Fascism Wrapped in an American Flagby Chip Berlet and Joel Bellman
March 10th, 1989
A Political Research Associates Briefing Paper
In Three Parts
The Paranoid Style
LaRouche's parlaying of personal and political conspiracy theories into a multi-million dollar financial empire is unique, but paranoid political movements occur cyclically in American history. In his widely-quoted essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," professor Richard Hofstadter argues that in times of economic, social or political crisis, small conspiracy-minded groups suddenly gain a mass following. The anti-Catholic hysteria of the 1800's, the anti-immigrant movement which led to the Palmer Raids in 1919, the Red Scare of the 1950's and other societal convulsions, are examples, wrote Hofstadter.
Such movements rise and fall periodically, according to Hofstadter, appealing to people fearful about the world political and economic situation, and longing for simple solutions to complex problems. The use of scapegoats is common among these movements. The findings of two academics who studied a LaRouche campaign contributor list (available from the Federal Election Commission) lend support to the thesis that LaRouche appeals to a paranoid constituency. In a 1986 press release, "Who Controls Us: A Profile of Lyndon LaRouche's Campaign Contributors," John C. Green and James L. Guth of Furman University identify LaRouche as "a new celebrity on the extreme right."
"An analysis of his campaign contributors suggests that LaRouche should be taken seriously, not as a candidate, but as evidence of the failure--and success--American politics," wrote the professors.
According to the results of the study, among LaRouche's contributors are a significant proportion of Northern neo-populist conservatives, "profoundly uncomfortable with modern America and susceptible to conspiratorial explanations of their distress. One seemed to speak for the others when he listed his major concern as `who really controls us?' To many of these alienated people, LaRouche's outlandish views offer a plausible answer to this question."
According to the study:
"Though LaRouche campaigns as a Democrat, most of his donors are independents, with the largest group `leaning' Republican. but ordinary people as well, believing that no one can be trusted `most of the time.' Very few say they are optimistic about their future or that of the country. They are equally disillusioned with politics, 40% report having become discouraged and ceased participating at some point. These attitudes extend to current political groups as well. Three-quarters feel `far' from mainstream conservative organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. Roughly equal numbers feel `close' and `far' from more reactionary groups like the John Birch Society. Uniform dislike, however, is reserved for liberal advocates of change; the ACLU, Common Cause and Ralph Nader.
"LaRouche is most criticized for his political intolerance, a trait exhibited by his contributors. To measure tolerance, we asked all donors to name a group they regarded as `dangerous' and then asked if they would allow a member of that group to run for president, speak in a public place or teach in public school. Only a quarter of the LaRouchians would allow a member of their `dangerous' group to engage in all three activities and another quarter would allow none.
"LaRouche would probably approve of their choice of `dangerous' groups: more than half of the mentions figure prominently in `conspiracy' theories of politics, such as communists, drug dealers, Jews, bankers, intellectuals and the mass media. Some `conspiracies' are explicitly named: the `zionist-socialist movement,' the `international drug ring,' `cartel control of money' and the `post-industrial counter-culture.' But other donors identify mainstream organizations and leaders as `dangerous,' including the `unilateral disarmament advocates,' `eco-freaks,' `Hayden and Fonda,' `socialist Democrats' and `big labor bosses.'
"These kinds of attitudes occur among other conservative activists, but rarely to this extent. And the LaRouchians differ from other conservatives in demographic terms as well. LaRouche's donors seem to be the remnant of the `small town America' of a generation ago. Nearly three-quarters were born in the Midwest or Northeast and more than half still live there, outside the major cities. Most spent their adult life in one or two states; the only major move they have ever made was to retire to the Sunbelt. Two-thirds are 55 or older, male, of WASP or German extraction, and products of [nuclear two-parent] families. They are not, however, particularly religious; most belong to mainline Protestant denominations and few are active church members. "The authors concluded, "it is alienated people who make fringe candidates possible. LaRouche should be taken seriously as a symptom of distress in a small part of the body politic. His limited appeal is a sign of the basic health of America politics."
