Inside the New Alliance Party

by Marina Ortiz
Cult Awareness Network Forum
New York City, June 16, 1993

I am a former member of the New Alliance Party and its internal cult apparatus, the International Workers Party.  As a five-year member of this cult, I believed my actions to be an individual, as well as a “collective,” choice, as they, in many cases, coincided with my personal and political beliefs.

Even when I left in July of 1990--which I might add was of my own accord--I still did not consider the group a cult.  However, based on research and analysis, I’ve since come to the conclusion that it is, in fact, a cult and that my emotions and actions were systematically controlled and corrupted by Dr. Fred Newman, and others, through the use of Social Therapy.

I met the cult in 1985, when I was a single mother living in the Bronx; struggling to finish college and under much emotional stress.  One day I saw an advertise­ment in the party’s newspaper, the National Alliance, for “Social Therapy,” which was described as a “non-racist, nonsexist, non-homophobic” treatment.  Although my initial consultation provided no magical solution, the therapist’s calm and reassuring manner did seem helpful in exposing and alleviating a tremendous burden of “secrecy” and “shame.”    And so, I was hooked.  The next few sessions were similarly gratifying.  My sense of trust and hope increased dramatically as I continued to expose the abuse and emotional dysfunction I had endured.  This approach, I concluded, would help me understand the basis for the anxiety and depression I had suffered.

Soon after, I entered a short-lived “grouplet.”    Persuaded to regard the change as a “difficult but necessary challenge,” I suppressed my initial reaction that my therapist seemed more concerned with consolidating her time than with the sensitive issues involved.  Although the change proved to be a failure, the therapy itself still seemed somewhat gratifying.  The “grouplet” was barely a month old when my therapist suddenly announced she was moving to Philadelphia to expand the work of The Institute.  My initial shock, anger, and sense of abandon­ment were quickly abated by reassurances that this “new development” could prove to be a “productive growth experience.”

Despite my uneasiness, I agreed to enter into both a larger, mixed-gender group and--as a balance, it seemed--a smaller, women’s grouplet in February of 1985.  My new therapists and their assistant “co-therapist” trainees, however, seemed even more detached and reserved than the first.  The racial, sexual, and cultural makeup of the patients in the larger group was also quite unsettling.  While we shared some commonalities, I could not foresee how such a mixed-bag of people--white, black, Jewish, Puerto Rican, gay, and straight men and women--could ever work together.

But my discernment and reluctance gradually eroded as we began intense discussions about those very differences.  Our diversity, we were told, had to be examined in order to build the context for support--in order to “build the group.”    It seemed like an exciting challenge then to talk openly about such sensitive issues in a seemingly supervised and progressive therapeutic environ­ment.

At our therapists’ urging, we then confessed all of the stereotypical prejudices we had held about each other.  Exposing these biases, we were assured, would help us understand our “societal relationship” to one another.  Only then could we work to redefine our backward relationships.  It was a most humiliating experi­ence to then be labeled as an “upwardly-mobile, wanna-be white, insane Spic,” or to be compelled to confess how I really regarded the others--patients and therapists alike--as just “niggers,” “dirty Jews,” faggots” and “dykes.”

And as these offensive remarks violated our psyches, the adroit therapists then led us through this bitter quagmire to the more soothing, but dangerous, path of least resistance.  By comparing our painful experiences, we came to realize that we had all been similarly subjugated.  The trouble wasn’t “in our heads,” but “in the world,” we learned.  Our emotional problems were neither isolated nor individual.  They were, in fact, symptomatic of our oppression.

The abuse we had suffered had been prompted by racial and social prejudice.  These biases, in turn, were predetermined by the inequitable distribution of wealth and power.  My degradation and self-destructive behavior were a “lawful” response to my role as a scapegoat and victim of vulgar capitalism.  Thus the emotional and the political were fused and I became a depersonalized byproduct.

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 of my suffering--were the result of the government’s imperialist invasion of Puerto Rico.  The United States had been founded and, in fact, still subsisted on genocidal and increasingly fascistic practices with regards to people-of-color.

While these were, and, in my opinion, remain valid political arguments, conduct­ing them in such an emotionally vulnerable setting did not fully explain, let alone improve, my condition.  The process did, however, serve to increase my depend­ency and impair my cognitive skills (I could not understand this back then, although I did realize that discussing my problems in such a political context had not helped:   I still felt “crazy”).

