"Thus, a major crime of psychiatry is the theft of just that most necessary to our liberation from all oppression–the ability to rely on ourselves and each other."
INTRODUCTIONBy Sharon Cretsinger
Affiliate, Mental Patients Liberation Alliance
October 13, 2015
The piece you will see below makes many references to the International Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Baltimore in 1985. At that time, there were many important issues facing the psychiatric survivor movement and many important choices to be made with regard to whether the movement should take government money to continue its works.
Thirty years later, on the first day of Alternatives 2015 in Memphis, we see what wrong choices were made. The cooptation of which the authors warn here is almost complete. In this piece, you will recognized many dynamics that have played out in over the last 30 years. I offer this paper today to the people who do not know the history and do not fully understand how the movement has come to be not a movement for liberation and human rights, but a movement for “peer” jobs and monetized recovery porn. I have very little more to add here. This position paper speaks for itself.
An Appeal for an Independent Anti-Psychiatry Movement
By John Judge and Lenny Lapon
Position paper for the International Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Baltimore in 1985.
WHO WE ARE
We are two anti-psychiatry activists who for eight years have regularly been attending the International Conferences for Human Rights and Against Psychiatric Oppression. We have worked in our personal lives and in our communities and organizations to expose and attack psychiatric oppression. One of us, Lenny Lapon, is a former psychiatric inmate/”mental patient” who has worked with the Alliance for the liberation of Mental Patients in Philadelphia and Mental Patients Liberation Front in Boston. He presently lives in Springfield, Massachusetts,, where he and Chris Lapon are organizing a new group, Committee to Stop Psychiatry (CSP). Lenny is also self-publishing a book, Mass Murderers in White Coats: Psychiatric Genocide in Nazi Germany and the United States. He is also involved in Arise, a welfare rights organization.
THE PROBLEM OF COOPTATION
We are upset by and criticize several recent trends and developments in the psychiatric inmates liberation movement. We oppose the vast increase in funds made available by the National Institute of Mental Health’s Community Support Services Program (NIMH-CSSP), state “mental health” systems, and so-called “mental health” associations. The acceptance and use of these monies for salaries and national and local organizing purposes ALREADY constitutes a serious cooptation of our movement. This cooptation has taken several forms:
- the abandonment of the anti-psychiatry politics and unity represented by the Declaration of Principles voted on and adopted by previous International Conferences (Toronto, 1982, attached at the end of this statement).
- the attempt to form a “national organization” through channels funded by NIMH, namely the Teleconference and the “Alternatives ‘85″ Conference in Baltimore.
- a marked decrease in INDEPENDENT GRASSROOTS local organizing, accompanied by an increase in groups formed and/or supported mainly and directly by the “mental health” system.
- the increasing tendency to work with and within the American Psychiatry Association (APA) and other organizations that promote psychiatry, such as NIMH, NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), etc. This has not accidentally been accompanied by a decrease in militant criticism of, challenge to, and confrontation with the psychiatric establishments.
- the unrepresentative appointment of “spokespeople” for the movement, many of whom are salaried by and acceptable to the “mental health” system.
- a tendency to discredit and dismiss any radical analysis of psychiatry and to create a false division–politics vs. support.
The TELECONFERENCE was proposed and approved last year at the International Conference in Pueblo, Colorado solely as an information-sharing and communication network. Instead, since its beginning the Teleconference has functioned as a decision-making body, appointing “spokespeople” for the movement, initiating the development of a “national organization” and even adopting a resolution in support of legislation that creates an advocacy system under the control of NIMH (U.S. Senate bill S. 974, The Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Persons Act of 1985, introduced by Senator Weicker). This misuse of the Teleconference has violated the trust of those who agreed to its formation. We don’t find it coincidental that those who have been most involved in taking it beyond its mandate are salaried by various elements of the “mental health” system. We support the position taken by those ex-inmates who refuse to participate in the Teleconference, and in light of both its NIMH funding and blatant misuse, we call for its ABOLITION.
