Posted by: exiwp | August 9, 1982

Games the New Alliance Party Won’t Play (1982)

“Since the New Alliance Party first appeared here in 1979, local activists have wondered about its origins, goals, leadership and tactics. A zealous, highly motivated, and often sectarian approach-not to mention NAP’s habit of suing its critics-has sown feelings of distrust and disquietude. NAP has been confronted, whispered about, avoided, and sometimes excluded amid conjecture that it’s a cult, a split-off (or creation) of Lyndon LaRouche’s fascist organization, a therapy collective, or even a nest of police agents.” (“Psychopolitics,” by Joe Conason in the Village Voice, June 1, 1982)

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“Ross runs the New Alliance Party, which has demonstrated in the last two years of visible activism that, while seeming progressive, they are not . Ross’s candidacy is merely the latest example of the party’s opportunism. Rather than field a candidate against the plethora of incumbents whose politics merit challenge, Ross has gone after the newly appointed-and consequently vulnerable-Wallace, despite his excellent if brief record as a Councilmember and his long commitment to tenant rights. The conceivable consequence of this spoiler candidacy would be the election of a truly pro-Koch Councilmember who represents nothing but his own sporadic ambition, Bill Woodward.”‘-“Primary Endorsements,” Village Voice, Sept. 9-15, 1981

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“Another candidate whose real goals lie outside the [Democratic] party whose nomination she is seeking is Nancy Ross, candidate in the Democratic Primary for Manhattan City Council member-at-large. Although her affiliation with LaRouche’s NCLC was brief, and ended seven years ago, she has, before, during and since that affiliation been an active member of a small, cult-like group on the Upper West Side led by one Fred Newman…

“Current incarnations of the Newmanite group are the New Alliance Party, of which Ross is a paid Coordinator, and the NY Institute for Social Therapy and Research . Both [Ross and Klenetsky] are merely using their campaigns in the primaries to gain publicity and recognition for the groups they represent-both, in their different ways, dedicated to a totalitarian philosophy.”-Katy Morgan, “Klenetsky & Ross: Not What They Seem,” Our Town, Sept. 6, 1981

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“If Woodward’s millions can’t beat Wallace-and a last-minute media blitz is still possible-it seems even less likely that Nancy Ross’s radical-sounding rhetoric can. A leader of the New Alliance Party and former member of West Side Community School Board 3, Ross has suffered from suspicions of the party’s aims and its origin in what investigative reporter Dennis King has called a ‘therapy cult’ known as the New York Institute for Social Therapy and Research. She has attacked Wallace more than Woodward, on the basis of his failure to oppose Ed Koch’s reelection.”-‘Primary Roundup: Manhattan,” Joe Conason, Village Voice, August 19-25, 1981

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“Under the guise of activist politics, a quasi-secret ‘therapy cult’-which uses mind control techniques similar to those of Rev. Sun Myung Moon-has developed a toehold of influence in our community . We are speaking of a group which has used its new respectability to lure an increasing number of psychotherapy patients into its spider’s web of controlled-environment manipulation and ego destruction.

“The only way to join the cult is to go through therapy with Fred [Newman] or one of his lieutenants. Everything is structured around this therapeutic relationship, and no one is fully trusted until they have poured out their soul and been locked into the transference relationship.. .This type of power is always a very dangerous thing, especially when in the hands of a megalomaniac. Although Fred Newman has not directed his family into Charley Manson-type acts of violence and mayhem, he has nevertheless initiated them step by step into a ‘beyond good and evil’ approach to life.”-Dennis King, “West Side ‘Therapy Cult’ Conceals Its True Aims,” Heights and Valley News, Nov. 1977

If the New Alliance Party were just a bunch of naive liberals, or hysterical, sectarian ultra-leftists who were merely criticizing the Democratic Party, it would be completely ineffectual and nobody would care what it did. But that’s not what the New Alliance Party is. The New Alliance Party is a practical tool (indeed, a weapon against reaction) that is designed specifically to engage the destabilization and rightward movement of the Democratic Party. Anyone who says this can be done without building a strong, independent, organized force outside the Democratic Party is, in our opinion, either misguided or a straight-out liar. In the context of economic decline and structural crisis, the Democratic Party has been moving for many years now to the right, and though there are progressive individuals in the Democratic Party, there are no serious progressive or reform movements within it. They have, in our opinion, either disintegrated or sold out.

The Democratic Party responds to pressure from its own right wing largely because there are powerful, organized forces outside the Democratic Party to its right-the Republican Party, the Conservative Party, the Right-to- Life Party and the Moral Majority, to name four of the most important. On the other hand (the left hand!) the Democratic Party has not responded to pressure from its left because until NAP there hasn’t been any left progressive force in the mainstream electoral arena. There have been progressive organizations that presented themselves as alternatives to the Democrats, but which had no mainstream location. The Liberal Party, whose stated purpose (and historical mission) is to see to it that nothing like NAP gets built, vaguely covers the Democratic Party’s left flank-indeed, it is to the right of some elements within the Democratic Party. (Backing Jacob Javits over Elizabeth Holtzman for U.S. Senator in 1980 and running Mary Codd instead of supporting Frank Barbaro for Mayor in 1981 are only the most conspicuous recent examples of Liberal Party sabotage of independent politics.)

The New Alliance Party is not an alternative to the Democratic Party. It is designed to function-and does function on a day-to-day basis- both inside and outside the Democratic Party. The New Alliance Party is a tactic for changing the relationship between the Democratic Party and its traditional constituencies (working people, the poor, blacks, hispanics) as well as other oppressed groupings.

To put the matter bluntly, the New Alliance Party doesn’t give a damn about the New Alliance Party as a thing-in-itself. That is the secret of its success, and that is why NAP drives entrenched Democrats, both regulars and so- called reformers, up the proverbial wall. The New Alliance Party won’t play the game.

Reform Democratic Party politics has become a shameful game. Many would argue (with some validity) that it always was. The rules of their deceitful game include the following:

(1) It’s fine to build your career by making use of reform, but don’t risk your career for reforms; (2) It’s fine to build a political organization, and it’s even okay to build an organization that criticizes the Democratic Party-just don’t try to fundamentally change the Big Business character of the Democratic Party; (3) Having your own political organization is great, but your organization must be defined by the basic axiom of self-preservation, which goes: The most important thing is to keep your own organization going; (4) You shouldn’t relate to many different forces, based on their capacity to advance a serious social cause: rather you have to make deals-play power politics; (5) Politics is okay, but working for serious or fundamental political change is out of the question.

