Fascism Wrapped in an American Flagby Chip Berlet and Joel Bellman
March 10th, 1989
A === Briefing Paper
In Three Parts
Outside the Boston federal courthouse a photographer discretely snaps pictures of certain persons entering the building. In the echoing halls, private security guards whisper into tiny two-way radios. Those entering the second-floor courtroom pass through the gleaming arch of an electronic metal detector. When the main defendant leaves the courtroom, husky bodyguards surround him as he is hustled to a car waiting in the basement parking garage.
The scene is from the 1987 trial of perennial Presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. That trial, involving charges of credit card fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice, was declared a mistrial due to numerous delays, but a later criminal indictment in Virginia saw LaRouche and several of his key followers convicted on charges involving illegally soliciting unsecured loans and tax code violations.
Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. is frequently dismissed as a crank or political extremist with no further explanation of his views or the phenomenon he represents. In a democracy based on informed consent, to not understand the nature of the LaRouche phenomenon is a dangerously naive rejection of the lessons of history--because Lyndon LaRouche represents the most recent incarnation of the unique twentieth-century phenomenon known as totalitarian fascism. LaRouche is hardly the first proponent of these views, and he is unlikely to be the last. Therefore there is a deadly serious reason to study the rise and fall of Lyndon LaRouche, the man who brought us fascism wrapped in an American flag.
Who is Lyndon LaRouche?
LaRouche spent his formative years in the small industrial city of Lynn, Massachusetts as a Quaker, and the past fifteen years forging a fascist movement out of cadre originally drawn from idealistic Marxist college students. His name became more familiar to Americans in April of 1986 when two Illinois followers of LaRouche scored primary victories--garnering the official Democratic Party ballot slots for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State. In repudiating the LaRouche candidates, the Democratic Party's candidate for Illinois governor, Adlai Stevenson, removed himself from the official ticket saying he could not in good conscience run on the same ticket with "neo-Nazis."
With increased media coverage of the LaRouche network's legal difficulties and clearly unusual political theories, most Americans probably think they already know all they need to know about Lyndon LaRouche. Yet the picture most people envision when they hear of the "LaRouchies" is a caricature of a complicated and troubling phenomenon which appears more sinister than comical when the details are sketched in with information emerging from court records, a careful reading of LaRouche's theoretical writings, and interviews with dozens of former members, most of whom prefer not to be quoted by name.
They have been called crooks, con artists, a cult, obsessed with conspiracy theories, a private intelligence army, anti-Semitic. Some critics have called LaRouche America's leading neo-fascist. A handful insist he is a neo-Nazi.They call themselves visionaries, nation-builders, walking in the footsteps of Lincoln, Hamiltonian Constitutionalists, neo-Platonic thinkers. Supporters consider LaRouche to be one of the great minds of the Twentieth Century, and the world's leading economist.
Even his sharpest critics generally agree that Lyndon LaRouche himself is highly intelligent and well-read, with an astounding ability to garnish his conversation with historical references drawn from memory. And there is no doubt that LaRouche has built a multi-million dollar financial empire from a small publishing company and a software consulting firm programming Wang mainframe computers for the garment and trucking industries. The LaRouche network now runs publishing and information services linked worldwide by computerized electronic telecommunications systems. Estimates of the recent yearly gross income from the dozens of related front groups ranges from 10 to 30 million dollars, although several years of legal problems have apparently reduced that figure substantially.
Under different circumstance LaRouche might have ended up a mental derelict drifting the streets--a deranged ancient mariner pressing tracts crammed with conspiracies into the palms of startled passersby.
How did LaRouche take a handful of sincere Marxist student intellectuals and turn them into an international intelligence and publishing operation? How did a former pacifist Quaker end up sending his followers into the streets to beat up opponents? How did LaRouche become the guru of a group churning out conspiracy theories detailing a sinister plan by prominent Jews, Russian communists, and New Age Aquarians to manacle western culture with a new Dark Age? How can LaRouche claim to trace this conspiracy from Henry Kissinger and Walter Mondale back through history to the days of the Babylonian Empire? Why do the followers of someone so obviously deranged attract tens of thousands of votes in American election races? And why do most mainstream media outlets refuse to use terms such as "anti-Semite" and "small-time Hitler" when court actions have resulted in those terms being found not defamatory but "fair comment?"
