Cadre Or Cult?
Gino Perente, NATLFED & the Provisional PartyBy Jeff Whitnack
Public Eye, 1984
Part One | Part Two
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 VuToday 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 RugAt 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 FederationThe 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.
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.
A Hidden AgendaCritics 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 BloodNATLFED 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 NATLFEDI 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 PitchI 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 UpSo, 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.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.
Dropping OutTwo 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.
-> Read Part Two
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