RADICAL ARCHIVES note: Some readers will be particularly interested in the NWLF’s explicitly antisemitic “anti-Zionist” theories, as mentioned in the middle of the article.
NWLF: good hit, no pitch
The New World Liberation Front, a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organization which has carried out an uninterrupted urban guerilla offensive around the Bay Area and Northern California for almost three years, may well be the most tactically advanced guerilla group in the United States. As a result of recent theoretical pronouncements on anarchism, feminism, homosexuality and Zionism, however, they have made themselves the most controversial guerillas within the revolutionary left as well.
The NWLF first appeared in the wake of the SLA drama, with a bombing in September, 1974, directed against a San Francisco stock brokerage firm. From the beginning, the NWLF has distinguished itself from most other guerilla organizations in the U.S. by two characteristics. First, although the bomb has remained its primary weapon, the NWLF’s attacks have been focused mainly on local, concrete political issues rather than abstract symbolic protest; and, second, the group has made extensive use of a demand strategy, that is, revolutionary extortion.
As far as its paramilitary activities are concerned, the NWLF has a record of success which verges on the astonishing. The organization has carried out almost fifty successful bombings, including power stations, banks, office buildings and motor vehicles, without causing a single injury to anyone. Even more amazing is the fact that in the process of all these actions, not one underground member of the organization has ever been identified or apprehended.
The structure of the organization is somewhat unusual, and its size is unknown. A number of clandestine “combat units” apparently function with some degree of autonomy under the overall control of the “Central Command”. Individual cells such as the Lucio Cabanas Unit, the Nat Turner/John Brown Unit, the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit, as well as the Central Command, have each claimed credit for numerous actions. Many have been carried out in conjunction with ongoing campaigns declared by the Central Command against targets such as Pacific Gas and Electric, slumlords (scumlords) in the Bay Area, and the recent campaign against the County Board of Supervisors for improved jail health facilities. Other attacks have been one-shot deals, such as the bombing of the South African consulate, or the spectacular bombing at the San Simeon mansion during the Patty Hearst trial.
In addition to the underground combat cells, a public support structure has evolved, featuring an aboveground unit with an office, printing press, and press credentials called People’s Information Relay No. 1 (PIR-1) and several “intelligence units.” PIR-1 has been active in distributing communiques form the NWLF to the press and to targets of NWLF campaigns, as well as in publishing the group’s magazine The Urban Guerilla (TUG).
These activities have resulted in federal prosecutions against PIR-1 members Andy Logher and Jacques Rogier for threatening public officials, extortion, destroying evidence and conspiracy. Despite numerous house searches, grand jury subpoenas and other harassment of PIR-1, Lougher has been acquitted. Rogiers has not yet been convicted, and PIR-1 continues to function.
The intelligence units are apparently responsible for the rather extensive research into the names, addresses, and power relationships of public and corporate officials in the Bay Area which appear frequently in the NWLF communiques and their publication. This intelligence serves the dual purpose of publicizing corporate and government collusion, while inviting the public to join in attacks on targeted officials.
Despite the considerable successes of the NWLF in organizing and sustaining their armed attacks, the NWLF has managed to make itself highly unpopular within much of the left. In several instances, suspicions and distrust of the group have arisen around the unclear role played by the NWLF in relation to other left groups.
Even more controversial, however, have been several abstract theoretical pronouncements issued by the Central Command. The most recent such statement, entitled “Notes on Anarchy” published in TUG No. 4, appears to be an attempt by the NWLF to counter the rapidly-increasing anarchist and anti-authoritarian tendencies appearing among militants engaged in revolutionary armed struggle in the U.S., and their supporters. The criticism, which contains traditional Maoist condemnations of “ultra-democracy” and “petit-bourgeois” unwillingness to accept orders from “leadership”, mistakenly equates anarchy with lack of organization and leadership with proletarian dictatorship.
While the authoritarian, hierarchical politics of the NWLF have tended to isolate them from many who would otherwise support their tactics, “Notes on Anarchy” does represent a significant and comradely attempt to engage in dialogue with anarchists and anti-authoritarian communist militants. The statement says, for example, that “The concept of Anarchy covers a broad spectrum of political thought, and it is important to remember that the contradictions between those who call themselves anarchists and the New World Liberation Front are not antagonistic.” In the final paragraph, the organization also seems to recognize the possibility of “leadership” based on experience, talent, and example, rather than on position in an organizational hierarchy.
Feminism & Homosexuality
The NWLF particularly outraged large segments of sympathizers, though, with a series of statements in mid-1976 on the role of feminism and homosexuality in the revolutionary movement. These edicts, passed down from the Central Command, relegated feminism and the struggle against sexism to a position subordinate to the economic struggles of poor and working people. The gay movement was essentially denounced as being entirely reactionary, the outgrowth of a petit-bourgeois sexual perversion. This “more oppressed than thou” position met with almost total condemnation from other revolutionary people and organizations. A number of written criticisms, including those from the Left Bank Collective of Seattle, Emily Harris, George Jackson Brigade member Ed Mead, and a collective of working women, have been published in Dragon, the discontinued periodical of the Bay Area Research Collective.
The NWLF got itself into trouble again with a communique in August, 1976, on the “Zionist-American ruling class” which postulated a mythical Jewish conspiracy of bankers and capitalists reminiscent of Hitler’s anti-Jewish propaganda. The statement was accompanied by a cartoon depicting a board meeting of Jewish bankers, complete with yarmulkes and caricatured hooked noses. An excellent statement detailing the anti-Jewish racism in the communique, which also discusses the importance of distinguishing between anti-imperialist opposition to Zionism, and racism against Jews within the left, can be obtained from O.K.A., Box 4344, Sather Gate Station, Berkeley California 94704.
The NWLF is clearly one of the most significant and important urban guerilla organizations which has yet been developed in the United States, and its successes can not be ignored. Its recent campaign to improve health care in San Francisco County Jails, for example, is costing the city $147,000 per month in security precautions for members of the Board of Supervisors, who live now under constant armed guard. Even “respectable” liberal columnists like the San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen have pointed out the injustice of a government which would rather surround itself with expensive police protection than provide decent medical care to prisoners. And last year, the Bay View Savings and Loan Association, one of the ten “scumlords” on an NWLF target list, put the organization on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers when it capitulated to NWLF demands to upgrade its slum housing.
No other North American guerilla group has attained the technical proficiency or the tactical genius of the NWLF, and the organization’s commitment to direct action, respect for human life, and uncompromising militance have earned it the deserved respect of revolutionaries and its corporate enemies alike. But until the NWLF recognizes that “total liberation” to which it so frequently refers means just that – freedom for all of us, not the dictatorship of the “most oppressed” over the rest – it will no doubt continue to receive only limited, critical support from others within the revolutionary left who endorse its tactics and smile with the news of each new NWLF victory against corporate power and the State.
As the Open Road goes to press, word has just been received that PIR-1 has broken from the clandestine NWLF. However PIR-1 has said it is still willing to handle NWLF communiques, if requested.
Sources indicate that the split results from PIR-1’s dissatisfaction with the NWLF’s authoritarianism.
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Open Road #3, Summer 1977. Page 8.
radicalarchives bonus: We found a PDF of the Bay Area Research Collective’s Dragon #10 on a Right-wing website. We figured we’d re-direct interested parties to view it here.