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Populist Party, LaRouchite, and Other Neo-fascist Overtures To Progressives, And Why They Must Be Rejected

By Chip Berlet

Political Research Associates
Corrections, 1999 - revision 3
Revised Draft: February 22, 1994
First Draft: December 20, 1990

Preface & Acknowledgements

Fascism and Reaction inevitably attack. They have won against disunion. They will fail if we unite.
George Seldes
You Can't Do That, 1938

This report was first issued on December 20, 1990 as a three page memo for antiwar activists titled "Right Woos Left Over Gulf War Issue: Confronting Rightist Ideologies & Anti-Jewish Bigotry is Crucial to Full Debate Over Principled Tactics." The memo briefly described attempts by members of the LaRouche movement to involve themselves in antiwar organizing, and discussed the growing network of persons willing to appear at functions of the quasi-Nazi Liberty Lobby, including Fletcher Prouty, "Bo" Gritz, Mark Lane, and to a lesser extent, Dick Gregory.

The original memo was issued after Political Research Associates received numerous phone inquiries regarding the background of the LaRouchian and Liberty Lobby networks, and was preceded by a discussion paper circulated to a handful of researchers who, for over a year, had been informally discussing the dilemmas posed by the transfusion of right-wing theories and research into progressive circles. I would like to thank these persons (whom I dubbed in my correspondence the "Thorns of the White Rose" as a historical salute to the German anti-Fascist movement), including Russ Bellant, Johan Carlisle, Sara Diamond, Brian Glick, Jean Hardisty, Jane Hunter, Sheila O'Donnell, Margaret Quigley, Diana Reynolds, Whitney Rugosa, and Holly Sklar. They will be the first to tell you that their contributions to the debate do not necessarily imply agreement with my thesis.

Several journalists and activists were forthcoming in sharing their information or making suggestions and deserve special mention. They are Dan Junas, Howard Goldenthal, Alice Senturia, Dennis King, Barry Mehler, and Richard Hatch. The research by Sara Diamond and Richard Hatch into radio personality Craig Hulet was particularly thorough and useful. The Center for Democratic Renewal, especially Leonard Zeskind, provided documents and other pertinent information. Fairness and Accuracy in Media also provided assistance and encouragement, especially Marty Lee.

Matthew Nemiroff Lyons wrote a thoughtful critique of an earlier version of this paper titled Right Woos Left Revisited: Tracing the Roots of Conspiracy Thinking. His suggestions have influenced subsequent revisions and we are now working together to write a lengthy study of the roots and current variants of fascism in the U.S. [This became the book Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, focusing on the roots of scapegoating conspiracism in the U.S. and how it is used to mobilize social and political movements. A forthcoming book on conspiracism, populism, and fascism is tentatively titled Sucker Punch.]

The United Front Against Fascism and its allies in the Seattle and Portland areas gave me encouragement and assistance, and sponsored a public forum in Seattle where I shared the podium with anti-fascist organizer Spencer Hamm of Spokane's Citizens for Nonviolent Action Against Racism. Jonathan Mozzochi and the Coalition for Human Dignity in Portland shared their work and publicized the issue, and were denounced by neo-Nazis for their efforts.

The Progressive Resource/Action Cooperative and the Champaign-Urbana chapter of New Jewish Agenda sponsored a research retreat and several speaking engagements at the University of Illinois and the Illinois Disciples Foundation in November of 1993 where I developed an analysis of the relationship between various forms of populism and fascism and the relevance of these movements to the candidacies of Buchanan, Perot & Le Pen.

Columnist Joel Bleifus of In These Times put into print discussions of these issues based on his own research at a time when no progressive publisher was willing to run the articles I had submitted. He showed uncommon courtesy in asking me if I would be offended by this turn of events, and then bore the brunt of some heated and unfair criticisms that otherwise would have been directed at me. He has both my thanks and my respect.

People Against Racist Terror in California deserves credit for early attempts to convince the Christic Institute to distance itself publicly from "Bo" Gritz and his allies in the Populist Party. Journalist Paul Rauber went out on a limb to confront Mark Lane's apologia for the Fascist and anti-Jewish Carto network. Several journalists in the alternative media put up with some withering criticisms for confronting paranoid conspiracism, especially Michael Albert and David Barsamian. Doug Henwood and Irwin Knoll were among the first journalists willing to use the word Fascism to describe the phenomenon.

Despite some fundamental disagreements with my point of view, Ramsey Clark, Gavrielle Gemma, Carl Oglesby, Jonathan Marshall, Peter Dale Scott, and James Ridgeway were gracious in consenting to interviews. John Stockwell gave an interview even though he felt my Guardian article on Craig Hulet implied Stockwell was an ally of "Bo" Gritz. That was not my intent, and I regret any misunderstanding and appreciate Mr. Stockwell's patience.

Dan Brandt, whose Namebase research database software remains a very useful research tool, originally attempted to keep my criticisms of his defense of Fletcher Prouty in perspective. He later began openly praising "Spotlight," claiming he could find no anti-Jewish bias in its pages, and denouncing me as part of an alleged PC thought police movement on the left.

Craig Hulet called to complain and stayed on the line for an interview, which, if nothing else, shows he has a sense of humor. Barbara Honegger hung up when the interview turned to the LaRouchians. When I called back, she insisted the earlier interview was off the record. However, since I had identified myself as a journalist working on an article at the outset of our conversation, I feel it is fair to quote her here. Both Fletcher Prouty and Sherman Skolnick agreed to interviews but dodged many questions. Prouty hung up with the interview in progress, but his subsequent letters have shown considerable wit. Victor Marchetti sent me some free samples of his newsletter.

A number of persons sent me information and comments through the Peacenet computer network. My information about cities in which LaRouchians were active came primarily through this medium. Many other people provided information through the mail and by telephone and I wish to thank them for their efforts without which this paper would not be so detailed.

I wish to acknowledge several staff members of the Christic Institute, and the Institute's client and named plaintiff, Tony Avirgan, who attempted to spark an internal discussion of these issues. I regret that this effort failed.

Finally, I do not think for a moment that this paper represents the last word on the subject, but I do believe the only thing more painful and disruptive than provoking this discussion would have been silence.

Chip Berlet

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