Populism as Core Element of Fascism

Portions of this essay first appeared on the PRA website in a section called “Too Close for Comfort” as preliminary research studies that were later incorporated into the book Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, New York, Guilford Press, 2000; which maintains an updates website.

Fascism is a complex political current that parasitizes other ideologies, includes many internal tensions and contradictions, and has chameleon-like adaptations based on the specific historic symbols, icons, slogans, traditions, myths, and heroes of the society it wishes to mobilize. In addition, fascism as a social movement often acts dramatically different from fascism once it holds state power. When holding state power, fascism tends to be rigidly hierarchical, authoritarian, and elitist. As a social movement fascism employs populist appeals against the current regime and promises a dramatic and quick transformation of the status quo.

In interwar Europe there were three distinct forms of fascism, Italian economic corporatist fascism (the original fascism), German racial nationalist Nazism, and clerical fascism exemplified by religious/nationalist movements in Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and the Ukraine, among others.

Right-wing populism can act as both a precursor and a building block of fascism, with anti-elitist conspiracism and ethnocentric scapegoating as shared elements. The dynamic of right-wing populism interacting with and facilitating fascism in interwar Germany was chronicled by Peter Fritzsche in Rehearsals for Fascism: Populism and Political Mobilization in Weimar Germany. Fritzsche showed that distressed middle-class populists in Weimar launched bitter attacks against both the government and big business. This populist surge was later exploited by the Nazis which parasitized the forms and themes of the populists and moved their constituencies far to the right through ideological appeals involving demagoguery, scapegoating, and conspiracism.

The Nazis expressed the populist yearnings of middle-class constituents and at the same time advocated a strong and resolutely anti-Marxist mobilization….Against “unnaturally” divisive parties and querulous organized interest groups, National Socialists cast themselves as representatives of the commonweal, of an allegedly betrayed and neglected German public….[b]reaking social barriers of status and caste, and celebrating at least rhetorically the populist ideal of the people’s community…

This populist rhetoric of the Nazis, focused the pre-existing “resentments of ordinary middle-class Germans against the bourgeois ‘establishment’ and against economic and political privilege, and by promising the resolution of these resentments in a forward-looking, technologically capable volkisch ‘utopia,'” according to Fritzsche.

As Umberto Eco explains, however, the populist rhetoric of fascism is selective and illusive:

Individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is a theatrical fiction….There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People….Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell…Fascism.

Fritzsche observed that “German fascism would have been inconceivable without the profound transformation” of mainstream electoral politics in the 1920’s “which saw the dissolution of traditional party allegiances.” He also argued that the Nazis, while an electorally-focused movement, had more in common rhetorically and stylistically with middle class reform movements than backwards looking reactionary movements. So the Nazis as a movement appeared to provide for radical social change while actually moving its constituency to the right.

The success of fascist movements in attracting members from reformist populist constituencies is due to many complex overlapping factors, but key factors are certainly the depth of the economic and social crisis and transformation of, and the degree of anger and frustration of those who see their demands not being met. Desperate people turn to desperate solutions.

Not Fascism: Trump is a Right-Wing Nativist Populist

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt of the author’s forthcoming analysis of the new wave of right-wing nativism inspired by Donald Trump.

The outlandish populist rhetoric of Republican presidential wildcard Donald Trump has left many journalists at a loss for words—words such as bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism and demagoguery. These are the elements of the latest Nativist crusade.

Donald TrumpJournalists and scholars familiar with the rise of contemporary right-wing populist political parties and social movements in Europe recognize that xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and racist rhetoric can lead to acts of violence. The progressive press has done a better job of pointing out the potential for making some of our neighbors targets of White angst.

Adele Stan in the American Prospect (9/9/15) put it boldly:

What Trump is doing, via the media circus of which he has appointed himself ringmaster, is making the articulation of the basest bigotry acceptable in mainstream outlets, amplifying the many oppressive tropes and stereotypes of race and gender that already exist in more than adequate abundance.

