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THE SINISTER SIDE OF THE LAROUCHE NETWORK AND WHY WE SHOULD CARE by Chip Berlet From fall 1986 issue of Public Eye Magazine Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. is a name familiar to most Illinois voters since last April when two of his followers scored primary victories garnering the official Democratic Party ballot slots for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State. In repudiating the LaRouche candidates, Adlai Stevenson removed himself as the Democratic Party's candidate for Governor saying he could not in good conscience run on the same ticket with neo-Nazis. Stevenson's startling characterisation of the LaRouche ideology soon faded amidst the cacophony of typically shrill Illinois electoral campaign rhetoric. With widespread media coverage of the LaRouche network's legal difficulties and unusual political theories, most Illinois voters propbably 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 phenomena which appears more sinister than comical when the details are sketched in with information emerging from court records, interviews with former members, and a careful reading of LaRouche's theoretical writings. They have been called crooks, con artists, a cult, obsessed with conspiracy theories, a private intelligence army, anti- Semitic. Some critics consider LaRouche to be America's leading neo-Fascist. They call themselves visonaries, 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. The truth may well be a complex blend of both views. Even his sharpest critics generally agree that LaRouche himself is highly intelligent and well-read, with an astounding ability to garnish his conversation with historical references drawn from memory. The LaRouche network's glossy Fusion Magazine covers current theoretical and practical research on lasers and fusion energy with details not available in other similar publications, according to several nuclear physicists quoted in published reports. Even Reagan Administration officials have praised the LaRouche intelligence-gathering apparatus, which forms the backbone of the LaRouche network. Running their global intelligence operation takes money, and former members report intense pressure to meet daily financial quotas. The resulting over-zealous fundraising efforts are what caught the attention of a Boston federal grand jury two years ago. That grand jury recently indicted ten top LaRouche lieutenants and raided his corporate offices searching for documents to verify allegations of widespread credit card and loan fraud. 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, she and other "LaRouchies" staffing LaRouche-controlled companies often did not receive paychecks; the money instead being 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. Former members 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 and guilt are used to control LaRouche loyalists, say former members, many of whom call the LaRouche inner circle a "cult." This cult aspect began when LaRouche propounded a macabre "psycho-sexual" theory of politics in the early 1970's after taking his followers out of the radical left Students for a Democratic Society. This theory was used to justify dozens of incidents in 1973 when LaRouche followers wielding chains and bats physically attacked and injured political rivals in street battles and classroom brawls. LaRouche ordered his troops into the streets saying "I am going to make you organizers --by taking your bedrooms away from you....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." In early 1974 LaRouche announced to the press that he had uncovered a CIA plot to brainwash his followers into assassinating him. LaRouche alone had the skill to develop the "deprogramming" sessions each member was expected to undergo. According to Ray and other former members, LaRouche was in fact testing his control over the flock. A "chain of psychological terror" said two members in a resignation letter which called the sessions an attempt to crush the will of "all individuals who have expressed political and intellectual opposition to the tendencies" surfacing inside the LaRouche organization. Ray says hundreds of persons left the LaRouche organization during this period. For Ray and others who remained, however, LaRouche's increasingly macabre and bigoted theories were accepted without question to avoid being subjected to "de- programming" sessions. By 1976, LaRouche had drifted to the extremist-right of the political spectrum where his bigoted conspiracy theories linking international bankers, leading Jews, KGB agents, and secret societes found fertile ground. Ray thinks that more recent LaRouche converts are not even aware of the group's real history nor the inner circle which controls the financial operations. LaRouche's parlaying of personal and political conspiracy theories into a multi-million dollar financial empire is unique, but paranoid political movments occur cyclically in American history. In his, "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-immmigrant movement which lead to the Palmer Raids in the 1920's, the Red Scare of the 1950's - all are examples of this thesis, wrote Hofstadter. While Hofstadter wrote his book before the LaRouche phenomena, the comparison seems appropriate to another historian, author George Seldes, who thinks LaRouche has followed another seldom travelled but recognizable historic path, the road from socialism through national socialism to Facism. Seldes has authored some ten books concerning authoritarianism and thinks LaRouche's theories and style represent classic "Moussolini-style fascist" ideology. Seldes analysis carries some weight since he wrote a biography of Mussolini in 1935 titled "Sawdust Caesar." 