The New Alliance Party doesn’t accept these rules. We won’t play that game. The New Alliance Party does not hesitate to work with all manner of center to far-left-of-center political forces toward the end of bringing about an overall realignment of forces within the Democratic Party, a realignment in favor of working, poor, oppressed and progressive people.

Slander is nothing new in Democratic Party clubhouse politics. Every successful reform Democratic office holder could testify that in mounting their attacks against the old Democratic machine, they faced slanderous counterattacks, both personal and political. (This has been especially true of women who were breaking into politics.) The attacks on NAP and Nancy Ross are not so unlike the attacks that have been made on all insurgents within the Democratic Party. Stanley Pinsley catalogued these matters well in an article which appeared in the Soho News during the heat of the Ross Councilmember-at-large campaign.

But the attacks on Ross and other leading members of NAP have been fiercer and more hysterical than usual, and there is a very good reason for this. In not playing by the rules, NAP is consistently exposing the game that is being played by so-called progressive politicians in New York City. The problem for NAP’s attackers is that in slandering NAP, they expose and discredit themselves and their game. Nothing will illustrate this better than a brief history of the attacks on NAP and its leaders.

In the mid-1970’s, several of the future key founding organizers of NAP were attacked for their former membership in the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC). The NCLC was one of many New Left organizations that proliferated during the anti-Vietnam War upsurge of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The NCLC was unique, though, in having considerable insight into the serious nature of the economic crisis that was only just beginning in the late 1960’s, a developing critique of the middle class character of the New Left (and the old Left) as a whole, and a relatively sophisticated plan for building organizations of broad strata of the working class.

Many progressive people were drawn to the NCLC, and these included significant numbers of working people. At the first and second conventions of the National Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organization (organized by the NCLC), there were over a thousand people from many different strata of the working class.

A number of NAP’s future founding members-including Nancy Ross and Fred Newman-were drawn toward and, for a brief time, into the NCLC, out of their recognition that the NCLC was an organization with the potential to do something more than talk about progressive social change. They, like many others, joined the NCLC in spite of their recognition that the organization was rife with many of the same problems that plagued the rest of the New Left-racism, sexism and the lack of a tactical sense (especially as manifest in their foolhardy attack on the Communist Party, which they called “Operation Mop Up”). Newman, Ross and a number of other future NAP organizers were in the NCLC for a period of about two months, in the summer of 1974, during which time they struggled to engage tendencies that were moving the NCLC rapidly to the right and out of the progressive movement. When they found they could not succeed at this, they resigned. The NCLC continued its rightward movement, changing its name to the U.S. Labor Party, and more recently to the National Democratic Policy Committee. Today, its politics are easily recognizable as proto-fascist.

For purely sectarian purposes, significant elements in the U.S. Left insisted for many years that the grassroots organizing that Ross, Newman and others have contributed to was a “front” for the U.S. Labor Party. A Washington journalist named Harvey Kahn, for example, wrote a badly researched, and practically illiterate story arguing this thesis. It was obvious to even a casual observer who had any claim to political acumen that the politics of the U.S. Labor Party and those of, for example, the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council, were entirely different.

But Ross, Newman and their associates didn’t play by the rules. They were looking to find a way to do something that hadn’t been done successfully for years in the United States-to move progressive politics from the Friday night forum into the poor and working class communities. The most sectarian elements of the Left, which had smugly declined to recognize the NCLC’s accomplishments or their own complicity in both its rise within the New Left and its demise as a progressive organization, now heaped slander on those who had been audacious and unconventional and principled enough to learn what there was to be learned from the NCLC. That wasn’t playing by the rules. It need only be added that NAP has probably done more than any other progressive organization to expose and discredit the U.S. Labor Party, since its distinctly proto-fascist character became clear.

Another attack on the organizers of NAP dates from 1977, when Nancy Ross was running (successfully) for Community School Board in District #3. She, Newman and their co-workers were attacked in the pages of Heights & Valley, the newspaper of the Columbia Tenants Union (CTU), for being a “therapy-cult.” The claim was made that they were practicing “mind control” as an organizing method. What was this attack all about?

Ross and Newman were (and are) social therapists, and were soon, together with others, to found the New York Institute for Social Therapy and Research. There was indeed a connection between their understanding of psychological problems and their political views-a fairly complex relationship.

Dennis King, a ghost-writer and sometime columnist for the CTU, felt threatened by Ross’s campaign, which he construed as an infringement on the CTU’s territory-the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He found the allegation of psychotherapeutic malpractice a convenient stick to attack Ross with. Ross and Newman were therapists. What business did they have in progressive politics? King’s elaborate fantasy served one purpose and one purpose only-to attempt to discredit a progressive politician on purely sectarian grounds. Today, King himself has been pretty thoroughly discredited, and NAP-not an organization to hold sectarian grudges-works with CTU on the Upper West Side.

As the New Alliance Party developed and grew more into the mainstream of New York City politics, it was attacked more frequently, and more hysterically. NAP has been called a “spoiler” by the Village Voice and by reform Democrats of all kinds. Let’s take a look at some of the elections that NAP has “spoiled.”

In its first campaign, NAP ran Joe Galiber, a black State Senator from the Bronx against an undistinguished white machine hack named Stanley Simon. Simon, who had no record of involvement with the struggles of the black and hispanic majority in the Bronx, was the hand-picked incumbent of Stanley Friedman, head of the Bronx Democratic machine and a law partner of the infamous Roy Cohn. NAP also backed its own Chairperson, Gilberto Gerena-Valentin, in his ongoing struggle against the machine of Ramon Velez, one of the most notoriously corrupt politicians in New York (who is now being resurrected by both the machine and reform elements of the Democratic Party). NAP ran Moses Harris, Director of Black Economic Survival, against white millionaire Fred Richmond in the 14th Congressional District. (The full extent of Richmond’s corruption is only now being exposed.) NAP supported Roger Green in his well-known and narrowly victorious struggle against the Brooklyn Democratic machine. NAP supported State Senator Vander Beatty in his effort to put the anti-Koch recall amendment on the political agenda. NAP supported Frank Barbaro’s independent run for Mayor against Koch. NAP’s support in all of these struggles was whole-hearted, making use of all the resources at its disposal.