Donald Trump Is an Actual Fascist” trumpets the headline in Salon (7/25/15) for Conor Lynch’s article. Undermining Salon’s headline, Lynch tells us the “GOP are obviously not fascists, but they share a family resemblance.” The resemblance, according to Lynch, is explained in the famous quote attributed to Italy’s fascist dictator during World War II, Benito Mussolini:

Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.

According to Lynch, this “definition may very well fit the GOP ideology: a kind of corporate fascism.” Alas, the quote is a hoax, widely circulated on the internet but debunked years ago. Mussolini never wrote or said anything like that, since the fake statement refutes Mussolini’s views on fascism. Nor is Trump an example of creeping totalitarianism, for which Hitler and Stalin were the analytical icons for Hannah Arendt in her masterwork The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Part of the confusion over Trump’s ideology is definitional: Scholars write entire books trying to map out the contours of right-wing political and social movements, especially the line dividing right-wing populism and neofascism. The pre-eminent scholar in this area, University of Georgia’s Cas Mudde, explained in the Washington Post (8/26/15):

The key features of the populist radical right ideology – nativism, authoritarianism, and populism – are not unrelated to mainstream ideologies and mass attitudes. In fact, they are best seen as a radicalization of mainstream values.

His ideology and rhetoric are much more comparable to the European populist radical right, akin to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, the Danish People’s Party or Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. All of them use the common radical right rhetoric of nativism, authoritarianism and populism.

What fuels this sort of bitter backlash movement now? The late scholar Jean Hardisty who founded Political Research Associates argued in 1995 that a confluence of several historic factors has assisted the success of the right in the United States:

  • a conservative religious revitalization,
  • economic contraction and restructuring,
  • race resentment and bigotry,
  • backlash and social stress, and
  • a well-funded network of right-wing organizations.

Each of these conditions has existed at previous times in US history,” wrote Hardisty. She also noted they overlap and reinforce each other. This backlash is picking up speed. The Republican voter base in the Tea Party long ago shifted its attention away from fiscal restraint toward anti-immigrant xenophobia, banning abortion and pushing gay people back into the closet.

The demonization and scapegoating that accompanies right-wing populism in the United States is breeding a backlash movement that will take creative and bold approaches as we organize to defend democracy and diversity in the public square.

This article and the forthcoming analysis are adapted from the author’s previous piece in FAIR.

Mussolini on the Corporate State

A Google(tm) search on January 12, 2005 turned up some 5,000 hits on the following quote:

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” — Benito Mussolini

It is generally attrributed to an article written by Mussolini in the 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana with the assistance of Giovanni Gentile, the editor.

The quote, however, does not appear in the Enciclopedia Italiana in the original Italian.

It does not appear in the official English translation of that article: Benito Mussolini, 1935, “The Doctrine of Fascism,” Firenze: Vallecchi Editore.

And it does not appear in the longer treatment of the subject by Mussolini in: Benito Mussolini, 1935, “Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions,” Rome: ‘Ardita’ Publishers.

Where the quote comes from remains a mystery, and while it is possible Mussolini said it someplace at some time, a number of researchers have been unable to find it after months of research.

(If you have a source for the quote based on an actual original document that you copy and mail us, please let us know, and you will receive a free 3-year subscription to the Public Eye magazine)

It is unlikely that Mussolini ever made this statement because it contradicts most of the other writing he did on the subject of corporatism and corporations. When Mussolini wrote about corporatism, he was not writing about modern commercial corporations. He was writing about a form of vertical syndicalist corporatism based on early guilds. The article on Wikipedia on Corporatism explains this rather well.

Here are some typical Mussolini quotes from original documents:

The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State–a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values–interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people. (p. 14)

Fascism recognises the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade-unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which diverent interests are coordinated and harmonised in the unity of the State. (p.15)

Yet if anyone cares to read over the now crumbling minutes giving an account of the meetings at which the Italian Fasci di Combattimento were founded, he will find not a doctrine but a series of pointers… (p. 23)

“It may be objected that this program implies a return to the guilds (corporazioni). No matter!… I therefore hope this assembly will accept the economic claims advanced by national syndicalism.” (p. 24)

Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and economic sphere. (p. 32)

The Fascist State lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organised in their respective associations, circulate within the State. (p. 41).

