Fred Newman: Lenin as Therapist
[Chapter 7 of “On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left”]
By Dennis Tourish & Tim Wohlforth, 2000
Let Hitler take office-he will soon be bankrupt, and then it will be our day.
-H. Remmele, Communist member of the Reichstag, 1933
Pat Buchanan and That Woman
In the fall of 1999 Pat Buchanan sat down to lunch with Dr. Lenora Fulani. A pretty, light-skinned African American woman, conservatively dressed, with close-cropped hair, Fulani was by no means a novice to politics. She had been the 1992 presidential candidate of the New Alliance Party (NAP). The party qualified for more than $1 million in federal matching funds and was on the ballot in nearly all fifty states. In the past Fulani had supported Jesse Jackson and had been a close confidante of Louis Farrakhan and the Reverend Al Sharpton. She had a reputation as an outspoken lesbian and a defender of abortion rights. Buchanan was on a tour promoting a book in which he expressed the view that the United States should not have interfered with Hitler, his subjugation of Europe, and the Holocaust. Some eyebrows were raised in the mainstream press corps.
During an interview later that day, Buchanan was asked about his relations with the “black-nationalist Marxist.” His eyes narrowed and he answered: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Lenora Fulani.”1 Political relations, however, were a different matter. Fulani was about to launch her latest grand political maneuver, promoting Buchanan as the presidential candidate of the Reform Party.
Fred Newman runs the cult, which fuses politics seamlessly with psychotherapy. While Newman is little known, Dr. Lenora Fulani is a national media figure. The Newmanites prove that cults can affect mainstream politics in the United States in a dangerous way. At the same time Newman’s distinctive method of cadre recruitment gives us an insight into the psychology of cult organization in general.
The Cult’s Obscure Origins
Fred Newman, a Korean War veteran, was awarded a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science from Stanford University.2 He has had no formal training in any branch of psychology. He turned to a Maoist version of Marxism in the mid-1960s. In 1970 Newman gathered together a tiny collective, which shared a communal apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This was a moment when the left was searching for a road forward after the collapse of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the New Left generally, while a cultural revolution was in full swing. Newman’s collective, much like Harvey Jackins’ reevaluation counseling (see chapter 6), combined the radical politics of the sixties with the New Age therapy of the seventies. The result was a potent mixture of cultic consequences.
They named their collective “If . Then.”3 While Jackins stressed techniques of co-counseling in which therapist and patient exchange places, Newman developed a group version of radical therapy led by a therapist, which he called “social therapy” or “crisis normalization.”4 All members underwent therapy while they, at the same time, carried out political activity. By 1973 the group was called Centers for Change (CFC). “CFC is,” Newman explained, “a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organization.”4
The origins of the group in a communal setting gave it a cult-like character from the very beginning. This aspect of Newman’s operation did not change. Its core members have lived in shared facilities or are closely linked to such communes. Core members are expected to quit their jobs, sell their private possessions, and earn a meager living through such activities as soliciting funds on street corners.
In Bed with Lyndon LaRouche
For approximately one year, from the middle of 1973 until the end of August in 1974, Newman’s group was under the influence of Lyndon LaRouche (see chapter 5). The “United Front,” was formed, consisting of LaRouche’s National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC), Newman’s Center for Change, and a third group led by Eugenio Perente-Ramos (this later became another cult, the Communist Party U.S.A. (Provisional) (CPUSA [P])-see chapter 12). Joint forums were held and activities coordinated. On June 1, 1974, Newman wrote, “We have traveled from a community based storefront, to a health-service collective, to a cadre socialist organization. We have traveled from non-existence to existence and finally back to non-existence at a higher level. For CFC is disbanded. We move, not as a collective, but as self- conscious human beings into the National Caucus of Labor Committees.”6
Fred Newman’s comment about moving into the NCLC “not as a collective” proved to be a bit disingenuous. Then again, a cultist like LaRouche should have been sharp enough to spot another cultist. The group had been formed around the personality of Fred Newman, they all underwent continuous group therapy under his guidance, and they shared common living quarters. The Newman group continued to operate in lockstep while within the NCLC. It should therefore come as no shock that the fusion did not work out. The two gurus inevitably clashed. In late August 1974 Newman and thirty-eight followers walked out of the NCLC to form the International Workers Party (IWP). Newman announced that his tiny group had “now become the vanguard of the working class.” Newman declared: “The organization of the vanguard party is, as Marx makes clear, the organization of the class. The formation of the IWP had grown from our attempt to organize the [NCLC] from within that it might move from a position of left hegemony to a position of leadership of the class.”7
Newman’s period of association with LaRouche was to have a major impact on his thinking and future development. It is significant that he joined up with LaRouche precisely at the moment when the NCLC was moving from left to right and engaging in some rather bizarre conduct. Newman contacted LaRouche within weeks of the conclusion of his “Operation Mop- Up,” involving physical attacks on the left.
Newman declared in 1974 that “the former workers of CFC will organize in the spirit outlined by Marcus [Lyndon LaRouche].”8 He wrote a book that contained extensive quotations from LaRouche. He echoed LaRouche’s catastrophism, seeing the United States as facing “the grim reality of cannibalization and encroaching fascism.”9 He agreed with LaRouche that a “massive fascist brainwashing” was taking place. Like LaRouche, he dismissed most of the left: “Black nationalism, community control, feminism, the petty bourgeois movement, gay pride, worker participation programs, trade union parochialism, and so on, are concepts devised by the fascists to locate a group’s identity in something other than the working class.” 10
In 1974 Newman declared that “Liberalism is fascism. The liberal do-gooders are the fascists.”11 And, “‘The Left Movement’ or ‘The Radical Movement’ or ‘The Movement’ . is the CIA-developed deterrent to the development of a vanguard party… Fortunately there are some around working to destroy the CIA controlled left movement. Lyn Marcus and the NCLC are such a group.”12
While Newman never again publicly referred to the left in such terms, he was never really part of the left. His relationship was more that of a predator: from time to time running in Democratic primaries, moving into existing leftist organizations with the aim of taking them over, and utilizing prominent black leaders to advance his own aims.