Unraveling the Gordian Knot that is LaRouche is not difficult when you realize the multi-faceted nature of LaRouche and his organization. LaRouche is the Elmer Gantry of American politics; mixing equal parts of cynical con and fanatic fervor. The terms to describe LaRouche can be gleaned from the pages of any political science textbook. LaRouche's political ideology is authoritarian. His view of history is paranoid. His economic theories are similar to Italian Fascism. His conspiratorial views are laced with racial and cultural bigotry and a large dose of anti-Jewish hysteria. His zealous stormtroopers are motivated by an internal organizational structure that is to politics what the blitzkrieg was to international diplomacy--that distinctive twentieth century phenomenon...the totalitarian movement. History teaches us that to ignore or dismiss such a person as an ineffectual crank can have devastating consequences.
The Long Road to Federal Court
As LaRouche's self image and paranoia grew so too did his appetite for expensive intelligence-gathering and high-tech security devices. His quest for Presidential power made him bold. The funds needed to maintain LaRouche's gargantuan self-image as the world's premiere political economist and spymaster apparently forced his followers to use questionable methods of obtaining cash.
The resulting over-zealous fundraising efforts are what caught the attention of a Boston federal grand jury some four years ago. In the fading days of his 1984 Presidential bid, when the cash-starved LaRouche organization was buying expensive commercial air-time, hundreds of persons found unauthorized credit card charges totaling tens of thousands of dollars paid to one of the many front groups operated by the LaRouche network. LaRouche says it all was a mistake. The grand jury thought otherwise, indicted several of his top lieutenants, and cited three of his related organizations. Law enforcement agents raided his Virginia corporate offices searching for documents to verify the allegations.
In the course of the probe, LaRouche loyalists are alleged to have destroyed evidence and sent key witnesses out of the country. When the grand jury indicted LaRouche on a charge of conspiring to obstruct justice, he blithely told the press the CIA had suggested that documents be shredded and witnesses made scarce.
Linda Ray, a former member of what she calls the "LaRouche Cult" says his followers may have been "the guinea pigs for pioneering the financial fraud in the late 1970's" when members with credit cards were persuaded to take out personal loans to finance LaRouche organizations. Former members say these internal loans were seldom properly repaid.
According to Ray, who has written of her experiences, she and other "LaRouchies" staffing LaRouche-controlled companies often did not receive paychecks; the money instead was used to keep the LaRouche global telecommunications network humming. "We were told that one of the top priorities for meeting expenses was maintaining a 24-hour communications link with the European central office," she recalls. Other former members report they were under intense pressure to meet daily financial quotas.
Former LaRouche loyalists, who often call themselves "defectors," say they were willing to make personal sacrifices and raise money using questionable methods because they were convinced they were part of a historic mission to save the world from an evil global conspiracy--a belief they now reject as an illusion. Intense peer pressure, manipulation of guilt feelings, attacks on their sexuality and fear are used to control LaRouche loyalists, say former members. The sum of the LaRouche organizational techniques equals the formula for the cult-like totalitarian movement defined by political scientist Hanna Arendt.
From Socialist to Totalitarian Fascist
After serving as a non-combatant in World War II, LaRouche flirted with the Communist Party, USA and then drifted into the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) where he spent much of the 1960's. After leaving the SWP, LaRouche became the political guru of the Labor Caucus of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) until SDS voted to expel them in 1969. LaRouche (using the name Lyn Marcus) then created the National Caucus of Labor Committees, which in 1972 had some 1,000 members nationwide.
But in 1973 NCLC underwent a drastic upheaval. LaRouche suddenly vowed to either destroy or establish his "political hegemony" over the American left. He began talking of the need for rapid industrialization to build the working class. He talked of a historic tactical alliance between revolutionaries, the working class and the forces of industrial capital against the forces of finance capital. He began developing an authoritarian world view with a glorification of historic mission, metaphysical commitment and physical confrontation. He told reporters that only he was capable of bringing revolution and socialism to the United States, and his speeches began to take on the tone and style of a demagogue.
In many ways LaRouche was adopting the same ideas and styles which took National Socialism, and turned it into part of the European fascist movement, and eventually played a key role in Hitler's rise to power in Nazi Germany. In fact, LaRouche was denounced as a neo-Nazi by U.S. Communists following a series of 1973 physical attacks on leftists. To be precise, NCLC members were likened to Hitler's violent Brownshirts.
