International Workers Party


International Workers Party

The International Workers Party (IWP) is supposedly a secretive Marxist political organization founded by controversial organizer, playwright and psychotherapist Fred Newman.Who|date=July 2007

Origins

The history of the IWP is itself controversial. The article below reflects both critics and supporters of Fred Newman, Lenora Fulani and the many organizations they have built over the years.Nonspecific|date=July 2007

The IWP has its roots in Centers for Change, a radical community organizing project led by Newman in New York City in the early 1970s. Newman led the CFC into a brief alliance (1973-74) and even briefer merger (three months in 1974) with Lyndon LaRouche's National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC); the association began shortly after the conclusion of LaRouche's infamous "Operation Mop Up," a series of violent NCLC attacks on leftist groups. Even before bringing CFC members into the NCLC, Newman had written articles supporting LaRouche's theories and techniques, especially LaRouche's use of psychoanalytical concepts in political organizing and recruitment efforts.Fact|date=February 2007

The reason Fred Newman and his colleagues provided for leaving the NCLC was a disagreement between LaRouche and Newman over what to do with the National Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organization (NUWRO), which the LaRouchians had founded the previous year (Newman wanted to build it up, while LaRouche wanted to concentrate on more rarefied issues).Fact|date=February 2007 However, the differences in life style between LaRouchians and Newmanites were equally important in triggering the split, with the notably puritanical LaRouche writing that there was no room in the NCLC for the CFC's unconventional (by LaRouchian standards) sexual practices.Fact|date=February 2007

Newman and 38 of his followers issued an open letter (August 1974) in which they announced they were leaving the NCLC and forming the IWP. The latter, they proclaimed, would be the true vanguard party that would lead the supposedly impending (within months) revolution of the working class against Rockefeller fascism.Fact|date=February 2007

They also claim to have been the first to decry LaRouche's move to the Right. In fact, however, the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the independent "Movement" left had all condemned the LaRouche organization as fascistic during Operation Mop Up.Fact|date=February 2007 Newman's Centers for Change not only did not join in this condemnation (or in the self-defense coalition that protected leftist meetings at the height of the violence) but they began working enthusiastically with LaRouche. This was after Mop Up was over, but while the LaRouche organization was still engaging in physical intimidation against black activists and West Coast leftists.Fact|date=February 2007 Furthermore, Newman and his closest associates expelled and harassed members of Centers for Change, such as Jim Retherford and David Socholitsky, who opposed the alliance with LaRouche.Fact|date=February 2007 Newman then fulsomely praised LaRouche in the introduction to "Power and Authority" (1974) published almost one year after most of the Left had denounced LaRouche's move to the Right. Nevertheless, the Newman group, after their split from LaRouche, did denounce him and continued to do so over the years.Fact|date=February 2007Fact|date=February 2007 In 1975, the IWP was joined by four Trotskyists who had previously constituted themselves as the Class Unity Faction within the Workers World Party but had been forced out as a result of their opposition to the WWP leadership's supposed reformism. The members of Class Unity hoped to convert the former CFC members to their own brand of revolutionary communism but soon found that their polemical style, which emphasized ideological principles, clashed with Newman's emotionally-based psychotherapeutic approach to leftwing politics.Fact|date=February 2007

The Trotskyists and a handful of disillusioned former CFCers then split away in 1976 to form the short-lived "Communist Cadre" organization. In a dramatic public confrontation at a forum on New York's Upper West Side and in a series of mimeographed broadsides, they accused Newman of running a psychotherapy cult and of encouraging his followers to provide the FBI with false information on a dissident member of the former CFC, Jim Retherford, who had denounced Newman's alliance with LaRouche. Newman admitted that the approach to the FBI had been made but said that his followers had done it without his knowledge or consent. The ComCads retorted that no one in the Newman collective did anything without checking with Fred first.Fact|date=February 2007