Just as important, there was a concurrence between LaRouche and Newman on the critical questions of the role of leadership, cadre formation, and the mental manipulation of the membership. LaRouche brought to the “United Front” a far more developed distortion of Marxism than anything Newman had been able to extract from Mao Tse-Tung. Crucial was the linking of an apocalyptic crisis theory with the necessity of creating an elite cadre.
Newman contributed his knowledge of psychotherapy and experience gained in transforming his followers through these techniques into political operators. We suspect that LaRouche’s rantings about impotency and his ego-stripping sessions were at least partially inspired by Newman, who claimed that “all psychic problems are correctly diagnosed as impotency.” 13
After parting, the political evolution of the two gurus was, on the surface, quite different. LaRouche transformed his hostility toward the left and its constituents into a new rightist ideology with links to fascism. Newman continued to function politically on the left until 1994, when he began to move into the right-centrist Perot movement. Yet both leaders shared a common disdain for ordinary citizens, who were to be manipulated; for their members, who were transformed into robots to be used to do the manipulation; and for the democratic norms of a pluralistic society.
The Theory of Proletarian Psychotherapy
Fred Newman developed, in his 1974 book Power and Authority, a theory of the mind and its relation to society that has served him well as a justification for the existence of his cult and has aided him in controlling his followers. Newman saw revolution as a two-level process: the external overthrow of the bourgeoisie and its state and the internal overthrow of the “Bourgeois ego.”
We must learn, he insisted, to see “in both directions-inside and outside.”14 “Proletarian or revolutionary psychotherapy is . the overthrow of the rulers of the mind by the workers of the mind.”15 “Revolutionary therapy,” he stated, “involves an act of insurrection; of overthrow.”16 Through this act the “bourgeois ego” is replaced by the “proletarian ego.” “The proletarian or revolutionary therapist is . a leader.”17 This internal revolution is followed by “a long period of the withering away of the proletarian ego.”18
Newman viewed the “bourgeois ego” as the automatic product of the capitalist system. Drawing from Marx via Lenin and LaRouche, he concluded that “the self-interested, rational individual is guided by a ruling class imposed conscience (or super ego) which she or he transforms into a self controlling bourgeois ego.” 19
This view could be interpreted as a reasonable distillation of Marx’s concept of alienation. Capitalism tends to atomize people. People then relate to each other in the belief that they are acting autonomously in their own self-interest. Actually their relations are being determined by market forces and their thinking is influenced by the dominant capitalist culture and institutions.
Marx, however, noted countervailing effects of capitalist relations upon the worker. The very organization of the production process brought workers together collectively, creating the conditions for their common action, such as trade union organization and the formation of workers’ parties. Newman, following upon Lenin and LaRouche, dismissed such processes as expressions of “trade union parochialism” and therefore reactionary. He proposed “therapy” as a substitute.
A difficulty arises out of Newman’s efforts to “overthrow” the individual’s “bourgeois” ego through a therapeutic act while the capitalist system remains intact and functioning. The discarded ego is actually the only individual identity a person is capable of developing and sustaining within a capitalist society. Its dissolution creates a vacuum that is filled by the ego of the therapist. The therapist’s ego is no less shaped by the society within which he functions. The guru therapist’s desire to control others, manipulate others, and drive others to carry out his wishes represents a demented form of the worse features of personality in contemporary capitalist society.
Newman developed a critique of Freudian and all other forms of psychotherapy, labeling them “bourgeois.” Bourgeois psychology (read “all therapies excluding Newman’s”) “entails an act of transference (making the therapist into a substitute conscience and, at the same time, into a ‘temporary’ oppressive ruler) and eventually this transferential act itself must be analyzed and undone.. The bourgeois authoritarian leader allows a temporary and controlled regression to the bourgeois id and then leads the patient back again to her or his bourgeois ego.”20
These therapies, in Newman’s view, take a patient with a wounded ego; pass her or him through a process of transference; and, ending the transference, rebuild a healthy independent ego in the person. However, Newman believed, this process simply strengthened the “bourgeois ego,” that is the mind control of a sick society. He believed the very concept of a “self-interested rational individual” was reactionary.
What then is to be done? As part of a group therapy practice, the “leadership” of the therapist is required to carry through an insurrection against individual egoism. Once the “proletarian ego” is installed, the therapy is by no means at an end. It continues and is coordinated with revolutionary activity. “Revolutionary therapy becomes more and more indistinguishable from revolutionary organizing.”21 The victory of the “proletarian ego” over the “bourgeois ego” is thus expressed in the patient’s complete devotion to the political causes espoused by Fred Newman.
Normal therapy is designed to be completed during a limited time period. The patient may be emotionally bound through the transference process to his or her therapist for a period of time. However, health comes through the ending of the transference process and the restoration of the patient’s own sense of self and emotional independence. Not so in Newman’s “social therapy.” The process of transference, and therefore dependence upon the therapist, is never ending!
The difficulty is that the “proletarian ego”-read “emotional dependence on Newman”-withers away only when the proletarian state withers away. Since the creation of a proletarian state does not appear to be imminent in the United States or any other advanced country, and further, since all attempts to create such states have so far led to growth rather than withering away, the patient must remain dependent on Newman indefinitely. In the case of Newman’s oldest adherents, this dependency has persisted for more than twenty-five years!
The doctrines explicitly developed in this book continued to guide Newman’s practice right up to the current period. Dr. Lenora Fulani, the group’s spokesperson, wrote in 1989: “One of the earliest statements on the foundations of Social Therapy is contained in a book written by Newman in 1974 entitled Power and Authority. It states that psychic and emotional life in contemporary society reflects the political and economic degeneration of capitalism.”22
The International Workers Party and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Having founded the IWP, Fred Newman was not quite sure what to do with it. For a brief period he sought unification with various small Trotskyist groups as well as Marlene Dixon’s Democratic Workers Party (see chapter 9). In June 1975 the Newmanites were admitted into the Peoples Party, a forerunner of the Citizens Party that ran Barry Commoner for president in 1980. A bitter internal struggle ensued, which almost destroyed the small party. The group was expelled in March 1978.23
It was in this period that Fred Newman developed a curious relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In April 1974 Jim Retherford left the therapy cult. He had had a child with Ann Green, a devoted member who stayed with Newman. After Newman took his followers into the NCLC, Retherford, not wanting his son to be raised by people he viewed as crazy, took him away without the mother’s permission and left town. Green appealed to Newman who enlisted the help of two young lawyers, one named Harry Kresky, who were cult members. Together they developed a strategy that they hoped would enlist the aid of the federal government in finding Retherford and the child.