Benito Mussolini, 1935, The Doctrine of Fascism, Firenze: Vallecchi Editore.

The Labour Charter (Promulgated by the Grand Council ofr Fascism on April 21, 1927)—(published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale, April 3, 1927) [sic] (p. 133)

The Corporate State and its Organization (p. 133)

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and usefu [sic] [typo-should be: useful] instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management. (pp. 135-136)

Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, Rome: ‘Ardita’ Publishers.

Drifting Right and Going Wrong: An Overview of the U.S. Political Right

By Chip Berlet and Jean Hardisty

Our country is in the midst of the longest period of right-wing reaction against movements seeking equality, social justice, and economic fairness since the period of Reconstruction in the south. We picture hooded Ku Klux Klan nightriders carrying torches and lighting crosses when we think of this late 19th century turmoil. We tend to forget the societal institutions and systems that also played a role in creating oppression for Blacks and preserving privilege for Whites.

Now, in the early twenty-first century, the attacks on social and economic justice predominantly take the form of state and national legislation passed by mainstream politicians. The right-wing backlash today is targeted at a subtler “enemy.” It is no longer simply African Americans who are portrayed as less than deserving citizens. Today the electoral Right uses an allegedly “colorblind” template to identify those who are outside acceptable norms of morality and family values. So, it is welfare “queens,” lesbians and gay men of all races, and “illegal aliens” (to name just a few) who are, by virtue of their identity, living an un-American life.  In fact, anyone who is not Christian is suspect, especially Muslims.  Jews are accepted as allies to the extent that they sign onto the Right’s agenda.  Meanwhile, virulently antisemitic Extreme Right groups, including the neonazis, continue to advocate for White supremacy, promoting their agenda by recruiting young people to a vision of an idyllic “White America.”

Those who want to successfully challenge the Right’s policies need to understand that not all sectors of the U.S. Right are alike. There are multiple networks of organizations and funders with differing and sometimes competing agendas. Different ideas and methods are used in various right-wing social and political movements. No one organization “controls” the political Right. No single deep-pocket funder is “behind” the Right. Some large organizations are important, but many others appear to be more influential than they really are.

Traditional Republican Party conservatism is composed of several sectors, including corporate conservatives, moderate conservatives, libertarians, and neoconservatives. In addition, the Political Right includes other sectors such as the Christian Right, the Patriot movement, and the Extreme Right. Critics need to sharpen their focus and examine the details. It is not fair to equate the Ku Klux Klan with the Christian Right. It is fair to criticize anti-democratic aspects of both movements.

The Christian Right, for example, has no qualms about denouncing the Klan and other groups on the Extreme Right that promote naked White supremacy and antisemitism, or that use aggressive intimidation or insurgent violence. A few zealots in the Christian Right use violence to oppose abortion, but Christian Right activists overwhelmingly work for reforms through legislation and support for candidates for public office. Some of these reforms, however, would deny certain civil rights protections to people who step outside heterosexual monogamy. The Christian Right urges women to adopt “traditional” roles that are secondary and submissive to men. Calls to make this country a Christian nation implicitly promote the idea that Jews and other non-Christians are second-class citizens. Much of Christian Right ideology privileges the culture of White northern Europeans at the expense of diversity and a pluralistic model of democracy. So while the ultraconservative Christian Right and the Extreme Right are separate movements, they pull the society in the same direction, even while remaining critical of each other’s groups, leaders, and plans.