After City Councilman Gilberto Gerena-Valentin and the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus brought suit against the City Council for its self-serving and racist gerrymandering of the Councilmanic districts (a suit that was upheld by the federal court), Ross strongly supported the suspension of the City Council elections, despite the fact that she was herself a candidate (and, many political experts agreed, the one who would lose the most by the cancellation). Her opponents, Wallace and Woodward, maneuvered to have the elections held, opting for “politics as usual.” Ross even supported the elimination of the Councilmember-at-large seats (the office she was running for) which the courts had condemned as inherently discriminatory against black and hispanic voters. Reformer Wallace (the incumbent) and Woodward stayed pretty quiet about this one too. In choosing to run Ross against Wallace (the establishment reform candidate) for the Councilmember-at-large seat in Manhattan, NAP exposed his subservience to Ed Koch and the right-wing forces that Koch represents in the Democratic Party. (Ex-tenant lawyer Wallace claimed to be “neutral” on the most racist, pro-landlord, anti-poor Mayor New York has ever seen.)

Would you think that these contributions to progressive politics would be worthy of some recognition by the Village Voice? You would be wrong if you thought that. You see, NAP doesn’t play by their rules. NAP doesn’t just support “good” politicians and oppose “bad” ones because that’s the morally righteous thing to do. NAP is using its support to build an organization which represents people the reform movement would rather remain outside the political process altogether. In doing this, NAP has no compunctions about relating to anybody who has a contribution to make to that struggle, whatever their personal motives might be.

Many vicious and stupid things have been said about NAP and its organizers, but probably the dumbest was a remark that Joe Conason made in the pages of the Village Voice at the beginning of the Barbaro independent run for Mayor in the summer of 1981. In his article about the first public meeting of the Coalition to Defeat Koch in 1981 (which ultimately supported Barbaro’s campaign), Conason warned about the “potentially disruptive” presence of the New Alliance Party, which he called “a sectarian outcropping.” Please, Joe! NAP may be disruptive to the smug and sheltered lives of Village Voice journalists, but NAP never has and never will do anything to disrupt a progressive political campaign, no matter how much you try to provoke us. And you just try to find someone who will deny that NAP organizers were exemplary workers in every respect in the Barbaro campaign.

As for “sectarian,” Joe, that gets the prize. Call the New Alliance Party anything, but call it “sectarian” and you really look like a fool. Just for the record, the organizations that the New Alliance Party works with include: The Committee for the 80’s, the All Peoples Congress, Fight Back, United Tremont Trades, the Black United Front, the New York Union of Lesbians and Gay Men, Black Economic Survival, Committee in Support of the People of El Salvador (CISPES), the Coalition of Grass Roots Women (CGRW), the UNITY Party, the Columbia Tenants Union (CTU), African Liberation Day Support Committee, the New York Institute for Social Therapy and Research, Lower East Side United Black Coalition, the Federation of Independent Unions, Coalition for a People’s Alternative, Commission for the Elimination of Racism, Committee on Ballot Access and Electoral Reform, the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council, Federation for Progress, the Association of Public Service Workers, the People’s Anti-War Mobilization, the Transit Workers Coalition, the Greensboro Justice Fund, the Bozeman-Wilder Defense Committee, Asian- Americans for Equality, Women’s Independent Democratic Organization (WIDO), the Bronx Health Consumers’ Union, the Illinois Welfare Rights Coalition and Recipients Union, New Decade Media, and the New York City Housing Coalition.

So effective and consistent has NAP been at working with a broad spectrum of center to left-of-center political organizations that even some of the organizations we work with have chided us for being “excessively” non-sectarian.

Do you want to know what NAP is, Joe? We’ll tell you. NAP is the beginning of an answer to the sectarianism that has for too long condemned the progressive movement in New York to insignificance.

One of the charges leveled at the New Alliance Party by many reform Democrats is that NAP is a “psychotherapy cult.” It is somewhat difficult to take such a charge seriously, coming as it does from a social grouping (middle class reform Democrats) which has made traditional psychotherapy one of New York City’s better businesses. The allegation of therapy-cultism, however, is a serious charge because it has also been asserted that the basis of the political activities of the New Alliance Party is ultimately some form of mind control or brainwashing. We must, therefore, elucidate what we believe to be the legitimate relationship between the New Alliance Party’s political work, and the substantial contributions that have been made to the understanding and treatment of psychological problems by one of NAP’s affiliates, the New York Institute for Social Therapy and Research.

The New York Institute has pioneered in the development of social therapy, a therapy which is based on the recognition of subjective problems-neuroses, pathologies, etc-as not merely personal, but fundamentally social. Psychological problems are not merely in people’s heads-they are also in the world. Therefore, getting help with them demands that they be engaged, not through some “special” relationship between patient and analyst wrenched out of the social context in which these problems actually exist, but rather in the world.

The basic tool of social therapy is the social therapy group. In social therapy, it is the group that is helped rather than the individual that is treated. The group is engaged by the social therapist as a living whole which must undertake the task of organizing itself in such a way that the members of the group are able to get help with their emotional problems. The effectiveness of social therapy in helping people with their psychological problems lies in this engagement of people as collective organizers of their problems and the solutions to their problems, not, as in traditional authoritarian therapeutic models, objects who suffer these problems and who, more or less passively, “consume” the treatment for them individually. Group members-blacks, hispanics, whites, women, men, gay, straight, poor, working and middle class people-are able to engage the obstacles to working collectively because social therapy groups are free of the authoritarian structures imposed by traditional therapies. Members of social therapy groups are therefore forced to deal with racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, classism, homophobia, etc. The development of social therapy has shown that there is actually no meaningful distinction between the social therapy group’s re-organizing itself to deal with its collective problem, and solving the “individual” problems of the members of the group.

The identification of psychological problems as social is not to identify them as necessarily political in the narrow sense of the word. Social therapy is not a pedagogy for teaching people politics. It is not concerned to make the people who come to the New York Institute seeking help “political.” People from many different social strata and holding to a variety of political perspectives are increasingly finding social therapy helpful in dealing with psychological problems. Some who come to the New York Institute for help are already political. Some are not. Some of those who are not political become so, and some don’t. Social therapy has helped, and continues to help in growing numbers, many people who have no direct involvement in the New Alliance Party, or in politics of any kind.