The lawyers contacted the FBI and arranged a meeting between Green and its agents. Green told them that Retherford was a former member of the Weather Underground and maintained relations with Jane Alpert, at that time a fugitive. Kresky met with representatives of the U.S. attorney in New York, giving them the same information.
The matter was brought out into the open in 1976. A meeting was held at St. Gregory’s Church on the Upper West Side to form the New York State Working Peoples Party, a forerunner of the New Alliance Party. A group called the Communist Cadre, which had recently split from Newman’s IWP, issued a statement primarily devoted to the Retherford matter.24 They accused Newman of working with the FBI. The IWP, in an answer to the charges, admitted that the events had occurred but held three members, not Newman, responsible.25 King, however, believes that it is “unthinkable” that Kresky and Green, loyal followers, could have acted without Newman’s full knowledge and approval.26
This incident raises a question fairly early on in Newman’s political evolution about the seriousness of his commitment to the left and its causes. Our study of political cults complements the conclusions reached by those who have studied a broader array of cult types: they operate in the interest of their leaders rather than for the purposes they are purportedly created to promote.
A West Side Story
In 1977 Fred Newman turned his attention to the politics of New York City’s Upper West Side. The area was and is among the most sophisticated liberal political strongholds in the nation. His activities caused concern among political activists. Newman’s group had resurfaced as the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council.
He caused a stir when he ran a key follower, Nancy Ross, for local school board and actually won. The startled liberal politicos decided to look a bit deeper at Newman, his past, and his current practices. Dennis King, who was later to write a book about Lyndon LaRouche,27 conducted an investigation of the group, interviewing over thirty people, including many former members. For the first time Fred Newman found himself publicly accused of leading a “therapy cult.”
There are about 35 individuals in the inner circle of the cult, most living in semi-communal apartments on the Upper West Side. Through the years, a combination of group pressure and Newman’s directive therapy had induced most of them to give up their jobs and to break off all meaningful personal ties outside the group. Likewise they have been induced to turn over all personal property and savings to the cult. They regard themselves as full-time organizers for the cult’s front groups, operating under tight discipline and secrecy. They eat and pay their rent through a variety of parasitical activities, such as street corner solicitations, the practice of amateur psychotherapy, the dunning of past and present patients for “political contributions,” and the occasional plucking of an inheritance or trust fund from a patient.28
Newman acted as a “benevolent despot,” to use his own words. “Fred’s veneer of compassion and his deep-set Rasputin-type eyes created strong transference feelings in . [his] patients.”29
“His groupies,” King explained, “cut off from the outside world and with almost every waking hour spent either in ‘busywork’ or interminable meetings (so that independent thought could be kept at a minimum), had no feedback from reality.”30
When Nancy Ross campaigned for the school board, she insisted that the IWP had been disbanded. Newman’s front organization, the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council, issued a statement that the party had disbanded shortly after the factional struggle in 1976. However, Jack Finn, another reporter for Heights and Valley News, discovered that the IWP continued to exist in a “clandestine” fashion. It issued at least a dozen issues of an internal bulletin, “Party Building.” These bulletins referred to the ongoing work of a “central committee” and of “chairman Fred Newman.” There were mention of the “Party” and the “work of the Party,” while the IWP was called the “apparatus.”31
We believe Fred Newman concluded from his brief experience attempting to build the IWP that he had no need for an open vanguard formation. He recruited new members through therapy and gained political influence by working within other groups or creating broad front organizations. However, he did have need for a clandestine vanguard formation, based on the Leninist model and made up of core therapy patients. As we will see, there is considerable evidence that the IWP continues to exist up to the present time.
The 1977 period of activism on the Upper West Side was a learning experience for Newman and his followers. They became skilled at operating within politically ill-defined front organizations and raising funds from guilt-ridden middle-class liberals. Most of all Newman got a taste for electoral activity. This would shape the rest of his political life.
The New Alliance Party
Sometime in the late l970s Newman had the great good fortune of running into Lenora Fulani, an attractive black woman who had been raised in Pennsylvania and was earning a Ph.D. in psychology at the City University of New York. She heard Newman lecture and “was very intrigued by the progressiveness of the politics guiding his thought.” She dropped her black lesbian Gestalt therapist and joined a Newmanite social therapy clinic full time.32
In 1979 Newman and Fulani formed the New Alliance Party (NAP). While the politics of the new party were purposely vague, they generally reflected a progressive agenda similar to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. Fulani ran as the NAP candidate for lieutenant governor of New York in 1982.
In 1984 the NAP ran Dennis Serrette, a black socialist and NAP member, for president. The party was on the ballot in thirty-three states and received 35,000 votes. A year later Serrette broke from the NAP, accusing it of having an all-white leadership that manipulated him. He took his charges to the Jackson Advocate, the only black newspaper in Mississippi. The NAP sued the paper in 1986 and lost.33
In May 1985 the NAP held its founding convention in Chicago, even though it had been formed six years earlier. Emily Carter, a black woman from Jackson, Mississippi, who called herself a “former organizer, now therapist,” was elected chairperson.34 In 1988 Fulani ran for the office of president of the United States. The party qualified for ballot status in all fifty states and received nearly $1 million in federal matching funds and a respectable 217,219 votes.35
Fulani’s tactics in 1992 became increasingly complicated. She began the year by entering the New Hampshire primary on the Democratic Party line. Then the Newmanites in California joined the Peace and Freedom Party and battled to capture it. While Newman lost that factional struggle, he nearly destroyed the small leftist party in the process. That spring Newman and Fulani turned their attention to the growing movement around Ross Perot, the right centrist billionaire curmudgeon. When Perot withdrew from the race in July, Fulani commented that “we’ve been stabbed in the back.” Fulani revived her presidential bid under the NAP label. Walter Sheasby has noted:
Fulani offered herself and the Presidential campaign as the vehicle of a Perotism sans Perot.. Fulani claimed to represent “my base-the old ‘New Deal’ coalition base of African Americans, labor, Latinos, women and gays.” And she said to the Perot followers “and there you are. In the radical and independent Perot base lies the potential for a new majority coalition.”36
The NAP once again qualified for ballot status in all fifty states, and this time it received $2 million in federal matching funds. Fulani received 73,708 votes, a considerable decline from 1988 and no doubt part of the reason Newman turned toward Perot.