THE BALTIMORE CONFERENCE, “ALTERNATIVES ‘85″, was financed by NIMH-CSSP funds, including transportation, rooms and meals for many of the participants. The 400 participants at this conference formed an interim committee to create a “national organization”. There was no cohesive presentation of the anti-psychiatry politics that have guided the International Conferences and much of the psychiatric inmates liberation movement over the past 15 years. This was so despite the fact that several of those who pushed through the proposals to form a “national organization” had long claimed to be anti-psychiatry activists and to be in unity with the Declaration of Principles. These actions are a betrayal not only of the principles and those who agreed to them, but also of the Baltimore conference participants who were misled by the opportunism and false unity promoted by those who define”organizing” solely as increasing numbers, rather than as principled conscious-raising and real political unity. Neither NIMH-CSSP nor the conference participants had a legitimate right to decide to form or to initiate the formation of a “national organization”. Only an independent and representative body has such a right. WE CALL UPON THE 13TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE TO REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE LEGITIMACY OF THE DECISIONS MADE AT THE BALTIMORE CONFERENCE CONCERNING THE FORMATION OF A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION. We urge this International Conference to adopt instead Sue Doell’s proposal as stated on the petition which was submitted to this year’s conference committee:
“As members of the Mental Patients Liberation Movement, we oppose any further action being taken at this time to start a national organization. We recognize the need to hear ALL arguments, both for and against, this proposal. As movement activists, we adhere to the principle of INFORMED consent. We ask that the MADNESS NETWORK NEWS be used as a public forum to discuss all aspects of this proposal. We offer a counter-proposal that the final decision to form a national organization be made at the (1986) 14th Annual International Conference for Human Rights against Psychiatric oppression."
We struggle against psychiatry for the reasons outline in the attached Declaration of Principles, including opposition to forced “treatment”/torture, the medical model (medicalization) of issues of oppression, and psychiatry’s role of social control. As stated in Article 5, “psychiatric procedures…humiliate, debilitate, injure, incapacitate and kill people.” We especially support Article 26, which states that “the psychiatric system cannot be reformed but must be abolished.”
The struggle for liberation from psychiatric oppression is not an isolated one. Our exploitative, profit-oriented economic system, discrimination based on class divisions, racism, sexism, heterosexism and other injustices are reflected in the mentalism of the psychiatric system. In addition to threatening our survival, these conditions prevent us from gaining and giving the personal support we require in our daily lives. The rapid and massive growth of the class of psychiatrists and other “mental health” professionals and their highly profitable methods of “therapy”and “treatment" serve as a direct roadblock to our realization that personal support is a political issue.
OUR POLITICS MUST BE SUPPORTIVE AND OUR SUPPORT POLITICAL.
For example, a “non-political” drop-in center can only be a DROP-OUT center. Rather than struggle with the contradictions in our lives and against the sources of our oppression, we are encouraged instead to blame the victims and to turn to the de-politicized, medical model of psychiatry. Thus, a major crime of psychiatry is the theft of just that most necessary to our liberation from all oppression–the ability to rely on ourselves and each other. Our continuing refusal to deal with these issues in our families, our communities and our movement serves to legitimize and replicate psychiatric oppression, rather than to end it.
THE POLITICS OF COOPTATION: A METHOD TO THEIR “MADNESS”
NIMH is and has been the largest supporter of psychiatry and all its injustices, engaging in the training of thousands of psychiatrists and the promotion of forced “treatment”, the pushing of dangerous psychiatric drugs, electroshock, psychosurgery and behavior modification. It might strike people as contradictory that such an institution would be willing to fund a movement that opposes such practices. However, careful historical analysis reveals that THERE IS NO CONTRADICTION. The pattern of cooptation in our movement and in many others has been as follows:
- First, making the movement dependent on the funding. In this stage groups and individuals are allowed some freedom to express their anti-establishment (e.g. anti-psychiatry) views.
- Secondly, as the movement becomes progressively less independent and self-sufficient, its politics are defused and its militance is undermined. At the same time the funded organizations are officially recognized by the establishment as the sole representatives of the oppressed class.
- Finally, the funds are eliminated or reduced to a minimal amount, thereby destroying the ability of the movement to function in any effective way. This last stage accomplishes the ORIGINAL purpose of the funding.
Throughout the whole process energy and resources are drained from the independent movement and its urgent task of real liberation.