However, although the effectiveness of social therapy does not depend on patients either being political or becoming political, the New York Institute does believe that the effectiveness of social therapy has everything to do with the political character of the New York Institute. Traditional forms of psychotherapy derive their effectiveness, such as it is, from their relationship to the traditional institutions of society. In turn, traditional therapy is validated by these institutions.

Social therapy derives its effectiveness and its validation not from the institutions that presently control social and economic life and maintain the status quo in the United States, but from the developing institutions of working, poor, oppressed and middle income people that are seeking to change society. Thus, the New York Institute has given financial and other support to the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council, a union of welfare recipients demanding economic representation for poor people. The New York Institute has also provided critical support for the embryonic independent unionization movement, which seeks, through organizations like the Federation of Independent Unions (FlU) and the Association of Public Service Workers, to begin to organize into progressive political unions the tens of millions of unorganized and unrecognized working people in this country. The FlU and the Institute have also held joint training programs for organizers.

The Institute has forums, classes and other programs in which the critical social and scientific issues that confront the progressive movement-the issues of racism, special oppression, the decay of social institutions, mental illness-can be engaged. And, of course, the New York Institute has supported the New Alliance Party and contributes both money and organizers to the building of the independent movement in New York City politics.

Thus, to come into social therapy is itself a political move, one which may (or may not) be followed by other political moves. The people who come to the Institute for help with psychological problems are not necessarily interested in politics, but they know that the Institute is. Though the content of the social therapy session rarely has to do with politics as such, the social therapy session takes place within a social institution with a definite political outlook and definite political commitments. (In this, it differs from traditional therapy only in the nature of the commitments and the fact that the commitments are open and explicit.)

We cannot close a discussion of the issue of “brainwashing” without saying a few words about Fred Newman, who is among other things the chief organizer of the New York Institute and the individual who has done the most to develop social therapy, both theoretically and clinically. But because Newman is also a leading member of the New Alliance Party, he, more than anyone else except Nancy Ross, has borne the brunt of the sectarian slanders aimed at the New Alliance Party.

Fred Newman grew up on welfare in a large working class family in the South Bronx. He attended City College on the G.I. bill and went to Stanford University on scholarship, where he received a Ph.D. in Foundations of Mathematics. Newman went on to teach philosophy, and was fired from no fewer than six teaching jobs in the 1960’s for his uncompromising opposition to the Vietnam War. At City College he was famous for giving “A” to all his students to help them stay in school and out of Vietnam. Newman has been a full-time political activist since the late 1960’s, when he left City College to begin exploring how to take progressive politics off the campus and into the communities. He is a hard working and insightful political thinker and organizer, and NAP is proud to count him among its leaders.

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owhere are the ties between the New Alliance Party and grassroots organizing more evident than in NAP’s relationship with the Coalition of Grass Roots Women (CGRW). The CGRW was launched in the late 1970’s by a group of black, hispanic and Asian women, all of them significant working class leaders. These included Geraldine Miller of the Bronx Household Technicians, Margaret Prescott Roberts of Black Women for Wages for Housework, Beulah Saunders of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), Marissa de los Andes of Mujeres Internacionales por Liberacion Americano, and Kuzu Iyiama of the Organization of Asian Women.

It is to the great credit of these organizers that in the context of the deepening economic crisis of the 1970’s, and the increasing rightward movement of the national and international policy of the United States government, they recognized the imperative need to build a broad political base in the communities of working, poor and oppressed women. The Coalition of Grass Roots Women was to be a voice for a traditionally unorganized and unrecognized strata of the U.S. working class.

In 1977, the path of the CGRW crossed that of Don’t Mourn, Organize! (DMO), a communications bulletin of grassroots organizations under the editorship of a long-time organizer and activist in the women’s and gay movements, Freda Rosen. DMO had developed a significant location within the grassroots community movement, and Rosen herself was an experienced and charismatic organizer with a substantial following of her own.

Though committed in principle to grassroots organizing and base- building, the CGRW was having a difficult time putting this perspective into practice, tending to revert to mobilizing existing forces (the tactic of the 1960’s) in preference to organizing new forces. Recognizing Rosen’s skills as an organizer, Marissa de los Andes appealed to DMO for help in carrying the CGRW’s perspective into practice.

DMO’s participation in the CGRW led to a more intense engagement with the middle class forces of the women’s movement. At a forum held on the future of the women’s movement in September 1978 by a middle class women’s organization called the Matriarchy, Gloria Steinem publicly denounced the Coalition as a front for the right-wing U.S. Labor Party, and the organizers of the forum permitted Marissa de los Andes to speak only under duress, and only for five minutes. (Steinem has herself frequently been the object of CIA-baiting within the women’s movement, and one would have expected her to avoid rash and unsupportable charges.) The racism and elitism of the middle class women’s movement was exposed further in an article in the Sept.-Oct., 1978 issue of Majority Report, in which Marissa de los Andes and the CGRW were attacked for being too aggressive in demanding that hispanic women be represented on the Matriarchy’s panel. The Majority Report article read in part:

“Marissa de los Andes of the ‘Coalition of Grass Roots Women’ (which had come to trash in the name of’ poor and Third World women’) was allowed to speak even though she is opposed to abortion and the ERA…”

Putting the CGRW’s name in quotation marks was, of course, intended to show that it wasn’t a real women’s organization any more than poverty was a real women’s issue. The rest of their allegations were simply false.

This intensified engagement between middle class and working class forces necessarily polarized both halves of the women’s movement. Some of the leaders in the CGRW protested that the organization was being taken over by “leftists,” and gay-baited and red-baited Rosen and DMO. Wilmet Brown called Rosen a “leftist man in drag” at a conference in Oberlin, Ohio. On the other hand, many of the rank-and-file hispanic and Asian-American women in the CGRW supported the thrust toward base-building. Within the middle class women’s movement, most remained, for the time, firm in their opposition to the organizing of poor and working women. But Flo Kennedy, a black lawyer and long-time leader in the women’s movement, displayed both principles and courage in stepping forward to support the CGRW, and the organizing of poor people generally.

