[sixties-l] Horowitz, Art Goldberg and Stew Albert

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Sun Jun 18 2000 - 04:13:34 CUT

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    Who killed Betty Van Patter?
    A letter from an old friend stirs up passions from one of the most
    disturbing, yet little-known, crimes of the New Left era. It happened
    exactly 25 years ago.
    By David Horowitz

    Dec. 13, 1999 | BERKELEY, Calif.
    Twenty-five years ago Monday, my friend Betty Van Patter disappeared from a
    tavern on University Avenue called the Berkeley Square and was never seen
    alive again.
    Six months earlier, I had recruited Betty to keep the books of the
    Educational Opportunities Corp., an entity I had created to run a school
    for the children of the Black Panther Party. By the time the police fished
    her battered body out of San Francisco Bay in January 1975, I knew that her
    killers were the Panthers themselves.
    At the time, the Panthers were still being defended by writers like Murray
    Kempton and Garry Wills in the pages of the New York Times, and by
    then-Gov. Jerry Brown of California. The governor was even a confidant of
    Elaine Brown, who had hired Betty and whom Huey Newton had appointed to
    stand in for him as the Panther leader while he was in "exile" in Cuba.
    At the time of Betty's death, Elaine was running for Oakland City Council
    and had just secured a $250,000 grant from the Nixon administration under a
    federal juvenile delinquency program. J. Anthony Kline, the consigliore to
    whom she had been able to turn when the party's enforcers got in trouble
    with the law, was about to be appointed to Gov. Brown's cabinet. (Today
    Kline is a justice on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.)
    In pursuit of answers to the mystery of Betty's death, I subsequently
    discovered that the Panthers had killed more than a dozen people in the
    course of conducting extortion, prostitution and drug rackets in the
    Oakland ghetto. While these criminal activities were taking place, the
    group enjoyed the support of the American left, the Democratic Party, Bay
    Area trade unions and even the Oakland business establishment. (The head of
    Clorox, Oakland's largest company, for example, sat on the board of the
    Educational Opportunities Corp.)
    On a far smaller scale, the Panther killings were an American version of
    the "Katyn massacre," the infamous murder of Polish officers carried out on
    Stalin's orders that the left had denied and kept hidden for decades, until
    the opening of the Soviet archives settled the "dispute" for good. It was
    much harder for me to understand why the Panthers should be able to get
    away with these murders in democratic America, and why the nation's press
    should turn such a blind eye to a group that the nation's law enforcement
    had made an object of its attentions.
    Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that to this day not a single
    organization of the mainstream press has ever investigated the Panther
    murders, even though the story is one that touches the lives and political
    careers of the entire liberal establishment, including the first lady and
    the deputy attorney general in charge of civil rights for the Clinton
    administration. Both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Lann Lee began their
    political careers as law students at Yale by organizing demonstrations in
    1970 to shut down the university and stop the trial of Panther leaders who
    had tortured and then executed a black youth named Alex Rackley.
    This silence is even more puzzling since, despite the blackout by the
    national media, the details of the story have managed to trickle out over
    the years. This has been the result of efforts by me and by my colleague
    Peter Collier, by radical journalist Kate Coleman, by Hugh Pearson, by the
    nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, New Times magazine and one or
    two others, including most particularly David Talbot and David Weir, now
    editors at Salon.
    Because of our efforts, informed citizens are at least aware of these
    murders. On the other hand, unlike in the Soviet Union where testimonies
    emerged as soon as the threat of retaliation was gone in the 25 years since
    Betty's death, few additional witnesses have come forward to add to our
    knowledge about her case or these other American crimes. There are hundreds
    if not thousands of veterans of the '60s who have at least some knowledge
    of these deeds, but who have remained silent and therefore complicit to
    this day.
    These include notable figures like Tom Hayden and journalists like Los
    Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer both of whom promoted the Panthers as
    revolutionary heroes at the time, and have failed to correct that
    impression ever since. But it also includes many lesser figures who worked
    day in and day out to facilitate the Panthers' rise to power and to cover
    up their crimes along the way. Evidently, these fellow travelers have
    remained convinced that even though the crimes were committed, it was (and
    is) no responsibility of theirs to help solve them.
    I am constantly asked by people who have read my autobiography, "Radical
    Son," or who have heard me talk about these events, how it is that my
    former comrades on the left can remain so silently and stubbornly devoted
    to "experiments" like the Panthers that failed, to doctrines that are false
    and to causes that are demonstrably wrongheaded and even evil.
    On Nov. 20, an answer to these questions came in the form of a letter from
    an old friend, a Berkeley writer named Art Goldberg, who was himself deeply
    involved in the activities of the Panthers and in their deceptions, and who
    remains a faithful keeper of the progressive flame today.
    Goldberg and I grew up in Long Island on the same block in Sunnyside, N.Y.a
    neighborhood of Queens that had been colonized by the Communist Party, to
    which both our parents belonged. Because Art was a few years older, he and
    I weren't that close as children, but we became friends after college when
    we found ourselves together in Berkeley, in 1960, as members of the nascent
    New Left.
    Art was a writer for the Berkeley Barb and other "Movement" papers. He made
    himself particularly useful to the Black Panther Party. So valuable was
    Art's propaganda to the Panthers that eventually Huey Newton assigned him
    to write the official biography of Charles Garry, the lawyer who defended
    Newton against charges that he had murdered a young policeman named John
    Frey. Newton had indeed committed the murder, but in Art's account and in
    all the writings of New Leftists at the time, Huey was presented as the
    innocent victim of a racist conspiracy by the state.
             Art and another friend named Marty Kenner were the New
    Leftists closest to the Panthers among everyone I knew. Marty was a
    stockbroker who had organized the famous Leonard Bernstein party that Tom
    Wolfe satirized in "Radical Chic," and was working virtually full time as
    Huey Newton's personal emissary and financial guru.
    In the '60s, I had kept my distance from the party because I had been
    frightened by their gun-toting style and hectoring posture. As the '70s
    began, however, Newton announced that it was "time to put away the gun,"
    and I became involved with the school project I have already mentioned. At
    first, I had intended just to raise the money for the school, but when
    Kenner withdrew unexpectedly (he told me he was "burned out"), I was left
    with the task of organizing the school myself. It was as a result of this
    responsibility that I recruited Betty Van Patter to keep its books.
    I had not seen or heard from Goldberg or Kenner for 15 years when I
    received Art's letter, which was in response to my recent book, "Hating
    Whitey and Other Progressive Causes," one of whose chapters is a memoir of
    Betty's death.