Later that year, Newman announced the IWP was being abolished so that he and his associates could concentrate on community organizing. But a Manhattan newspaper, Heights and Valley News, published quotes in 1977 from IWP internal bulletins indicating that the party still existed as an underground formation. Since then, a steady stream of evidence--including many more internal documents, statements from former members, statements from psychotherapy clients who were the targets of unsuccessful recruitment as late as 2002, and sworn court deposition testimony--has indicated that the IWP continues as the core organization of a community that includes electoral third-party activists, actors, therapists, youth programs, and cultural entities that openly follow Newman's philosophy.Fact|date=February 2007

Ideas and Practices

The IWP considers itself a revolutionary organization which fuses Leninist vanguardism with Newman's theories. Newman believes that everyday psychological ills are brought about by the same bourgeois social order that supposedly is the cause of poverty and wars. In "Power and Authority" (1974) he argues that each person in capitalist society has a "dictatorship of the bourgeois ego" in his or her head, which should be replaced by a "dictatorship of the proletarian ego." This personal transformation, Newman suggested, could be brought about by the therapist functioning as political organizer, and by the power of the collective. This philosophy later came to be known as "social therapy" and was developed and elaborated in relation to various political and psychological themes. Those who adhere to Newman's philosophy, whether members of the IWP or not, are sometimes referred to by critics as "Newmanites."

Newman and his followers are among the many who claim to have been influenced by the work of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky (who died in the 1930s) was a developmental psychologist who pioneered the notion that the intellectual development of children is a function of human culture as mediated through the family and the larger community.Fact|date=February 2007 Vygotsky's powerful and seminal contributions to modern thought have been adopted (and adapted) by a wide range of contemporary thinkers, some of whom resent their use in the controversial context of Social Therapy (Vygotsky himself never practiced, wrote about or conducted research on the subject of psychotherapy).Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007

Over the years, critics have suggested that Newman's proletarian ego dictatorship is really the "cult-rule" of Newman's own ego, while some former members have described in articles and web postings how the "collective" (both in therapy and in political work) serves to browbeat, guilt-trip and intimidate individual members.Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007 Among the scores of former members, however, are some who say they benefited from the experience and are only mildly critical of Newman and other party leaders, as well as many individuals whose current opinions are unknown since they do not post Internet messages on the subject or communicate with other ex-IWPers or the media.Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007

In the middle and late 1970s, the IWP was reportedly made up of fragmented "cell" groups that carried out party directives. Each cell had a leader, who would meet with Newman and other leaders in a group called "The Secretariat."Fact|date=February 2007 Former members describe various levels of play-acting and various devices for squeezing more money and longer hours of work out of them having been added during the following years.Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007

After the 1970s

Newman and his followers created an array of public organizations of which the most important were the New Alliance Party (NAP), an electoral party, which at its 1979 inception considered itself "pro-socialist" but also had a broader issue-oriented appeal; the All Stars Talent Show Network, a national youth program which staged talent competitions; and the Castillo Center, a theater and arts facility in Manhattan that would later merge with All Stars (more on All Stars below).Fact|date=February 2007

The NAP reached out to individuals and organizations interested in multiculturalism and empowerment. It ran candidates, organized forums and published a weekly newspaper. In 1988 the New Alliance Party fielded Lenora Fulani for President, organizing a national drive that resulted in her becoming the first woman and the first African American to be on the ballot in all 50 states. This experience helped pave the way for the Newman group's later successes in less radical forms of third-party politics.Fact|date=February 2007Some former members say (and have written in detail and testified under oath in court) that the IWP continued to operate "underground" in this period. For example, some of these individuals claim that it was the IWP members who selected out members of NAP to be invited into social therapy (and also, conversely, steered social therapy patients into NAP).Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007 Some former members also claim that IWP members would gradually reveal the "secret" of the IWP's existence to those deemed worthy of joining the vanguard (several former social therapy patients in Atlanta affirmed at a 2004 American Family Foundation conference that they had been approached in this manner in or around 2001 and 2002).Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007 Finally, some former members say that the IWP membership answered in the late 1980s and early 1990s to a small group termed the "Steering Committee," which consisted of the leading members of Newman's various organizations, including NAP's Fulani.Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007 The IWP emulates democratic centralist parties in that it has a "Central Committee," a governing body that supposedly represents the most dedicated and loyal members (some critics question its representativeness).Fact|date=February 2007 In theory, democratic centralism allows for debate over strategy and tactics, although once the Central Committee arrives at a policy decision, all party members are required to follow through with it.Or|date=September 2007

