleive that I have f-d up big time. Reading the narratives here scares me to think that I have affiliated myself with this cult. Any advice that can be given would be greatly appreciated. Mel C.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
14 Jan 2005
Anyone know anything about the current opperations of NATLF and its entities (especially the Women's Press Collective in South Brooklyn, NY) ?
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
21 Jan 2005
My roommate volunteers for this organization...and let me tell you, all of us (his friends) thought from the very start that this shit was a cult. He could never explain in a clear manner what exactly the group does. And yes, he is your classic, grade A, dreadlocked hippie. He is never at home anymore because he lives and breathes ESWA...he even sleeps there. He is a very talented musician and attends music school, but lately has been saying he doesn't want to spend his life doing music anymore...but rather slaving away for ESWA in exchange for food. These are classic results of a cult: moving further and further away from your friends, giving up the things you love...

STAY AWAY FROM ESWA!
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
12 Mar 2005
please contribute to an article on wikipedia that aims to uncover the truth about NATLFED and its entities. You can access the article at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATLFED

Thanks.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
24 Mar 2005
christina --

i've been volunteering with ESWA since late January. i know your roommate, the talented musician who is planning to become a full-timer with ESWA.

i have to admit that i'm feeling some growing unease with some things about ESWA, but at the same time, i feel like they actually do provide services that members of the organization need.

in any case, the reason i'm posting a comment is that a conversation i had with christina's roommate while i was there last night raised a couple of alarm bells. i want to talk to christina's roommate because i have a ton questions about how he was recruited as a full-timer, but i'm not really sure if it's any of my business.

i've always felt welcomed by the organizers and the volunteers. i never felt like i was coerced into anything. the people there are very friendly, and work very hard on utility advocacy, food drives, clothing drives, and providing transportation for people to doctor's appointments. is it a cult? i don't know. i really don't.

no one has pressured me to drop out of school and join full-time, and i don't feel terrorized in any way, but some part of me feels like i'm undergoing a 'conditioning' process of some sort, and that i don't like. it's hard top describe why i feel this way, but the impression is pretty strong.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
10 Apr 2005
i volunteered a few times with eswa. i originally agreed to come in because i received a call from the dreadlocked musician y'all speak of, who i knew from high school. i was a tad bit skeptical, but i went along with it, cuz it seemed like eswa was about concrete action, which was refreshing. i am about to graduate from college and they asked me to become a full-time organizer. i was drawn in because the head people at the office would engage me in conversation about the problems that low-income people are experiencing in current bush america. no surprise there. so i came into the office a few times, and in the course of having these non-arguing, benign non-discussions in wihch we all seemed to affirm each other, I found myself saying that i would become full-time. when i left that day and stepped back, i realized how odd it was - i hadn't planned to do that, i just inteneded to go back one more time and see what was up for real - to give it another chance. but when i did a quick internet search, i turned up all that shady business, and i could see some of it in action at eswa. to christina: i don't know what to say. i share your concern. e-mail me if you want to talk. eswa is on my campus, tabling and getting people to come in and volunteer and as occasional volunteers it's hard to appreciate the scope of the group. and to be an occasional volunteers, it seems too external. they make you want to dive in, but it's not the only way. one slogan of theirs is "the only thing that really makes sense." let's hope not, y'all. we need to bridge the gap, but this external, manipulative group doesn't seem like the way.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
10 Apr 2005
oh, and i decided not to become full-time. and to stop going all together.
spacebaby, i understand the inexplicable feeling of creepiness. maybe it's the power of suggestion after reading all the "cult" info, but for what it's worth, before i even looked on the internet, and when i thought all was all good, i had a dream where they were a cult. i agree that they work hard, and i hesitate to be too harsh with it. but, excuse me, i've got to quote oprah for a second: "doubt means don't."
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
27 Apr 2005
hey L:

i think we know each other. we volunteered together, i think. you date someone who is a native speaker of spanish, right? i am the person who went into that huge apartment building with you on one canvass where we had to dodge this huge, intoxicated guy by slipping inside the building.

how long did you end up staying around to volunteer? after my internet research, i basically bailed out. it was really creepy when i did it though. totally weird, and the dreadlocked hippie is in so deep he doesn't see why anything is wrong with what they do.

did you ever wonder what they did with the money the collect from dues all those events they hold? i couldn't see anything in their oeprations that require $. everything is donated as far i know.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
04 May 2005
i'm going to back you up on this. i actually volunteered for them a few times and it's definitely a funky/strange organization. feel kinda feel bad that i did but i didn't really see it at first. it was folks from the ISO that gave me the heads up on them.

look at this:

http://www.rickross.com/groups/natlfed.html

a learning experience to be sure! but i'm sure i would have figured it out fast if someone didn't tell me.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
23 Jun 2005
L, you mentioned them being on the BU campus. I've seen them around there at times, particularly in front of Espresso Royale. What would you think of talking with the Espresso Royale folks about letting them have that space?