    Nov. 19, 1999

    Dear David,
    Every so often I hear about something you've written that pisses somebody
    off, but I don't much care because I have pretty much retired from politics.
    One thing I have been meaning to tell you for years, however, concerns the
    death of Betty Van Patter, the Ramparts bookkeeper.
    In my mind, you are the person responsible for her death. Sending her in to
    audit the Panthers' books at that particular time was tantamount to
    dressing her in a Ku Klux Klan white sheet and sending her up to 125th
    Street in Harlem or to West Oakland.
    I distinctly remember warning you to be careful about getting too involved
    with the Panthers because things were getting pretty crazy at the time you
    jumped in. I had pulled back, Marty Kenner had pulled back and so had Stew
    Had you asked Stew or myself, we would have urged you not to send Betty
    into the school under the circumstances in which you did ... The fact that
    you let Betty deal with them directly was incredibly naive on your part,
    and shows you had no idea of what was going on with the Panthers at that
    time. If you had asked Stew, myself or Marty, we could have told you ...
    Kenner, after all, knew a lot about the Panther finances, as he was a major
    fund-raiser. Nothing happened to him ...
    The problem was that you were inexperienced and naive and Betty Van Patter
    got killed because of it. That's why, whenever anyone brings up Betty's
    death, after you've written about it or alluded to it, I always say, "It
    was really Horowitz's fault. He set her up." As I said, it was like putting
    her in a white sheet and sending her up to Harlem.
    Just wanted to let you know what I've been thinking.

    Here is the answer I sent back:

