Fred Newman and the Historical Roots of the Newmanites
The history of the Newmanites starts with a history of its primary
theoretician, Dr. Fred Newman. In 1968 Newman and several followers formed "IF....THEN",
a political collective in New York City." IF....THEN" prided
itself on its anarchistic and confrontational approach to organizing
and consciousnessraising. During the early 1970's Newman and his followers
established a group called Centers for Change in New York City. Centers
for Change (CFC) was characterized by a more introspective approach to
political organizing. CFC described itself as:
"...a collective of liberation centers including; a school for
children, ages 3 to 7; a community oriented therapeutic and dental clinic
located in the Bronx; and a press (CFC Press) operating out of the CFC
offices....Also, the Community Media Project; (an) information service
for the people of the upper west side...."
While involved with CFC, Newman and others in his circle began developing
a unique perspective within the evolving theory of radical psychology.
This movement attracted attention and debate in progressive circles;
Newman, however, soon branched off from the mainstream of the radical
psychology movement and eventually developed a theory of "social
therapy". By 1973 CFC was offering therapy and counseling at its
At the same time, another New York political organizer, Lyndon H. LaRouche,
Jr., was also espousing controversial psychological theories, and Newman
began to examine LaRouche's writings on psychology and economics which
were appearing in published collections of Marxist analysis.
Lyndon LaRouche in 1973 was the leader of the National Caucus of Labor
Committees (NCLC), a Marxist political organization based in New York
City. LaRouche, using the name Lyn Marcus, had led the Labor Caucus of
the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) until SDS voted to expel
LaRouche and his followers in 1969. The controversy inside SDS arose
when the SDS Labor Caucus under LaRouche called for support of striking
members of New York City's teacher's union. A key union issue was opposition
to community control of schools in New York City--a demand of community
leaders which had the support of many Black parents. The union's opposition
to community control of schools was widely perceived in the progressive
political community as having racist overtones. After being expelled
from SDS, LaRouche created the National Caucus of Labor Comittees, which
in 1973 had at least 1,000 members nationwide.
Newman says he first made contact with Lyndon LaRouche's forces within
the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC) in October of 1973. In
January of 1974 Newman's organization, Centers for Change (CFC), published
a newsletter <Right On Time> which called for the organization
of leftist political cadres and relied heavily on psychoanalytic terminology.
LaRouche's theories were in many ways similar to those espoused by Newman,
and in June of 1974, Newman led almost 40 CFC members into an official
political alliance with LaRouche and the National Caucus of Labor Committees
Newman's Alliance with LaRouche
Even NAP supporters concede that Newman and some of his followers worked
for a time under the political leadership of LaRouche. What keeps this
aspect of the controversy alive is what critics feel are misrepresentations
regarding the character of the relationship and the nature of the LaRouche
organization at the time of the alliance. NAP's position is stated in
a letter circulated by its supporters under the name "The Committee
to Set the Record Straight:"
"Five years prior to NAP's founding, a handful of activists, five
of whom now sit on NAP's 40-member national Executive Board, joined the
National Caucus of Labor Committees, then a left organization founded
by LaRouche. At the time, it was attracting many organic progressive
leaders from the welfare, trade union, and electoral arenas. Dr. Newman
was one of those who joined. He and his colleagues' membership in the
NCLC lasted approximately two months."
"Following their departure in the summer of 1974, they began an
extensive political and methodological critique of LaRouche and the NCLC
and by 1975 became among the first on the Left to explicitly identify
LaRouche as a neo-fascist."
This characterization of the Newman/LaRouche relationship is at best
self-serving and at worst largely fictional. With some ten percent of
the current NAP executive board comprised of persons who at one time
chose to put themselves under the political leadership of Lyndon LaRouche,
it becomes crucial to examine the relationship carefully.
During most of 1974, the NCLC under LaRouche was primarily attracting
middleclass and upper-class white intellectual students from prestigious
eastern and mid-western college campuses--hardly a core of trade unionists
and welfare recipients as characterized by Newman's supporters.
A former member of LaRouche's NCLC remembers the arrival in 1974 of
what were called the "Newmanites:"
"They put themselves under the actual political leadership of
LaRouche for a few months, and we came to believe that what Newman really
wanted during that period was to act as an understudy to LaRouche--to
learn his methods and techniques of controlling persons in an organization."
"The individuals in Newman's group seemed to lack clarity and
political focus and were obsessed with psychology and sexuality. Newman
was clearly the leader and it was obvious that LaRouche's ego and Newman's
ego were too big to allow them to work together in the same organization
While actual membership by New Alliance Party executive board members
in LaRouche's NCLC may have lasted only a few months, the working alliance
between groups led by LaRouche, Newman and a third New York political
leader named Gino Parente lasted far longer. Some activists from New
York remember the three groups working in a loose alliance around issues
such as welfare reform, farm labor, and organizing the working class
for a period as long as one year. One internal NCLC discussion of the
Newmanites describes "ten months of serious political discussion" before
several months of actual membership." Joint forums" between
the Newmanites and the LaRouchites were held in November and December,
1973, and the Newmanite split took place in late August, 1974.
