Mother, Daughter Differ on "Brainwashing" of Members

The Boston Globe/November 15, 1996
By Doreen Iudiea Vigue and and Pam Ferdinand

A former member of the Provisional Party of Communists in Brooklyn and Boston still differs with her mother over whether the daughter was brainwashed by the organization.

Irene Davidson said the group was a cult and took over her 21-year-old daughter's life and mind.

"They really confused her. It was impossible to have a conversation with her, because she only talked about the cult and their goals," Davidson recalled in a telephone interview from the New York city suburb where she lives. She declined to identify the community.

Davidson's daughter, who left the group last Thanksgiving after three years, denied having been brainwashed.

"I think that's rather insulting," the daughter said in a separate interview. "I'm not saying there weren't aspects of delusion, but people really did things because they believed in what they were doing."

Davidson said her daughter left home four years ago, at age 17, to live at the group's Brooklyn townhouse, where police found a cache of weapons on Monday. She believed she could help poor people by joining the group, her mother said.

The daughter, who did not provide her name, said she never saw weapons at the group's quarters.

She described the organization as a "high demand group."

"You're expected to give everything," she said.

Most members lived at the office, and contact with family was restricted and supervised, she said. Members were expected to donate their time and any money they had.

Davidson's daughter worked about six weeks at the Eastern Service Workers Association, the group's office on Newcomb Street in Roxbury. She said all the group's activity was legal in Boston, where they ran food drives, recruited members and put together newspapers.

"You would get a volunteer who would be interested, and you would take them through classes and group conversations, talking about how the government was failing the people, until you reached a point where somebody said, 'If the government's failing, what can we do?'" she said.

The daughter said the group recruited at campuses including Boston University, the University of Massachusetts, Northeastern and Boston College, as well as in Harvard Square.

Davidson said group members did not physically abuse her daughter, but cut her off from loved ones.

"They didn't allow her to visit or call us," said Davidson. "She couldn't see her friends. She lost contact with her brothers, whom she adored. It messed up my whole family."

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