One historian, author George Seldes, thinks LaRouche has followed another seldom traveled but clearly recognizable historic path--the road from Socialism through National Socialism to Fascism. Seldes has authored some ten books concerning authoritarianism and thinks LaRouche's theories and style represent classic "Mussolini-style fascist" ideology. Seldes' analysis carries weight especially since he wrote a biography of Mussolini in 1935 titled Sawdust Caesar.
Secret Agent LaRouche
In a sense LaRouche is a "Silicon Caesar" since he has risen to power through a sophisticated computerized telecommunications network which gathers political and economic intelligence and then packages it for dissemination through newsletters, magazines, special reports and consulting services. Former Reagan advisor and National Security Council senior analyst, Dr. Norman Bailey, told NBC reporter Pat Lynch the LaRouche network was "one of the best private intelligence services in the world."
Not everyone shares the view. When Henry Kissinger was told of how LaRouche operatives met with high Reagan Administration officials in the early 1980's, he told the New Republic, "If this is true, it would be outrageous, stupid, and nearly unforgivable." Dennis King, co-author of the New Republic article which examined LaRouche's influence in scientific and intelligence circles, says during the first Reagan term LaRouche aides managed to gain "access to an alarming array of influential persons in government, law enforcement, scientific research and private industry." These ties form the basis of the LaRouche "CIA defense" against the charges he conspired to obstruct justice. LaRouche claims he believed his security aide Roy Frankhauser, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and government law enforcement informant, was a covert conduit to the CIA.
John Rees, an ultra-conservative whose Information Digest newsletter reports on political extremes on the left and right, says he "believes the New Republic story that LaRouche staffers had access to a lot of people." But he points out, "If you have all the electronic resources and information-gathering staff that LaRouche possesses you are bound to come up with occasional gems, that's what most people were interested in, not the LaRouche philosophy." Both King and Rees feel the Reagan Administration consciously began distancing itself from contacts with the LaRouche network following the New Republic and NBC stories.
Russ Bellant, a long-time LaRouche watcher from Detroit, notes that in the mid-1970's LaRouche simultaneously turned to the right and tried to link up with more respectable groups, including, for a brief period, several state Republican Party organizations. "Some tactical political alliances with various right-wing groups were made on the basis of LaRouche's scurrilous disruption campaigns against mutual enemies, especially liberal Democrats," says Bellant. In fact, LaRouche has consistently targeted the American left, and done so with material and moral support from small but significant elements in law enforcement, the Republican Party and the American far right. There is also evidence to suggest that the LaRouche organization maintained a cozy relationship with certain elements in U.S. and foreign intelligence, military and police agencies.
Bellant and other LaRouche-watchers feel the LaRouche network and its questionable finances and intelligence activities may have been overlooked by certain individuals in intelligence and law enforcement agencies. "These persons were focusing more on the information being churned up by LaRouche's intelligence-gathering apparatus," says Bellant.
LaRouche-related financial operations have run afoul of the law before, but by adopting an aggressive legal strategy his groups have been able to fend off successful prosecution for years until cases were dropped or settled by exhausted plaintiffs and prosecutors. One Illinois case involving LaRouche-backed mayoral candidate Sheila Jones and LaRouche's Illinois Anti-Drug Coalition has dragged on for over six years.
The 1986 Illinois primary victory by two LaRouche followers, however, raised the ante. "The visibility that came to LaRouche after the Illinois primary lent credibility to the investigations into his financial operations by bringing forward scores of persons who claimed to have been defrauded by LaRouche operations over the years," says Bellant. There are probably a variety of reasons why the ties between LaRouche and various government agencies and personalities were severed in the mid-1980's. Highly-publicized incidents such as the airport battle between LaRouchies and Henry Kissinger and his wife helped doom the LaRouche network's relationship with the Reagan Administration--their profile just became too visible for a continued relationship.
Principled conservatives challenged the Reagan Administration to justify its flirtation with an anti-Semitic group. Intelligence specialists questioned the wisdom of sharing thoughts with a group which historically worked both sides of the political fence separating allies from adversaries. Even Oliver North got into the act when his fundraisers and security specialists found LaRouche emissaries were getting underfoot.
