How The LaRouchites Exploited Antiwar Organizers

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A long-time political activist who marched with the Cleveland contingent in the January 19th antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C. was more than a little surprised when he noticed that people in the contingent next to him were passing out literature from Lyndon LaRouche's political front groups. "They were beating a drum and chanting `George Bush, You Can't Hide, the New World Order is Genocide,'" he reports. "There were about 100 people, many elderly, some Black," he says, and one flyer they handed out carried a headline scolding, "U.S. Citizens Must Recognize Their Past Mistakes and Support LaRouche." There was a large banner and some people carried signs that said "Free LaRouche, Jail the ADL." At the march the LaRouchians passed out their New Federalist newspaper. "A lot of people who remember New Solidarity don't realize its new name is New Federalist," said the Cleveland activist.

According to Gavrielle Gemma, coordinator of the National Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East (the group that sponsored the January 19th antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C.), the official policy of the Coalition is to reject any work with the LaRouchians. Although the LaRouchians and their supporters involved themselves in Coalition activities during the Gulf War, these incidents did not reflect the official policy of the Coalition, according to several Coalition spokespersons, but were attempts (sometimes successful) by the LaRouchians and their allies to portray themselves as part of the Coalition.

Specifically, in interviews with several Coalition spokespersons the following picture of how the LaRouchians manipulated and exploited the Coalition emerged:

· The Rev. James Bevel had not been invited to the January 4th Coalition press conference featuring former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark which was aired on the C-SPAN cable channel. Bevel arrived with an invited speaker, a Black serviceman resisting assignment to the Gulf. Although Bevel had worked with the LaRouchians for many months prior to the press conference, it was not until weeks after the press conference that Coalition leadership became aware that Bevel had ties to the LaRouche organization.

· People affiliated with the Coalition, who defended the appearance of Bevel, were reacting to Bevel's past history as a respected civil rights leader, and were not aware, or found it impossible to accept, that Bevel had now aligned himself with far-right groups.

· A contingent of LaRouchites who marched in the Coalition's January 19th demonstration in Washington, D.C. did so against the expressed wishes of Coalition leadership.

· A security marshal who told demonstrators on January 19th not to continue a chant critical of the LaRouchians was unaware of who the LaRouchians were, and was merely trying to enforce the policy of ensuring peaceful relations among contingents.

· Although Ramsey Clark has chosen not to say anything critical of the LaRouchians due to his representation of them in legal matters, the Coalition does not hesitate to criticize roundly the LaRouchians as fascists and anti-Semites.

· The apparent reluctance among some persons affiliated with the Coalition to discuss charges of LaRouchian involvement with reporters did not reflect the views of the leadership of the Coalition, and in some cases appears to reflect a disbelief among these persons that the LaRouchians had managed successfully to portray themselves as part of the Coalition.

· December, 1990 and January, 1991 were chaotic and confusing months and the official position of the Coalition regarding a refusal to work with the LaRouchians was perhaps not made clear to all persons actively organizing Coalition events around the country.

· While the LaRouchites appear to abuse their legal relationship to attorney Clark by using his name in their publicity and implying his political support, it is the firm belief of the Coalition that Clark's refusal to comment on this circumstance reflects a personal ethical position, and in no way implies any connection between Clark and the political work of the LaRouchians.

Leaders of the National Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East are aware that the LaRouchians continue to attempt to penetrate their organization, and urge persons who find LaRouchians portraying themselves as official members of the Coalition to challenge that claim. Anyone who continues to claim the Coalition tolerates the presence of the LaRouchians should be referred to the national office of the Coalition for a short and clear rejection of that contention.

" We do not work with fascists or anti-Semites," said Coalition coordinator Gavrielle Gemma, "and that includes the LaRouchites." Gemma says this is not only the Coalition attitude, but her own as well, noting that she once personally threw some LaRouchians off a picket line during the Greyhound strike.

Apparently the position of the Coalition leadership against working with the LaRouchians, now clearly unequivocal, was slow to reach all organizers during the chaotic months of December, 1990 and January, 1991. This lack of clarity among rank-and-file organizers, some of whom were inexperienced, coupled with the LaRouchians' manipulative opportunism, the Coalition's uncertainty over Bevel's tie to the LaRouchians, and Ramsey Clark's silence on the LaRouchians' use of his name, created enough confusion so that some organizers for the Coalition at first defended Bevel's appearance at the January 4th press conference, and defended the participation of various LaRouchian front groups in Coalition events. It also turns out that a report issued by the LaRouchian Schiller Institute, and cited at the January 4th press conference was in fact introduced by a LaRouchian attending the press conference as a reporter.

