Opportunism & Deception

One example of what critics call the political opportunism of the Newmanites and the New Alliance Party is their continuing effort to imply a connection with Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition. For instance the Newmanites have established in Washington, D.C. the "Rainbow Lobby" billed as "The Lobbying Office of the Rainbow Alliance." The Rainbow Lobby has offices at 236 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., and lists Nancy Ross as Executive Director and Tamara Weinstein as Assistant Director.

The Rainbow Lobby office has been frequently mistaken for the Washington office of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, a mistake that in the past, NAP leadership seems to have gone out of its way not to clarify. Newspaper articles have appeared about NAP's Rainbow Lobby in which throughout, the reporter assumes the Rainbow Lobby represents Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition--a circumstance NAP leadership could have easily avoided by explaining upfront that the two groups are unrelated.

Jackson has had to publicly distance himself and the Rainbow Coalition from NAP and its Rainbow Alliance and Rainbow Lobby on several occasions. Most recently Jackson told <Chicago Sun-Times> reporter Basil Talbot that "we have no relationship at all."

In the June 21, 1985 issue of the <National Alliance>, an article on the Rainbow Alliance shows how artfully the question of a relationship has been dodged in the past: "Hostile critics and curious allies are forever saying to Nancy Ross, `Does Jesse Jackson support what you're doing?'"

"Ross, who heads the Washington office of the Rainbow Alliance Confederation's lobbying arm, has learned how to respond to such inquiries." "`The point is not whether Jesse Jackson supports me, but whether I support Jesse Jackson,' says Ross, a founder of the sixyear-old independent New Alliance Party, and candidate for Jackson delegate in Harlem in 1984. `And I support Jesse completely because of the social vision he has articulated on behalf of the Rainbow movement. Yes, I have real differences with Jesse--he thinks independent politics is "prophetic" whereas I believe its time has come right now--but I won't allow anyone to sever the historic ties between Jesse and myself, because I am committed to see that his vision of a just society be brought about today.'"

While admittedly clever, the above explanation is essentially a dishonest misrepresentation of the facts, designed to confuse the issue and suggest a connection where none exists. The confusion over support from Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition is exacerbated by how the New Alliance Party describes itself. The February 13, 1987 edition of the <National Alliance> newspaper contained a centerfold spread with the multi-color slogan "The Real Rainbow" spanning the two pages. A letter on New Alliance Party stationery to gay activists on the west coast had the slogan "The Party of the Rainbow." A petition calling for an independent Black Presidential campaign was titled "An Open Letter To Reverend Jesse Jackson."

Ironically, in a 1983 issue of the Newmanite theoretical journal <Practice>, Newman attacked Jesse Jackson and Jackson's progressive supporters in strong terms:

"The U.S. ultra-Left has traditionally suffered very badly from a mental disorder perhaps best identified as premature vanguardulation. There has, over the past few years, been a positive attempt by some to rectify this problem (called by some friendly left critics `wrecktification') which, however, has dealt mainly with the symptoms of the disease by essentially helping the `client' to feel more comfortable masturbating. Hence, some of the rectified ultra-left--for example supporters of `Jesse Jackson, Democrat'--are smilingly convincing themselves these days that it is alright to unite with Jackson's `progressive aspects'. Many have raised questions as to which part of Jackson's political anatomy embodies his `progressive aspects.' "

At the end of 1987 the <National Alliance> newspaper column by Rainbow Lobby Executive Director Nancy Ross began to include a disclaimer which reads:

"The Rainbow Lobby is an independent citizens' lobby based in Washington, D.C. which supports important legislation that affects civil, human, voting and democratic rights at home and abroad. For more information on the Lobby, please contact Nancy Ross at 236 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Suite 409, Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 543-8324."

"The Rainbow Lobby, Inc. is an independent lobby, not affiliated with the Rainbow Coalition, Inc."

The disclaimer began appearing during the same time period that NAP launched the campaign of Lenora Fulani for President. During 1987 the NAP began to publicly attack the Rainbow Coalition and in the <National Alliance> Lenora Fulani was quoted as saying "With all due respect to Brother Jesse Jackson, almost everyone knows he hasn't built a real Rainbow. He might have incorporated something called the National Rainbow Coalition, Inc., but he hasn't built a Rainbow. <We've built a real Rainbow.>"

Despite the criticisms and disclaimers, there is still much public confusion concerning the relationship of NAP to the Rainbow Coalition, and Jackson's Presidential candidacy. This confusion is not alleviated by NAP public statements. For instance in the November 20, 1987 issue of the <National Alliance>, William Pleasant attacks the Rainbow Coalition as "the Democratic Party's <phony> left wing", but then writes that "Fulani, under her `Two Roads Are Better Than One' plan, backs Reverend Jesse Jackson in the Democratic Party primaries. But she has done everything possible to ensure that the progressive Rainbow agenda will be carried through to the general election in November...."