A Washington, D.C., newspaper has exposed the complexity of Newman’s financial maneuvers that year. This involved running in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, where Fulani received only 402 votes out of 167,900 cast. She then switched tactics, running in several small party primaries, including California’s Peace and Freedom. Finally she ran on the NAP ticket. The total budget for primary activity alone was $4,161,495, which included the matching funds.
Interestingly, some $901,495 of this money “went to organizations that share offices, phones, and leadership with the NAP.” This permitted a process of “double-dipping,” whereby members of the NAP, working for various front organizations, were paid with campaign funds and in turn made campaign contributions that qualified for federal matching funds. While campaign funds are required by law to be spent on campaigning or returned to donors, the NAP, by spending a large portion of its funds on individuals and organizations associated with Newman, saw to it that the core group prospered. For example, “Fred Newman Productions received $68,925 in retainers for Newman’s services as campaign manager.”37
Life Among the Newmanites
Loren Redwood, a lesbian who fell in love with a Newmanite, told her story in a letter to a gay newspaper in San Francisco:
My experience with NAP was a nightmare. I am a white, working class lesbian and met NAP in Indiana where I was living at the time. NAP was in Indiana petitioning to put Fulani’s name on the ballot there. I was so excited and so moved to find that a black woman was running for president that I immediately began working for the campaign. I also fell in love with a woman working on the campaign. When it came time for NAP to leave Indiana, she asked me to go with them, and I did.. I was given 48 hours to prepare. I quit my job, left my home, my friends, put my belongings in storage, found a home for my pet, and gave the use of my car to NAP in exchange for their taking over the payments..
As a working class lesbian, I thought I had finally found a political movement which included me. What I found instead was an oppressive, disempowering, misogynistic machine. All my decisions were made for me by someone else. I was told where to go, and who to go with. I worked seven days a week-sixteen to twenty hours a day (I had two days off in two and a half months). There was an incredible urgency which overrode any personal needs or considerations, an urgency that meant complete self-sacrifice.. I felt totally powerless over my life, forced into a very submissive role where all control of my life belonged to someone else. I had given up everything for the campaign, my job, my home and my support system, I felt desperate.
Another strange aspect of NAP is what they call social therapy. This is political therapy founded by Fred Newman.. [I]t was expected that I enter social therapy and I did attend a few sessions.. My position on political issues was dictated to me by NAP-independent thought was discouraged. We were all part of something bigger than ourselves and were of one mind. I felt personally threatened, like I was being absorbed into something and was losing myself.. I was completely exhausted, so tired I was unable to work well. Being unable to work I had no income, as I was expected to raise my salary myself in addition to raising money for the campaign.. I was very frightened. I was in a strange city, I knew no one really except my lover, who couldn’t help me: I had no job, no home and no money. At this point I was feeling very suicidal.
It’s been four months since I left the campaign and I am putting my life back together piece by piece.38
This report is interesting in a number of respects. First, it documents one method of recruitment to the Newmanite cult: a person is attracted to one of the political projects sponsored by Newman, in this case the NAP, and is then urged to take group therapy. Only those who combine political activism with therapy are considered solid core members of the group.
Second, we are given a picture of the intensity and time-consuming nature of the group’s political activity. Loren Redwood felt “an incredible sense of urgency which overrode any personal needs.” This in turn has a disorienting and numbing effect upon the recruit. Her feelings and experience is identical to that reported to us by members of such groups as the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Militant Group, the Democratic Workers Party, and the LaRoucheites. It helps explain how a politically oriented cult can produce the same degree of total control over members as religious cults.
Third, the Newmanites carry out a practice that is common among religious cults but not used as extensively by political cults. This is having members quit their jobs, move into common quarters with other members, and solicit funds from the public to support the organization as well as themselves. This increases the recruit’s isolation from civil society as well as his or her dependence upon the group for survival. We have found this practice among the LaRoucheites (chapter 5), NATLFED (chapter 12), and Synanon (chapter 8).
Not all recruits have joined the cult through political activity and been steered toward social therapy. Many seek out therapy because of emotional disturbances, only to find themselves sucked into Newmanite political groups. Berlet reported this experience of an East Coast Latina activist:
I first came into contact with the Social Therapy Institutes through a friend who said there was a group that offered therapy for people with progressive views so I went to see what they offered..
Before and after the therapy session, they would say “why not sell the newspaper” or “maybe you could do us a favor and hand out those leaflets.” The therapy offices were full of their political propaganda. In the group therapy sometimes we discussed politics and their political party.
Some people get involved because they think the political work will help them get better emotionally. They told us societal problems are making people ill and the New Alliance Party is going to change things so people get better.39
M. Ortiz, a single mother living in the Bronx, became involved in social therapy in 1985 in a similar fashion.
The trouble wasn’t “in our head,” but “in the world,” we learned.. Through Social Therapy, I was conditioned to relate to my personal history in exclusively political terms. My family’s problems and subsequent poverty-and all my suffering-were all the result of the government’s imperialist invasion of Puerto Rico.. But consciousness-raising in itself was not enough. Our individual development and growth, we were told, was dependent upon the group’s.
Only by embracing this psycho-therapeutic doctrine could I hope to change what it meant to be a “poor, working-class Puerto-Rican woman..” [T]he “cure” for my depression and anxiety was ultimately conditional upon my becoming a serious political activist.