LaRouche security expert Jeff Steinberg, who used to meet with National Security Council staffers at the Old Executive Office Building in the White House compound, spent much of 1988 in a Boston courtroom facing criminal charges. However it appears the criminal investigation which led to the current legal problems faced by LaRouche and his followers began before the controversy over his ties to the Reagan Administration had reached key decision-makers in government agencies. While there is some evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and civil liberties violations in the course of some of the federal investigations and prosecutions, the claim by LaRouche spokespersons that the indictments are part of a government conspiracy to silence LaRouche appear to be without foundation.
Russ Bellant's articles on LaRouche have appeared in liberal Michigan weeklies and progressive publications, while John Rees tills the right side of the journalistic garden. But both agree LaRouche's ideology is now neither Marxist nor conservative. Rees, who for years has written for conservative, anti-communist, and New-Right publications (including several magazines published by the John Birch Society), thinks it is unfair ever to have called LaRouche a conservative simply because he has tried to woo that political block.
"He is emphatically not a conservative," says Rees, "he is a totalitarian extremist with a cult of personality to rival Joseph Stalin's." Rees concedes that LaRouche's politics are distorted and strange, saying "he is difficult to categorize--in a sense LaRouche is a remedial Fascist. At least Mussolini could make the trains run on time. I doubt LaRouche is capable of doing that." Rees claims that "when LaRouche was rejected by the totalitarian left, he simply tried the other side of the totalitarian spectrum." According to Rees, ties between the LaRouche network and several racist and anti-Semitic groups are well-established. "Former LaRouche organizers report cooperation with elements of the Aryan Nations Network," adds Bellant who says the LaRouche network is a "neo-Nazi type of cult."
Racism and Anti-Jewish Rhetoric
LaRouche has many connections to the racist political right in this country. Richard Lobenthal, Midwest Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, observes that LaRouche security advisor Roy Frankhauser "has been identified as present with other white supremacists at meetings held at the farm of Pastor Bob Miles in Michigan." Leaders of the notoriously racist and anti-Semitic Aryan Nations have attended the same meetings. "Frankhauser's background and connections are myriad, he is obviously a LaRouchite, he is a professed racist and anti-Semite and was a close associate of neo-Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell," says Lobenthal.
LaRouche not only works in coalitions with bigots, he has also propounded ideas which are widely perceived to represent outright racism.
LaRouche, for instance, offended the Hispanic community in a November, 1973 essay (published in both English and Spanish) titled "The Male Impotence of the Puerto-Rican Socialist Party." An internal memo by LaRouche asked "Can we imagine anything more viciously sadistic than the Black Ghetto mother?" He described the majority of the Chinese people as "approximating the lower animal species" by manifesting a "paranoid personality. . . .a parallel general form of fundamental distinction from actual human personalities."
LaRouche's use of hysterical Jewish conspiracy theories for ulterior political motives has lead him to be branded an anti-Semite by several major Jewish groups.
One ADL spokesperson, Irwin Suall, was once sued for defamation by LaRouche for calling him a "small time Hitler." The jury ruled against LaRouche. According to LaRouche, only a million and a half Jews perished in the concentration camps, and they died primarily from overwork, disease, and starvation. This denial of the Holocaust is coupled with pronouncements saying there is nothing left of Jewish culture except what couldn't be sold to Gentiles, or claiming British Jews brought Hitler into power.
While many of the ringleaders of the global conspiracy, according to the LaRouche philosophy, are Jewish, members of the LaRouche group rebut charges of anti-Semitism by pointing out that a number of them--including Janice Hart, former Democratic nominee for the Illinois Secretary of State--are Jewish. The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, which has successfully beat back several costly LaRouche lawsuits, rejects this explanation and insists the group is a paranoid, anti-Semitic political cult.
For his part, LaRouche claims to be merely anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Jewish groups and political scientists acknowledge the important distinction, but LaRouche rhetoric--such as leaflets distributed in California bearing the offensive headline "Smash the Kosher Nostra!" and naming a number of Jewish figures as part of a global conspiracy, leaves little doubt.
Since 1976, the NCLC's ties to anti-Semitic, ultra-right groups and individuals have been well documented. LaRouche associates have cultivated ties to Willis Carto, a notorious racist and anti-Semite who helped found Liberty Lobby and the pseudo-scholarly Institute for Historical Review. This latter group publishes "historical revisionist" literature deriding the Nazi Holocaust as a Jewish hoax.