But consciousness-raising in itself was not enough.  Our individual development and growth, we were told, was dependent upon the group’s.  Indeed it was the group on which we had to focus.  And building truly emancipated and intimate relationships with the members of the group could only be achieved by discard­ing our perverted societal beliefs.  Only by embracing this psychotherapeutic-political doctrine could I hope to change what it meant to be a “poor, working-class, Puerto-Rican woman.”

There were no other solutions.  Case in point:   my attempts to escape the pain with drugs or to bury my nightmarish past by “making it.”    Those efforts had failed miserably, hadn’t they? I still felt crazy, didn’t I? And we had all played this game, hadn’t we? Our collective emotional dysfunction was proof that the American dream was a sham, wasn’t it? Somehow, it sounded great.

After a few months of this intense group practice, I began to feel more confident and assertive.  Although I felt empowered and liberated of many ghosts, I was still not “cured.”    My persistent anxiety--indeed, our collective emotional baggage--were inherently related to still prevalent societal inequalities.  How then, could I possibly hope to recover when poverty, homelessness and injustice still existed all around me?

The answer, of course, was to do something to make things better.  By working to bring about social change, one could eventually assume a more politically-advanced, i.e., “historical,” identity.  Although the process of changing the world was in itself curative, it was still not the solution.  “History,” in fact, was the cure, I learned, as I studied abstract articles by party leaders Newman, Dr. Lenora Fulani, and others.  One would be cured, i.e., people would be cured, when history had righted itself.  Only when the world was rid of all the backward “isms,” then and only then, could we genuinely develop as human beings.

And, while commitment was deemed a “personal choice,” the struggle for social change could not be an individual or a “nationalistic” endeavor.  In and of itself, my writing, indeed, my very existence, was meaningless; for only through collective action could people truly overcome the horrors of societal oppression.  The group mind-set was now at work.  Thus, the “cure” for my depression and anxiety was ultimately conditional upon my becoming a serious political activist.

And, lo and behold, I had chanced upon this tendency of likewise committed people! I could now ignore all that I had learned.  I could now reject the opportu­nity for a better existence.  Or, I could choose to make a real difference; one that would benefit all of mankind.  The burden of choice was now mine.

*          *             *

By late 1985, the decision was being made.  I had become an avid reader of the Alliance and had grown impressed with the tendency’s sophisticated network which, in addition to the Social Therapy Institutes, the National Alliance newspaper and other publications, also included the Barbara Taylor School, the Castillo Cultural Center, the All Stars Talent Show Network, the Rainbow Lobby (a Washington D.C.-based lobbying outfit since renamed Ross & Green), and, of course, the New Alliance Party.

Deluged with invitations from therapists and other employees, I began frequent­ing Institute events and parties and making contributions in support of the other projects.  And, as a “natural” extension of my growing support, I was also encouraged to exert my influence with others to help further the cause of this wonderful movement.

It seemed logical then to encourage all my friends, family, and fellow students to join the Institute, or to try and sell them tickets to various events.  The politic, was, after all, the ultimate solution and I wanted to share it everyone I knew.  And it did not seem out of the question then, to exploit my position as an intern at CUNY-TV’s “Cityscope” to schedule one of my therapists as a speaker for a program on AIDS.  Nor did it seem strange that I should begin to use Social Therapy as a topic for my academic papers and video projects.

I then joined the party’s newspaper staff as an editorial assistant.  I had, by then, become quite disillusioned with the mainstream media.  I had analyzed their sophisticated manipulation of facts and exploitation of distorted racial and sexual imagery well enough to know what their bottom line really was.  If everything was “propaganda,” I reasoned, why not do it from a progressive standpoint?

It would be the perfect synthesis of my skills, my personal experience, and my political opinions.  It would be an unpaid position, but there would be other rewards.  I would be trained to conduct research and would write articles focusing on the Latino community and women’s- and gay-rights issues.  All this in such a progressive environment! To sweeten the pot, and my ego, I was given a feature profile in the newspaper several weeks later.