Even after officially leaving NCLC in August, 1974, Newman and his
followers continued to debate and criticize LaRouche and the NCLC over
issues of shared political ideology as if it represented legitimate leftist
theory long after the rest of the American Left had denounced NCLC as
either proto-Nazi Brownshirts, a sick political cult, or outright police
Fred Newman insists his group was not sophisticated about the American
Left when it joined with LaRouche, yet when the Newmanites split from
NCLC, they announced the formation of a "vanguard" Marxist-Leninist
political party. In the resignation letter signed by Newman and 38 of
his followers, there is a significant use of Marxist-Leninist terminology
which suggests a far greater degree of political sophistication than
admitted. Announcing that Newman's International Workers Party (IWP)
had "now become the vanguard party of the working class," the
letter went on to say:
"The organization of the vanguard party is, as Marx makes clear,
the organization of the class. The formation of the IWP has 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."
When joining the NCLC, Newman announced he was putting himself and
his followers under the political "hegemony" of LaRouche. After
leading his followers out of the NCLC, Newman continued to struggle with
LaRouche over theory within the principles of criticism among friends.
None of this indicates a casual, naive or short-lived relationship.
The Nature of NCLC During the Newmanite Alliance
Still, Newman's merger and split with LaRouche would have little merit
as a criticism of NAP (after all it is a sign of political maturity to
recognize mistakes) were it not for how supporters of Newman relentlessly
misrepresent the nature of LaRouche and the NCLC in late 1973 and 1974--the
period when Newman grew close to NCLC and then put himself and his followers
under the political leadership of LaRouche.In 1974 NCLC was not attracting "organic
progressive leaders " from the welfare rights movement, as claimed
by the Newmanites. In fact, it was having trouble attracting significant
Black support at all, since it was leading a successful attempt to destroy
the Black-led National Welfare Rights Organization and defame its popular
leader, the late George Wiley.
During the same period, LaRouche also propounded ideas which were widely
perceived to represent outright racism. LaRouche, for instance, offended
the Hispanic community in a November, 1973 essay (published in both English
and Spanish) titled "The Male Impotence of the Puerto-Rican Socialist
Party." An internal memo by LaRouche asked "Can we imagine
anything more viciously sadistic than the Black Ghetto mother?" He
described the majority of the Chinese people as "approximating the
lower animal species" by manifesting a "paranoid personality....a
parallel general form of fundamental distinction from actual human personalities."
As early as the spring of 1973 LaRouche had begun to articulate a psychosexual
theory of political organizing and began descending into a paranoid style
of historical analysis that stressed not Marxist dialectical materialism
and class analysis, but macabre conspiracy theories and a subjective
egocentric analysis. LaRouche warned of a global plot by the CIA/KGB
to kidnap and program his membership to assassinate him. His homophobia
became a central theme of the organization's conspiracy theories. He
said women's feelings of degradation in modern society could be traced
to the physical placement of sexual organs near the anus which caused
them to confuse sex with excretion.
A September, 1973 editorial in the NCLC ideological journal <Campaigner> charged
that "Concretely, all across the USA., there are workers who are
prepared to fight. They are held back, most immediately, by pressure
from their wives...." Writing in an August, 1973 memo, LaRouche
propounded the startling and sexist psychological theory that "the
principle source of impotence, both male and female, is the mother." LaRouche
claimed only he could cure the political and sexual impotence of his
followers. NCLC members were forced into what was called psychological
therapy and "deprogramming" but were what former members call "brainwashing" and "egostripping" sessions.
The NCLC rapidly became totalitarian in style, with a peculiar obsession
with sexuality and homophobia used as a weapon against internal dissent." To
the extent that my physical powers do not prevent me," LaRouche
told his followers in August, 1973, "I am now confident and capable
of ending your political--and sexual-impotence; the two are interconnected
aspects of the same problem."
By 1974 LaRouche had started his swing toward fascist economic and
political principles--well before Newman and his followers joined NCLC
and announced that they would place themselves under LaRouche's political
leadership and "hegemony." It was during this period that LaRouche
began talking of the need for rapid industrialization to build the working
class. He talked of a historic tactical alliance between revolutionaries,
the working class and the forces of industrial capital against the forces
of finance capital. He began developing an authoritarian world view with
a glorification of historic mission, metaphysical commitment and physical
confrontation. He told reporters that only he was capable of bringing
revolution and socialism to the United States, and his speeches began
to take on the tone and style of a demagogue. LaRouche, in short, began
to adopt the same ideas and styles which had formed the basis of National
Socialism, a political tendency that historically became part of the
European fascist movement and eventually played a key role in Hitler's
rise to power in Nazi Germany. In fact, LaRouche was denounced as a Nazi
by U.S. Communists following physical attacks on them in 1973 by NCLC
members who were likened to Hitler's violent Brownshirts.