When I finally left the cult in July of 1990-after finally becoming disgusted with the totalitarian internal structure which, in my opinion, basically relies on slave labor for profit in the name of justice and empowerment-I had to literally rebuild my life.40
Individual distress is manipulated to transform the patient into a political activist under the total control of the therapist or the revolutionary leader. The new “family” of fellow cultists replaces the traditional family and friends. The followers become completely dependent upon Newman for their sense of self-esteem. “When Newman was happy, everyone was happy,” commented one former member. “When he was angry, everyone was terrified.”41
Organic Leaders: Jackson, Farrakhan, Sharpton
Antonio Gramsci originated the concept of the “organic intellectual.” In contrast to “traditional intellectuals,” such as clerics, teachers, and other professionals, Gramsci believed each social class created organically out of its own members a stratum capable of generalizing that class’s historic mission and projecting its hegemony over society as a whole. Since he believed that the capability of being an intellectual is in all human beings, he was convinced that the working class could and would develop its own organic intellectuals. This aspect of his thinking could be interpreted as more democratic than Lenin’s approach.
Lenin-particularly in What Is to Be Done?-advocated building a party composed exclusively of full-time professional revolutionaries drawn from the traditional intellectuals. This vanguard would bring socialism from “outside” the working class into the proletarian milieu. It matters little the degree to which Lenin may or may not have modified this view in a later period. What is critical is that so many on the left, including virtually all cultists, have been influenced by this vanguardist “from the outside” theory. Newman learned his Lenin from LaRouche.42
Fred Newman operated on the basis of both concepts of leadership. He viewed his core group as a vanguard formation, made up overwhelmingly of white, middle-class, traditional intellectuals. His elite members were professionals in two ways: They largely worked full time for Newmanite fronts, and, in many cases, they were professional therapists.
Newman’s concept of “organic leaders,” borrowed from Gramsci, was given a decidedly undemocratic twist. For Newman the term “organic” became a code word meaning “people of color.” Organic leaders were therefore prominent black spokespersons with real bases of support in the black community and wide media recognition. He embraced these “organic leaders” uncritically, but they were just so much window dressing to be used as a way of advancing the interests of the secretive vanguard made up of white traditional intellectuals. The result was a manipulative and undemocratic relationship.
The Newmanites’ first major foray into organizing around an “organic leader” involved support of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition and his 1984 and 1988 Democratic Party presidential bids. Declaring “Two Roads Are Better Than One,” Lenora Fulani announced support of Jackson while at the same time fielding her own independent candidacy under the New Alliance Party banner.43 Then, in an interesting and self-serving twist, the Newmanites organized the Rainbow Lobby. The group, headed by Nancy Ross, had almost the same name as Jackson’s organization and an identical program. However, it was not authorized by Jackson, was totally controlled by Newman, and raised its own independent funds to the tune of more than $1 million a year.44 In 1992 the Lobby was closed down and the lobbying firm Ross and Green was formed. The “Ross” of Ross and Green is the very same Nancy Ross, former school board member from the Upper West Side and head of the Rainbow Lobby.45 The “Green” was Ann Green, whom we met earlier working with the FBI. [Correction: Deborah Greene co-founded Ross & Green, it was not Ann Green.]
The next “Organic Leader” to catch Newman and Fulani’s attention was Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, noted for his anti-Semitic rantings. This is particularly interesting because, in the LaRouche cohabitation period, Newman shared NCLC’s extremely hostile (bordering on racist) attitude toward black nationalists. The NAP moved its national headquarters to Chicago in order to be closer to Farrakhan. In 1995, after Newman’s dissolution of the NAP and turn toward Perot, he ran a full page advertisement in the Village Voice entitled “Never Again! A New Pledge for the Jewish Community,” saluting the Million Man March. It featured a photo of Newman, Farrakhan, and Fulani, and was signed “Dr. Fred Newman, Convenor, Jews for Farrakhan.”46
Soon Newman added the Reverend Al Sharpton to the organic roster. Sharpton developed a particularly close relationship to the Newmanites during the period he was conducting confrontational marches through Howard Beach and promoting Tawana Brawley, whose tale of rape by white assailants has been proved to be a fabrication. Sharpton has developed a reputation as an anti-white demagogue and has clashed with New York City’s Jewish community. The Newmanites even rented office space to Sharpton and put him on their payroll as a $12,000 a year consultant.47
Noting the connections with Farrakhan and Sharpton, Dennis King wrote in 1992 that the NAP has “unsevered ties to anti-Semitism.” Newman is Jewish but this did not prevent him from saying that “Jews ‘as a people’ have made a pact with ‘the devil’ to serve as the ‘storm-troopers of decadent capitalism against people of color the world over.'”48
Overall the Newmanites gained a high profile and significant membership growth in the decade between 1982 and 1992. Newman expanded his base beyond the Upper West Side with therapy centers throughout New York City, as well as in Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Pennsylvania; New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Jackson, Mississippi; and elsewhere. During its first ten years of operations Newman’s core group numbered between thirty and forty people. By the end of the next decade, Newman had several hundred core followers and significant political influence. In 1992 NAP-related businesses employed fifty-six people and brought in at least $3.5 million a year. The East Side Institute for Social Therapy alone reported sales in excess of $400,000 a year.49
Lenora Fulani was a popular, media-savvy spokesperson who received considerable, and largely favorable, press attention. The potent combination of the NAP election campaigns with high-profile identification with Jackson, Farrakhan, and Sharpton made Lenora Fulani a well-known public figure. However, the political winds were shifting to the right. Discontent in America was finding a new path for expression: Ross Perot. Was this tiny white billionaire with his folksy manners and Texan twang a new “organic leader?” If so, of what class?
A Pact with Ross Perot
Beginning in 1992 Ross Perot developed a movement around his quixotic personality. He drew almost exclusively from whites, was particularly popular with small businessmen and people who lived in smaller cities and towns, and pulled support almost equally from the Democratic and Republican parties. His politics were generally right of center. He was anti-government, strongly against political action committees (PACs), and for electoral reform; he favored a balanced budget and welfare reform. Perhaps his most popular position was his strong stance against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). His economic nationalism gained him some support among workers hurt by job competition from south of the border. Many voted for him because he was very rich and therefore beholden to no special interests (except, of course, himself). The Perot movement definitely represented a radical departure from the traditional two-party system. However, there is no evidence that this departure was in a left direction.