What happened to cause this dramatic shift? Some say it was a dramatic incident in LaRouche's personal life. In 1972 LaRouche's common-law wife, Carol Schnitzer, left him for a young member of the London NCLC chapter named Christopher White, whom she eventually married. For LaRouche, it was a crushing blow. His first wife Janice had similarly walked out on him a decade earlier, taking with her the couple's young son.
This personal event apparently triggered LaRouche's political metamorphosis. LaRouche went into seclusion in Europe, and defectors tell of his suffering a possible nervous breakdown. In the spring of 1973, he returned. His previous conspiratorial inclinations had now grown into a bizarre tapestry weaving together classical conspiracy theories of the 19th century and post-Marxian economics. He began articulating a `psycho-sexual' theory of political organizing.
Sexism and homophobia became central themes of
the organization's theories. A September 1973 editorial in the NCLC ideological journal Campaigner charged that "Concretely, all across the U.S.A., there are workers who are prepared to fight. They are held back, most immediately, by pressure from their wives. . . ." The problem with making the revolution, LaRouche apparently had concluded, was that women are castrating bitches. One former member left in disgust when she was told women's feelings of degradation in modern society could be traced to the physical placement of female sexual organs near the anus which caused women to confuse sex with excretion.
In an August 16, 1973 internal memo, "The Politics of Male Impotence," LaRouche told his followers:
"The principle source of impotence, both male and female, is the mother. . . .to the extent that my physical powers do not prevent me, I am now confident and capable of ending your political--and sexual-- impotence; the two are interconnected aspects of the same problem. . . . I am going to make you organizers--by taking your bedrooms away from you until you make the step to being effective organizers. What I shall do is to expose to you the cruel fact of your sexual impotence, male and female. . . .I shall destroy your sense of safety in the place to which you ordinarily imagine you can flee. I shall not pull you back from fleeing, but rather destroy the place to which you would attempt to flee."In a cruel sense, LaRouche was true to his twisted words, those members who challenge the increasingly macabre political and social theories expounded by their leader were confronted by loyalists as politically and sexually inadequate traitors to the cause.
LaRouche also developed a fevered, comprehensive paranoid fantasy about the importance of his role in history--and a militant, new-found resolve to act upon it, wiping out all opposition to his leadership of the U.S. revolutionary movement. The result was Operation Mop-Up. Lyndon LaRouche took his sexual identity crisis into the streets.
Operation Mop-up raged from May to September of 1973. LaRouche's followers in NCLC were ordered to brutally assault rivals from the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). NCLC thugs used bats, chains, and martial arts weapons in a campaign to establish "hegemony" over the American revolutionary movement. There were many injuries and some persons required hospitalization.
"Our hearts were not in it," a former NCLC member says about his participation in Operation Mop-Up. "But with LaRouche it was all or nothing; the attacks were supposed to harden the membership." Forcing student intellectuals into violent confrontations was an exercise in self-degradation which cemented their loyalty to NCLC, ex-members say, Their working-class Marxism gave way to an unquestioning, cult-like devotion to LaRouche. "Most of us now find the whole thing was crazy," says a seven-year NCLC veteran who left the group in the mid-1970's. Operation Mop-Up, however, was just the beginning.
LaRouche spent the summer and early fall of 1973 obsessed with his broken marriage, brooding over the humiliating betrayal, according to ex-members. Late in December, a revelation came; Christopher White, having already stolen his wife, had in addition been programmed by the KGB, with the aid of the MI5 division of British intelligence, to assassinate LaRouche himself--in retaliation for Mop-Up's assaults on pro-Soviet Communist groups! Further, the CIA--jealous of LaRouche's success in uncovering a previous NCLC victim of KGB brainwashing--had resolved either to kidnap LaRouche to extract his secret, or kill him itself to prevent his falling into Soviet hands.
Only LaRouche possessed the intelligence and perception to uncover and foil this fiendish plot, and not surprisingly, he alone held the keys for the cure--in White's case, days of isolation and intense pressure from a battery of LaRouche inquisitors. White finally caved in and confessed to his alleged "psychosexual brainwashing" by the KGB/CIA/MI5 conspirators. Based on tape-recordings offered by NCLC members as "proof," the New York Times later carried a harrowing account of this so-called "deprogramming" session. LaRouche's revenge was complete; White--who had taken his wife--had been reduced to a repentant, sobbing psychological wreck.