Meanwhile, the Patriot movement occupies a middle ground between the Christian Right and the Extreme Right. The Patriot movement represents a type of right-wing populism that periodically surfaces on the U.S. political landscape. Its most visible recent aspect was the armed “citizens militias” that flourished in the mid 1990s. The militia movement now has largely collapsed, but there is still a flourishing Patriot subculture with groups such as the John Birch Society and the website www.freerepublic.com serving as typical examples. People in the Patriot movement see the world through the lens of conspiracy, believing the government to be controlled by secret elites and fearing tyrannical government repression. Many deny the bigoted antisemitic aspect of their conspiracism or the White supremacist lineage of their bogus “constitutionalist” states’ rights legal arguments. Some early militia leaders came out of Extreme Right hate groups, and often tried to mask their bigotry to attract a larger audience.

Pat Buchanan is a key figure in this Patriot sector, where his brand of xenophobic nationalism finds an enthusiastic audience. Patriot leaders take fears over the economy, corporate globalization, and downsizing and focus them onto scapegoats, ranging from immigrants and people of color to the United Nations. Many in the militias, for example, blame their slipping social and economic status on an alleged government conspiracy to build a global New World Order. Sometimes people in the Patriot movement try to recruit from progressive groups involved in antiwar or anti-globalization organizing.

Participants in the Christian Right represent a different demographic group. They are often upwardly mobile suburbanites who are members of conservative Protestant evangelical, charismatic, or fundamentalist churches. These churches are growing rapidly across the country, while moderate or liberal Protestant denominations such as the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ are losing members in record numbers. Not all members of conservative Protestant churches are active in the Christian Right, but it is within these churches that people are recruited and mobilized into social movements and political campaigns.

Those that join Christian Right groups, such as Concerned Women for America, tend to get much of their information about politics and world events not from network television and daily newspapers but through media produced by the Christian Right – including magazines, radio programs, television evangelists, and direct mail. These sources frequently portray a world awash in sin, with liberals, feminists, peaceniks, homosexuals and other subversives undermining a godly America. The Christian Right is the largest social movement in the United States, and the biggest voting bloc in the Republican Party.

Within the Republican Party, the Christian Right competes with more secular, upstart free market libertarianism and button down business conservatism for dominance. Activists from all three ideologies are appointed to federal and state agencies and join debates over public policy, swamping calls for progressive reforms. This can create confusion for proponents of affirmative action or humane welfare policies who find themselves defending their views against three different sets of negative arguments. A local school board can find its comprehensive sex education curriculum under attack from libertarians who claim it is a waste of tax dollars, conservatives who claim it is an inappropriate diversion from the core curriculum, and Christian Right activists who claim it is immoral.

A network of national and state-level conservative think tanks churn out educational and research materials for their activists and sympathetic politicians and journalists. This explains why campaigns over school vouchers, sentencing guidelines, union dues, and faith-based initiatives seem to sweep across the country in waves. The Right’s intellectual infrastructure began to be built in earnest in the late 1970s and matured in the mid 1980s. Examples of national think tanks include the Heritage Foundation for business conservatives, the Cato Institute for libertarians, and the Free Congress Foundation for the Christian Right. Through the synergy of research, publications, and conferences a variety of ideas are debated, slogans sharpened, and campaigns launched. Conservative foundations and corporations have learned to fund strategically, while most centrist and progressive foundations are reluctant to fund movement-building, for instance the type of infrastructure of the type that has been so successful for the Political Right.

In the 1950s academics popularized the idea that people who joined right-wing (and left wing) social and political movements were a “lunatic fringe” of “extremists” who suffered from some psychological malady. But most scholars now see right-wing activists (and activists in general) as relatively average people, recruited by friends into groups that offer a reasonable-sounding plan to solve political, economic, cultural, or social problems. This is true even for some people who join the many small neonazi groups, and it is certainly true for those active in more mainstream right-wing movements. Their recruitment of average concerned people is the result of a carefully planned campaign to restore the Right to dominance in the Republican Party and the country as a whole.

How did the Political Right gain so much power? After World War II the political Right faced four major hurdles in building a successful movement: it was identified as a club for wealthy elitists; it was fractured by internal feuds; it was seen as a safe harbor for racists; and it tolerated a nest of conspiracy theorists, some of whom were antisemites.