In 1993, immediately after the 1992 elections, Fulani met with Nicholas Sabatine III, a small-town Pennsylvania attorney, and helped form the Patriot Party. In April 1994 the NAP officially dissolved into the Patriot Party. The National Patriot Party was formed with Sabatine as national chair and Fulani as chair for New York State. The apparatus of the Patriot Party was, for all intents and purposes, controlled by the Newmanites.50 The Patriot Party was, to quote Fulani, “based on the principles of democracy, fiscal responsibility, government accountability and a deep commitment to inclusivity and diversity.” Many on the left view “fiscal responsibility” as a code meaning cuts in benefits to the poor. According to Sabatine the party supported privatization of Social Security and a flat tax, hardly progressive positions.51
In 1994 Fulani ran in the New York State Democratic primary against Governor Mario Cuomo. She received 142,000 votes, or 21 percent of the vote. She then switched her support to businessman Tom Golisano, helping to create the Independence Party. That party received 217,000 votes.52 The Independence Party, like the Patriot Party, was a forerunner of the Reform Party.
In 1996, Ross Perot, who had resisted forming a third party, preferring to run as an independent, permitted the formation of the Reform Party. The problem facing Perot was how to get his party on the ballot in all fifty states in order to qualify for federal matching funds. His supporters were, by and large, enthusiastic but disorganized and politically untrained. Newman came to the rescue, throwing his cultists once again into a grueling nationwide ballot drive. Russell J. Verney, national coordinator of the Reform Party and a Perot confidante, stated to the New York Times in 1996 that “Mr. Perot was aware and appreciative of the role Ms. Fulani and Dr. Newman have played in helping the Reform Party. ‘They are just one voice in a very big group of individuals.'”53
At Newman’s and Fulani’s urging, the Patriot Party and the New York Independence Party affiliated with the Reform Party. Verney recalled that, faced with the need to get 90,000 voters registered in the Reform Party in California, he called Jim Mangia, the chairman of that state’s Patriot Party. Mangia was formerly a member of the New Alliance Party. Having succeeded in registering 120,000 voters, Mangia was made secretary of the state Reform Party.54 In 1999 he assumed the same post in the national party.
In 1997 Richard Lamb, who was defeated by Ross Perot in his effort to become the Reform Party’s presidential candidate, split away to form the American Reform Party. “They resented what they said was autocratic management of the party from Dallas,” the Chicago Tribune reported. “In Illinois, additional resentment had grown over the presence in the party’s governing structure of former supporters of Lenora Fulani and the largely defunct New Alliance Party.”55
In 1998 Lenora Fulani organized the Democracy Slate of candidates for the State Committee of the Independence Party. Both Fulani and Newman were on that slate. She took over control of the party and then ran as the party’s candidate for Lieutenant Governor.56 The Independence Party’s platform calls for “fiscal conservatism.” It states, “Wherever possible, we prefer to minimize the role of government, transferring needed activities into the private sector through privatization.” It favors an alteration of civil service requirements to make it easier to discharge government workers, a one-year New York residency requirement for welfare benefits, no welfare for illegal aliens, public funding for private schools, and more cops.57
From early on Newman has displayed little interest in the political programs of the parties he participated in, such as the Democratic Party; or set up and controlled, as in the case of the NAP; or supported, like Farrakhan and Sharpton. Still, until 1994, all his political machinations involved figures and parties generally considered to be on the left of American politics. Since there is nothing even faintly liberal or progressive, not to mention socialist, about the politics of the Reform Party and affiliates, what trick of dialectics did Newman employ to justify his moving into the Perot movement?
Bill Lynch, an aide to former New York City Mayor David Dinkins came up with a cynical answer: “We could never figure out what the New Alliance agenda was. The one common thread was that they were always trying to move in and take over someone else’s political operation.”58
Alliance with Pat Buchanan
Political relations between the Newmanites and Pat Buchanan date back to 1996. In an article entitled “Black Empowerment: What Does the New Populism Mean for African-Americans?” Fulani claimed that Buchanan was being “demonized,” comparing him to Louis Farrakhan, Ross Perot, and Jesse Jackson. Buchanan’s views were characterized as “anti-government, anti-big business, pro-people.” Fulani saw the Reform Party as “populist, not centrist,” a populism that “cuts across the traditional labels of right, center and left.”59 She and Newman had already prepared the theoretical groundwork (read: rationalization) for embracing Buchanan as a candidate for president on the Reform Party ticket.
Chip Berlet is one of the few political commentators to note Fulani’s shift to the right and to begin to develop a theoretical understanding of its broader implications. He notes that the extreme right wing has developed a “producerist narrative” which pits “hard-working productive middle-class and working-class” people against a rich elite and a socially parasitic welfare class. This movement is sometimes called “Middle American Nationalism” or the “Radical Center” or “Middle American Radicals.” It is narrowly nationalist and isolationist, opposes free trade, and is against big government and business. However, it also tends to be homophobic, racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic.60 Some leftists have become confused by the “anti-war” and anti-globalist demagogy of these rightists. Fulani and Newman are contributing to that confusion.
Buchanan’s interest in Newman and Fulani stems from their power within the Reform Party as well as from the proven ability of their cult followers to put the party on state ballots. At the 1999 Dearborn Convention of the Reform Party, Lenora Fulani received 45 percent of the vote for the position of vice-chair.61 They dominate the New York, Illinois, and California parties, and have extensive influence elsewhere.
Fulani and Newman have thrown their considerable support behind Pat Buchanan’s primary campaign. On November 11, 1999, Fulani announced that she would serve as co-chair of Buchanan’s campaign. “In traditional political terms, Pat Buchanan stands for all things that black progressives such as myself revile,” Fulani stated. “So how can we get to be standing here together with me endorsing his candidacy? Because we have a common interest in overthrowing the traditional political terms.”62 We are reminded of the German Communist Party in the early 1930s, which campaigned using the slogan “Hitler First, Then Us.” There never was a second.