Smearing Critics

Among the most persistent critics of the New Alliance Party are freelance writer Dennis King of New York, the author of this study, Chip Berlet (and other members of the Public Eye Network), and two researchers who often work closely together, Ken Lawrence of Mississippi and Dan Stern of Illinois. In 1985 Ken Lawrence and Dan Stern provided information on NAP to Charles Tisdale, publisher of the <Jackson Advocate> newspaper in Mississippi. Tisdale ran a series of articles critical of Newman and NAP in the <Advocate>, which for many years has served as a voice for Black residents in the area.

In response to the <Advocate> articles, NAP embarked on a smear campaign against its critics--a tactic it frequently employs. An article by William Pleasant in NAP's <National Alliance> newspaper attacked Tisdale, Lawrence, Stern and Berlet. A photograph of Tisdale (who is Black) is accompanied by a bold headline which reads: "Jackson Advocate publisher Charles Tisdale: The Advocate has come to play the role of a Black front for a national network that is a nesting place for agents."

The same article claims that Dennis King and Chip Berlet have shown "a willingness to relent on their earlier false and sectarian charges of LaRouche affiliation or cultism." (In fact, both Berlet and King still stand by their earlier charges.) Ken Lawrence and Dan Stern are described as "absorbed in another agenda, beyond sectarianism, bordering on straight out provocateurism." NAP organizers also began circulating charges that Ken Lawrence was a government agent.

When Tisdale refused to back down from his criticisms of NAP, and continued to detail the charges of other NAP critics, NAP chairwoman Emily Carter responded by filing a defamation lawsuit against Tisdale, the <Jackson Advocate> and Ken Lawrence. (A judge subsequently ordered Lawrence dropped from the lawsuit). After the lawsuit was filed, when well-known organizer Flo Kennedy accepted an invitation to speak at a banquet sponsored by the <Jackson Advocate>, a self-described NAP member disrupted a press conference with her by shouting "You're a very stupid woman." Other critics of NAP are frequently ridiculed or attacked in an unprincipled manner.

Penetration and Disruption of Rival Groups

Critics of the Newmanites claim one of the tactics used by the group is to penetrate a progressive organization and seek to take it over or recruit away its membership. One of the themes in the <Jackson Advocate> series on NAP was the frequency with which NAP engaged in what critics considered disruptive tactics. Lily Mae Irwin, a well-known welfare rights activist told the <Advocate> how, in 1985, NAP tried to merge with the group she was leading, the Mississippi Welfare Rights Organization. After she refused the merger idea, she soon discovered NAP was scheduling their meetings with her key organizers opposite the regular monthly Welfare Rights Organization meetings. "Yes Siree," said Irwin, "they were trying to hold meetings at the same time we were; they were trying to mess us up."

Eddie Sandifer, a well-known Mississippi Gay rights activist, told the <Advocate> he resented the claim by NAP that it is the party of gays, lesbians, Blacks and dispossessed people in general. In particular, Sandifer was angry that NAP contacted several members of the Mississippi Gay Alliance and invited them to NAP meetings, but did not contact him, the group's leader." I think their purpose is to divide and conquer," said Sandifer." I'm very suspicious of them....I'm worried about what they are doing in Mississippi."

A long-time gay activist in California voiced similar concerns to the author after NAP sponsored a gay rights conference in that state. He feared the NAP wanted to duplicate the work of existing gay organizations as a way to build credibility and recruit new members for the NAP.

A woman activist in New York told the author of a call she received from a friend in England complaining of disruptive activities by a NAP organizer who attended functions of a women's peace group. Disruption has been a hallmark of NAP organizing for years, and reports of this nature have been consistently surfaced over the years from a wide variety of sources.

One early example of a Newmanite attempt to penetrate and manipulate a progressive organization involved the now-defunct People's Party, a multi-racial progressive electoral party which once ran Dr. Benjamin Spock for President. In early 1978, according to a former People's Party organizer, the People's Party "expelled the Newmanites when it was uncovered that they were operating within the party as a secret faction with an undisclosed agenda as to their intentions and plans."

The Newmanites had told members of the People's Party that Newman's International Workers Party had been disbanded, but the People's Party stumbled across a secret Newmanite newsletter marked "confidential internal bulletin" and bearing the name <Party Building>. According to <Party Building>, the Newmanites were recruiting inside the People's Party and other progressive groups to build a secret "pre-party formation." The confidential Newmanite newsletter explained it was being published to function as intelligence and communications networks, reporting on the social movement of various strata in particular areas.