In the mid 1950s, William F. Buckley, Jr. and a group of his Old Right conservative intellectual allies set out to restore the image and power of the Right, using Buckley’s magazine National Review as the vehicle for debate.  Known as “fusionists,” they were determined to roll back the social welfare policies of Roosevelt’s New Deal at home by building a conservative coalition composed of economic libertarianism, social traditionalism, and militant anticommunism. Professor Jerome L. Himmelstein explains that “The core assumption that binds these three elements is the belief that American society on all levels has an organic order––harmonious, beneficent, and self–regulating––disturbed only by misguided ideas and policies, especially those propagated by a liberal elite in the government, the media, and the universities.” The fusionists began speaking out against overt White supremacy and antisemitism, and ostracized the John Birch Society for its paranoid-sounding conspiracy theories.

In the late 1970s a group of conservative strategists who had been active in the failed 1964 Barry Goldwater presidential campaign began to formulate a “family values” agenda that held enormous appeal for traditionalist conservatives of the Republican Party and the burgeoning Christian evangelical population.  The coalition really jelled in 1979, when Robert Billings of the National Christian Action Council invited rising televangelist Jerry Falwell to meet conservative organizers Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips, Richard Viguerie, and Ed McAteer. They wanted to use abortion as a wedge issue to split social conservative traditionalists away from the Democratic Party. Falwell took their idea of a “Moral Majority,” and turned into an organization. This emerging movement became known as the “New Right” and it built a conservative voting base, provided foot soldiers for what became known as the Culture War, and captured the Republican Party.

After the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during Ronald Reagan’s second Administration, militant anticommunists focused on opposing big government, bureaucratic regulations, liberal collectivism, and godless secular humanism here at home. This allowed the fusionist coalition to continue into the new millennium. The electoral political Right still seeks coalition among its different sectors, but tolerates substantial disagreement over specific policy questions. For instance libertarians often support abortion, gay, and immigrant rights and defend civil liberties, in opposition to many business conservatives and Christian Right traditionalists. But libertarians will join with these other right-wing sectors to support tax cuts and harsh punitive sentencing of criminals.

Simultaneously, a new partner in the conservative coalition emerged. Neoconservatives were former liberals–who had supported the Cold War against communism–who then shifted their concern to what they saw as a rising threat of global terrorism. They tend to be strong supporters of aggressive Israeli policies in the Middle East, and suspicious of Islamic militants. They support global U.S. military intervention that is both pre-emptive and unilateral, and have significantly influenced U.S. foreign policy since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Neoconservatives joined with the Christian Right to support “traditional” moral values–which translates to attacks on the feminist, reproductive rights, and GLBT movements. They seek to pack the state and federal court system, including the U.S. Supreme Court, with appointees who share their ultra-conservative viewpoints.

Key to the success of the new conservative coalition of the 1980s and 1990s was the use of populist-sounding rhetoric to mobilize resentment among predominantly White middle class and working class constituencies, especially men. Playing on anger over the erosion of traditional privileges, along with more legitimate fears over economic and social crises, the political Right skillfully demonized target groups and promoted scapegoating stories about waves of criminal immigrants and lazy welfare queens—stories that usually carried a racist subtext. It replaced overt racist rhetoric with what rightist leaders call a “colorblind” political agenda. They claim the legislation prompted by the Civil Rights Movement ended the need for government action against discrimination and racism, and then systematically oppose all government programs aimed at redressing the effects of ongoing institutional racism

Right-wing populist rhetoric masks the fact that changes in the tax code and other economic initiatives pursued by the Right in the 1980s and 1990s overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy, and created vast disparities between the rich and poor. Yet these initiatives were presented as reforms to stop the “tax robbery” of average citizens by government bureaucrats labeled as corrupt and incompetent.

Tax cuts invariably defund those programs of the federal government that seek to help impoverished constituencies, enforce laws against discrimination, and protect the environment. At the same time, federal funds have been shifted to build a huge infrastructure for the military, and various “anti-terrorism” programs of “homeland security” that have seriously eroded civil liberties.

