Lyndon LaRouche is finished, right? After all, he's in jail, his inner circle of followers is facing trial, and the feds have seized the assets of many of his front groups. So it might seem that his dream of becoming America's homegrown fuehrer is in ruins.
But Dennis King says LaRouche is not washed up, and he makes his case in this book. He argues that Lyndon LaRouche and his supporters are not just kooks, but represent an authentic and virulent strain of American fascism. More important, their dedication to their cause represents a potentially serious threat to our political system. I think King is right.
Dennis King is a New York freelancer who has covered LaRouche for more than 15 years. A leftie in the '60s, he sided with the Maoist Progressive Labor (PL) faction of SDS when the split with Weatherman came in 1969. Looking back, he says that, considering PL's avoidance of terrorism and drug madness, it wasn't such a bad choice, but he describes his present politics as more or less centrist--the kind of New York Social Democrat who hates Ed Koch.
By rights, he should have won a Pulitzer Prize for the devotion and quality of this journalistic labor: He tracked and charted LaRouche's strange pilgrimage from the Marxist left to the fascist right and in the process read and decoded many thousands of pages of LaRoucheís dangerous drivel. King has also fended off a steady barrage of LaRouchian harassment, including death threats to him and his family, harassment of the papers that published his work and their advertisers, and several lawsuits.
But King has received little recognition for his exceptional work, and I must say I doubt he will. There's something about Lyndon LaRouche that makes big media people want to turn away and avert their eyes. They prefer not to think about him and what he represents.
This tendency toward denial also afflicts smaller journalistic fry such as myself. And can you blame me? My hassles with LaRouche go back to 1973, when LaRouche was going by the alias Lyn Marcus and his group was the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC). I reported on his Operation Mop-Up, in which he tried to establish hegemony on the American Left by physically attacking the two largest Marxist groups, the Communist Party (CP) and its Trotskyist rivals, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). For several weeks NCLC goons disrupted meetings and invaded leftist bookstores, smashing up people and property. If this crap didn't stop, I wrote then, somebody was going to get killed.
It turned out, though, that the most likely candidates for the morgue were the NCLC goons. While the CP and the SWP may have been softened up by their decades spent amid the corruptions of a capitalist society, they'd hardly become pacifists. Once they realized what LaRouche was up to, they organized their own, larger goon squads, and soon NCLC butts were getting the worst kicking.
So Marcus/LaRouche, who was smarter in this respect than Lyndon Johnson, declared Operation Mop-Up a victory and called it off. Soon he distracted his befuddled followers by announcing that the CIA was brainwashing them to turn them into automatic assassins, a Ia The Manchurian Candidate, with Himself as their target. In the resulting hysteria he called the alternative weekly I wrote for then, the Real Paper of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a CIA front.
Some of you will recall that in the early '70s it had been disclosed that indeed the CIA had subsidized various publications. At the time, however, the Real Paper was in fact worker-owned, and quite profitable with no help from any angels, thank you very much. Consequently, the CIA charge made us mad, and we decided to strike back with a multifaceted, front-page expose on the bastard. Assignments were parceled out, and my task was to find out who the mysterious "Lynn Marcus" really was.
I succeeded. I uncovered his real name, his origins in a fundamentalist Quaker family from Lynn, Massachusetts, his history as a conscientious objector in WWII, and his years as a Trotskyist before he split to form the NCLC and tried to take over the SDS chapter at Columbia in the wake of its famous 1968 campus strike. My research included pleasant phone conversations with his parents, who really didnít know what "Lindy" was involved in, but were proud of him just the same.
I was proud of my work: Penetrating LaRouche's alias and lifting the veil of his "legend" was a real coup. But for my trouble I was treated to an early piece of LaRouchian thuggery against the press. In December 1973, along with the Real Paper's Joe Klein, I attended a big LaRouche meeting in a seedy Manhattan hotel ballroom, at which he was supposedly going to detail his proof about CIA brainwash-assassination plots. When Klein identified himself as a Real Paper staffer, LaRouche demanded to know if Fager was there and began shouting about how the Real Paper was "a CIA shit sheet," how I had harassed his poor elderly parents, and then began shrieking repeatedly over the mike, "YOU LEAVE MY PARENTS ALONE! YOU LEAVE MY PARENTS ALONE!"