I suspect that ESWA gets the coffee shop's permission, and I doubt that they would give permission to, say, the Republican Party. If they knew about ESWA and the harm they do (which I think overrides the good of providing folks with some limited services), would they keep giving them permission to table?

If they have that tabling space, it would make it harder for them to suck new people in. What's more, if a volunter who was being pressured to become full time heard that they weren't allowed to table there because of the many personal reports of manipulative and deceptive practices within ESWA, might he/she think that maybe going full-time was a bad idea? Keeping people from going down that road seems really important!
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
06 Jul 2005
Hi,

I was in this group for a little over 4 years as a full time cadre, if anyone reading this discussion would like to chat a bit, I'm more then willing. In short, the turkeys do go to poor families, and the group does accomplish things that materially benefit impovrished communities. However, when you go full time and become a 'cadre', your life is forfit, thier is centralized decision making, and you are not a part of it. In my mind (now), that is not revolutionary, and will not make change; it is the authoritarian heirarchy I think we have all had too much of.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
21 Jul 2005
While I would not encourage anyone to join natlfed I think marginalizing anyone by labels such as cult is self-serving and short sighted. I want to also point out that your information is incredibly inaccurrate. I have spent some time trying to provide a more accurate insight that goes beyond name call.

http://tdsse.motime.com/
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
26 Jul 2005
If you are a current or former member of Natlfed, or have a friend or relative involved in Natlfed, I would recommend reading the material on the above mentioned website. Although I do not know who Elizabeth Parenti-Soba is, whether she is actually related to Gino, or what her motives are in posting it, the words could have come straight out of Gino’s mouth. Then I would recommend you reading Thought reform and the psychology of totalism: A study of brainwashing in China by Robert Jay Lifton.
I’m not sure how much of my analysis of this material come from Ms. Parenti-Soba’s material and how much comes from the memory of Gino’s classes either heard at NOC or read from transcripts late at night in upstate NY. It seems to me that Gino looked at why the current structure was still in power and, in part, saw that many institutions, our language and the way we are brought up predisposed us to accept this. He then decided to do much as the Chinese did and change people’s perspectives (or para dyne as he put it, although I can’t find a formal definition of that word) through thought reform. It worked about as well as it did in China and has caused a lot of damage to many people.
To Gino, perception was everything. It didn’t matter if it was true. It didn’t matter if you actually built mutual benefits associations as long as people thought you did. It didn’t matter if he wasn’t the fighter of communist haters, farm worker organizer, Guatemalan freedom fighter, etc., as long as others believed he was. Ms. Parenti-Soba speaks of folklore, working people’s folklore and how that was the Genesis. The Genesis was not presented in this context, it was presented to impress the new recruits with Gino’s history in the struggle and the organization’s pedigree – even if neither had either. Folklore is one of the elements of thought reform and in that context, yes, that is what Gino was doing.
Much of the first 3 or 4 years of my time with Natlfed are difficult to remember, they are very fuzzy. But, I remember enough now to know that I was systematically exposed to thought reform in an effort to form the “new man”, those who would lead the revolution. If your friend or relative is deep into Natlfed, was there before Gino died, or the current leadership is still practicing this manipulation of the mind, they probably do not consciously know it.
I want to post a couple of closing thoughts. The myth of the Suffolk Eastern Farm Workers Association drive is made up of some fact and a lot of exaggeration. When I first worked in Suffolk, I was the Riverhead membership coordinator. The story then was that the first summer of EFWA’s drive signed 1000 members. The membership authorizations would support that number. As I participated over the years, I saw that claim go to 2000, then 5000, then 10,000 and before I left finally 50,000. This gave credibility to the leadership at NOC. It did not matter whether it was true, it only mattered that people believed it to be true. Any real work that actually would make change didn’t matter, that could be made up.
In working with EFWA’s upstate membership I feel confident in saying they did not want to be just a part of, or a number in the “people” or the “masses”. They wanted to be seen as the individual they were and valued as that individual. I think an overwhelming majority would strenuously object to the practices ostensibly done for their benefit.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
27 Jul 2005
Robin, I am trying very hard to accept your suggestion that so many people read my site as authoritative without feeling it seems somewhat backhanded. I am not really familiar with the books you suggested but fear they are just postmodernist rehash of a familiar red scare concept. I value “to the Storm” by Yue Daiyun which is a saviors account from the prospective of a sent down cadre. My motives are to provide some historical insight, my politics are anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
01 Aug 2005
I want to extend a sincere apology to Elizabeth Parenti-Soba for my initial reaction to her site. Her unique perspective and work deserves serious attention from anyone in labor or who considers themselves a friend of labor.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
20 Aug 2005
The Boston College PULSE service-learning program has decided not to place students with ESWA this coming school year. The 2004-2005 school year was the first time in which they did so. I'm not affiliated with the program and can't say more about why they made this decision, but I applaud it. Be it a cult or not, it seems clear that ESWA was not an appropriate institution for a university to feed recruits to.