This history helps explain how the political Right rose to its position of power and now dominates policy debates. The ascendance of right-wing political power over government policies may seem less dramatic than the vigilantism of the militias or the murderous terror of Extreme Right race hate groups, but it has resulted in a dramatic erosion of civil rights, civil liberties, and basic human rights for many people in our country. The sectors of the Right may work separately, but together they continue to pull the nation away from the goal of building a truly fair and equitable democratic society.

**Ed. Note: A version of this article first appeared in early 2003 in the NCJW Journal, Winter 2002, pp. 8-11.

Theocracy and White Supremacy: Behind the Culture War to Restore Traditional Values

Co-Authored by Margaret Quigley

The first version of this article appeared in December 1992, and reviewed the role of Dominionism inside the Christian Right. To understand the Tea Party of today, it helps to see where the trend emerged.


As the United States slides toward the twenty-first century, the major mass movements challenging the bipartisan status quo are not found on the left of the political spectrum, but on the right. The resurgent right contains several strands woven together around common themes and goals. There is the electoral activism of the religious fundamentalist movements; the militant anti-government populism of the armed militia movement; and the murderous terrorism of the neonazi underground–from which those suspected of bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City appear to have crept.

It is easy to see the dangers to democracy posed by far right forces such as armed militias, neonazis, and racist skinheads. However, hard right forces such as dogmatic religious movements, regressive populism, and White racial nationalism also are attacking democratic values in our country.

The best known sector of the hard right–dogmatic religious movements–is often called the “Religious Right” It substantially dominates the Republican Party in at least 10 (and perhaps as many as 30) of the 50 states. As part of an aggressive grassroots campaign, these groups have targeted electoral races from school boards to state legislatures to campaigns for the US Senate and House of Representatives. They helped elect dozens of hardline ultraconservatives to the House of Representatives in 1994. This successful social movement politically mobilizes a traditionalist mass base from a growing pious constituency of evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, pentacostal, and orthodox churchgoers.

The goal of many leaders of this ultraconservative religious movement is imposing a narrow theological agenda on secular society. The predominantly Christian leadership envisions a religiously-based authoritarian society; therefore we prefer to describe this movement as the “theocratic right.” A theocrat is someone who supports a form of government where the actions of leaders are seen as sanctioned by God–where the leaders claim they are carrying out God’s will. The central threat to democracy posed by the theocratic right is not that its leaders are religious, or fundamentalist, or right wing–but that they justify their political, legislative, and regulatory agenda as fulfilling God’s plan.

Along with the theocratic right, two other hard right political movements pose a grave threat to democracy: regressive populism, typified by diverse groups ranging from members of the John Birch Society out to members of the patriot and armed militia movements; and White racial nationalism, promoted by Pat Buchanan and his shadow, David Duke of Louisiana.

The theocratic right, regressive populism, and White racial nationalism make up a hard right political sector that is distinct from and sometimes in opposition to mainstream Republicanism and the internationalist wing of corporate conservatism.

Finally, there is the militant, overtly racist far right that includes the open White supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, Christian Patriots, racist skinheads, neonazis, and right-wing revolutionaries. Although numerically smaller, the far right is a serious political factor in some rural areas, and its propaganda promoting violence reaches into major metropolitan centers where it encourages alienated young people to commit hate crimes against people of color, Jews, and gays and lesbians, among other targets. The electoral efforts of Buchanan and Duke serve as a bridge between the ultraconservative hard right and these far right movements. The armed milita movement is a confluence of regressive populism, White racial nationalism, and the racist and antisemitic far right.

All four of these hard right activist movements are antidemocratic in nature, promoting in various combinations and to varying degrees authoritarianism, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, nativism, racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, demagoguery, and scapegoating. Each wing of the antidemocratic right has a slightly different vision of the ideal nation.