In a minute some goons were heading our way. Klein and I figured we had enough material and headed down a long hallway toward the door. The goons caught up with me, slammed me up against the wall, and threatened me. I shook loose and got out of there. As our cab drove away, the goons were shouting something about assassinations.
Back in Cambridge, I was mad as hell. Let's hit this guy with everything we've got, I demanded; front page, just like we planned. We had a hell of a story.
But Marcus/LaRouche had just issued a press release saying he would not tolerate any more harassment from the Real Paper, and in the face of that and what had happened to Klein and me, the majority of our worker-capitalist board caved in: It hired an off-duty cop to sit and doze by the front desk, and killed the story.
Naturally I was on the phone in an hour, giving all my notes to a former colleague named Vin McLellan who had jumped to our archrival, the Boston Phoenix. McLellan's boss was an archetypical hip capitalist who was determined to run our syndicalist weekly out of business (he ultimately succeeded); but by God, he ran the story, including the parts about the goons and the Real Paper board's cowardice.
(Incidentally, seeing my scoop in his pages, under someone else's byline, was a career-changing experience: Worker-ownership never had the same righteous luster for me after that; within six months I had quit the Real Paper, and a year or so later the staff voted to sell themselves out, fittingly, to David Rockefeller Jr. But that's another story.)
Not long afterward, LaRouche dropped the "Lyn Marcus" alias, so my reporting had its impact. But I went on to other stories, and did not write about LaRouche again for years. In fact, I was riot drawn into his crosshairs again until late 1980.
By then I was in Washington, working for Rep. Pete McCloskey (R-Calif.). McCloskey had gained fame as an ex-Marine who won his seat running as a Republican against the Vietnam War. He had hired me as an investigator when he became ranking minority member of the House Merchant Marine Committee. One of the last of the GOP's congressional liberals, he had just given up his ranking position to make a run for the Senate (which he ultimately lost to Pete Wilson). All his committee staffers, myself included, had been told that our tenure with the committee was due to end in a few months.
Then one day I got a call from another Hill staffer asking if I had seen a release from LaRoucheís news service announcing LaRouche's intent to expose three KGB moles on Capitol Hill. At the head of the list was my name, complete with purported links to Kim Philby. The release also said LaRouche would soon publish "detailed dossiers" on these three spies.
The charge itself is an indication of the shift into right-wing fascism that LaRouche had completed by the latter '70s. You recall he said I was a CIA employee in the beginning of the decade. I had followed this shift from afar, and had not written about it. But as Dennis King shows, one outgrowth of the transition was the creation of a private intelligence service that even then was a pretty elaborate operation. Suddenly, it had targeted me. The "dossiers" on myself and a number of other people, none of whom l was personally acquainted with, were later published as an "in depth report" in LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review, which featured a sketch of a large, cigar-smoking mole, wearing a trench coat and carrying a briefcase with the initials "KGB," standing in front of the White House.
At one level, this assault was laughable. I counted no less than 14 factual errors in the "dossier" that purported to "expose" me, and who would ever believe such crap?
But I wasn't able to laugh about it. Who could say how widely these slanders had been distributed and what marks they would leave on my career? And who the hell had been watching to see my name turn up on a congressional staff list? I had a baby daughter at home at the time, and remembering the goons in the New York hotel, there were nights it wasn't easy to sleep wondering what LaRouche might have next in store for us. I talked to a lawyer about suing and was told, as so many other LaRouche slander victims have been, that the case was open-and-shut, but that I'd never prove damages, and if I did I'd never collect. In the meantime it would give LaRouche a license to ransack my private life in discovery.
The only bright spot in this ordeal was McCloskey. He immediately fired off a letter to FBI Director William Webster, demanding to know if there was anything to LaRouche's charges. The result was a reply from Webster, dated January 15, 1981, stating that the FBI had nothing in its records to suggest that I was a KGB mole linked to Kim Philby. How many other folks in this town have such a clean bill of health? A framed copy of Webster's letter hangs over my desk; you never know when it might come in handy.
McCloskey then held a press conference to denounce LaRouche and made a long speech on the floor detailing a rebuttal to the charges. He did it knowing full well there was no political mileage to be gained in this; he did it to clear my name, and because he could see that LaRouche was more than a kook, he was dangerous. Sure enough, the press ignored the story--except for LaRouche's paper, which later falsely claimed it had gotten me fired.