Hopefully other colleges like NOrtheastern, which lists ESWA among its community service opportunities, will act similarly.
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
03 Oct 2005
seeking individuals with a sincere desire to end the war:
are you interested in learning systemic organizing yet unwilling to work with Natlfed? I am currently beginning a project consistent with the principles of systemic organizing but not inconsistent with the principles of anti-authoritarianism. The project requires 20 volunteers willing to invest 2 hours week over a six week period and is meant to lay ground work for a united front of resistance to U.S. imperialist policies supported by both the Republican and democratic parties.
If you are interested in participating with this effort please contact the project director Elizabeth Parenti Soba at Dead_rose_rising (at) yahoo.com
we will maintain a policy of full disclosures provided to all participants participating with the project.
THANK YOU so much for this info
18 Nov 2005
Thank you so much for this information.. I met the same musician I think some of you all are talking about (by the way if it is the same guy, he no longer has dred locs..) at one of their "literature" tables a few months ago. They called *incessantly* until I finally agreed to do some volunteering with them. So I came down to their office and met with them and learned about their org. It seemed interesting if not entirely legit. No website? Full time workers living together in a storefront building? No answers to my questions about political affiliations? No rational response when I ask what the org is doing to affect change on a larger scale? Yea, this seemed weird..

But on the other hand, when I was there, I saw them teaching what they told me was a class on labor history.. I met their staff members, which included a diverse team (young, old, black, white). I saw them presumably working to provide advocacy for low income workers on a multitude of issues. It seemed they were doing something good and important.. So I committed to going back.

One thing about this org that I noticed from the start was their aggressiveness with pinning you down with a date and time when you would be coming back.

It also threw me off that the volunteers read from these highly stylized scripts . . even when they are talking to other volunteers..

There were a lot of things I noticed the first time I volunteered with them that made me say to myself "I'm going to do some more research on this organization . . ." I'm so glad I found this site.

I just feel bad for the six people I signed up to be new "volunteers"..
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
14 Dec 2005
There is a good explanation and discussion of Natlfed at http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304593.shtml
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
12 Jan 2006
I am working on a story about the Eastern Service Workers Association in Boston, as well as NATLFED. If anyone would like to talk to me about their experiences with the group, I would greatly appreciate it.

I know this topic contains a good deal of justified paranoia. To be upfront about myself: I just started working for the Milton (MA) Times. You can look me up on Google, or at www.thestudentunderground.org to see that I am not a NATLFED member, nor a government agent.

Obviously I would like to use your name in a story, but you can chose to remain anonymous if you wish...

I can be reached at nleskovic (at) hotmail.com


thanks for your time,
nate
ESWA is definitely NOT a Stalinist cult you all!
01 Mar 2006
Since so many of the comments here are skewed towards the negative and often grossly misrepresent the truth, I wonder if mine will actually end up being published here, or will be censured. Nonetheless, the record needs to be set straight so I will try forthwith:

This string would be laughable, if it weren't ultimately so hurtful to the good work of the Eastern Service Workers Association, which has been dedicatedly organizing on behalf of Boston neediest for almost 3 decades. I can only try to understand this hurtfulness (on the part of people whom I assume to be left-leaning "progressives") by realizing how very discriminated against are the poorest in the most wealth country on Earth. They are punched to the ground, then sucker kicked in the guts 'til they have nothing left, then kicked again when they at last revive and gasp their dying breaths. And you guys are helping with the punching and kicking! I'm ashamed of you!