From May to September of 1973, LaRouche followers engaged in "Operation
Mop-up" which consisted of NCLC members brutally assaulting rivals
such as members of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and the Socialist
Workers Party (SWP). NCLC thugs used bats, chains, and martial arts weapons
(<numchukas>) in their campaign to control and establish "hegemony" over
the American revolutionary movement. There were many injuries and some
persons required hospitalization.
"Operation Mop-up" was front-page news in virtually every
American progressive newspaper during 1973, and it is difficult to believe
it was not known to Newman and his followers when they first contacted
NCLC a few weeks after Operation Mop-Up was declared a success by LaRouche.
Furthermore, physical assaults by NCLC members against critics were reported
regularly well into 1976, and periodic assaults by LaRouche fundraisers
still occur. In 1974, many former NCLC members report, they were still
required to take paramilitary training classes led by fellow members.
The trigger for Operation Mop Up was a March, 1973 warning by NCLC
to the Communist Party, USA. to stop opposing the creation by LaRouche
of an alternative to the Black-led National Welfare Rights Organization
(NWRO) which LaRouche denounced as being part of a "union-busting
slave-labor" alliance. LaRouche set up an alternative, the National
Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organization (NUWRO), and, according to
LaRouche, NCLC then sent delegations into public Communist Party meetings, "demanding
that this criminal behavior of the CP leadership"--that is, support
for the original NWRO--"be openly discussed and voted down by the
Eyewitnesses recall this "discussion" usually consisted of
primarily-white and young NCLC members standing up and disrupting meetings
of the primarilyBlack and older NWRO with calls for a debate on LaRouche's
charges against NWRO leaders until members of the audience were forced
to physically drag the NCLC members out of the meeting. These confrontations
became formalized under Operation Mop-Up.
When the Socialist Workers Party joined in supporting the original
Black-led NWRO, they too were attacked by the predominantly white NCLC
supporters. While the Operation Mop-Up attacks were officially ended
in late 1973 or early 1974, another campaign of assaults was launched
in 1974 against local rank-andfile leaders of the United Autoworkers
and other industrial unions. Reports of these assaults continued through
1976, and NCLC members have continued until recently to assist in assaults
on members of Teamsters for a Democratic Union and another rank-and-file
Teamster reform group, PROD.
In 1974, according to former NCLC members, LaRouche first began to
seek contact with extremist and anti-Semitic right-wing groups and individuals
around the idea of tactical unity in opposing imperialism and the ruling
class in general, and the Rockefellers in particular. LaRouche's obsession
with conspiracy theories blossomed in 1974, and during this period he
began expounding a view linking certain Jewish institutions to a plot
to destroy Western civilization and usher in a "New Dark Age".
This is the character of the NCLC that attracted Newman and his followers
in early 1974. In his 1974 book <Power and Authority>, Newman wrote
that his followers would "organize in the spirit outlined" by
LaRouche. The question is not how long the Newmanites worked under the
political leadership of Lyndon LaRouche, but how they can explain what
attracted Newman and his followers to LaRouche in the first place. To
this day NAP leadership has refused to renounce or to deal candidly or
accurately with the fact that the Newmanites at one time joined an organization
which was at best a collection of paranoid sexist homophobic thugs and
at worst a nascent fascist political movement.
Using the FBI to Harass Dissidents
It was during the period that the Newmanites were involved with NCLC
that NCLC began to collect and disseminate intelligence on progressive
groups. It is well documented that NCLC went on to provide intelligence
to domestic and foreign government agencies. While documents released
under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that U.S. government agencies
frequently dismissed the material provided by the NCLC, it was provided
nonetheless. As early as February, 1974, NCLC representatives met with
an official in the U.S. Department of Commerce to "provide substantial
evidence which would exonerate President Nixon from Watergate charges," according
to a Commerce Department memorandum released under the Freedom of Information
The Newmanites were at the center of the first documented instance
of NCLC collaboration with U.S. intelligence agencies. In 1974, several
Newmanites in NCLC attempted to use the FBI to locate and spy on a former
Newmanite who had left at the time of the NCLC/Newmanite merger and taken
his child with him. Jim Retherford had left the Newmanites citing psychological
manipulation among other reasons. His spouse, Ann Green, remained in
the organization and quite reasonably sought access to their child. Green
and Newmanite Harry Kresky, an attorney, contacted the FBI and suggested
that Retherford was a former member of the Weatherman faction of SDS,
had harbored Weather Underground fugitives, and was in contact with Jane
Alpert, a fugitive the FBI was particularly keen on locating.
Supporters of Newman claim he was unaware of the contact with the FBI.
However, a former member of Newman's Centers for Change who joined and
left NCLC with Newman, and then later split with the Newmanites, recalls
the FBI incident was widely known within NCLC and the Newmanite faction." The
CFC [Centers for Change/Newmanite] people for the most part stuck together
while in the NCLC....denying Fred Newman knew about the communications
with the FBI is utterly absurd."