Eventually I came to feel somewhat philosophical about the whole affair. There were dozens of other reporters who had been through this mill, and it made a great story at parties. But there are still times, coming home at night, that I find myself looking over my shoulder: What next? What retaliation will this piece bring on? And when? And how many more of his critics will LaRouche successfully intimidate?
This media tendency to ignore LaRouche is one of his biggest assets, as King shows in abundant detail. LaRouche has reinforced it by playing the political fool, particularly with his trademark claim about the Queen of England being a drug pusher. Hearing that, it is easy to decide he's just another weirdo, hardly different from the guy who used to walk Washington streets with a big sign ranting about CIA radios controlling his mind, except that LaRouche dresses better and turns up on TV in election years. But as King shows, this conclusion is a big mistake, and one that reporters are regularly encouraged to make.
Part of King's achievement is that he has carefully unpacked LaRouche's loony-sounding rhetoric and lays out its underlying meaning in convincing and sinister detail. Take the one about the Queen. In King's deconstruction, it is shown to have a definite, specific meaning, which is something like this: In the LaRouche fascist version of reality, the drug trade, like practically every other evil in the world, is controlled by an ancient, international conspiracy of Jews. This Jewish cabal also controls England. The Queen being England's symbolic head, she is ipso facto up to her tiara in narcotics marketing. Q. E. D., Q. E. 2.
Sure, this is crazy. But not new, and not harmless. King's major effort is to show how LaRouche's ideology consciously follows classic fascism, especially its anti-Semitism, and how his many confusing-sounding slogans--talk of such stuff as the struggle between his neoplatonic humanists and the black Guelph (i.e., Jewish) nobility--make sense once you do a little background reading and fill in the context of current neo-Nazi jargon and euphemisms. Crafting such code phrases is evidently a minor industry in Germany, where open Nazi and anti-Semitic agitation is illegal--and where, by the way, LaRouche's wife and second lieutenant Helga Zepp LaRouche is from, and where he maintains a villa and many connections.
But more than slogans are involved here. King shows how LaRouche has likewise built his political strategy on fascist lines, cynically exploiting the weaknesses of our democratic structures and seeking to build enough of a base among disaffected groups to become a real power. After more than a decade of machinations, he approached a breakthrough in 1986, when two LaRouchians won the Democratic nominations for secretary of state and lieutenant governor in Illinois and sank the gubernatorial campaign of Adlai Stevenson III.
Most mainstream reporters regarded the Illinois results as shocking but clearly a fluke. Yet King shows otherwise, citing detailed studies of vote tallies in many Illinois counties during the Reagan recession years of the mid-'80s, studies that show a steady rise in support for LaRouchian notions and candidates.
These data make chilling sense: Fascism has thrived in times of economic chaos, and the collapse of small farmers combined with high industrial unemployment brought on by the Reagan recession gave LaRouche's handful of persistent partisans in Illinois the opening they had been working for for so long.
Sure the voters rejected the two LaRouchians in the general election, but one of his candidates still got almost half a million votes after months of being denounced as a neo-Nazi. That fact ought to give anyone who cares about American democracy the willies, and make us concerned about what could happen in the next deep recession, especially if LaRouche is still active.
But we're safe now, right? King says no, and his magazine reporting since his book went to press backs up his contention: LaRouche's publications are still coming out, as thick and shrill as ever, and he has run a series of big ads in major papers demanding his release and comparing his trial to the Dreyfus case. His groups are still busy organizing among Midwestern farmers and against his version of "Satanism," which naturally turns out to be Judaism in drag. Most of his cadre has stuck with him, despite the indictments; nobody has yet turned state's evidence.
LaRouche himself, according to his paper, gave 60 interviews during his first month behind bars. Now he is running for Congress, in my Arlington district, from his jail cell. His lawyers beat one major set of indictments in Boston by means of non-stop legal disruption of the proceedings, ultimately winning a mistrial and wearing down the prosecutor.
And just where does the money for all this come from? King shows that we're talking big bucks--as much as $200 million over the past 15 years, far more than any other independent political group has mustered. Much of it is more or less traceable: LaRouche started by squeezing every spare dime out of his followers, many of whom were affluent youths with trust funds and indulgent parents. When that scheme ran out, he put his followers to work in a series of small printing and computer businesses, working them killer hours for little pay and skimming off most of the revenue. Then, as these enterprises were sucked dry, he hit his stride with boiler-room telephone fund-raising operations aimed primarily at elderly right-wingers. This has been the LaRouchians' real gold mine, and the amount they have stolen over the phone is probably in the scores of millions.
