The Truth About NATLFED

February 8, 2009

The Truth About NATLFED

Filed under: Cult,NATLFED,Politics,Uncategorized — marystruggler @ 03:32

If you had an encounter with National Labor Federation or any of its subordinate groups (Eastern Farm Workers Association, Eastern Service Workers Association, Women’s Press Collective in Brooklyn, Northwest Seasonal Workers Association, California Homemakers Association, Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals, Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals, Western Service Workers Association, Western Farm Workers Association, just to name a few) you might want to learn more about the inner workings of this organization.

Some call it a cult.  In its beginnings, NATLFED was a dedicated labor organization.  It strove to organize the unrecognized worker strata of the country (those not protected by the labor laws of the country).  It suffered from the losses of key leaders such as Mary Donovan Seeber (left after fellow leaders refused to support her as Chair and eventually murdered), Mary ‘Polly’ Gardner (died of untreated breast cancer), David Shapiro (left after a falling out with fellow leaders), David Mitchell (abandoned the organization after his incarceration), Nelle Christensen (left calling Gino and the Organization a fraud, not on indefinite medical leave) and finally, the death of the founder Gino Perente.

When the new regime took over under the leadership of Margaret Ribar in 1995, the Organization changed radically.  The Organization’s new focus of passive revolution replaced its previous effort of establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat through whatever means necessary.  Many key leaders were expelled.  Democratic centralism was replaced with selective centralism.  The membership body no longer had any say in the strategies or tactics.

The current leadership is attempting to change the perspective that the Organization is a cult.  If a person leaves, he or she is “free” to do so (this is very different from the period before 1996).  Communal living arrangements have been reduced from numbers in the thirties to numbers by the handful or less.  Reports of physical abuse have decreased after the 1996 raid.  However, former cadres do continue to talk about psychological and emotional trauma suffered after that time.

Some choose to refer to NATLFED as a controversial organization.  I prefer to call it a paper tiger, the fight long gone while some desperately cling to the victories of the past.  What is the significance of the IM Young strike today?  Not much has changed to improve working conditions for farm workers on Long Island after 1984.  Some say conditions are worse now than in 1972.

NATLFED is just one fraction of Communist Party USA/Provisional Wing, also called the Provisional Party.  Openly, the Party is called the Organization.  Within some circles, it is called the American Formation.  Other fractions continue to operate while some are defunct, relics of the past.  While they tout expansion with new entities in Alaska and the midwest, they neglect to mention the loss of entities such as Native American Research Bureau or the Association of Federal Aid Students.  The losses far outnumber the new.

The articles within this blog are written by former cadres.  There are three primary periods of the Organization that are indicated as follows:

  1. 1971-1984: the building and expansion of the Organization starting with an assemblage of a few persons, creating Eastern Farm Workers Association, the entity “jumps” (starting offices in other areas across the country).  This was the time that Gino Perente controlled the Organization.  Some believe during this time it was not a cult, that it was a dedicated movement (this is a controversial point).  The Central Committee had real power.
  2. 1984-1995: after the raid at the brownstone complex on Carroll Street, the Organization drastically changed.  Gino was injured in the raid and confined to one apartment.  He still controlled the Organization, while many true believers left after the failed date of the revolution (February 15, 1984).  The Central Committee began to change, decisions often overruled by Gino.
  3. 1995 to present: with Gino’s death March 18, 1995, there was a temporary power struggle until Margaret Ribar assumed control of the Organization.  Even Gino’s last will and testament was subject to debate and re-interpretation.  The first year of her leadership, she aggressively operated a campaign of “better fewer but better” (the purges).  Many cadres were forced out of the Organization, several by violent means while most through psychological or emotional abuse.  The agenda changed from armed struggle to passive revolution (when it comes, it comes).

At this time, the primary authors of this blog are persons from the 1979 to 1996 period, originally from a field entity and then assigned to the National Office Central (NOC).  Field entity assignments are different from administrative entity assignments such as NOC or COSHAD (Committee for Occupational Safety and Health of Attendants and Domestics, the cover for the west coast regional office).  Other former cadres are invited to submit articles for inclusion.

Feel free to leave a comment in the Discussion Board.   This blog intends to educate people about some of the inner workings of the Provisional Party, describe the terminology, educate about the cadre lifestyle, talk about the organizing methodology and more.


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