    Dec. 12, 1999

    Dear Art,
    Unlike you I don't pretend to have "retired from politics," and unlike you
    I try not to lie to myself. Having become a conservative, I am prepared
    for how pathetic, vicious and disloyal some human beings can be, and how
    sublimely unaware of the disgusting image they present to others even as
    they preen their moral selves for their own approval. As a result, your
    letter does not really surprise me.
    The fact that you should have spent 10 seconds carrying around your insipid
    thoughts about Betty's death is laughable. Nonetheless, I thank you for
    revealing how ignorant you are about yourself and your friends, and how you
    are still wallowing in the evil that once engulfed us all.
    Marty Kenner, my possible savior. If only I had thought of that! It was
    Marty, of course, who left the Panther school project in my hands and
    without bothering to say why. The same Marty was so far from thinking the
    thugs he was among were bad guys that 10 years later he attended the great
    Huey P. Newton's funeral as a fan, and then played the role of
    behind-the-scenes sponsor of Panther Field Marshal David Hilliard's
    self-glorifying book just before he became President Crack-head of the
    Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, and resident tour guide of historic Panther
    sites. Stupid me! Why didn't I think of asking Marty for help?
    "Nothing happened" to Marty, as you put it nobody raped and tortured him
    and then bashed his head (as I would phrase the same) -- because his nose
    was so far up Huey's ass right to the end that he couldn't get his tongue
    loose to annoy them, even had he the thought to do so.
    Give this, at least, to Betty. She wasn't killed because she was white or
    stupid. She was killed because she had the integrity and the grit to talk
    back. She wasn't spineless, the way you and your friends are. She was
    killed because she wasn't a feckless servant of rapists and murderers like
    you and Marty were then and apparently still are now.
    And Stew Albert!!! How could I have overlooked good old Stew when I was in
    need of advice? Stew Albert, the yippee genius who wrote a letter to
    Ramparts calling me a police agent because in an editorial I had condemned
    the SLA's assassination of a black father of three children, whose only
    crime was to have been a superintendent of schools. My editorial gave a
    "green light" to law enforcement to carry out the richly deserved execution
    of Stew's beloved SLA fruitcakes! With stand-up talent like this, Art, you
    should really go on Leno.
    I see you are still crusading for social justice going around telling
    anyone who has read my latest feeble attempt to right this historical
    record and show the world what we did: "It was really Horowitz's fault. He
    set her up." Don't worry, my friend. I'm not going to return the favor and
    say you did it and I didn't. Of course, you did write all those rave
    notices and cover-ups, encouraging others to help feed the Panthers'
    criminal appetites (or has age affected your memory of this?). But I'm
    still not going to tell people it was your fault that I got involved with
    the Panthers or recruited Betty, or even that you kept your mouth shut all
    the time I was down in Oakland putting my life and hers in danger.
    Of course, you've already prepared your alibi. You told me "things were
    getting pretty crazy at the time." What was I supposed to make of that?
    "Crazy" could mean that the police were after them, that some of them were
    "agents" or that these pressures were creating internal conflicts I had to
    look out for.
                                            DID YOU TELL ME THAT HUEY NEWTON
    WAS A FUCKING MURDERER AND MIGHT KILL ME?!!! Of course you didn't. In fact,
    everything you had written or said to me about Huey Newton told me exactly
    the opposite. And that is all that you've ever written to anyone or said to
    me about Huey and his progressive gang to this day.
    But I still won't point my finger at you now, or blame you for what I did
    then. I won't do that because that's how I fell into this mess in the first
    place. By blaming others for what I did or did not do, by blaming them for
    my own malaise. And that's what your self-serving politics is finally
    about, Artyours and Marty's and Stew's. It's about putting responsibility
    where it doesn't belong. It's about blaming everyone but yourselves. It's
    about getting others to blame anybody besides themselves for who and what
    they are.
    I'm glad you wrote this letter. It makes all the pain and all the wounds
    inflicted on me by you and your comrades since then seem worth it. Because
    it shows me what wretched human beings I was involved with when I was one
    of you when I was a member of the progressive vanguard and at war with the
    "enemies of the people."
    Your letter shows me that in all these years you haven't changed a bit. But
    I have, and it's the only thing in this whole mess that I'm not sorry about.


    David Horowitz omitted a key section from my letter in his Salon column.
    This is what he left out: "If you felt it necessary to have some accounting
    of the funds you had raised, you should have called [Panther leader] Elaine
    [Brown], and told her Betty was working for you and if there were any
    questions about Betty, she was to tell you ... Also, you should have told
    Betty to bring any irregularities to you and you should have discussed them
    with Elaine." This, of course, would have made it clear that David was
    responsible. Instead, he hid behind Betty Van Patter, and let her take the
    Horowitz also chose to omit my reminder that the Panther school had just
    received a large grant from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration,
    a favorite program of Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell. Since
    Panther finances were generally chaotic, they would be especially wary of
    someone poking into their books at that time.
    Horowitz has a selective and flawed memory. I warned him several times in
    the early '70s not to get too close to the Panthers. Newton was in Cuba,
    Seale was back east, Cleaver was in exile, and a new crew was in charge.
    They were running many fine programs: the school, Breakfast for Children,
    sickle cell anemia detection, free health clinics, and job training
    projects that Horowitz fails to mention. But there seemed to be a dangerous
    undercurrent, and I and others close to the Panthers chose to pull back.
    That's when David, against our advice, blindly rushed in. This was strange,
    because in the '60s and early '70s, he almost never went to demonstrations.
    He was always too busy writing. So when he describes himself as a New Left
    activist, it's simply untrue.
    It's also strange that he omits my affiliation with Ramparts. He and I
    shared an office there in 1968, and in 1971 he sent me to New Haven to
    cover Bobby Seale's trial. Since my piece ran in Ramparts, he should know
    the jury voted 11-1 and 10-2 to acquit Seale and Ericka Huggins of murder,
    and that the judge subsequently threw out the charges against them. Yet in
    his column, he says the Panthers were guilty of that murder.
    Likewise, Horowitz neglects to mention that the police were never able to
    find out who killed Betty Van Patter. Is he suggesting that the Oakland
    Police were in cahoots with the Panthers in the Van Patter case?
    Horowitz is also mistaken when he says Newton "assigned" me to write a book
    with attorney Charles Garry. Actually, Newton and Garry were not on
    speaking terms in 1973 when I began working on the book, at Garry's
    request. Newton never assigned me to do anything. In fact, I first met
    Newton when Horowitz assigned me to interview him for Ramparts in 1971.
    It's interesting to me that someone who makes a living accusing people of
    political and other crimes has such a total disregard for the facts himself.
    Art Goldberg