But King notes ominously that these scams, lucrative as they are, don't account for all LaRouche's money: "Veteran LaRouche watchers," he writes, "believe there are still huge gaps in the puzzle of where the money came from to pay for his empire of political, intelligence-gathering, and propaganda fronts in over a dozen countries." The puzzle parts include suspicious connections in some of the world's major drug markets: Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Thailand. King notes that none of these has yet been seriously investigated, and adds, "It is quite probable that the intelligence agencies of more than one country would prefer that these matters never be probed."
Is the CIA among this group? One thing is for certain: LaRouche tried his best, especially in the Reagan years, to develop an ongoing relationship with the cadre of the Company. There were several dimensions to this campaign. At one level, LaRouche--who considers himself the world's greatest spook, able to solve the deepest spy plots with a single twitch of his genius--simply wanted to play in the big leagues. He figured, too, that in the Reagan-Casey CIA he would find some ears receptive to his claims and concepts. And he did, at very high levels--for instance, Admiral Bobby Ray Inman.
But perhaps most important, LaRouche's effort to forge an alliance with American intelligence agencies (he went after the FBI and many local red squads, too) was the keystone of a conscious attempt to put himself beyond the reach of ordinary law enforcement. King says that documents filed in LaRouche's Boston trial show that in 1982, when he was facing a number of suits and probes, he actually tried to negotiate a deal with CIA officials to guarantee immunity from prosecution.
The deal was a hoax, and the feds weren't buying. But evidently LaRouche was able to win a kind of immunity in New York, at least for a while, by dealing with the legendary fixer Roy Cohn. And it wasn't until his two supporters won the 1986 Illinois primary that the legal and media establishment really began turning against LaRouche effectively.
King criticizes the major media for not pursuing LaRouche continuously over the years. Several major national papers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, have run exposes on LaRouche, so they're not really ignoring the man. But most reporters do have a serious case of denial about LaRouche: They/we have a hard time believing that a real fascist threat could develop in our society--especially one drawn from the middle classes, as most of LaRouche's close supporters are. And he is well-known by now as a vicious fighter in the back streets of slander and innuendo. So editors have typically treated him as a kook and ignored his everyday antics.
In Congress, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York has been eloquent but lonely in naming LaRouche as a threat to the body politic. For conventional politicians, so much negative exposure would have been devastating. But LaRouche was not by any measure a conventional politician; while he harassed his media critics unmercifully, he also kept plugging away at his various campaigns and schemes as if their reporting made no difference. And in a crucial sense it hasn't. LaRouche was only really troubled when the exposure led to and reinforced law enforcement action against him, after the Illinois upsets.
His long period of relative immunity from the effects of media exposure is another reason to be very cautious about assuming that LaRouche is washed up after his recent legal troubles. Many Germans thought Hitler was washed up, too, when he was jailed in the '20s after his first, abortive Munich putsch.
But if LaRouche's fascism is still dangerous even with him in stir, what then? King's book points to at least two imperatives:
First, the major media need to go after Lyndon LaRouche in a serious and sustained way. There seems to be no bottom to the barrel of LaRouchian slime King has been scraping in his own work: connections with big-time Mafiosi and union gangsters; support of drug-related figures like Noriega; a long string of dirty tricks operations against liberal Democratic candidates, and unexamined connections with right-wing Republicans; his efforts to compromise high Reagan administration officials in numerous agencies; the continuing sizable vote tallies for many of his candidates in 1988; his continuing sources of funds--the list of leads seems almost endless.
But as the record shows, media exposure is not enough. Congress and the Bush administration, especially Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, need to clean out any remaining contacts with LaRouchians along with the other offal of the Reagan years, and turn the congressional investigators, the FBI, and the U.S. attorneys loose on LaRouche's shadowy empire.
The prosecutions thus far have only scratched the surface of their criminality; there is plenty more to tackle that is already known. The record, as Dennis King lays out in incontestable detail, shows that the only way to keep LaRouche and his minions under control is to keep them in the dock and, wherever possible, in the slammer, until and unless they change their ways.
If this judgment seems harsh, all I can say is: Read the book and see if you think Dennis King is wrong about the things this man and his cadre have done and the danger they pose to the social order. Again, I wish King were wrong; but I don't think he is. And if he isn't, nothing less will protect us.