This group is not a cult. They are not Stalinist or Communist. They do not steal poor people's money and turn it over to some evil national group who buy arms and plan insurrections. They strive for the exact opposite of an authoritarian regime. If anything, I would describe them as pure Social Democrats, though they eschew any party affiliations. They are indeed part of a group of similar autonomous groups across the nation, loosely associated with the National Labor Federation.

(The old history you bring up is from like twenty years ago, dudes! ESWA has and HAD nothing to do with Gino whatever, who died like 11 years ago! Did you know that every one of the group of members in NY who were arrested were exonerated and freed, and later most of them were awarded large monetary awards in civil proceedings against the authorities who had severely aggressed them? So much for finding the truth on the web.)

The organizers at ESWA I know are hardworking, selfless, and dedicated people. I would liken them as junior Mother Theresa's. Truly. That they should have to suffer such ill words on your part is absolutely outrageous.

What is all this name calling and slander here, with complete anonymity? Phyllis Kornblatt is the name of the "middle aged" woman of whom you speak. She is the 24-7 Operations Director of ESWA, and incredibly effective at that. Ben Lee is the name of the musician formerly in dreds. He is PHENOMENAL. As is Marilee who also works there, as is Miguel, another fulltime organizer. There are a bunch of people who come and go (ALL of us are volunteers) and they all have come to be my friends.

My own name is Bill Cunningham Corey, and I have been volunteering with ESWA for only about 6 months. If you want, you can call me at 617-522-0803, and I'd be happy to recount some of my experiences. You can call ESWA too at 617-541--8600 to get the words straight from the horse's mouth.

With none of this clock and dagger back-stabbing, dudes, come on! This internet stuff is shite if this kind of slander can happen without repercussions.

I have an idea for you, Nate. Why don't you give Phyllis a call? Say that Bill Corey suggested you do this. Why don't you go in and spend some time volunteering for ESWA? That should give you a good perspective on their work. It would probably really help you in your article. Also, I'd be happy to talk to you if you wish.

I'll give you a little run-down of some of the work ESWA does, work that I am incredibly proud to have shared:

They distribute food on a weekly basis to their neediest members. They have back-to-school distributions of cloths and supplies for kids. They have holiday parties for their members, plus holiday gift and food basket distributions. They have regular distributions of adult clothing (kind of important since so many of their members struggle to heat their homes).

Speaking of that, they do some of their most admirable work advocating for people trying to keep their homes heated and powered by electricity. ESWA is responsible for KEEPING PEOPLE ALIVE during the intense cold snaps we regularly suffer in Boston. They actually attend hearings about fuel rate hikes and are usually the only people in attendance who are representing the poor. They reach out to the poorest sections of our city and organize communities who have become isolated and GIVE THEM A SHRED OF HOPE. Why do you all want to tear this down? Stalinist Cult in Roxbury! Watch out! Dude, get a life, okay?

This is only a tenth of what ESWA does. I am excited to learn what is in store for the future. I have only been volunteering with them for a short time. But they are the organization I have chosen to volunteer with. I am INDEBTED TO THEM exposing me on a regular basis to the large segment of our society which is so easily hidden from us middle and upper class folks.

Dudes, if you deny the existence of the poor and overlook that they exist, then you are a hypocrite. And you are living in a false world. Go ahead and do it, but you're not as conscious as I, and you'll never be.

Now, if you're worse, if you belittle the poor or choose not to be charitable to them, they you are a Scrooge, a lout. A loser.

But dudes, if you tear and destroy those who are trying to help the poor, then you are far worse than a hypocrite or a loser. You are the very personification of evil yourself.

Take a hard long look at yourselves. Consider volunteering. It doesn't have to be for ESWA. I can understand why you might not like working with such purely socially responsibly, truly democratically minded people. People who believe in a meritocracy, not a plutocracy, which have put people like me and you in places of advantage, and which plans on keeping us there. And I understand that you might not like ESWA's specific ideas and methods of "arms reach" organizing.

But don't drag down and hurt an organization that I care about just so you can be safe in your idealistic fake leftist yuppy white world, ok?