Former staffers at both the Liberty Lobby and LaRouche's NCLC claim the two groups cooperated closely on several projects. In the March 2, 1981 issue of its newspaper Spotlight, Liberty Lobby cynically defended the relationship this way: "It is mystifying why so many anti-communists and `conservatives' oppose the USLP [U.S. Labor Party --the NCLC's original electoral arm]. No group has done so much to confuse, disorient, and disunify the Left as they have. . .the USLP should be encouraged, as should all similar breakaway groups from the Left, for this is the only way that the Left can be weakened and broken."
Linda Ray, the outspoken former member of the LaRouche group, recently published a first-person account of her experiences in the Chicago-based national weekly In These Times. She recalls that after leaving the group, someone showed her a LaRouche organization pamphlet she had once sold on the street. "In it the Jewish symbol, the Star of David, was used as a centerpiece to point to six different aspects of the illegal drug trade. In this context, the Star of David was a symbol of evil." She was shocked when she realized she had not recognized this while still working with LaRouche.
"Many people find it difficult to understand how Jews--such as I--could have worked for an anti-Semitic group. Perhaps the answer is that the members get so hypnotized by the simplistic `good guys and bad guys' approach to history that they do not hear what LaRouche is really saying."
Ray recalls how LaRouche claimed the British were a different "subhuman species" and how his Campaigner magazine concocted the charge that the British created the Nazi movement."Since the blasts were overtly directed against the British, Jewish members often did not recognize the subliminal anti-Semitism of the attacks. LaRouche, like the Ku Klux Klan, Hitler and Goebbels, was attacking the Rothschilds and other British-Jewish banking interests. In the wake of these anti-Semitic writings, many of us were confused. But we continued to defend LaRouche by lamely saying, `We're not anti-Semitic. So many of our members are Jews. We always say in our publications that we are against the Nazis.'
"I remember reading in detail about the `subhuman species' concept. Although I knew it did not make scientific sense, I presumed that it was a deep intellectual metaphor that was over my head." When Ray left the group and finally came to grips with her role as a Jew working in an anti-Semitic organization, she says "It was as if I was waking from a nightmare."
LaRouche's relationship with Blacks--including his own Black NCLC members--is similarly confusing and complex. While LaRouche's writings are replete with racialist assertions extolling white Northern European values at the expense of other ethnic values, he has in some cases succeeded in forging alliances with rightist or opportunist black politicians and civil rights leaders, such as Roy Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Hulan Jack, a former Borough president and powerhouse in the New York
Democratic Party. Articles from LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review have appeared in publications of Rev. Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. At the same time they are recruiting Blacks, LaRouche publications praise the wisdom of the Botha government in South Africa, and attack those who protest the system of apartheid.
LaRouchian rhetoric can often offend numerous constituencies simultaneously. The July 7, 1986 issue of the Illinois Tribunal, an insert tucked into LaRouche's New Solidarity (now New Federalist) newspaper, covered the Ku Klux Klan counter rally against Chicago's annual Gay Pride parade by charging: "The idea behind the KKK outburst was--amid heavy media coverage of a mere two dozen Klan demonstrators--to make citizens think anyone who wants to take serious measures against AIDS is a cross-burner and a Nazi. . . .In fact, the Klan does not exist--except as a special dirty-tricks operation of the FBI and the B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League. "
The article went on to say the founders of B'nai B'rith were "about as Jewish as Josef Goebbels."When Illinois Congressman Sidney Yates faced LaRouche-backed challenger Sheila Jones, LaRouche supporters distributed leaflets titled "So, What's A Nice Jewish Boy Doing Supporting Sodomy?" Former Chicago mayor Jane Byrne was targeted in one mayoral race with a LaRouche candidate's campaign slogan of "Byrne the Witch."
In attacking political enemies, LaRouche propaganda often utilizes racist, anti-Jewish, sexist or homophobic stereotypes.
Defining the Terms
The LaRouche cult fits the description of a totalitarian movement as outlined by Hanna Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is correctly defined by its all-encompassing style, structure and methods, not by its stated or apparent ideological premises or goals. Arendt wrote that not all fascist groups were necessarily totalitarian and not all totalitarian groups were necessarily fascist.