As the Coalition actually moved into the communities, some of its leaders deserted the organization. However, the Coalition began to attract important new leaders. In 1979, two leading organizers of the Feminist Women’s Health Center of Tallahassee, Florida, Linda Curtis and Kit Davis, came to meet with the CGRW in New York. They had built a service organization for women that was increasingly under attack by right-wing forces, and they recognized the need for organizing their base to engage in a political struggle, if they were to save what they had built. Curtis and Davis put forward the CGRW base- building perspective within the Center, and called for the organizing of the Center’s base into a health consumer’s union. In the ensuing political struggle, they were both expelled. Curtis and Davis moved to New York City to help build the CGRW in 1979, about the time the Labor Community Alliance for Change (LCAC) was transforming itself into the New Alliance Party and launching its first electoral campaign. Their continued struggle to go beyond the limits of a feminist politic has been important to the Coalition’s growth.

The building of the CGRW played a critical role in the first NAP campaign, and an increasingly important role in subsequent NAP campaigns. Conversely, the development of independent politics and the growth of NAP as a progressive mainstream political party has been tremendously effective in bringing the issue of organizing and base-building among poor and working women into the mainstream. The Coalition has done this by directly engaging the middle class women’s movement, and more importantly by organizing in working class communities like Throggs Neck Houses in the Bronx and by rebuilding the Bronx Coalition Against Sterilization Abuse, bringing that fight into poor and hispanic communities for the first time.

One of its greatest successes was the Lesbian Task Force, which had its beginnings among working class and lesbian women and gay men who worked on NAP’s campaign in the Bronx in 1979. The Task Force led to the founding of the New York City Union of Lesbians and Gay Men, which under the leadership of Nomi Azulay, has been a most effective advocate of the need for gay people to unite with the independent political movement.

When NAP Coordinator Nancy Ross ran for Manhattan Councilmember-at-large last summer and fall, the CGRW played a major role in the campaign by establishing a women’s flying squad, and promoting Ross as the candidate of poor, working and progressive women. CGRW organizers-who routinely do outreach in the communities and on the subways of New York-toured Manhattan day after day with Ross.

At the height of the Ross campaign, a letter was circulated by certain reform Democrats eager to garner the fruit of the independent political movement, and even more eager to bury what independent politics represents. Two of the signers were Gloria Steinem and Democratic Councilwoman Ruth Messinger. They stated bluntly that although there was a woman running for Councilmember-at-large from Manhattan (they did not mention who), they wished their constituents to know that they felt that Ed Wallace (the reform Democrat and Koch-neutral in the race) was the candidate who most truly represented women’s interests. This position, ludicrous as it is, raises important political questions about who leads the women’s movement and with whom that movement is aligned. The CGRW and the New Alliance Party are ready to take on that challenge.

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he New Alliance Party is committed to building independent politics in the United States. By independent, we mean independent of the huge Corporate and financial interests and of the Democratic and Republican Parties which are more and more coming to serve the corporations and the banks.

This struggle is going on, not just in the United States, but all over the world. Indeed, there are many places where it is much more developed, and has recently reached, or is even now reaching, a critical juncture, where the accumulated historical legacy of oppression by Big Business and finance now threatens the people’s very survival.

As the New Alliance Party enters its fourth year, the Struggle of working and poor people in El Salvador is at such a point. El Salvador-indeed almost all of the countries of Central and South America-have long been ruled by repressive regimes, invariably dominated by right-wing generals. There is generally no tradition of democratic government there. And this is no accident. It has long been the policy of the U.S. government (under both Democratic and Republican administrations) to support these right-wing juntas, because they provide the only guarantees that the economies of these countries will continue to be organized to serve the needs of U.S. Big Business, and not the interests of working and poor people.

In El Salvador, not only is there no tradition of electoral democracy, but the long history of political repression and economic exploitation has produced a crisis of such scope and depth that whether working people have any future is very much on the line. Not only are there no organizations to fight for reforms in El Salvador, but even if there were, reforms are hopelessly inadequate to the social and economic crisis which U.S.-led repression and exploitation have produced.

The United States government has never hesitated to repress independent peoples’ movements which threatened U.S. economic interests. In Africa it is the chief supporter of the racist/fascist South African regime. The U.S.’s closest ally, Great Britain, has oppressed the people of Ireland for centuries. No fewer than forty-two times in this century, the U.S. has intervened militarily in South and Central America to oust progressive or moderate regimes or to prop up repressive ones. On countless other occasions, the U.S. has used its financial power and covert subversion by the CIA to destabilize and topple governments which represented the needs and aspirations of the people, and therefore threatened the economic and political interests of U.S. corporations and banks. Chile is only one example, but a terrible one, as the events portrayed in the recent movie Missing show.

Here in the United States, people are also fighting for decent lives and a decent society. We are building the New Alliance Party because we believe it is one of the necessary organizational tools for this struggle. In El Salvador, people are struggling for power too. The conditions of their struggle are different, because their whole history is different, and consequently the form of their struggle and the organizations they build must be different. The struggle in El Salvador is a military struggle. The people are fighting not merely to limit the influence of U.S. corporations over their economic and political life. The time for that is long past. They are fighting to take complete control of the economy and their country. For them, this is not a matter of “choosing” a violent form of struggle over a peaceful one; the people of El Salvador are practicing the only form of democracy which can save them.

The New Alliance Party’s position on international questions is very simple. We support whatever organizations working, poor and progressive people find necessary to build in their struggle for independence from Big Business and the institutions which do its bidding. We do not presume to judge for them what kinds of organizations they should build, or that the form of their struggle should be the same as ours.

But we affirm emphatically that our struggle is one with theirs. This is not a moral point. Though our history is different from the history of countries like El Salvador, the world-wide Big Business economic crisis which shows no signs of abating means that more and more the methods of overt oppression and repression-military and police force, economic manipulation, political subversion-which have been used by Big Business in its struggle against independent peoples movements in other countries are now being applied, or will be soon, in the United States. We know that ultimately we cannot succeed in building independent politics in the United States if our brothers and sisters in El Salvador and elsewhere do not succeed, nor can they ultimately succeed if we do not.

We cannot close a discussion of NAP’s attitude toward international events without mentioning the growing movement for nuclear disarmament, which began in western Europe and is now spreading to the United States. NAP supports this movement fully, and believes that independent politics are critical to its success. The history of disarmament movements shows clearly that they cannot succeed if they remain tied to or influenced by the profit making interests of Big Business or the political parties of Big Business.