I seriously hope this is the last in this lame string, or better, that the whole thing gets deleted.

Bill
Re: Watch out--Stalinist cult in Roxbury!
07 Mar 2006
I am going to respond to this post point by point because I think it is very important that you understand what at least ESWA was and probably still is. It is very apparent that you have not been volunteering for very long and do not know exactly what ESWA is.

You wrote:
Since so many of the comments here are skewed towards the negative and often grossly misrepresent the truth, I wonder if mine will actually end up being published here, or will be censured. Nonetheless, the record needs to be set straight so I will try forthwith:

Response:
Yes, I agree that many of the comments are negative and alarmist and sensationalist and do not do much towards objectively trying to distinguish the truth about ESWA and the National Labor Federation (Natlfed). Every organization has it’s positives and it’s negatives and I think it is important to look at both and weigh them carefully. There are many ex-Natlfed and ex-Boston ESWA organizers who suffered great pain because of their involvement and you do not know them. You know one part of the story and should be commended for sharing that part. But, like everyone else who is contributing you are only telling the part of the story that YOU know. Others will have other parts.

You wrote:
This string would be laughable, if it weren't ultimately so hurtful to the good work of the Eastern Service Workers Association, which has been dedicatedly organizing on behalf of Boston neediest for almost 3 decades. I can only try to understand this hurtfulness (on the part of people whom I assume to be left-leaning "progressives") by realizing how very discriminated against are the poorest in the most wealth country on Earth. They are punched to the ground, then sucker kicked in the guts 'til they have nothing left, then kicked again when they at last revive and gasp their dying breaths. And you guys are helping with the punching and kicking! I'm ashamed of you!

Response:
Yes, it is a tragedy and one of the largest shames this country has that there is such a gap between the rich and the poor in this country. What the poor go through in a resources rich city like Boston is unspeakable. However, that does not mean that everyone who works with the poor is immune from criticism. It does not mean that because a group does good things for poor people that there is nothing wrong with it. Yes, ESWA has been organizing the poorest of the poor in Boston for 30 years. And yes there are few who will do this. Does that mean that it is OK to abuse the organizers? Does that mean that it is OK to divert resources 11 years ago to someone’s drug habit? You say this did not happen. I do not know personally all the things that have been reported, but I do know others and I know people who dedicated their lives to helping the poor who do know first hand that this happened. If we are to use resources available to best change the conditions of the poorest of the poor then doesn’t it make sense that those involved should criticize and offer input into how best to do this? I organized farm workers in one of the most rural and poor counties in the US for 14 years and I think I learned a bit about organizing through doing this. I know that if things were run sanely for 30 years that ESWA and ESWA’s sister organizing drives would have a lot more strength, people and resources than they do. I also know people who know first hand that ESWA and other drives were purposely sabotaged for years. Yes they still did more than many other groups but does that mean that everyone should shut up and say nothing and pretend it didn’t happen. I also hear that the same type of national management exist today and although I don’t know that it’s purposeful, continues to impede local efforts. That is crazy.

You wrote:
This group is not a cult. They are not Stalinist or Communist. They do not steal poor people's money and turn it over to some evil national group who buy arms and plan insurrections. They strive for the exact opposite of an authoritarian regime. If anything, I would describe them as pure Social Democrats, though they eschew any party affiliations. They are indeed part of a group of similar autonomous groups across the nation, loosely associated with the National Labor Federation.

Response:
Whether or not this group is a cult is open for debate. It fits some models and not others. When I worked with EFWA, a sister organizing drive, every operations manager and political commissar (PC) (and every drive had a pc) was a member of the Provisional Communist Party, including at least one of the people you mention later on in this post. They are directed by a national office located in Brooklyn, run by Margaret Ribar. If someone is telling you otherwise they are lying. I would agree that they are not Stalinist or Communist, as the Party or Formation or Organization, as it is referred to although pitched as such, is not. It is a sham as well. During Gino’s reign it was used to provide him with drugs, sex and power. Those who tried to oppose him and make the Organization a force for low income workers beyond handing out food and clothes was systemically broken through physical and mental abuse. I know many personally who when they left suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome, disassociate disorders, and other stress related problems which have taken years of therapy to overcome, if they were lucky enough to get help. The woman who was much more responsible for building EFWA Suffolk, the first organizing drive that Boston was modeled on, left after sneaking out in the middle of the night to get treatment for the broken jaw Gino’s fist gave her. And in case you think that is in the past, there is at least one person currently in a leadership role who I know has physically abused other cadre.