LaRouche lost no time in applying his cure. Any sign of restiveness or dissent on the part of NCLC members now became evidence of "brainwashing" by the KGB, the CIA, or both.
One young woman, attempting to quit what was rapidly becoming a totalitarian cult, was held prisoner in a New York apartment by six fellow members in an effort to "deprogram" her. She somehow managed to fold a plea for help into a paper airplane, sailing it out the window--where it was found by a passerby who called the police. Among the NCLC members arrested were Edward Spannaus, a national spokesman for LaRouche who faced trial in the failed Boston prosecution; and Khushro Ghandhi, co-sponsor of Proposition 64, a LaRouche-sponsored California AIDS initiative defeated several years ago after an intensive public awareness campaign in which the initiative was widely denounced as a witch hunt against the homosexual community. Other defendants in the Boston case were part of the NCLC deprogramming drive, according to former members.
On January 3, 1974, the day the six "deprogrammers" were arraigned, LaRouche gave a long, rambling and altogether extraordinary speech--later reprinted in his own New Solidarity> --laying out his theory of how sinister forces had secretly kidnapped and brainwashed his followers. According to LaRouche, the methods used by the KGB and British Intelligence to brainwash the membership of NCLC caused fear of impotence and homosexuality to immobilize each member and thus destroy their capability to organize effectively. LaRouche's pronouncements can easily be dismissed as a deranged conspiracy theory--but the words reveal his emotional and intellectual state at the time of the speech.
While perhaps offensive to some readers, only direct quotes can fully convey the incredible nature and content of LaRouche's demented discourse:
"How do you brainwash somebody? Well, first of all, you generally pull a psychological profile or develop one in a preliminary period. You find every vulnerability of that person from a psychoanalytic standpoint. Now the next thing you do is you build them up for fear in males and females of homosexuality, aim them for an anal identification with anal sex, their mouth is identified with fellatio. Their mouth is identified only with the penis--that kind of sex, and with woman. Womanhood is the fellatio of the male mouth in a man who has been brainwashed by the KGB; that is sucking penises. . . ."
"First they say your father was nothing, your father was a queer, your father was a woman. They play very strongly on homosexual fears. It doesn't work on women. . . .Most women are to a large degree homosexual in this society. The relationship between daughter and mother is homosexual, so the thing is not much of a threat."
"But to young men it is generally a grave threat. . fears about masturbation. . . .They say, `See that sheep. Wouldn't you like to do that to a sheep?'"
"It's not the pain that brainwashes, it's forcing the victim to run away from the pain by taking the bait of degrading himself. This persistent pattern of self-degradation, self-humiliation, is what essentially accomplishes the brainwashing."
"Any of you who say this is a hoax--you're cruds! You're subhuman! You're not serious. The human race is at stake. Either we win or there is no humanity. That's the way she's cut."LaRouche was speaking of the brainwashing plot he believed was being initiated against his followers. In fact, according to former members, LaRouche and his closest aides used this belief to justify a an internal campaign which was a"chain of psychological terror" as two members called it in their resignation letter. They charged the LaRouche-mandated sessions to cure their alleged "psychosis" were in fact an attempt to crush the will of "all individuals who have expressed political and intellectual opposition to the tendencies" surfacing inside the LaRouche organization. "What really happened," says a dismayed former member, "is that LaRouche had gone bonkers and was systematically brainwashing us to accept his total control over the organization."
Linda Ray says hundreds of persons left the LaRouche organization during this period. For Ray and others who remained, however, LaRouche's increasingly bizarre and bigoted theories were accepted without question to avoid being subjected to "de-programming" sessions.
A Tactical Alliance with the Reactionary Right
In 1974 LaRouche first began to seek contact with extremist and anti-Semitic right-wing groups and individuals in an effort to forge a tactical alliance in opposing imperialism and ruling class banking interests in general--and the Rockefellers in particular. LaRouche's obsession with conspiracy theories blossomed. Dovetailing with today's American radical Right and neo-fascist neo-populist ideologies, his theories of a Rockefeller-directed global conspiracy of banking interests found a receptive audience.