The theocratic right’s ideal is an authoritarian society where Christian men interpret God’s will as law. Women are helpmates, and children are the property of their parents. Earth must submit to the dominion of those to whom God has granted power. People are basically sinful, and must be restrained by harsh punitive laws. Social problems are caused by Satanic conspiracies aided and abetted by liberals, homosexuals, feminists, and secular humanists. These forces must be exposed and neutralized.

Newspaper columnist Cal Thomas, a long-standing activist in the theocratic right, recently suggested that churches and synagogues take over the welfare system “because these institutions would also deal with the hearts and souls of men and women.” The churches “could reach root causes of poverty”–a lack of personal responsibility, Thomas wrote, expressing a hardline Calvinist theology. “If government is always there to bail out people who have children out of wedlock, if there is no disincentive (like hunger) for doing for one’s self, then large numbers of people will feel no need to get themselves together and behave responsibly.”

For regressive populism, the ideal is America First ultra patriotism and xenophobia wedded to economic Darwinism, with no regulations restraining entrepreneurial capitalism. The collapsing society calls for a strong man in leadership, perhaps even a benevolent despot who rules by organically expressing the will of the people to stop lawlessness and immorality. Social problems are caused by corrupt and lazy government officials who are bleeding the common people dry in a conspiracy fostered by secret elites, which must be exposed and neutralized.

Linda Thompson, a latter-day Joan of Arc for the patriot movement, represents the most militant wing of regressive populism. She appointed herself “Acting Adjutant General” of the armed militias that have formed cells across the United States. Operating out of the American Justice Federation of Indianapolis, Thompson’s group warns of secret plots by “corrupt leaders” involving “Concentration Camps, Implantable Bio Chips, Mind Control, Laser Weapons,” and “neuro-linguistic programming” on behalf of bankers who “control the economy” and created the illegal income tax.

The racial nationalists’ ideal oscillates between brutish authoritarianism and vulgar fascism in service of White male supremacy. Unilateral militarism abroad and repression at home are utilized to force compliance. Social problems are caused by uncivilized people of color, lower-class foreigners, and dual-loyalist Jews, who must all be exposed and neutralized.

Samuel Francis, the prototypical racial nationalist, writes columns warning against attempts to “wipe out traditional White, American, Christian, and Western Culture,” which he blames on multiculturalism. Francis’s solutions: “Americans who want to conserve their civilization need to get rid of elites who want to wreck it, but they also need to kick out the vagrant savages who have wandered across the border, now claim our country as their own, and impose their cultures upon us. If there are any Americans left in San Jose, they might start taking back their country by taking back their own city….You don’t find statues to Quetzalcoatl in Vermont.”

For the far right, the ideal is White revolution to overthrow the corrupt regime and restore an idealized natural biological order. Social problems are caused by crafty Jews manipulating inferior people of color. They must be exposed and neutralized.

The Truth at Last is a racist far right tabloid that features such headlines as “Jews Demand Black Leaders Ostracize Farrakhan,” “Clinton Continues Massive Appointments of Minorities,” and “Adopting Blacks into White Families Does Not Raise Their IQ,” which concluded that “only the preservation of the White race can save civilization….Racial intermarriage produces a breed of lower-IQ mongrel people.”

There are constant differences and debates within the right, as well as considerable overlap along the edges. The relationships are complex: the Birchers feud with Perot on trade issues, even though their other basic themes are similar, and the theocratic right has much in common with regressive populism, though the demographics of their respective voting blocs appear to be remarkably distinct.

These antidemocratic sectors of the hard right are also distinct from traditional conservatism and political libertarianism, although they share some common roots and branches.

All of these antidemocratic tendencies are trying to build grassroots mass movements to support their agendas which vary in degrees of militancy and zealousness of ideology, yet all of which (consciously or unconsciously) promote varieties of White privilege and Christian dominion. These are activist movements that seek a mass base. Across the full spectrum of the right one hears calls for a new populist revolt.

Many people presume that all populist movements are naturally progressive and want to move society to the left, but history teaches us otherwise. In his book The Populist Persuasion, Michael Kazin explains how populism is a style of organizing. Populism can move to the left or right. It can be tolerant or intolerant. In her book Populism, Margaret Canovan defined two main branches of Populism: agrarian and political.