N

ot since the i930’s has there been a multi-racial, multi-ethnic progressive organization based in the working class areas of New York City. In its organizing, the New Alliance Party has struggled to learn how to relate to black organizations in principled and progressive ways. This political perspective has already succeeded in attracting several significant working class leaders, among them Gilberto Gerena-Valentin (a founding member of NAP and NAP Chairperson) and Ted Taylor (President of the Federation of Independent Unions).

The building of broad, working class-based organizations is NAP’s first priority. However, NAP unconditionally supports the right of blacks and other oppressed nationalities to build their own organizations. Such organizations are a lawful and legitimate response to the vicious racism of U.S. society.

However, there is a distinction to be made between recognizing the right of people to do something, and agreeing, in a particular case, with what they’re doing. This distinction is, perhaps, best demonstrated in NAP’s posture towards those who call for the building of the Black Independent Party. We recognize this as a positive development in relationship to a Democratic Party which has more and more turned its back on black and hispanic people. We would defend such an effort against attacks by the Democratic machine, the government or right-wing forces. On the other hand, we have made clear our commitment to multiracial, working class organization by inviting nationalistic forces in the black community to join with us in a united effort against the forces of racism and reaction. Furthermore, we have stated our intention to continue organizing in black and hispanic communities to those who refuse to work for unity.

This is a position of principle and struggle, unlike the relationship which too often exists between black and white organizations. White people often adopt an attitude that anything black people do is all right because they have been oppressed. This has led to standing by and allowing the black working class to be misled by every manner of sellout. Such an attitude is racist to the core.

The black women and men who are counted among the leaders of the New Alliance Party do not do politics in this way. Brooklyn NAP Coordinator Lorraine Stevens, a welfare mother, has no difficulty seeing the difference between black middle class people and their politic and the politic of poor and working people, black, hispanic and white. Lorraine, and others, have struggled to understand and move beyond the limitations of a nationalist political perspective. She says:

“Black nationalism tells us that if we band together we can get our piece of the pie. This may still be true for a few middle class blacks. It has never been true for poor black people and it never will. The only way poor people can get what they need is by joining with other poor and working people, and progressive middle class people, no matter what color they are, to struggle to change the priorities of this society.”

A necessary part of NAP’s relationship to black organizations is to always work for the unity of those organizations against the political forces which are opposed to the interests of all working people. This has resulted in situations which are incomprehensible to those who pick and choose among black organizations and black candidates on the basis of who best fits their ideal. NAP supports candidates who stand up for independent politics and People Instead of Profits.

Thus, in 1980 the New Alliance Party ran a black construction worker and community leader named Moses Harris for Congress against white millionaire Fred Richmond in the predominantly black 14th Congressional District in Brooklyn. At the same time, NAP and its candidate supported both Assemblyman Al Vann and State Senator Vander Beatty, even though they were locked into a bitter fight for control of the Democratic Party in that area.

We were asked how we could support Beatty, who had made some deals with the Democratic machine. Our position on black politicians in the Democratic Party, like our position on all politicians in the Democratic Party, is that insofar as they are vying for control within the Democratic Party machine, there is absolutely no reason to choose one over another. We will not make that choice, and we certainly won’t make it on the impressionistic criteria used by the self-proclaimed arbiters of political morals at the Village Voice. On the other hand, insofar as black politicians are standing up for independent politics, and People Instead of Profits, they deserve all the support we can give them, and then some. We supported Beatty, Vann and Green, just as we supported Galiber, because they were all willing-to varying degrees, and with varying consistency-to oppose the machine and support independent politics. We opposed the efforts of the corrupt and racist Democratic machine to defeat any of them, and we supported all of them precisely to the extent that they opposed that machine, whatever their personal reasons for doing that might have been.

This principled political position has won NAP the respect-sometimes grudging-of black and hispanic leaders throughout the city and the state. More importantly, it has been embraced by poor and working people in communities throughout New York who are making independent politics the politics of the 1980’s.

A

question often asked of NAP organizers is: “Well, I agree with everything else you’re doing, but why do you have to talk about those gay people? It’s just going to mess up our movement.” Well, whose movement are they talking about, and what does it mean to mess it up? Everyone has deep-rooted feelings about sexuality generally, and the issue of homosexuality is one that no one is neutral about-not even those who think they are.

But homosexuality is not just a matter of sexual “choice.” Homosexuality is a crucial political issue, because oppression of and discrimination against gay people are systematic, and they are increasing. Reactionary forces like the Moral Majority have, quite purposefully, built a substantial part of their following directly off the fear and hatred of gay people-homophobia-that pervades our culture. Physical violence against gay people is increasing rapidly.

We know from history that when things get rough economically, reactionary forces will target the most vulnerable and isolated social groupings for repression and extermination. Gays, along with Jews and Socialists, were among the groupings that were systematically slaughtered in fascist Germany The isolated social position of gays-outside of traditional family life, without legal protection in jobs or housing-leaves gays particularly vulnerable to repression and violence. Homophobia is a weapon used to legitimize all forms of social and political repression. The Family Protection Act is a clear example of this. The act, introduced in Congress with the backing of the Moral Majority, would withhold federal funding or tax-exempt status from any social service agency or legal services division which advocates for the rights of homosexuals or that validates homosexuality as a legitimate way of life.

We can rest assured that as economic conditions continue to deteriorate, legislation like this will be used to abolish any progressive agency on the grounds that it serviced a gay person. These kinds of repressive tactics were used in the 1950’s by McCarthy, and many progressive people lost their jobs because they were accused of being communists or homosexuals. (Often it was implied that the two were synonymous.) Anti-gay legislation can, and unquestionably will, be used in the 1980’s to deprive not only gay people, but poor people, blacks, hispanics, and others among the oppressed-who may or may not be gay-of their rights.

NAP supports the concerns of gay people because we stand in full support of all oppressed people. We are not concerned with building a “legitimate” movement; we are concerned with building a powerful movement which represents all poor, working, oppressed and progressive people. We recognize that gay people play a vital leadership role in every community, and that the isolated, closeted position of gay people is a fetter to developing the kind of support and trust necessary in people working together. The New Alliance Party supports gay people “coming out” politically, so they can give their fullest contribution to the struggle to re-order social and economic priorities in this country, and the struggle against the genocidal plans of the Right.