You Wrote:
(The old history you bring up is from like twenty years ago, dudes! ESWA has and HAD nothing to do with Gino whatever, who died like 11 years ago! Did you know that every one of the group of members in NY who were arrested were exonerated and freed, and later most of them were awarded large monetary awards in civil proceedings against the authorities who had severely aggressed them? So much for finding the truth on the web.)

Response:
I would ask for some proof of the large monetary awards as I think this may be a lie. As for everyone exonerated, did you know that at least 2 of the full-time lawyers who worked with Natlfed were convicted of felonies, spent time in prison, and lost their law licenses. One of the biggest shames was that I doubt if they had competent legal representation rather than a mental case demanding Constitutional Rights which Courts had determined didn’t exist, they probably would have gotten a slap on the hand in a pleas bargain and kept their licenses. As for the Raid in ’84 Gino set this up. The guns which were found in ’96 were supposed to have been found then and Gino had set up 2 other cadre to go to prison for life while he continued as Field Command. Yes, the ’96 raids were shams probably designed to get someone publicity, but that has little to do with valid criticism of the group.

You Wrote:
The organizers at ESWA I know are hardworking, selfless, and dedicated people. I would liken them as junior Mother Theresa's. Truly. That they should have to suffer such ill words on your part is absolutely outrageous.

Response:
In a way I think you are right. I and many I know dedicated our life to changing things for low income people and worked 24/7 to try and do this. I would guess that the organizers you know do likewise. Unfortunately, just because you believe in something and are willing to work tirelessly, doesn’t mean you are doing what you believe in. If we can take the sensationalism out of the Natlfed debate and begin talking about the actual practice it would be a great thing.

You Wrote:
What is all this name calling and slander here, with complete anonymity? Phyllis Kornblatt is the name of the "middle aged" woman of whom you speak. She is the 24-7 Operations Director of ESWA, and incredibly effective at that. Ben Lee is the name of the musician formerly in dreds. He is PHENOMENAL. As is Marilee who also works there, as is Miguel, another fulltime organizer. There are a bunch of people who come and go (ALL of us are volunteers) and they all have come to be my friends.

Response:
I try to stay away from personal attacks and because of the nature of my criticisms, and the fact that some current full timers may decide to leave Natlfed at some point and want to rebuild a life, I shy away from using names unless I have to, except for top leaders. Because those at the top have a direct effect on the whole organization I feel justified in naming them. I suggest you check out the website http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304593.shtml, especially the comment from a leadership cadre, been there, Liv Dillon, and myself. There are some pretty horrific stories there. And, there were some illegal activities. Although any criminal liability has probably passed with the statute of limitations, those who left wouldn’t want their names associated with it. I will also tell you that because of actions of national leadership some of us walked around looking over our shoulders for years in fear of bodily harm until we received mental health treatment. So, there is ample reason for anonymity. And before you say ESWA is run locally through the WBC and Advisory Committee and the staff meeting, let me tell you this at best is a bending of the truth. ESWA OPS receives regular direction from the national staff and either follows it or pays the consequences. If someone tells you otherwise, they are lying. I could name for you the liaisons who covered the Boston ESWA drive during the years I was in Natlfed, but for the reasons above will not.

You Wrote:
My own name is Bill Cunningham Corey, and I have been volunteering with ESWA for only about 6 months. If you want, you can call me at 617-522-0803, and I'd be happy to recount some of my experiences. You can call ESWA too at 617-541--8600 to get the words straight from the horse's mouth.

Response:
I believe you are sincere and I believe you can tell stories about the work with the poor that is exemplary. This doesn’t mean that criticisms leveled are invalid. Since ESWA at best has only told you half the truth, I doubt calling them will yield the rest.

You Wrote:
With none of this clock and dagger back-stabbing, dudes, come on! This internet stuff is shite if this kind of slander can happen without repercussions.

Response:
None of the ex-members of Natlfed have any reason to slander ESWA. In fact, we have every reason to be quiet, if only for our own reputations for having been involved for as long as we were. There is no personal gain in it for us. However, I do think that people should speak from their actual experiences and facts they know. And again, I think that information both good and bad should be presented.

