Friday, July 27, 2007

Not a cult, so -stop saying that.- Or, we'll GET you.

Veronica reminds me of the wonderfulness that is Lyndon La Rouche, with a link to this article.

LaRouche "leads what may well be one of the strangest political groups in American history," the conservative Heritage Foundation said in a report. "LaRouche has managed to attract a small but fanatical following to his conspiratorial view of the world."


The LaRouche organization has "taken on the characteristics more of a political cult than a political party," said a March report by Information Digest, a biweekly publication written by journalist John Rees. LaRouche's followers have "afforded him blind obedience," wrote Rees, a longtime specialist in LaRouche.

LaRouche said the notion that he is the head of a cult is "garbage . . . . I don't have any control." He denies playing a leadership role in any of the organizations identified with him.

... Former members interviewed had varying reasons for quitting, including disagreements with the group's ideology and distaste for LaRouche. All the "defectors," as they call themselves, said they are trying to reconstruct their personal and professional lives. Several said they are embarrassed about their years with the group.

The organization's ideology is hard to pin down. The NCLC started in the late 1960s as a left-wing Marxist sect and then shifted to the far right in the mid-1970s. Its philosophy now is a thick stew of political ingredients. Some people have publicly expressed doubts that the shift to the right was authentic and believe LaRouche is secretly still a Marxist.

With the move from left to right, the group's perceived enemies shifted as well. But one fear remained constant: that LaRouche is branded for assassination.

Supporters think they are acting defensively and appropriately when they telephone critics of the group and threaten them, or follow them on the street, published reports and former members said...

Juicy details LIES, terrible LIES about the inner workings of the group follow.


Rootietoot said...

OH! My parents briefly entertained a fascination with LaRouche back in the 70's. Somehow it tied in with the Survivalist stuff, but I was too busy dreaming about Eric Estrada to pay much attention.

I am amused that he's still around.

Iamcuriousblue said...

Larouche was somebody who I had a morbid fascination/curiousity about some time back. At one point, I checked out a complete set of Campaigner, the National Caucus of Labor Committees theoretical journal that goes back to 1968 from the UC Berkeley Library.

Some truly odd stuff there. It started out with a fairly mainstream Troskyist/SDS slant, except that its level of theoretical/philosophical discussion went deeper than most, going not just pretty deeply into Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky, but Hegel and Kant as well. It also had a pronounced anti-counterculture, anti-sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll line. (There was even an entire "Counterculture = Counterrevolution" issue.) This was something pretty common to the "hard left" of the time, but really pronounced with the Larouchies. (And one of the main things Larouche would carry with him when he shifted to the far right.)

Campaigner becomes progressively weirder and more sectarian over the next few years (with Larouche followers physically attacking SWP and CPUSA members in the street at one point). In 1973, they publish this odd (not so) little article, "The Sexual Impotence Of The Puerto Rican Socialist Party", which is equal parts deep Marxist theory, weird sexual issues, and anti-Latino stereotyping. Larouche published another article not long after that claiming that he personally has managed to completely transcend Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky, after which references to Marxism suddenly disappear from the journal altogether.

Over the next several years, an elaborate conspiracy theory gets developed positing some kind of powerful Illuminati-like conspiracy going back to Aristotle (Aristotelianism is some kind of eternal bete-noir for Larouche for reasons I can never quite fathom.) This conspiracy is countered by an opposing force of Platonists, culminating in Larouche himself. One of the evol machinations of the Aristotelians (through its subsidiary, the British Empire) is to encourage cultural Dionysianism and the drug culture – everything to the Opium Wars to LSD experimentation to The Beatles.

In the early 1980s, he was a fringe candidate in the Democratic primary, and what was notable was that he was able to buy entire half-hours of TV network airtime to broadcast the most utterly bizarre campaign infomercials you'd ever seen. I can only imagine the "What the fuck???" reaction of the average viewer.

I lost track of Larouche for a while and am not entirely clear on his political evolution since the 1980s. There's actually a contingent of them at my school (San Francisco State) and they try to come across as nominally "Left" to appeal to people there. Lots of banners about impeaching Bush, anti-Iraq War, etc, but with their own unique spin on it, of course. I wouldn't be surprised if in the Red States, they play the other side of the fence.

(A side note on the group that posted the "Sexual Impotence" article I linked to. This is a site for former members of Fred Newman's International Workers Party. The IWP was a break from NCLC when it was still Marxist. The group went on to start a political cult of its own, very much like Larouche's, only the IWP stayed on the political left. It operated through lots of front groups, the New Alliance Party of the early 1980s being the one I remember. Leonora Fulani is probably the best know face of that organization.)

KH said...

