A Cultist's Story

Newsday/November 14, 1996
By Jerry Markon

The three-year nightmare that engulfed Irene Davidson's daughter began at a table set up at a festival in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

Covered with "progressive" slogans, it was manned by volunteers for a group calling itself the Women's Press Collective. Sign up, they told Davidson about four years ago, you'll get to write "progressive things" for our newsletters.

"I asked what their orientation was. It was so vague," recalled Davidson, a former Brooklyn resident and longtime follower of leftist politics. "They couldn't really answer my questions, but I didn't worry about it."

So Davidson signed up her then-18-year-old daughter, whose name is being withheld, and unwittingly started a spiral that left her daughter brainwashed by a shadowy leftist cult that talked constantly of revolution but never did much more than churn out reams of paper.

The Women's Press Collective turned out to be one of many front organizations for the Provisional Party of Communists, the cult whose members were arrested this week at their Brooklyn brownstone for gun possession.

"It was the worst experience I've ever had," Davidson said yesterday of the three years, ending last November, in which her daughter lived at the Brooklyn headquarters. "It was like seeing a curtain made of rocks coming dowm between me and my child."

Cult members incessantly called her daughter and convinced her to visit the group's headquarters on Carroll Street, Davidson said.

Once there, the daughter was subjected to "unbelievably painfully long lectures" by cult founder the late Gino Perente on everything from American politics to the Russian Revolution.

"They had slogans all over the place, things like 'Just Do as You're Told," Davidson said. "In their minds, they were calling for a revolution, but it really wasn't serious."

Within months, Davidson's daughter was hooked full-time, said Davidson, who got to visit occasionally unlike most parents. She said her daughter "would be walking around with a clipboard writing things. It was all paperwork." There were no arms visible in the building, she said.

Eventually, Davidaon said, her daughter grew depressed and quit after the group shipped her to a small "field office" upstate.

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