Institutes for Social Therapy and Totalitarian Cultism
Dr. Fred Newman's doctorate is not in a health-related field, but
in the philosophy of science and foundations of mathematics. For several
years psychologists and groups concerned about cults have questioned
the ethics of the process used by the Institutes for Social Therapy.
These criticisms are crystallized in the following statement by an East
Coast Latina activist working in the area of support for Central Americans:
"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."
"I was told everybody has problems, which is true everyone does,
but they use that as an excuse to recruit people. People with emotional
problems think they are going to be
helped but they don't help people."
"Before or after the therapy session, they would say `why not
sell the newspaper', or `maybe you could do us a favor and hand out these
leaflets.' The therapy offices are full of their political propaganda.
In the group therapy sometimes we discussed politics and their political
party. They want people to get involved in their political activities,
but they don't really give any treatment. This was something I didn't
"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 will get better."
"They got angry with me when I asked for individual therapy. `You
need group therapy not individual therapy', I was told, so I left. Then
they started sending me literature about their political organizations."
"In the literature and in the therapy sessions they try to destroy
any other left organization by saying bad things about it. They also
destroy a progressive organization by recruiting away its members."
"They call themselves Leftists but they use the dialectic method
just to recruit people. When you get involved there is no dialectic,
it is static, they don't progress beyond the criticism of the other group.
They have no real program, they just say `if you are not with NAP you
are the enemy'. They raise a lot of money by saying they are doing all
these things, but they are a fraud."
"It is not true that there is no pressure to work with the New
Alliance Party when you are in the therapy. They tell you if you are
working with them you will feel good. I said `I need help, I need individual
therapy'. Instead they had me assisting them in the group therapy sessions."
"They don't like it if you pay a low fee and don't work for them
politically, such as doing propaganda work for the New Alliance Party.
If you pay more, you get a better work position in the organization.
If you can afford a lot, you can get individual therapy. Everything is
money or power."
"Some people are fooled, especially the uneducated or emotionally
ill, they use them. It is disgusting. They don't care about people--they
want numbers: more money, more people, more power. The social therapy
is just an excuse to recruit members. It is just like their many other
activities, concerts, rallies, they are active in many areas, but they
Certainly it is legitimate as part of psychological counseling to recommend
that a person become involved directly in the community--even to the
extent of becoming part of a political movement. But for a patient to
know the therapist is involved in a particular political movement is
to consciously or unconsciously steer the patient, who is in a dependent
and fragile relationship with the therapist, toward that political movement.
This error is compounded by the fact that, according to several Therapy
Institute staff members, a portion of the fees for the therapy go to
support the work of the New Alliance Party.
Therapy centers with ties to the New Alliance Party include the following
locations listed in the November 27, 1987 issue of the <National Alliance>:
New York: Harlem Institute for Social Therapy and Research; Bronx Institute
for Social Therapy and Research; South Bronx Annex; West Side Social
Therapy Network; East Side Center for Short Term Therapy; Brooklyn Institute
for Social Therapy and Research; Long Island Institute for Social Therapy
Massachusetts: Boston Institute for Social Therapy and Research.
Illinois: Chicago Center for Crisis Normalization.
California: Los Angeles Center for Crisis Normalization.
Pennsylvania: Social Therapy Associates.
Washington, D.C.: Washington Center for Crisis Normalization.
Mississippi: Jackson Center for Crisis Normalization.
New Jersey: New Jersey Center for Crisis Normalization.
Social Therapy & Totalitarian Cultism
Chicago-based political consultant Don Rose summed up the feelings
of some NAP critics when he told <Chicago Sun-Times> columnist
Basil Talbot that NAP "is a left group with the modus of a cult." Talbot
noted that critics call NAP the "LaRouchies of the Left." Several
cult watchdog groups list the Newmanites as a cult, other critics say
the core of the cult is the Therapy Institute, while a few critics think
the entire NAP movement displays cult aspects. Those that say the Newmanite
movement is totalitarian in style feel the word cult is superfluous,
since totalitarian groups by definition enforce a high level of blind
loyalty and unquestioning obedience.
As early as 1977, journalist Dennis King was writing of the cult-like
nature of the Newmanites, and interviewed Frank Touchet, a New York professional
psychotherapist who studies therapy cults such as the Reichians and the
Sullivanians. After studying the therapy group which forms the core of
Newman's followers, Touchet concluded:
"What you are dealing with is people who have been criminally
tampered with in the deepest fibers of their being, and who have descended
into a strange childlike world of dependency, in which the rational functions
of the ego are relinquished completely to Fred Newman--who regulates
their lives on the most intimate level."