Yet the core followers of LaRouche still thought of themselves as Leftists forging a temporary and cynical tactical alliance with `progressive' industrialists to help rebuild a strong economy. With a healthy economy leading to full employment for the working class, the LaRouche followers figured they could then lead the reconstituted working class to revolution. Defectors report that during this period they were required to study Marxist and Leninist tracts and participate in paramilitary training classes led by fellow members.
Having founded the U.S. Labor Party as the NCLC's electoral arm in 1973, LaRouche mounted his first presidential campaign under the USLP banner in 1976. His platform of "Impeach Rocky to prevent imminent nuclear war" garnered only 40,000 votes, but it afforded LaRouche more organizing opportunities on the far Right. Despite its declared Marxist stance, the NCLC stepped up efforts, with mixed success, to penetrate or co-opt such groups as the American Conservative Union, the John Birch Society, the Young Americans for Freedom, and the KKK.
Drawing upon his new contacts on the far Right (reportedly relying in part on Pennsylvania KKK leader Roy Frankhauser) LaRouche arranged with former CIA officer Mitchell WerBell III to provide the NCLC security force with armed self-defense training at WerBell's paramilitary camp in Powder Springs, Georgia. Now deceased, WerBell introduced LaRouche into wider right-wing circles including a shadowy netherworld of spys, mercenaries, and intelligence operatives.
It was during this period that NCLC began to collect and disseminate intelligence on progressive groups. LaRouche publications frequently report their security staffers offer intelligence to domestic and foreign government agencies. While documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that U.S. government agencies frequently dismissed the material provided by the NCLC, it was provided nonetheless. Legal actions against some police agencies have discovered NCLC material in active files on terrorism and subversion.
As LaRouche's fear of persecution and assassination intensified he moved further and further into right-wing circles. His ideological theories were constantly being repackaged to appeal to his new-found friends. One shift in LaRouche's perception of who controlled the worldwide conspiracy came at the time of Nelson Rockefeller's death; an event which left a major hole in LaRouche's theoretical bulwark.
Ever alert to exploit shifting sentiment and historical opportunities, the U.S. Labor Party began to de-emphasise Rockefeller as the archenemy of civilization, replacing him with a worldwide conspiracy under the control of the "British Oligarchy" and their stooge. . .the Queen of England. A careful reading of USLP published material reveals, however, that a remarkable number of the British and other co-conspirators were Jews. It is this fact that prompted several major Jewish groups to denounce LaRouche's theories as anti-Semitic.
This turn toward a Jewish conspiracy theory of history came shortly after the quasi-Nazi Liberty Lobby began praising a 1976 USLP pamphlet titled Carter and the International Party of Terrorism. The pamphlet outlined the "Rockefeller-CIA-Carter axis," which was supposedly trying to "deindustrialize" the U.S. and provoke a war with the Soviet Union by 1978. (At this point LaRouche had not yet discarded his support for the Soviet Union, nor announced his support for "Star Wars" defense against his perceived threat of imminent Soviet attack.) In an overall favorable review of the USLP treatise on the Rockefeller-controlled global conspiracy, Liberty Lobby's newspaper, Spotlight complained that the report failed to mention any of the "major Zionist groups such as the notorious Anti-Defamation League" in its extensive list of government agencies, research groups, organizations and individuals controlled by the "Rockefeller-Carter-CIA" terrorism apparatus.
LaRouche, never one to miss a cue, soon was running articles in his newspaper New Solidarity with themes that betrayed increasingly bigoted view of Jews and Jewish institutions. By the end of 1976, LaRouche had completed his drift to the extremist-right of the political spectrum where his bigoted conspiracy theories linking international bankers, influential Jewish families, furtive KGB agents, and secret societies found fertile ground.
Soon LaRouche was expounding a view linking certain Jewish institutions and Zionist movements to a plot to destroy Western civilization and usher in a "New Dark Age." Linda Ray thinks that more recent LaRouche converts are not even aware of the group's real history, nor of the cult-like inner circle which controls the secret financial operations.
Opportunistic or not, LaRouche's erratic lurch to the right brought
gains to the NCLC in membership and financial strength. Yet his right-wing
theories and affiliations are still opaque to many observers who dismiss
LaRouche on the basis of his cranky conspiratorial world view and general
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