Even though the IWP was supposed to have dissolved, plans were sketched out in <Party Building> for its "Fourth Party Plenary" held in Gary, Indiana in early 1977. The meeting brought together representatives from various Newmanite front groups organized under the public banner of the "Council of Independent Organizers."

Depth of Black Leadership

The New Alliance Party does engage in activities which support Black candidates, as the following excerpt from a letter by NAP supporters points out:

"In 1984, after campaigning for Reverend Jesse Jackson and witnessing his public rejection at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, NAP moved ahead with its independent Presidential campaign for the Afro-American candidate Dennis L. Serrette in a record-breaking 33 states where the party had managed to secure access to the ballot."

What the letter fails to mention is that Serrette left the New Alliance Party after unsuccessfully struggling for a meaningful leadership role for Black NAP officials who he felt had organizational titles but no real influence or control. At first, Serrette, as a point of personal and political principle, refused to openly criticize NAP, but when it became obvious NAP leaders were characterizing his reasons for leaving as primarily personal, and implying that Serrette continued to support NAP, Serrette went public with his charges in Mississippi's <Jackson Advocate> newspaper.

"I left the party because it continued to claim it was Black-led--I knew better," Serrette is quoted as saying in the <Jackson Advocate>." I mean no harm to these powerful Black women, Emily Carter, Lenora Fulani and Barbara Taylor, when I say that....I knew from being there that they were not leading Fred Newman--he was leading them--that's why I left....I don't feel they can use `Black-led' continuously without falling on their faces-falsehoods just won't hold up under close scrutiny."

According to Serrette, NAP had no real commitment to Black-led independent politics." I had to think about my reputation then--of people who continue to believe in me." After raising his criticisms internally, Serrette said he was cut off from the flow of information within the party." It got so I didn't know when they were holding meetings or anything," said Serrette.

In the course of the lawsuit by Emily Carter against the <Jackson Advocate>, Dennis Serrette was called by Carter's attorney to answer questions in a deposition. Serrette thoroughly denounced Newman and his followers as running a racist, sexist "therapy cult" that put people of color in public leadership positions merely as window dressing. Regarding the New Alliance Party, Serrette said:

"...I don't believe that it's organic...in terms of it being a working-class movement...Black, white and Latino. I think it's an elitist organization. It certainly serves the purposes of its leader....it was a lie, it was clearly a tactical ...a racist scheme of using Black and Latino and Asian people to do the bidding of one man, namely Fred Newman, that's my opinion, and to use other whites as well, you know through the therapy practices."

"No one challenges Fred Newman. I have seen people maybe raise a few polite questions in...planning sessions...but Fred Newman's word is the word. There is no such thing as opposition within that organization, or principled opposition, that in my opinion could demonstrate a different will or challenge to power, a different political position of a major order, unless he agreed with it in some way."

Serrette said he came to believe the promise that the organization would eventually be turned over to Black people was a lie, and he challenged Newman on the point:

"And I stated to him, "turned over" means, you know, resources, it means making policy, it means running personnel...that's Black control to me. I don't understand it as just having a Black face in a high place. That's nothing more than racism and nothing more than window dressing."

"It's no different from the system we seem to fight in this case. So I raised those questions to Fred and we had ... a very heated meeting. It was a meeting in which many of the Black leadership was there."

"It was very intense. We had Lenora [Fulani] making criticisms...Emily [Carter] making criticisms, there was a lot of folks making criticisms of some of the racism that they heretofore hadn't mentioned to Fred, but had told me and told other Blacks in a whisper type kind of way, the times that we were together...and they came forward."

Shortly after that meeting, according to Serrette, his stature and treatment by other NAP leaders changed dramatically. Serrette said he was not opposed to therapy on principle since he believed many people are helped by other forms of therapy. But therapy played a different role inside NAP according to Serrette:

"...therapy was a way of getting people to not only operate in an organizational way, but also a way of controlling every aspect of their lives...you certainly couldn't straighten anybody out. But it was certainly effective in terms of controlling a lot of people to do the kinds of things that were asked of them...they would do anything, just about, that he would ask them to do."

"I wouldn't even be surprised if they'd turn from a so-called left organization to a rightwing organization with a blink of an eye. I think that the ideological question that is supposedly the thrust of who they call themselves, International Workers' Party, there's nothing more than a front itself."

"I certainly believe that [of] the New Alliance Party, and when I say "front," I just mean it's the cover to cover, possibly the ego of Fred Newman and the control of so many individuals in terms of power."

Serrette also said the therapy was not voluntary and that one Newman associate made this clear:

"She said that it was an order that if you wanted to be part of this organization, you will have to take therapy because it is the backbone of our tendency...she says that comes as an order...from the governing body."

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