Chicago antiwar organizer Alynne Romo reports the local Emergency Coalition for Peace in the Middle East has "asked the LaRouchians not to participate when they have appeared at our demonstrations." According to Romo, "The LaRouche people called us several times. They told us Margaret Thatcher was behind the situation in Iraq and that she put George Bush up to it." Romo adds that "they also said they were working with Ramsey Clark as a way to get us to cooperate."

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is the lead legal counsel for an appeal filed by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. and six followers convicted of loan fraud. On October 6, 1989, Clark appeared and gave oral arguments in the case before a three judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia to argue for the reversal of the convictions.

The right of Mr. Clark to represent the LaRouche organization is not disputed, but when the LaRouchians use his name in a political rather than legal context, problems arise. Based on several dozen interviews with antiwar activists in twenty cities, it appears that sometimes LaRouchians fundraisers and organizers mention they work with Ramsey Clark, while other times they do not. The use by the LaRouchians of Clark's name has been very effective at college student government meetings where many students have never heard of LaRouche, and tend to be sympathetic to his claims of government harassment. After gaining an audience, the LaRouchians encourage the student leaders to join their "coalition" and to authorize college funding.

Sam Schwartz, a faculty member at Bronx Community College in New York, received a phone call from a LaRouche attorney threatening to sue Schwartz penniless unless he stopped telling students that LaRouche was an anti-Semite and fascist. Several African-Americans active in St. Louis who objected to the presence of the LaRouchians in a local antiwar coalition were also threatened with lawsuits for their critical characterization of the LaRouche movement. Clark has not been involved in these threats of lawsuits.

Since Clark took on the LaRouche appeal, the LaRouchites have blazoned Clark's name across a substantial amount of propaganda used both in fundraising and in coaxing persons into consideration of the political message of the organization. Sometimes the LaRouchian references to Clark simply cause confusion. One antiwar activist who was handed a LaRouchian pamphlet mentioning Clark was at first convinced the LaRouchians were cleverly trying to smear Clark by using his name.

The LaRouchites frequently attempt to build coalitions in a sly manner. For instance activist Lanny Sinkin, a former attorney for the Christic Institute, appeared at a March, 1991 post-war panel sponsored by a Washington, D.C. group called The Time is Now. Also on the panel were two key LaRouche operatives and a leader of The Time is Now. According to a staff member of the Washington Peace Center, members of The Time is Now worked closely with the LaRouchians and thoroughly disrupted the political work of the Washington Area Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East during January and February, 1991. When members of The Time is Now passed out LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review at a February meeting, they were asked to leave the coalition. When criticized by the Peace Center staffer, Sinkin defended his appearance at the conference as legitimate outreach, according to the staffer.

Sinkin says he was unaware when invited that LaRouchites would also be on the panel, and he vigorously denies that he has ever had any ongoing relationship with the LaRouchians or that his actions were improper. Sinkin says that his appearance reflected his commitment to speaking to broad audiences. Organizers at the Washington Peace Center counter that Sinkin's presence at the meeting lent credibility to two groups that were disrupting their work.

The issue here is not one of implying any type of ongoing relationship between Sinkin and the LaRouchians. No such relationship exists. But for the Washington Peace Center, Sinkin's appearance on the same platform with the LaRouchians served as an implicit endorsement, suggesting by example that joint work with the LaRouchians was acceptable at the same time that the Peace Center was telling members of the local antiwar coalition that joint work with the LaRouchians was unacceptable.

A number of experienced antiwar activists warn that working with the LaRouchians and other far-right and bigoted forces will only discredit serious work towards peace in the Middle East. Jon Hillson is a seasoned political organizer and peace activist based in Ohio who already knew the history of the LaRouchians. Hillson reported LaRouche organizers at events sponsored by the Cleveland Committee Against War in the Persian Gulf. At one meeting, "Two people went through the crowd handing out LaRouche's New Federalist," says Hillson. "I was shocked, but then I realized most students had never heard of LaRouche," says Hillson. "I would urge people to disavow any collaboration with them because of their past ties to government agencies...and their homophobic, racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic agenda." Hillson notes that it will take patience to explain to new activists why a broad-based coalition should exclude anyone, but that the task of educating people that coalitions with fascists should be rejected is not one to be ignored.

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