Fulani has framed Buchanan as “a mighty powerful spokesperson for issues of political reform” whose appeal goes “beyond ideology … beyond issues of left, center and right.”63 When asked on Cable News Network (CNN) about Buchanan’s views on gay rights and abortion, she said that she could overlook them because Buchanan “can play a role as a unifier, bring everybody together.”64 In another interview Fulani said “We’re hoping he gets 10 to 15 percent of the vote.” Newman added that such a result “keeps the dollars coming in, and it keeps us as America’s major minor party.” When asked what would happen if Buchanan actually won the presidency, Newman cynically answered “Then we’re all in trouble.”65
It seems quite clear from the above that the Newmanite support for Buchanan is rooted more in opportunism than in ideology. This fits with a pattern of political opportunism that goes back for decades. Their past support for Farrakhan despite his anti-Semitism prepared them for their current role in Buchanan’s camp. Hard as it is to believe, the core members of this group, believing themselves to be progressives, even Marxists, will carry out Newman’s instructions to advance the agenda of a man whose most recent book claims it was a mistake to oppose Hitler.
The Clandestine Party
We have noted that in 1976 Newman claimed to have dissolved the International Workers Party. However, a reporter on the Upper West Side discovered that the party was never actually dissolved. The evidence suggests that the IWP continues to exist today. Cathy Hollandberg-Serrette, who left the NAP in 1985 with Dennis Serrette, reported that, at the time she left, “the IWP was alive and well with about 150 members in NAP.” Sheila McCue, who was associated with Serrette, also confirmed the existence of the IWP.66 M. Ortiz reported that in the period between 1985 and 1990: “I was drawn in the group’s underground web of pseudo-revolutionary cult activity-The International Workers Party.. Once indoctrinated, most IWP cadre are immediately divested of all assets and assigned mandatory fundraising quotas (ranging from $75-300 per week), and bi-weekly IWP ‘dues,’ which combined with Social Therapy fees, ranges from 15-30% of their income.”67 Wittes referred in 1994 to “a sub-rosa political core made up of the underground remnants of a self-declared Marxist-Leninist revolutionary organization.” He stated that “at least five ex-members confirmed the continued existence of the IWP..”68
The New York Times interviewed Newman in 1996, describing him as “a 61-year-old white-bearded man who looks like Santa Claus after a bohemian makeover.” The interview took place in a loft in downtown Manhattan “scattered with mementos of Ché Guevara.” Newman came up with an interesting explanation for his support of the Reform Party: “It’s like the left going into unions controlled by gangsters. You have a chance to make a statement to the rank and file, and then maybe you can do something about the gangsters.”69
This indicates that Newman still thinks like the Leninist operator he was in the days of LaRouche. His cadres, his comment suggests, sustain a long- term “left” goal. The route has turned out to be more circuitous than it had originally appeared to be in his “Marxist-Leninist-Maoist” days. Yet they believe that, someday and somehow, world progress is being served. In the meantime his therapeutically enslaved minions operate within the Reform Party and, in some places, control its apparatus. Political influence and power clearly please Newman and Fulani, while activism keeps the client/organizers busy, their minds empty, and their loyalties guaranteed.
The potential danger in this situation is not to be ignored. After all, Jesse Ventura, a wrestler, ran on the Reform Party ticket in Minnesota in 1998 and won, becoming governor. Considering the public’s disgust with the two major parties, it is not to be excluded that the Reform Party can win again. That could place parasitic Newmanites into positions of influence. Once in power, their allegiance would not be to the voters but to their guru Fred Newman. The Newmanites’ support for Pat Buchanan has already had the negative and dangerous effect of assisting a right-wing demagogue in channeling legitimate dissatisfaction in a fascistic direction.
Today, in addition to his secretive political activities, Fred Newman considers himself a playwright. He is also the artistic director of the Castillo Theater, an “interactive growth theater,” which is a form of therapy directed toward people of color. He is the director of training at the East Side Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy and has written several books that are featured at his Castillo Bookstore. He operates the West Coast Center for Social Therapy in San Francisco and similar centers in Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities. He describes these centers as “a unique ‘laboratory’-the 25-year-old development community of thousands of people who are living more developmental and joyous lives and helping thousands more to do so.”70
For all the deprivations he has demanded over the years from his followers, he, like other gurus, is not living that badly himself. In the fall of 1993 he purchased, together with long-time member Susan Massad, a large Greenwich Village brownstone at 60 Bank Street for $928,000. Revolution combined with therapy can be profitable.
Conclusion: New Age Leninism
It should come as no surprise that Fred Newman, Lenora Fulani, and other spokespeople for the group do not share our assessment that they run a cult. In fact in 1993 they took legal action against the FBI for characterizing them as a “political/cult organization.”71 Lenora Fulani stated that “the word ‘cult’ is a weapon, a murderously vicious, anti-democratic weapon used to attack people who are different in any way: religiously, politically, culturally or otherwise.. There is no such thing as a cult [emphasis in original].”72 At the time Fulani and Newman’s lobbying arm, Ross and Green, was running a campaign in defense of the Branch Davidians after the Waco disaster.
Of course, if cults do not exist, then the Newmanites could not possibly be a cult. The difficulty with this position comes when we confront events like the Jonestown massacre or the more recent Heaven’s Gate suicides. Are we dealing in these cases simply with people who are “different,” or is there something more sinister involved, which requires serious inquiry?
Fulani and Newman’s defense of religious cults like the Branch Davjdians,73 is a recognition of a commonality with them. In other words, if Fulani is wrong and cults do exist, then her statement represents a form of identification with the world of cults. What she is really saying is that these groups are just “different” like us.
A study of the Newmanites deepens our understanding of other political cults as well as the cult phenomenon as a whole. This is because Fred Newman’s therapeutic approach exposes the essential mechanisms of mind control utilized, though not necessarily admitted to, by all cults. The Newmanites display another interesting feature. Their preservation, though in clandestine fashion, of a Leninist cadre organization, suggests the usefulness of vanguard ideology to political cults. LaRouche, for example, has sustained this side of his thinking during his travel to the extreme right of the political spectrum (see chapter 5).
