The Truth About NATLFED

Personality Versus Program

One criticism when a cadre was in distress was he/she was allowing personality to get in the way of the program.  After all, with so many persons coming from such diverse backgrounds, it was inevitable.  You had persons who had been involved in different movements before getting involved with NATLFED.  You had those who were recruited very young, high energy and easily molded to the cadre ideal.  There were those who came from affluent families who felt a sense of helping those less fortunate.  Ones from the trenches, who used to be social workers frustrated with a system that failed so many people.  Professionals with many years of education.  People who joined did come from all walks of life.

It was sometimes difficult to put aside personality in favor of the program.  We have all  met the person who just rubbed us the wrong way and the same was true inside the organization.  Polly commanded a lot of respect through her actions as well as her political understanding.  Many had little respect for one of the operations officers who refused to do anything except sit behind the OPS desk and find something wrong with everything.

The program was supposed to be every cadre’s number one priority.  We lived and breathed the revolution yet sometimes personalities did conflict.  It did not help that there were those in favor with Oldie and those who were not in favor with Oldie.  That was a problem.  If you were in his favor you could get away with just about anything and some abused this status.  If you fell out of his favor, others ganged up against you to drive you away.

Just because someone had a college degree did not necessarily mean they were better than the rest, yet some acted as if it did.  The concept of privileged often interfered with the workings of the program.  It went against the notion of being comrades but it was and continues to be a problem.

Oldie was a very charismatic leader, no one denies that.  Some may cry he was a fraud and charisma allowed him to get away with the things he did.

There were those who ascended up the ranks because they knew the right person to sleep with.  Not very noble but it happened.  I just want to point out that I was not part of the harem of women that Oldie slept with.  I have to mention it because there were some women put in certain positions because they did.  Perhaps I did resent that because I thought there was more to being a member than just sleeping with the right person.  He was not the only one taking advantage of women but he was able to elevate women within the leadership of the organization.

I had a lot of respect for the ones who worked day in and day out for the revolution.  If they were sleeping around, it was their business not mine.  If it got in the way of the work, then I said something.  By getting in the way of the work, I mean failing to do things because they were too tired from sneaking around in the middle of the night, or just not having to do things because they were sleeping with “the right people” and doing laundry was beneath them.

There were some who no matter what had to get in the last word.  If they did not get their way, you would see it in their actions.  They would openly state their dissension.  It is an interesting scenario considering the need for consensus and while everyone might say they agreed, the truth is not everyone was willing to go along with it.  Asked and answered yet asked again in a slightly different manner.

There were some who were “too good” to do certain things.  It was beneath their station to clean a bathroom.  Someone had to clean the bathrooms and you could see the division of labor sometimes was based upon the class origins of the cadres assigned to perform the various tasks.

I am not sure when this became so prevalent, the ideal of building a classless society yet the ones building it were still entrenched within a system of class ideals.  Struggs often cooked dinner, it not being beneath her status as Chair to do so or her history of activism.  Someone who came in through the failed window washers’ organizing effort was deemed as only good for scrubbing toilets.

It was problematic but again considering the disintegration of the effort it was inevitable.  Some people felt entitled to certain ranks based on their dot dates, demanding the privileges yet not delivering on the responsibilities.  I remember when a Suffolk cadre was elevated to the Central Committee as soon as his initial probationary member period was concluded.  This was done based on his ability to organize for the revolution.  It caused a lot of hurt feelings.  When he was reassigned to National, all that he had done in Suffolk was allowed to fall to the wayside by the local cadres not wanting to continue because they did not like his elevation in status.

There was a lot of pitting of persons against each other.  It was not meant as a form of amusement, but some would disagree with me.  It allowed for knights on white horses to step to the front and take charge of the situation.  Sometimes there were inadvertent casualties to this infighting but that too could be explained away.

You will note that I called this article Personality Versus Program, not Program Over Personality.  You can say it was all about the program but sooner or later you come to a realization that personality does play a major factor in decision making, tactics, strategies and policies.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I do not remember the Program Over Personality presentation.  It is how I am referring to a lecture that Oldie rendered one late night.  It was after the incident of someone trying to choke the crap out of me and so I was not in a very good frame of mind.  I was too busy hiding out in the upstairs apartment listening to the presentation over the intercom with another cadre trying to help me keep it together.  I was upset over being choked.  I was upset with responding by pulling out a chunk of the woman’s hair.  I was upset that no one tried to pull the woman off of me.

I remember talking to Oldie about it and he admonished me that I had to get over it.  The person was dealt with and it was time to move forward with the program.  That was what we were there for, the program.  We did not have to like each other but we did have to work together to reach the ultimate goal.  Perhaps that is why some people endured horrific abuses for so long, misguided by that line of thinking.  Perhaps that is also why so many people left, love affairs gone bad or just not wanting to put up with the crap any longer.  The ones who left after the failed date came to the epiphany that it simply was not worth it any more.

After Oldie died, the approach to cadres being in distress was to just let them leave.  They were discarded like trash.  Those who tried to address the situation were driven out.  Those who remained enjoyed their victory.  They are still handing out free food and clothing, doing nice things for poor people as part of a front for a program that is not doing much of anything else.

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