ALTERNATIVES TO A COOPTED NATIONAL ORGANIZATION
As previously stated, we urge this International Conference to reject the initiation of a “national organization” at the Baltimore “Alternatives ‘85″ Conference and their offer of “up to 50%” of the steering committee seats. Instead, we support a full discussion over the next year, and we oppose making any decision to form a national organization before the 14th International Conference.
We propose the following alternative actions and strategies:
- a focus on local grassroots organizing, based on a re-affirmation of the Declaration of Principles as a basis of political unity.
- rejection of funding and salaries from the “mental health” system and the re-establishment of an independent anti-psychiatry/psychiatric inmates liberation movement.
- confrontation, rather than cooperations with the APA, NIMH, NAMI and other pro-psychiatry institutions.
- the linking of our movement with other struggles against oppression in our society, especially around the issue of the increasing psychiatrization of such groups as the homeless, prisoners, poor people, workers, alcoholics, rape and incest survivors, veterans, and children. We should also make a concerted effort to actively support the human and economic rights of all people.
The primary task of any anti-psychiatry organization must be the liberation of current and former psychiatric inmates and other victims of psychiatry from the bonds of their invalidation by and dependence on the “mental health” system. To meet this goal, organizing work must focus on reaching these people and providing a clear analysis of and informed resistance to psychiatry.
Membership in such organizing groups should be limited to current and former inmates, other survivors of psychiatric assault/ ”treatment” and “therapy”, and supportive anti-psychiatry activists who are not ex-inmates. An independent organization can best function to oppose psychiatry when it excludes from its membership current psychiatric professional or other who make their livelihood from working within or taking salaries from any part of the “mental health” system. Such people, ex-inmate or not, by definition, compose the class of professional who support and carry on the day-today machinery of psychiatric oppression.
As Sue Doell suggests,
Let us start a major letter writing campaign, expose', demonstrations and boycotts against big insurance companies who FUND electro-shock. Let us do our speaking “engagements” at other political rallies. Let us sell (or give) our literature out during all demonstrations. Let us write letters and articles to other political journals. Let us give panel to local bookstores and libraries to order our movement journals. Let us walk the streets and talk to discussions in college classrooms, not to NAMI. Let us force our way inside psychiatric hospitals, not the APA convention. Let us leaflet at grocery stores, at the welfare, SSI and unemployment offices. Let us blockade the doors to mental health centers. Let us graffiti our cities. Let us ask out those who are homeless. Let us start bookstores and thrift-shops run collectively by psychiatric survivors. Let us take all the tainted government money we now have and start a book-publishing collective, or distribute it equally to all movement groups, or send it to Nicaragua! Let us end this financial cooptation!!
See the Declaration of Principles referenced above here:http://psychiatrized.org/LeonardRoyFrank/MiscArticlesOnPsychiatry/declarationofprinciples.pdf
Historical Noteby Sharon Cretsinger, http://mildlydysthymicinamerica.tumblr.com/post/131098561059/an-appeal-for-an-independent-anti-psychiatry
This is a position paper written in the mid 80′s by my friend Lenny Lapon (then affiliated with the Committee to Stop Psychiatry/Psychiatric Genocide Institute) and the late John Judge (then affiliated with Veterans Against Military Psychiatry). It is reprinted here with the permission of Mr. Lapon, who gave me the document. Lenny Lapon is also the author of the seminal work on parallels between late 1930′s Germany under National Socialism and the increasing psychiatric genocide taking place in the mid 1980′s, Mass Murderers in White Coats: Psychiatric Genocide in Nazi Germany and the United States. These materials are just as relevant today as they were when they were written, if not more so.
The piece you will see below makes many references to the International Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Baltimore in 1985. At that time, there were many important issues facing the psychiatric survivor movement and many important choices to be made with regard to whether the movement should take government money to continue its works. Thirty years later, on the first day of Alternatives 2015 in Memphis, we see what wrong choices were made. The cooptation of which the authors warn here is almost complete. In this piece, you will recognized many dynamics that have played out in over the last 30 years. I offer this paper today to the people who do not know the history and do not fully understand how the movement has come to be not a movement for liberation and human rights, but a movement for “peer” jobs and monetized recovery porn. I have very little more to add here. This position paper speaks for itself.
To Lenny Lapon and the late John Judge for your work, insight, and contribution
To Sharon Cretsinge for bringing this seminal document in movement history to out attention.