You Wrote:
I have an idea for you, Nate. Why don't you give Phyllis a call? Say that Bill Corey suggested you do this. Why don't you go in and spend some time volunteering for ESWA? That should give you a good perspective on their work. It would probably really help you in your article. Also, I'd be happy to talk to you if you wish.

I'll give you a little run-down of some of the work ESWA does, work that I am incredibly proud to have shared:

They distribute food on a weekly basis to their neediest members. They have back-to-school distributions of cloths and supplies for kids. They have holiday parties for their members, plus holiday gift and food basket distributions. They have regular distributions of adult clothing (kind of important since so many of their members struggle to heat their homes).

Speaking of that, they do some of their most admirable work advocating for people trying to keep their homes heated and powered by electricity. ESWA is responsible for KEEPING PEOPLE ALIVE during the intense cold snaps we regularly suffer in Boston. They actually attend hearings about fuel rate hikes and are usually the only people in attendance who are representing the poor. They reach out to the poorest sections of our city and organize communities who have become isolated and GIVE THEM A SHRED OF HOPE. Why do you all want to tear this down? Stalinist Cult in Roxbury! Watch out! Dude, get a life, okay?

Response:
Yes, ESWA does good work through their benefits program. But, again that doesn’t immunize them from criticism. Anyone who is truly interested in solving the problems of the poor in this country should be asking themselves whether what they do is the best way. They should be looking at other models and critiquing them. And again by critiquing I mean going through the good in each and the bad in each. And if anyone thinks they have the perfect model and everyone else involved in trying to change conditions in this country is completely wrong, then they are living in a dream world or incredibly arrogant, or both.

You Wrote:
This is only a tenth of what ESWA does. I am excited to learn what is in store for the future. I have only been volunteering with them for a short time. But they are the organization I have chosen to volunteer with. I am INDEBTED TO THEM exposing me on a regular basis to the large segment of our society which is so easily hidden from us middle and upper class folks.

Response:
I chose to volunteer with the Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals on Long Island. I was then recruited deceptively into the Provisional Communist Party. Before you decide whether or not this group fits the definition of a cult, perhaps you should check your facts. Perhaps you should find out what the actual models for a cult are and who developed them under what circumstances. I know I was given a definition of what a cult is from EFWA when they described why the Party was not. The definition they gave me was not any accepted model. And again, you seem to state as a fact that there is no centralized National Labor Federation and no clandestine group that developed and runs it called the Provisional Communist Party. How do you know this after volunteering for a short time? Because you were told this? Why do you believe this and not what others who were involved say? I am not attacking you, but asking you to consider possibilities and think things through. I will always be grateful to the organization for the organizing work I was taught to do and the many different people I was privileged to work with. However, the physical, mental and verbal abuse, the sabotage of legitimate local organizing drives and the deception far outweigh that.

You Wrote:
Dudes, if you deny the existence of the poor and overlook that they exist, then you are a hypocrite. And you are living in a false world. Go ahead and do it, but you're not as conscious as I, and you'll never be.

Response:
It is true that to deny the existence of the poor and overlook that they exist is living in a false world. However, because one criticizes Natlfed does not mean that one is overlooking the existence of the poor or is not involved in efforts to change the situation. Again, I invite those truly serious about challenging the existing problems in the country to look at the good and bad in efforts constantly and decide what course of action is best for them off this analysis.

You Wrote:
Now, if you're worse, if you belittle the poor or choose not to be charitable to them, they you are a Scrooge, a lout. A loser.

Response:
Criticizing ESWA and Natlfed and telling the truth about them – good and bad – is not the same as belittling the poor. In fact, it is far from that. Poor and working people are not some faceless mass who all believe the same way, can all be represented the same way, or who all have the same problems. To say that any one organization represents all poor and working people is in my mind akin to this and to saying that poor people are not really individual people like richer people are.

You Wrote:
But dudes, if you tear and destroy those who are trying to help the poor, then you are far worse than a hypocrite or a loser. You are the very personification of evil yourself.

Response:
Nothing could be farther from the truth. If you really want to help the poor then a good critical look at organizations involved is essential. Without that analysis you’re simply not putting in the work necessary to do it. Once you do that analysis then you can decide which organization to work with in what way or start something yourself. And again, I will emphasize that the poor are not a faceless mass they are individuals, the same as you and I. Treating them any other way is disrespectful. There is no one organization or effort that is all good, and no one effort that is all evil. If you think different, you are fooling yourself. Trying to help the poor does not mean that you are helping the poor.