    David Horowitz states that I called him a "police agent" for condemning the
    SLA for murdering Marcus Foster, the Oakland superintendent of schools.
    This is a lie. I never called him a police agent and the letter he refers
    to, which appeared in Ramparts, also condemns the murder of Marcus Foster.
    As for David's work with the Panthers, he began doing this when most of the
    Berkeley radicals were pulling away from them because we suspected links to
    criminal activity and gangsterism. That he recruited a politically
    experienced individual like Betty into that environment boggles the
    reasonable mind. Art Goldberg is correct if David had asked me if it was
    wise or safe to work would the Panthers, I would certainly have advised
    against it. But back then David was the sort of guy who always thought he
    knew the truth better than anyone else.
    Stew Albert

    What Horowitz hoped to gain from printing that private e-mail from Art
    Goldberg, and his wounded rant in rebuttal escapes me. Those of us who
    think of the Black Panthers as a wretchedly organized black supremacist
    militia do so without Horowitz's help; those of us who believe the
    opposite, or who just don't care, will hardly be swayed by this latest
    nugget. Using Salon as a bully pulpit from which to execute overkills
    against ex-friends represents an unworthy lapse in academic good
    n Steven Augustine


    You would think that someone you knew for 50 years, whom you had helped
    out, who was part of a small group of people involved with an organization
    that had killed a mutual friend and brought you to grief, would make a
    modest effort to find out the facts before attacking you over the crime.
    Not Art Goldberg. His "reply" to my Salon column shows that he has not even
    bothered to read what I wrote. I did not omit the Nixon grant to the
    Panthers or his affiliation with Ramparts as he claims.
    This failure pales however beside the fact that he obviously has never read
    the passages in "Radical Son" where I have told the story of Betty's death
    and my reaction to it. As a result he has not a clue as to what he is
    writing about in any of these matters. He thinks it's a big deal to tell me
    I was responsible for Betty's death. If he had read what I wrote, he would
    know that I accepted responsibility for Betty's death from the moment she
    disappeared, and that the guilt I felt nearly destroyed my life. He would
    know that Betty wasn't working for me at the time of her murder, that I was
    no longer involved with Panthers (and had no contact with them), and that
    therefore I couldn't have interposed myself between her and Elaine Brown as
    he so fatuously advises.
    Since Art is the author of a book that defends the murderer Huey Newton as
    an innocent man, which Art has never retracted, is it likely that he would
    have warned me that I was in danger from Newton then? Or that he would have
    covered his ass then just as he covering it now? Actually "a dangerous
    undercurrent" in the Panthers is all he can bring himself to write about it
    25 years after the fact. But the "Panthers" were just pawns of the master
    who had life and death power over them. If Huey Newton was not dangerous,
    and if I was working directly with him, why should I have had cause to worry?
    Stew Albert presents himself now as a vigilante when it comes to "criminal
    activities and gangsterism." But in the '60s, he was busy celebrating
    gangsters like John Dillinger as revolutionary heroes. A Berkeley Barb
    article he wrote about Dillinger, if memory serves, was actually called
    "The Outlaw as Revolutionary."
    What Stew Albert actually wrote about my Ramparts editorial was that I had
    "given the green light to the police" to murder members of the Symbionese
    Liberation Army who were killed in a shootout in Los Angeles. In my Salon
    article, I summarized this -- perhaps too quickly by saying Stew had called
    me a police agent. I apologize if I failed to be sensitive to the nuances
    involved insofar as this caused Albert undue discomfort.
    However, I am confident that, despite my best efforts, both he and Art
    Goldberg will go to their graves blissfully free of any sense of guilt for
    anything they have ever done.
    n David Horowitz
    -the end?-

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