This outlook has contributed to the manipulative nature of their political activity. Newman, particularly after his LaRouchian period, has been relatively unconcerned with the content of politics, while becoming extremely adept at its practice. This has permitted him to support anti-Semitic black leaders, build a vaguely defined left party, run in Democratic Party primaries, support the right centrist Reform Party, and finally assist Pat Buchanan in his presidential bid. Politics is conceived as something to be practiced to achieve influence and power as well as to lead to growth of his core group.
Newman has become a New Age Leninist. While his group has been wildly successful when we look at its meager beginnings in a West Side apartment, it does have its limits. The Newmanites have learned better than most political cults how to successfully manipulate the American political arena and the media. Yet they remain a small group. One estimate does not give them more than a hundred core members today.74 However, these members are highly skilled political operatives, hard-working and motivated, and they function with lockstep discipline. Newman has done considerable political damage in the past. Given the state of politics in the United States, he may emerge as a serious threat to democratic processes in the future.
1. B. Shapiro, “Buchanan-Fulani: New Team?” Nation, November 1, 1999, P. 21.
2. D. King, “West Side ‘Therapy Cult’ Conceals Its True Aims,” Heights and Valley News, November 1977, p. 14.
3. C. Berlet, Clouds Blue the Rainbow: The Other Side of the New Alliance Party (Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates. December 1987).
4. F. Newman, Power and Authority: The Inside View of Class Struggle (New York: Centers for Change, 1974), p. 1.
5. Berlet, Clouds, p. 3.
6. Newman, Power, p. vi.
7. Berlet, Clouds, p. 3.
8. Newman, Power, p. xvi.
9. Ibid., p. xii.
10. Ibid., p. xii-xii.
11. Right on Time, May II, 1974. This was the publication of Newman’s Center for Change.
12. Right on Time, March 7, 1974.
13. Newman, Power, p. 113.
14. Ibid., p. 3.
15. Ibid., before p. 1.
16. Ibid., p. 113
17. Ibid., p. 112.
19. Ibid., p. 74.
20. Ibid., p. 112.
21. Ibid., p. 123.
22. Z Magazine, May 1989.
23. W.C. Sheasby, A Brief History of Coalition: Third Parties and the Rocky Road to the White House (Sierra Madre, CA, 1996). Sheasby was a Green Party congressional candidate in California’s twenty-seventh district.
24. Press release issued by Workers and Oppressed Unite, dated May 2, 1976.
25. “IWP Admits Snitching To FBI!” undated statement issued by the above group sometime shortly after May 5, 1976.
26. King, “West Side ‘Therapy Cult,'” p. 16.
27. D. King, Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism (New York: Doubleday, 1989).
28. King, “West Side ‘Therapy Cult,'” p. 14.
30. Ibid., pp. 14-18.
31. J. Finn, “Proof: Therapy Cultists Lied to Community,” Heights and Valley News (New York), holiday season, 1977, p. 18.
32. B. Shapiro, “Dr. Fulani’s Snake-Oil Show,” Nation, May 4, 1992, p. 586.
33. Ibid., 587.
34. Berlet, Clouds, p. 1.
35. L. Fulani, Lenora s Political History, http://www.fulani.org.
36. Sheasby, Brief, p. 4.
37. B. Wittes, “Lenora and the Money-Go-Round,” Washington City Paper (Washington, DC), July 8, 1994.
38. Coming Up! (San Francisco), January 1989.
39. Berlet, Clouds, p. 7.
40. “Statement Issued by M. Ortiz” (Cult Awareness Network Meeting, New York, June 16, 1993).
41. Shapiro, “Snake Oil,” p. 592.
42. A. Gramsci, The Modern Prince and Other Writings (New York: International, 1957), pp. 118-125; G. Vacca, “Intellectuals and the Marxist State,” in Approaches to Gramsci, ed. Anne Showstack Sassoon (London: Writers and Readers, 1982) pp. 63-67.
43. Berlet, Clouds, p. 7.
44. Ibid., p. 9.
45. J. and T. R. Goldman Cohen, “Controversial Lobbyists Stirring Up Waco Fight,” Legal Times (Washington, DC), May 2, 1994.
46. “Never Again!” Village Voice (New York): November 5, 1995, p. 5.
47. Shapiro, “Snake Oil,” p. 587.
48. D. King, letter to the editor, New York Times, August 13, 1992.
49. Shapiro, “Snake Oil,” p. 587.
50. Sheasby, Brief History, p. 2.
51. F. Bruni, “Perot and Populist Group See Benefits in an Alliance,” New York Times, August 21, 1996.
52. Fulani, History, p. 2.
53. Bruni, “Perot.”
55. R. Worthington, “Ex-Perot Stalwarts Establish New Party,” Chicago Tribune, October 6, 1997.
56. L. Fulani, The Democracy Slate, http://www.fulani.org.
57. The Platform of the Independence Party of New York, http://www.fulani.org.
58. Bruni, “Perot.”
59. Originally posted online circa February 1996 by the Committee for a Unified Independent Party. See http://www.publiceye.org.
60. Buchanan, Fulani, Perot and the Reform Party, http://www.publiceye.org.
61. Shapiro, “Buchanan.”
62. S. McCaffrey, “Lenora Fulani Endorses Buchanan,” Associated Press, November 12, 1999.
64. “Reform Party Warming to Buchanan,” Washington Post, September 20, 1999.
65. J. Bennet, “The Cable Guys,” New York Times Magazine, October 24, 1999, p. 79.
66. T. Kingston, “The Seedy Side of the Rainbow,” in Coming Up! (San Francisco), November 1988.
67. See note 40.
68. Wittes, “Money Go Round.”
69. Bruni, “Perot.”
70. Posted on the Internet at http://webpsych and at http://www.pond.com.
71. Ross and Green, What Is the Cult Awareness Network and What Role Did It Play in Waco? (Washington, DC: WRS, 1993), p. 10.
72. L. Fulani, We Must Stand Up for Democracy! (New York: Castillo Communications, May 23, 1993).
73. M. Breault, and M. King, Inside the Cult (New York: Signet, 1993); B. Bailey and B. Darden, Mad Man in Waco (Waco, TX: WRS, 1993).
74. Shapiro, “Buchanan,” p. 22.
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