You Wrote:
Take a hard long look at yourselves. Consider volunteering. It doesn't have to be for ESWA. I can understand why you might not like working with such purely socially responsibly, truly democratically minded people. People who believe in a meritocracy, not a plutocracy, which have put people like me and you in places of advantage, and which plans on keeping us there. And I understand that you might not like ESWA's specific ideas and methods of "arms reach" organizing.

But don't drag down and hurt an organization that I care about just so you can be safe in your idealistic fake leftist yuppy white world, ok?

Response:
I would echo that everyone should consider volunteering with groups to change the ills in this society. But, volunteering with ESWA and volunteering with groups to change the ills in this society are not the same thing. Again, I urge people to analyze goods and bads in an organization and unfortunately, I also consider it necessary to check out the truthfulness of what they tell you and to consider the gains they have made given the time they have been in operation. I would also say that the assumption that the only reason anyone would criticize ESWA is because they want to stay safe in an idealistic fake leftist yuppy white world, to be a pretty unsupported and unresearched and uninformed position. I have given my email address and name in this discussion as has at least one other long term ex-full time organizer with Natlfed and offered to back up my assertions. There is other verifiable information on the web. Have you considered contacting us? While you tell others they should check out information for themselves, you seem not to be interested in doing the same thing yourself to get a balanced view of why there is such criticism of Natlfed out there. Although many ex-organizers disagree on what Natlfed is or was, all who have spoken out discourage others from getting involved. Perhaps you should consider this.

You Wrote:
I seriously hope this is the last in this lame string, or better, that the whole thing gets deleted.

Response:
I am sure ESWA would to. My experience is that they do not want people to take a balanced look at their work.
ESWA is definitely NOT a Stalinist cult, you all!
09 Mar 2006
Hey Robin,

Thanks VERY MUCH for your time and your thoughtful words. I appreciate them. I don't know what to say. The endless repeating of the RE: line of this thread (which you have chosen to re-repeat): WATCH OUT-STALINIST CULT IN ROXBURY! is alarmist and false ... in your very own estimation. (I believe that's the conclusion you came up with in your analysis anyway -- "probably not a cult" ... "probably not communist," right?)

Why did you choose to repeat it? This is not fair and balanced. You maintain that is what you are interested in: a fair and balanced critique of ESWA.

Perhaps since as you attest ESWA is not interested in a fair and balanced assessment of themselves, then it is fair to fight them in an unfair and unbalanced way: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, so to speak?

(This is a classic example of how those on the same side of the labor struggle in America are pitted against each other, achieving nothing because of infighting ... wasting breath against commrades instead of banding together against the common enemy.)

Cannot an organization grow and evolve after some bad history? Does that bad history really outweigh the good history so very much, that it has to define the existence of the organization for the rest of its live-long days?

What you all are doing ... unfair, unbalanced criticism ... takes away from the albeit small pool of extreme left wingers like myself (rare enough) who would want to volunteer for such an organization. It hurts their work and drags them down. This whole thread is far from a thoughtful critical look at the group. It borders on the hysterical. As Shakespeare wrote: THOU DOST PROTEST TOO MUCH!

Come on, Robin, don't you see that? "WATCH OUT! STALINIST CULT IN ROXBURY!"

Let the organization grow and evolve from its bad history. The history is written and shall be written truthfully when all is said and done (and by people like you, long-time and dedicated players in that history).

And believe me, I really appreciate your addition to it, in setting me straight and teaching me some things I didn't know. My head is set much more straight on my shoulders. I am prouder than ever in my work with the group.

But don't you see what you're doing? You guys are really scaring away the pool of volunteers upon which ESWA relies to do their good work with this string.

It is not helpful. It is not fair and balanced. It is overwhelmingly negative.

I am going to keep trying to get the truth out about this organization, and have continued honest answers to my questions.

If you do chose to continue this thread, could I please implore you not to use the RE: line that has been perpetuating a major falsehood about ESWA, and is hurting their good work?

Thanks,

Bill
Announcing a natlfed discussion group
07 May 2006
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/
Cricitism of NATLFED
12 Oct 2007
Another resource on NATLFED, an essay and collection of links, can be found at http://www.internet-encyclopedia.org/index.php?title=Criticism_of_NATLFE