But the New Alliance Party does more than support the concerns of gays. We support the organization of gays. We support the building of organizations like the Committee Against Racism, Anti-Semitism, Sexism and Heterosexism (CRASH) as important weapons in the struggle against repression. We support in particular the New York City Union of Lesbians and Gay Men, which has taken the lead in bringing gay people into the independent political movement and away from their unrewarding connection with the Democratic Party.

NAP addresses the issue of homosexual oppression by actively organizing lesbians and gay men. We do not buy into the dangerous myth-unfortunately espoused by some gays as well as by straights-that gay problems are their “own.” What’s on the agenda by the forces of political reaction is the heightened repression and eventual extermination of gay people. But it won’t stop with gays. “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you at night.” To stay neutral on this issue leaves gay people-and all of us-in the hands of the forces of reaction.

How does NAP get its money? The Village Voice would sure like to know.  Given where they get theirs, we can understand why they would be suspicious, but the dull and boring fact happens to be that NAP gets its money by working for it, and working very hard. NAP doesn’t have very much money, but we have managed to do an enormous amount with the little bit we have.  The most valuable asset that NAP has is the labor and commitment of its members.  They put in hundreds of hours each week working to build this movement.  Progress has been slow but steady.  After two years, the New York Alliance will be ready soon to double in size to a 24-page weekly.  This has been made possible through the 10-12 hour days put in by its advertising sales staff, who pound the pavement day after day asking small business to support the newspaper that supports them, not Big Business.

The knowledge that the infusion of several million dollars into the New Alliance Party could move it forward by quantum leaps is positively tantalizing.  But while everyone else is looking for a foundation grant or a government handout, NAP is committed to the financial independence so important to independent politics.  After all, you can’t avoid selling out if you are on someone else’s payroll.  Indeed, you already have! While others work to become attractive to powers like the Democratic Party or the Ford Foundation, who are always looking to buy off new leaders and new organizations, NAP works to raise the money to build an independent political movement.  NAP is financed entirely by dues, contributions, monthly sustainers, advertisements in its newspaper and various fundraising events.

We have learned what has been one of the best kept secrets of the last 40 years, that poor and working people will support-with their brains, their hands and their pocketbooks-the building of independent organizations which are fighting for their interests.  Every week, working people buy the New York Alliance on the trains and contribute anywhere from 25c to $5 towards their organization.  They do the same on street corners in communities throughout New York.

Progressive middle class people will support independent politics as well.  One NAP member is a businessman whose goal, not surprisingly, is to make a million dollars.  What is surprising and significant is that he is willing to share that first million with the New Alliance Party because he shares its goal of fighting for an end to poverty and the building of a society where everyone can lead a decent, productive life.

We can well understand why the Village Voice’s Permanent Critics of New York’s Permanent Government would find this impossible to believe.  After all, being cynical is what they get paid for.  They work for neo-fascist Rupert Murdoch, who owns not only the liberal/radical Village Voice, but the slick New York magazine and the racist and anti-working class New York Post as well.  No, the Permanent Critics could never believe that working and poor people have the brains to recognize a coherent, progressive political perspective, or the guts and the generosity to support it with their labor and their money.  Nor could they believe that anyone could accomplish what the organizers of NAP have accomplished, without much money at all.

At the New Alliance Party, we have what we think is a pretty healthy attitude toward money.  We think it’s important stuff, and we’re working overtime thinking of ways to raise more of it.  But unlike Rupert Murdoch and his hired hands, we know that money isn’t everything.  Money isn’t power, and it’s power that working, poor and progressive people need.  Murdoch has spent millions of dollars trying to buy up both ends of the political spectrum.  But we have some sad news for Mr. Murdoch, and for all those who are stupid enough to accept his politics along with his paychecks.  He won’t succeed.  He can’t buy the New Alliance Party, or the New York Alliance.  They are not for sale.  They belong to the poor and working people of New York City, and their allies.

What does it cost to build an independent political movement? Here is a typical current monthly budget for the New Alliance Party.

NEW ALLIANCE PARTY BUDGET                                                              April, 1982

INCOME

EXPENSES

Monthly Sustainers/
Street Work

$2,500

Rent

$  475

Gas & Electric

135

Miscellaneous Contributions

150

Telephone

550

Fundraising Parties

100

Press/Public Relations

150

Bi-Monthly Membership Meeting

700

Bi-Monthly Membership
Meeting

750

Membership Dues

350

New York Alliance

350

Rents (Trade Union Committee, 69th AD)

200

Out-of-Town Travel

100

$4,000

Office Maintenance

520

Miscellaneous Cash
Disbursements

480

Campaign Debt

500

 TOTAL EXPENSES

$4,000

Anyone interested in social and economic justice in the United States must recognize that what is happening to the organizations of labor-the established union movement-is cause for alarm. For those members of the labor force who are lucky enough to have them, unions are the only defense against the relentless campaign for wage-cuts and contract give-backs that is now being waged by Big Business in all sectors of the U.S. economy. History teaches us that defense of and support for the existing organizations of the working class is the first and most important component of developing a progressive political strategy This is why the support of the New Alliance Party for all unions against all attacks by Big Business and government, and for the extension of unionization to all working and poor people who do not yet have it, is unconditional.

But support for organized labor demands that we have no illusions about the fact that organized labor is presently failing to provide leadership in the fight to extend economic representation to new sectors of the labor force. Nor is labor even adequately protecting the interests of those working people presently represented by unions. The dimensions of this failure are truly frightening. Thus, the AFL-CIO put up no resistance to Reagan’s complete annihilation of PATCO, apart from a polite and perfunctory protest by AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland. Albert Shanker, President of the United Federation of Teachers, makes use of his regular column in the New York Times to bemoan the refusal of New York City to restore dues check-off to the UFT, despite his union’s acquiescence to the massive layoffs of teachers in the public school system, and its purchase of New York City’s bonds (at a time when the banks wouldn’t touch them) to shore up the city’s credit rating. In their last contract, the United Mine Workers were unable to save their company-paid health benefits program, one of the major gains of past strikes. This year, the United Auto Workers, one of the titans of organized labor, accepted contracts which made enormous concessions on wages to the automobile companies.