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 that view. When Henry Kissinger was told of how LaRouche operatives met with high Reagan Administration officials in the early 1980's, 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." John Rees, 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 posesses 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 is now consciously distancing itself from contacts with the LaRouche network. Russ Bellant, a long-time LaRouche watcher from Detroit argues that when LaRouche turned to the right and tried to link themselves to more respectable groups, the LaRouche network was tolerated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies which sometimes were interested in the "information being churned up by LaRouche's intelligence-gathering apparatus. Political alliances with some right-wing groups on the basis of LaRouche's scurrilous disruption campaigns." When LaRouche's influence began to get out of hand, and he began to gain high visibility by disrupting more mainstream political groups, "it became impossible to keep ignoring or excusing his questionable fundraising practices," says Bellant. Bellant however, says that for ten years some Republican and conservative forces have quietly worked with LaRouche operatives to target political foes, especially liberal Democrats. LaRouche-related financial operations have run afoul of the law before, but by adopting an agressive 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 Coaliton has dragged on for over five years. Bellant notes with irony that indicted LaRouche aide Jeffrey Steinberg used to meet with Reagan Administration officials at the Old Executive Office Building in the White House compound. Steinberg's fall from grace is so complete that government prosecutors have successfully argued that Steinberg be held without bail. "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." Bellant's articles on LaRouche have appeared in liberal Michigan weeklies and progressive magazines, while Rees tills the right side of the political garden. Both agree LaRouche's ideology is now neither Marxist nor conservative. Rees, who for years has written for conservative and anti-communist publications (including magazines associated with the John Birch Society) thinks it is unfair to ever 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." Ress conceeds that LaRouche's politics are distorted and strange, "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 thinks 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 confirm cooperation with other groups in the Aryan Nations Network," adds Bellant who agrees that the LaRouche is a "neo-Nazi cult." Richard Lobenthal, Midwest Regional Director for the Anti- Defamation League of B'nai B'rith observes that one indicted LaRouche security advisor, Roy Frankhouser "has been identified as present with other white supremecists at meetings held at the farm of Pastor Bob Miles in Michigan." Leaders of the notoriously racist Aryan Nations have attended the same meetings. "Frankhouser'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. Another ADL spokesperson, Irwin Suall, was once sued by LaRouche for calling him a "small time Hitler." The jury ruled against LaRouche. So if LaRouche is just a paranoid bigot - a small-time Hitler - is there really anything to worry about? Are we paying too much attention to him and his band of bandits? A surprisingly broad range of LaRouche's critics say no, and think he should be taken a bit more seriously for a variety of reasons. Lobenthal of ADL warns that the LaRouche organization "Obviously should not be dismissed lightly, they are more than just kooks. They are anti-Semitic extremists. His aspirations are to gain legitimacy and power through, amongst other ways, the electoral process. To snicker about LaRouche is to snicker about any bigot or extemist who would ascend to political office and then subvert that office for their own purposes," he says. In California a LaRouche-backed referendum establishing restrictive public health policies regarding Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) demonstrates how the small LaRouche group there had a devasting effect when it found a fearful audience for its simplistic scapegoating theories. Mark L. Madsen, a public health specialist with the California Medical Association says the LaRouche initiative is based on "absolute hysteria and calculated decpetion," but whether or not the measure is passed "it has set back public health education efforts at least five years. The LaRouche people have almost wiped out all that we have done so far in educating the public about AIDS." The LaRouche intitiative has "created an immeasurable medical problem far beyond AIDS victims," says Madsen. In California the number of regular blood donors is down 30%, and one health expert blames this statistic directly on fear by donors of repercussions from being identified as carrying the AIDS virus. "This fear, whipped up substantially by the hysterical LaRouche theories about AIDS, has already led to critical shortages of blood in the state of California," says Madsen. Leonard Zeskind helped build a coalition of Black, Christian, Jewish, farm advocacy and civil rights groups to confront the spread of hate-mongering theories in the rural farm belt. He calls the LaRouche ideology "Crank Fascism". "The LaRouche organizers are not as active in the farm belt as they once were, but they and other groups which promote scapegoating conspiratorial theories have lead