It is difficult to resolve the issue of psychological manipulation
because there are undoubtedly NAP supporters who are sincere and genuine
in their beliefs and have no connection to the Newmanites, the IWP nor
the Social Therapy Institutes. Still, most of the functional core leadership
of NAP has a connection to the Therapy Institutes and the Newmanite political
philosophy. Ultimately the question of psychological manipulation, cultism
and cult of personality can only be resolved by each person who comes
into contact with NAP on the basis of the individual practice and process
observed, and within the framework of one's own sensitivity to and wariness
Loren Redwood felt isolated and confused after leaving the New Alliance
Party. Then she read letters about NAP in <Coming Up!> a now-defunct
newspaper serving the gay and lesbian community in San Francisco, CA.
She sat down and wrote the following letter published in the January
1989 issue of <Coming Up!>:
I can't tell you how much it meant to me to open your newspaper
for the first time and find letters from people denouncing the New Alliance
Party (Dec. 88 issue). I knew that I wasn't alone in my feelings about
NAP, I just didn't know where to find the others.
My experience with NAP was a nig htmlare. 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
wanted to be apart of putting Fulani on the ballot in every state in
this country; it felt like a very decent thing to do. Once I made the
decision to go with the campaign I asked for two weeks to make preparations
to leave. When instructions came back from the national office in New
York, 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 payments.
I traveled with the campaign for two and a half months, first
petitioning and later fund raising. It was one of the most difficult
experiences of my life.
NAP claims to be a multi-racial, black led, woman led, pro
gay, political party, an organization which recognizes and fights against
racism, sexism, classism and homophobia-but NAP is a lie. NAP is always
using the slogan: "the personal is political" and emphasizing
the importance of enacting one's politics into daily life. But this vision
and the way their politics are enacted within the organization and life
of those working for them is very much in conflict. 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-16 to 20
hours a day (I had two days off in 2.5 months). There was an incredible
urgency which overrode any personal needs or considerations, an urgency
that meant complete self-sacrifice. I realize now how sexist that is.
As a woman, I have always been taught that self-sacrifice is good and
that I must be willing to give up everything for the greater good for
all. Traditionally, this has come in the form of a husband and children;
NAP is simply a substitute. I felt totally powerless over my life, forced
into a very submissive role where all control of my life belonged to
someone else. I felt more oppressed by NAP than I have ever felt in the
outside world.. I had given up everything for the campaign, my job, my
home and my support system, I felt desperate. My lover who has dedicated
her life to NAP, tried very hard to be supportive, though I was never
able to tell her how I really felt. In her eyes, she was the work she
did and the work was first. Human relationships were second and stifling
to political growth. I knew that my differences with NAP would destroy
our relationship, so I tried to ignore my feelings.
There are many conflicting things about NAP. The most obvious
is the way NAP is organized. NAP is structured hierarchically, with a
few people in control making decisions for a lot of people-not so different
from the way our country is organized and we know how oppressive that
is. That's why feminists have been working on organizing in a collective
manner-hierarchies oppress and exclude they don't contribute to empowerment.
The rhetoric of NAP claims to recognize that everyone is socialized to
be racist, sexist, classist, antisemetic, homophobic, etc. And yet their
hierarchy leaves NAP workers at the assumed benevolence of their leaders.
Another strange aspect of NAP is what they call social therapy.
This is political therapy founded by Fred Newman (straight white male,
former chair of NAP!) in collaboration with Lenora Fulani. While fund
raising in Washington, DC, it was expected that I enter social therapy
and I did attend a few sessions. Social therapy was another vehicle where
NAP organizers propagandized its workers to the politics and lifestyle
of NAP. NAP claims to be radical and progressive when in fact, it is
very conformist and intolerant. The longer I worked for NAP the more
its members seemed the same. Everyone thinks the same things about the
same things. A prime example of this is NAP's newspaper, the National
Alliance. Its slogans and propaganda doesn't encourage independent thought.
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. The final analysis of
NAP's real politics, for me, rests in my own personal experiences with
NAP, which I know now is not an exception. Things finally feel apart
for me with NAP while campaigning in Washington, DC this past September.
The petitioning drive being finished, everyone was now fund raising and
doing surveys on the street. I was on the street seven days a week, 10
hours a day, soliciting donations and conducting surveys. I spent late
evenings collating survey results and preparing for the following day
of street work. After four weeks of this 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. When I asked NAP for help, I was told that they would
allow me to continue to fund raise until I found a job. 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. I finally decided I had to get out; I contacted friends
in California for help and I left.
It's been four months since I left the campaign and I am putting
my life back together piece by piece. I've been through a great deal
emotionally, feeling disappointed and disillusioned. The politics NAP
claims are also my own. I believe in the rainbow social vision and I
believe there should be a black woman running for president. I've also
felt very isolated, not having others to talk to who share my experience.
Finding your newspaper has helped me to feel much more powerful and validated.