These are major defeats of the most powerful labor organizations in the United States. Lesser defeats of weaker unions are taking place at an even more rapid pace. In the context of a decade of economic decline (which shows no sign of stopping), the response of the most powerful unions has been to accept the attacks on their members’ standard of living as the necessary “bitter pill” that will restore the “profitability” of Big Business. They fail to note that “restoring profitability” means nothing less than the destruction of unions altogether, and they seemingly fail to ask themselves what will make Big Business respect the survival needs of working people when they no longer have organizations that fight for them.

The political base of the New Alliance Party is primarily in the grassroots community movement, and in the embryonic movement for political unionization. Historically, the ties of the community movement to the organized labor movement have not been strong, and these two social movements have related politically not directly to each other, but through the Democratic Party. Yet, now the Democratic Party has made clear-here in New York City through the support that it is giving to the union-busting and labor-hating Ed Koch- that it holds the unions in almost as much contempt as it does the community movement.

Last November’s mayoral election gave one of the first indications that organized labor would move politically in response to the rightward movement of the Democratic Party. New York City’s Central Labor Council broke its longstanding no-endorsement tradition and supported Frank Barbaro in the Democratic Primary. (True, they didn’t come through for the independent campaign which followed, staying firmly wedded instead to the Democratic Party.) In doing so, labor was beginning to wake up to the harsh political realities of the 1980’s. Yet in supporting Barbaro, organized labor was not providing leadership, but rather following the leadership of the independent grassroots community movement which has built the New Alliance Party. This is not sectarian boasting, but a recognition that although the leadership of organized labor is desperately needed by community-based forces, it has been far more sought after than forthcoming.

As always, the rank and file have moved further than union leadership.  Arnold Cherry, rank-and-file leader of the Transit Workers Union, supported NAP Coordinator Nancy Ross for Councilmember-at-large. In Local 371 of the Social Services Employees Union, activists formed a New Alliance Party Slate to challenge the Local’s sellout leadership.

The grassroots community forces which make up the New Alliance Party are not waiting passively for organized labor to lead. However, we will continue to support organized labor by demanding that it provide leadership in the movement to build independent politics and that it give up its humiliating and suicidal reliance on the Democratic Party. We will continue to support organized labor by opposing all attacks on the historic gains of the labor unions, whether they come from Big Business or from veteran union-busters like Reagan and Koch. We will continue to support organized labor by supporting the development of the embryonic rank-and-file movements which seek to take control of the unions out of the hands of the conservative and reactionary bureaucrats, and to find new directions and a new strategy for organized labor.

Finally, we will continue to support organized labor by supporting the building of new political unions, organizations like the Association of Public Service Workers which, recognizing the changing economic realities, are not simply trying to defend the survival needs of their own members, but are linking up with other organizations of labor and the community in an independent political movement.

Many people have asked if the New Alliance Party is socialist. The answer to that question is no. However, NAP is independent and that means it is free and not afraid to support every struggle against oppression and for social justice, including those that are led by socialists and communists.

This is an important commitment; moreover, since the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950’s, no mainstream political organization has been able to do it. Indeed, the primary objective of McCarthyism (and it is vital to remember that many liberals supported the politic of what McCarthy was doing even if they didn’t support his tactics) was to break the historic link between socialists and progressive struggles like the labor movements, the civil rights movement and the various struggles against racism, war and repression. Big Business has used its extraordinary power over the media and educational institutions in the United States to wage an unrelenting propaganda war against socialism and the socialist countries. So effective has that effort been that many Americans who grew up after World War II do not know that the United States and the Soviet Union were allies in the fight against German and Japanese fascism.

NAP’s position regarding socialism is shown in a number of important ways. One has been to applaud the support that socialist countries have shown for anti-imperialist struggles, for such struggles have no chance of success without economic and military support from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Unlike those who would rather see those struggles defeated than see them allied with the socialist bloc, the New Alliance Party recognizes that every defeat for imperialism and oppression is a gain for working people.

Another example of NAP’s independent and progressive position on this important matter is that it will not engage in red-baiting. We recognize that socialists have played and continue to play a key role in working people’s movements in this country. At a time when the forces of the Right are organizing and growing with alarming speed (with more than a little help from their friends in the White House and City Hall), working people and progressive people cannot allow their forces to be divided in this way. Nobody gains from driving socialists out of the working class movement and out of working class organizations- except Big Business, and the politicians on the Right and in the Center who work for them. Thus, NAP welcomes socialists and works openly with socialist organizations as well as in coalitions, like the UNITY Coalition, which include the Communist Party. And we will defend those people and those organizations against any effort to drive them out of the mainstream.

In addition, the New Alliance Party is an active member of the All Peoples Congress, which organized a massive protest demonstration recently outside the New York Hilton, where Ronald Reagan received an award as a leading humanitarian. Some of the leading spokespersons of the Congress are socialists. NAP Chairperson Gilberto Gerena-Valentin welcomed support and help from the Puerto Rican Socialist Party in his reelection fight against the reactionary Bronx Democratic machine. The New York Alliance has demonstrated consistent support for the Communist Workers Party (CWP) in its struggle to expose the conspiracy between government agents and the Ku Klux Klan which paved the way for the terrible massacre of leading members of the CWP in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The New Alliance Party seeks to build a class-based politic, an alliance of working class and progressive middle class people against the forces of reaction. We seek to expose the racism and anti-working class character of so much middle class, liberal political activity, black and white. NAP supports every piece of legislation, every program which will improve the lives of working people.

We define working class in the broadest, most historical sense of the word to include welfare recipients, clerical workers and unemployed people, including students, in addition to the more traditionally recognized, and organized, laboring people. We will not tolerate any effort to exclude any of these largely unrecognized strata from the working class. To do this only divides the progressive forces in this country in a manner similar to the anti-communist efforts described above.

What do our organizers say when people call them communists or socialists? Neter Brooks, President of the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council and a founding member of NAP, puts it like this: “I’m for an end to poverty, racism, sexism and exploitation. If you want to call that being a communist, I’m proud to be called a communist. What do you stand for?”

The New Alliance Party wishes to thank Nomi Azulay, Martha Blomstedt, Linda Curtis, Kit Davis, Alan Goldstein, Lou Hinman, Harriet Hoffman, Judy Kolberg, Harry Kresky, Warren Liebesman, Diane Lunde, Sheila McCue, Alice Rydel, Jackie Salit, Gary Saylor, Abie Sussman, Hamlet Theodore, and Tammy Weinstein for their hard work in putting this booklet together.

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