They still hawk their wares outside subway stations in DC. Since 2002, as a lot of people not usually interested in such things suddenly wanted to know about Leo Strauss & his relation to neoconservatism, the LaRouche people published some typically bizarre documents on the subject (written, I think, by a guy named Jeffrey Steinberg), which briefly were taken as authoritative, or at least useful, in some of the more naïve corners of antiwar & liberal opinion. Which in turn led to mendacious claims (e.g., in the Wall St J) that all criticism of the neoconservatives was recycled LaRouchie conspiracism. So they’re still around, & occasionally have these odd Zelig moments of minor celebrity.

I'm wondering, can you think if any other cult-like circles, maybe on the Margins of radical feminism?

Rebecca said...

The LaRouchites are completely mad. They pop up on my campus from time to time with usually ludicrous stuff - lately, they seem to be claiming some guy proved 400 years ago that global warming was a fraud. (?!?)

I think the last time took the cake, though. They brought a choir, and sang LaRouchite songs acapella in the central open space on campus. I kid you not. It was hilarious.

Ravenmn said...

Yup. Still around, publishing The New Federalist which gets placed in some of the more trafficked areas in the Twin Cities.

Claimed the Queen of England was the world's leading drug dealer.

More trivia: he shared a prison cell in Minnesota with Jim Bakker. Here's a quote from a quick google (so it must be true):

"One of his cellmates was disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, who later described LaRouche as amusing, erudite and convinced their cell was bugged. “To say that Lyndon was slightly paranoid,” Bakker wrote in his autobiography, “would be like saying the Titanic had a bit of a leak.”"

Victoria Marinelli said...

Hey you. I tried to comment late last night when I was on another computer (one that only had IE and also had untweakable security settings) and it not only wouldn't let me comment, it wouldn't let the page completely load... it just kept giving me this dialog box asking me if I wanted to display non-secure items. No matter how I answered the question, the stupid box kept popping up and I finally just had to crash IE to get out. Stupid IE.

Anyway, your post. Reminds me of what I call the Bessert Principle, after my high school social studies teacher Leroy Bessert who ominously warned us about political extremism and specifically, about how the far left eventually comes directly up against against the far right and vice-versa, and how they can become virtually indistinguishable from one another. Man, that was something that would resonate with me later at Evergreen (most lefty campus you can possibly find in the US, which also had its underground and even not-so-underground rightists). Not that it, um, actually stopped me from getting into the very radical fringes of all sorts of shit (as you know, and as you also don't know... stories for another day).

Never specifically encountered the LaRouche machine except in encountering their literature plastered all over the Central District in Seattle from time to time. I'd read something wheatpasted to a building's facade and get the most uneasy feeling, because they were saying some really compelling and true things but in such a way that it made my skin crawl and made all kinds of "red flags" (as it were) go up.

I'm reminded of how Doris Lessing risked her life for Communism (as she then understood it), only to become quite disillusioned; also of Sonia Johnson's former followers from Wildfire. (Sonia Johnson who, apparently, still has an audience at radical feminist conferences... a fact which disturbs me not least of all because I still genuinely take insight from much of her writing; she just went nutty and egomaniacal with it.)

And then, of course, there's me, who nearly took bullets for lesbian separatism before winding up married to a bonafide big hairy man...


belledame222 said...

Hey, you! Yeh, I haven't had much direct experience with the LauRoucheists, although they do have tables and pamphleteers out in the usual places from time to time; they tend to be rather aggressive, I've noticed, as these things go. I can't remember if it was them or someone else who was staked out across from the Scientology table in Grand Central, glaring at each other (or perhaps that's how i fancy it...)

my other favorites: Jews for Jesus. last spotted at the Harry Potter midnight madness thing, of all places. yes, that's EXACTLY what all the maddened Potter fans want to hear about, schmucks. sheesh.

belledame222 said...

but yeah, this shit does kind of loop around and meet itself coming round the back, spectrum wise. i think David Icke is a good example of where extreme right and extreme left (and just plain -loopy-) tend to meet. once you're at the stage where you're freaking out about THEM! invading your precious bodily fluids, it sort of doesn't really matter who THEY are, i find, because it can change on a dime; the point is, the world is an EVIL HOSTILE PLACE AND OUT TO GET YOU, PERSONALLY...

btw, "Them!" is a hilarious book by Jon Ronson about exactly that, following extremists of various stripes, from Icke to Ian Paisley to a (pre-9/11) radical Islamocrat in the UK to neo-Nazis to the Bilderberg watchers to...

Ravenmn said...

As a fringee, I often agree with right wingers more than liberals. For instance, I despise the Democrats and liberals (those who just want to tweak the system a bit), as do right wingers. I assume the government is corrupt as do they. I trust the people to be smarter than their reps, as do they. I'm against U.S. imperialism, as are they. There are ways in which this agreement makes lots of sense. Other ways, not so much.

I have a Larouche-ite living one block down from me. Or at least she was for a long time. Used to leave the paper for us and had her yard full of political signs. But the signs have been down the last couple years, so maybe she's changed her tune.

Victoria Marinelli said...

Oooh, I am totally going to check out that Jon Ronson book, thanks!