Although I still held lingering doubts, they were quickly sup­pressed as I busied myself with the work.  In addition to covering NAP-related events, I also wrote slanted reviews of “outside” activities and occasional “exposes.”    The majority of my “sources,” however, were my political superiors.  With just a few telephone calls and very little paper trailing, the articles were then reduced to heavily edited hypotheses full of unanswered questions.  And there was little time for follow-up, I realized, as I began attending editorial meetings and was bombarded with front-desk, cleaning, filing and “security” assignments.  The newspaper was mostly run by volunteers, I reasoned, and if we didn’t help, who would?

Soon after, I was invited to attend a private study group, led by NAP leaders wherein we read NAP articles and classic Marxist literature.  It was an “invest­ment in my political future,” I was told.

*          *             *

I had, by then, begun discussing some reservations in therapy.  But, whereas before my skepticism and anger had been encouraged, as they had supported the group’s broader social-political philosophy, they were now considered an “impediment to my development.”    Whenever I criticized my superiors on the newspaper--or challenged the conjectures of my therapists and their “favored” patients’ (i.e., more politically active and therefore “advanced”)--I was quickly chastised as “racist,” “anti-Semitic,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” “nationalist,” “unsupportive,” “oppositional” and/or “right-wing.”

The “practice” had turned from illuminating supposition to guilt-inducing blame--a mechanism which effectively suppressed contention.  I was also silenced by an underlying premise which supposed that, because they had been organizing for so many years, these people knew more than me.  I was still an innocent then and ignorant of the “realpolitik” and also of the extent to which the therapists ruthlessly manipulated personal relationships as a means of bringing people “closer.”    I learned the game rather quickly, however.

One day, my therapist decided we would work on a young woman in our group who was having difficulty with her jealous lover.  But the problem wasn’t just jealousy, we learned.  The fact that the patient had developed an attraction to the therapist was incidental to her involvement in the Institute’s Social Therapy Training Program.  Her lover’s hostility, in fact, was a “typical, white, middle-class, liberal” reaction to the patient’s “political development.”

This was often the case with traditional familial relationships, our therapist explained, because they tended to “alienate” and “retard” human growth and development.  After the group had “analyzed” the situation, we determined that the patient should move out.  The group then personally helped her to do so.  As for her lover, our former “friend” was then relegated to a role later termed “disaffected non-entity” and we never heard from her again.

*          *             *

Reservations had crept in, but the dream still seemed viable.  And the closer I was drawn to this vision, the greater the conflict became between my “political work” and the “real world.”    Al­though my grades had not suffered, my friendships at school and my relationship to my children, my lover, and my family, had already been compromised.  I was about to graduate when, in June of 1986, I accepted an invitation to meet with my political superiors to discuss my future--which is how I was then drawn into the group’s underground web of pseudo-revolutionary cult activity--The International Workers Party.

*          *             *

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.  I had damaged my relationship to my children and the rest of my family.  I was thousands of dollars in debt.  And my self-esteem and judgment had been severely impaired.

For remediation, I took a personal approach which combined post-cult therapy with my own study and documentation of the cult’s history in the hopes of trying to figure out exactly what I had been involved in.  I began to see how they rely on their victims keeping silent out of guilt, as in thinking that they didn’t have what it takes, out of shame over having been duped, or out of fear of retaliation.  And after hearing about the attacks committed against former supporters in Baltimore, Atlanta, and elsewhere, and after witnessing the fraud currently being perpetrated upon minorities and the general American public by this cult, I feel I can no longer remain silent.

Contrary to what Dr. Newman may claim, my coming out has been a personal, individual decision--something I could never do while in his so-called progressive cult.  My intention is not to discredit the values of any individuals who genuinely desire progressive social change.  There are many intelligent and decent people who support and have even dedicated their lives to issues which this cult purports to represent.  However, I think that people have the right to know who their so-called leaders are and what they really stand for.  And I think they would want to know the degree to which Dr. Newman controls this multi-million dollar movement.

*          *             *

I intend to continue speaking out and to investigate and document the cult’s activities.  While there have been a number of insightful and informative articles written throughout the years, no one has ever taken the time to fully document the quarter century of exploitation and opportunism the cult has enjoyed, and the extent to which it has hurt so many decent people and causes.  In fact, I think that the general attitude of lax dismissal and silence is partial reason for the cult’s success.

I hope that my speaking out will encourage other individuals formerly involved to re-examine their own experience and to join me in speaking out.  I would also like to encourage those who haven’t been as lucky or those thinking of joining or contributing to really check them out so you know what you’re dealing with.

 

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