Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche Jr. is surrounded by contradictions. He lives in a heavily guarded mansion situated on 25 acres of prime Virginia horse-country land, but he claims a net personal worth of only $5,000. Until nine years ago, he was a committed Marxist. Now the leader of an extreme right-wing political sect, he is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination for the third time. In public the glowering 63-year-old LaRouche rejects violence. But his followers have threatened and even assaulted opponents and critics of his views—views that include a theory that Queen Elizabeth II is in control of all international trade in illicit narcotics.
For most of the past two decades, LaRouche and his followers have been on the fringes of U.S. politics. Then, last month two LaRouche followers scored a stunning victory in an Illinois Democratic primary. They became the official Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor and Illinois secretary of state. Now the organization plans to run at least 700 other associates as Democrats in this fall’s congressional and state elections, a decision that has raised concerns not only among mainstream Democrats but also most members of the U.S. political establish-
ment. Said Milton Copulos, a senior analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based right-wing research organization: “It is a perversion of the political process. You have people who are opposed to almost every principle on which this country was founded receiving national prominence through this election.”
LaRouche’s lack of political success in the past has left most Americans with little knowledge about him or the dozen political organi zati on s that he leads. One of his major sources of revenue is sales of publications.
Travellers at U.S. airports are frequently accosted by young men and women carrying signs reading, “FEED JANE FONDA TO THE WHALES! GO NUCLEAR!” They sell subscriptions to Fusion magazine, a glossy, full-color journal that trumpets the benefits of nuclear power and the Star Wars space weapons scheme. Its links to LaRouche become apparent only on careful reading. Another LaRouche publication is the $396-a-year Executive Intelligence Review, whose reporters have frequently
misrepresented themselves as representatives of NBC News, US News & World Report and other organizations.
The movement’s founder was born to pacifist Quaker parents and raised in Massachusetts. LaRouche was a conscientious objector at the outbreak of the Second World War and he served as a medic. He later joined the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and soon claimed to be what he called the “Lenin of America.” But in the late 1960s LaRouche became involved in disputes with members of the left and began his I shift to the right of the £ political spectrum. With friends, he formed the | National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC) which, in 1973, launched what he called “Operation Mop Up.” Armed with clubs, his followers travelled across the country and attacked about 40 members of the U.S. Communist party and other leftist groups.
Currently, various LaRouche groups claim a total U.S. membership of 26,000, although that appears to be an exaggeration. The Heritage Foundation’s Copulos says that the group has
only about 1,300 to 3,500 full-time members. The group also has loose connections to others, including members of neo-Nazi groups and the Ku Klux Klan. In addition, the party has operations in Western Europe and Canada. The Party for the Commonwealth of Canada, led by LaRouchian Gilles Gervais, polled .06 per cent of the vote in the last federal election. Gervais, who ran for mayor of Montreal in 1982, appears to have since vanished from the political scene.
In their publications, LaRouche and his followers claim that the leaders of a conspiracy to rule the world are bankers (particularly Jewish ones), Henry Kissinger and Walter Mondale (both of whom LaRouche says are Soviet agents). Those theories were, however, muted during last month’s Illinois primary. Instead, Janice Hart, who became the Democratic nominee for secretary of state, and Mark Fairchild, the candidate for lieutenant governor, emphasized some more recent LaRouche ideas. They called for extreme measures against the disease AIDS, including mandatory tests for all U.S. residents and quarantine for all victims and carriers of the virus. They also recommended that Washington sever all its ties with Europe.
The primary’s result has created tension within the Democratic National Committee. Committee members had been holding high hopes that Adlai Stevenson II, who won the party’s nomination for governor, would win back control of the state from the Republicans in November. He has declared the LaRouchians to be “adherents to an extremist philosophy steeped in violence and bigotry.” As a result, he may run on a third-party ticket rather than share the ballot with Hart and Fairchild. In an attempt to minimize the damage, the Democrats’ chairman, Paul Kirk Jr., has urged all state party leaders to make sure that a legitimate Democrat files for every election.
Few observers expect any LaRouche followers to win election to Congress this fall. But their success in Illinois was a major Democratic setback. Although the LaRouche candidates benefited from a low voter turnout—only 20 per cent of those eligible actually voted—they received strong support in areas with widespread crime, unemployment or high levels of farm foreclosures. Declared Copulos: “The fact that the LaRouche people accomplished what they did is an indication of dissatisfaction among one of the Democrats’ core constituencies: blue-collar workers. They’ve sent a message that the Democrats ought to listen to.”
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