Is LaRouche a fascist? The goal of fascism is always raw power, and it will adopt or abandon any principle to obtain power. The chameleon-like nature of fascist theories is one of its hallmarks, and often leads to confusion as to whether it is on the political left or right as it opportunistically gobbles up popular slogans from existing movements.
Journalist James Ridgeway notes there are real contradictions in LaRouche's politics: "While it maintains contacts with far-right groups, LaRouche's organization is ideologically at cross-purposes with many which are nativist and anarchist. LaRouche is an internationalist and a totalitarian: he believes the masses are `bestial' and unfit for citizenship."
Freelance journalist Nick Gallo takes us a step further. In The Seattle Weekly he acknowledges that much of what LaRouche espouses "appears kooky, if only because his ideas certainly defy conventional political analysis. . . .However go beyond the individual positions on different issues and beneath the surface lurk echoes of sinister themes that have been prevalent in the 20th century: preservation of Western Civilization, purity of culture and youth, elimination of Jewish and homosexual influence, suspicion of international banking conspiracies."
The opportunistic exploitation of anxiety-producing issues by LaRouchies is no surprise to Clara Fraser who knew LaRouche when he was in the Socialist Workers Party. Writing in the Freedom Socialist newspaper, she explains, "The pundits are intrigued and puzzled by his amalgam of right and left politics, a tangled web of KKK, Freudian, encounter therapy, Populist, Ayn Rand-like, and Marxist notions. They needn't be. His is the prototypical face of fascism, which is classically a hodgepodge of pseudo-theories crafted for mass appeal. . . ."
Themes generally associated with fascism frequently recur in LaRouche's writings. In the aggregate, LaRouche seems to like the idea of society with an authoritarian governing body, exercising social, political, economic, and cultural control, using force when necessary to maintain order and attain desired goals. Traditional democracy is contemptuously dismissed by LaRouche, who describes himself as a "traditional Democrat," as the "rule of irrationalist episodic majorities."
When LaRouche touts his followers as "neo-Platonic" theorists, most people aren't aware that in The Republic, Plato outlined his view of a political system in which only a handful of enlightened "Golden Souls" would be allowed to participate in societal decision-making. While this was certainly a step forward from imperial dictatorship and rule by fiat, it is hardly a step forward for a participatory democracy. LaRouche, incidentally, has said his followers are "Golden Souls."
Combining fascism and totalitarianism makes for a potent mixture, but even a totalitarian fascist is not necessarily a Nazi--for that you must include a "Master Race" theory and roots in an ostensibly socialist agenda for empowering the working class. . movement and German Nazi movement. In German the word itself--NAZI--was an acronym for the National German Workers Socialist Party. Most socialists now are painfully aware of that error. LaRouche apparently repeated the error.
But can an organization which has Jews and Blacks as members be called Nazi? The LaRouche network's printed materials are full of ethnocentric, racist, and anti-Jewish rhetoric, but that doesn't necessarily make it Nazi. Where is LaRouche's theory of a master race? In fact, LaRouche himself has repeatedly enunciated just such a theory, but in his typically convoluted way. In the mind of Lyndon LaRouche, personal or political opponents are not even human, Jerry Brown and Tom Hayden are "creatures;" the rest of us are merely "beasts" or "sheep."
According to Dennis King, it is LaRouche's belief that his enemies are subhuman and his followers superhuman which makes "LaRouche more than a political fascist, but a neo-Nazi." King, whose book on LaRouche is slated for publication in 1989, adds that "people afraid of that characterization should sit down and read his ideological writings. LaRouche talks about the existence of two parasitic species descended from Babylonian culture, the British-Jewish and Russian-Orthodox species, then there are the subhuman masses, then humanity represented by LaRouche and his followers, the Golden Souls, and then a new superhuman race which will evolve from the Golden Souls. It really is pure Nazism," says King.
And if that makes no rational sense; and if some of his followers are
Jews and Blacks? "So what?" retorts King "LaRouche is a totalitarian, he
can define anyone he wants to as being a member of the human race, and
anyone he wants to as being a member of an inferior race, and he can change
the definitions from week to week--who is going to argue with him?"
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