some farmers down a dead-end path which offers no short-term help for individual financially- distressed farm families and no long-term solutions to the ongoing crisis in rural America. "For those farmers who may have bought into these bigoted snake-oil theories, the effect has been harmful." Zeskind points out the LaRouche group "has also been very disruptive in the Black community where they exploit legitimate issues such as drug pushing and widespread unemployment. Those of us who have to deal with the victims of the LaRouche philosophy don't find it very humorous at all." Prexy Nesbitt, a consultant to the American Committee on Africa who has lead campaigns calling for Divestment in South Africa, agrees the LaRouche organization should be taken more seriously. "His people have deliberately made themselves an obstacle to our organizing and disrupted our activities," says Nesbitt. "The LaRouche people spied on anti-apartheid activists and South African exiles in Europe and then provided information to South African government," charges Nesbitt. "This is a very dangerous and potentially deadly game," he says. "Critics of the South African Government have disappeared or been killed, their offices have been blown up," reports Nesbitt. In 1981 the respected British magazine New Scientist ran an article titled "American fanatics put scientists' lives at risk." According to the article, LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review had circulated a report naming a number of scientist working in the Middle East as being involved in an insurgent conspiracy against established governments. "In certain Middle East countries with hypersensitive governments," warned the magazine, "these allegations, however indirect, can easily lead to arrests, prison sentences and even executions." Retired General Daniel O. Graham says LaRouche followers have significantly hampered his work. Graham, Director of Project High Frontier which predates President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative plan for anti-missle defense, says the LaRouche groups have "caused a lot of problems by adopting our issue in an effort to seize credit for the idea. They also mounted a furious attack on me personally," says Graham. "Even today I get mail asking if I'm in league with LaRouche," he says wearily. "LaRouche does not just represent some nut to simply backhand away...he's very clever, you have to go to great lengths to get around those people." Graham adds: "Look, these people are purely interested in power, LaRouche doesn't care in these issues one bit, its just a way to raise money and consolidate his political base." Jonathan Levine, the Chicago-based Midwest Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) agrees that exploitation of issues is a key factor with the LaRouche ideology. "Extremists have traditionally tried to piggyback on substantive issues to gain legitimacy for themselves. Never mind that the way the LaRouche candidates frame issues does not warrant serious discussion in a political campaign, but they may appeal to frustrated, apathetic voters nevertheless. In Illinois there is still significant economic dislocation, this only heightens the level of alienation some voters experience," says Levine. An AJC- sponsored statistical analysis of the Illinois primary results revealed low voter turnout was more responsible than any other single factor in the LaRouche candidate's victory. Bruce B. Decker, a lifelong Republican who has served on the staff of President Gerald Ford and on a health advisory panel appointed by California Governor George Deukmejian thinks the response to LaRouche's bigoted theories should cut across traditional party politics and electoral constituencies. He lists the forces who have joined a California 'Stop LaRouche' coalition. "We have united Republicans and Democrats, progressives and conservatives, religious leaders representing Protestants, Catholics, Jews and other beliefs, ethnic groups including Blacks, Latinos and Asians, professionals associations and labor unions," says Decker. "Isn't that a lesson we've learned from history?" asks Decker "That we all have an obligation to stand up together and forcefully oppose the victimization and scapegoating spread by these types of demogogues?" After the Illinois primary Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) blasted his own party for originally pursuing a policy of ignoring the "infiltration by the neo-Nazi elements of Lyndon H. LaRouche..." and worried that too often, especially in the media, "the LaRouchites" are "dismissed as kooks." "In an age of ideology, in an age of totalitarianism, it will not suffice for a political party to be indifferent to and igorant about such a movement," said Moynihan. Lobenthal of ADL echoes that sentiment. "Any American citizen that has even a scintilla of committment to Democracy needs to be alert to their threat and outraged by their presence." Most LaRouche critics figure his days as a political leader are numbered, but most also feel he can still do a lot of damage by further spreading his prejudiced views. Russ Bellant sums it up when he says LaRouche is "just a symbol of a larger problem of authoritarianism which can be very appealing in times of crisis. The LaRouche phenomena indicates that we need to better educate Americans about the theories and tactics of demogogues." If we intend to defend democracy, LaRouche critics say, we had best learn to recognize its enemies, and not be afraid to stand up and call them by name. -----------------------------------------------------------------


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