Some former members say that the Central Committee of the IWP is a means for Newman to control the social status of IWP members and that its members have little capacity to oppose Newman's personal will.Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007 For instance, when the party moved away from street organizing in minority communities during the 1990s, some members who left at that time (or shortly before) accused Newman of arbitrarily imposing new policies that had the effect, in the eyes of the dissidents, of turning the IWP into a personal fundraising machine for Newman.Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007 Supporters of Newman, however, claimed that the new policies were collectively agreed upon and were intended to create the conditions for broad-based independent electoral efforts by connecting with and building bridges between multiple communities.Who|date=July 2007Fact|date=February 2007 It is indisputable that, in the years since then, the IWP and its various entities have developed far greater political influence (in the New York City area, at least) and operate among broader circles than in the 1980s.Or|date=September 2007Fact|date=February 2007

Late 1990s - 21st century

In the early and mid-1990s, Fulani, Newman and other IWP members joined with former followers of H. Ross Perot and other advocates of working outside the two-party system to build the New York Independence Party, an electoral third party. In 2001, the Independence Party had a major impact on the NYC mayoral campaign, with the Independence line providing a quantity of votes which exceed the victory margin of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a newly-minted Republican. Only months after Bloomberg took office, the All Stars Project, which Newman and Fulani had founded in the 1980s, secured an $8.5 million tax-free municipal loan (approved by the Industrial Development Agency board, whose members were mostly Bloomberg appointees) to purchase a headquarters on 42nd Street for its multi-theater, multicultural headquarters. (The approval process had been stalled for years under the more conservative Giuliani administration.)Fact|date=February 2007

Some critics and former members of NAP and the IWP have claimed that Newman and Fulani's willingness to seek Republican patronage betrays a stronger rightwing tilt than in previous years, citing not only their alliances with Republican politicians such as Bloomberg and Governor Pataki but also their support for several months in 2000 of the Presidential campaign of Patrick Buchanan.Who|date=July 2007 Others simply note their increased willingness to "play the political game" — particularly with players who support electoral reform.Who|date=July 2007 And Fulani, in a book published that year, described herself as a "post-modern Bolshevik." In 2003, Newman gave a public speech entitled "Why I Am Still a Marxist."Fact|date=February 2007

Since 2002, the web site http://www.ex-iwp.org/ has provided a forum for former IWP members, mainly those hostile to the group, as well as some who remember it with mixed or positive feelings, to comment openly on their experiences and on the party's current political, cultural and fundraising endeavors. A "send us your stuff" appeal by webmaster Marina Ortiz (a freelance writer and former IWP member) resulted in the sending in of previously secret internal IWP documents which were duly mounted on the web site.Fact|date=February 2007 The site's discussion page strives to provide a psychologically safe environment for the venting of painful memories, and both anti- and pro-Newman correspondents are strongly discouraged from using abusive language.Fact|date=February 2007

The New York Post in a 2002 article cited supposedly secret documents of recent provenance that suggest that the IWP is still carrying out a disciplined revolutionary strategy; however, it appears now to be a Gramscian one based on a long-range goal of capturing hegemony over cultural, educational and other superstructural positions in American society, rather than a continuation of the IWP's earlier model of achieving power through street agitation and confrontational organizing. (The hegemony theory of revolution was developed by Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist Party).Or|date=September 2007Fact|date=February 2007

ee also

*"Clouds Blur the Rainbow", 1988, by Chip Berlet
*Tvind and The O Two groups with similar politics, which have also been accused of being cults.

References


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