Agrarian populism worldwide has three categories: movements of commodity farmers, movements of subsistence peasants, and movements of intellectuals who wistfully romanticize the hard-working farmers and peasants. Political populism includes not only populist democracy, championed by progressives from the LaFollettes of Wisconsin to Jesse Jackson, but also politicians’ populism, reactionary populism, and populist dictatorship. The latter three antidemocratic forms of populism characterize the movements of Ross Perot, Pat Robertson, and Pat Buchanan, three straight White Christian men trying to ride the same horse.

Of the hundreds of hard right groups, the most influential is the Christian Coalition led by televangelist and corporate mogul Pat Robertson. Because of Robertson’s smooth style and easy access to power, most mainstream journalists routinely ignore his authoritarianism, bigotry, and paranoid dabbling in conspiracy theories.

Robertson’s gallery of conspirators parallels the roster of the John Birch Society, including the Freemasons, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. In Robertson’s book The New World Order, he trumps the Birchers (their founder called Dwight Eisenhower a communist agent) by alluding to an anti Christian conspiracy that supposedly began in ancient Babylon–a theory that evokes historic anti-Jewish bigotry and resembles the notions of the fascist demagogue Lyndon LaRouche, who is routinely dismissed by the corporate media as a crackpot. Robertson’s homophobia is profound. He is also a religious bigot who has repeatedly said that Hindus and Muslims are not morally qualified to hold government posts. “If anybody understood what Hindus really believe,” says Robertson, “there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies in a country that favors freedom and equality.”

Robertson’s embrace of authoritarian theocracy is equally robust:

“There will never be world peace until God’s house and God’s people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world. How can there be peace when drunkards, drug dealers, communists, atheists, New Age worshipers of Satan, secular humanists, oppressive dictators, greedy money changers, revolutionary assassins, adulterers, and homosexuals are on top?”

Mainstream pundits are uncertain about the magnitude of the threat posed by the theocratic right and the other hard right sectors. Sidney Blumenthal warned recently in The New Yorker that “Republican politics nationally, and particularly in Virginia, have advanced so swiftly toward the right in the past two years that [Oliver] North’s nomination [for the US Senate] was almost inevitable.” But just a few years ago, after George Bush was elected

President, Blumenthal dismissed the idea that the theocratic right was a continuing factor in national politics. “Journalists like Blumenthal are centrists who believe that America always fixes itself by returning to the center. They have the hardest time appreciating the danger the right represents because they see it as just another swing of the political pendulum,” says Jean Hardisty, a political scientist who has monitored the right for more than 20 years:

“As the McCarthy period showed, however, if you let a right-wing movement go long enough without serious challenge, it can become a real threat and cause real damage. Centrists missed the significance of the right-wing drive of the past fourteen years as it headed for success.”

The defeat of George Bush in 1992 did not deter the hard rightists as they increasingly turned toward state and local forums, where small numbers can transform communities. They learned from the humiliating defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964 that to construct a conservative America would take strategic planning that spanned decades.

Now, after decades of organizing, the right has managed to shift the spectrum of political debate, making conservative politics look mainstream when compared with overt bigotry, and numbing the public to the racism and injustice in mainstream politics. When, for example, Vice President Dan Quayle was asked by ABC what he thought of David Duke, Quayle sanitized Duke’s thorough racism and said: “The message of David Duke is…anti-big-government, get out of my pocketbook, cut taxes, put welfare people back to work. That’s a very popular message. The problem is the messenger. David Duke, neonazi, ex-Klansman, basically a bad person.”

The pull of the antidemocratic hard right and its reliance on scapegoating, especially of people of color, is a major factor in the increased support among centrist politicians for draconian crime bills, restrictive immigration laws, and punitive welfare regulations. The Republican Party’s use of the race card, from Richard Nixon’s southern strategy to the Willie Horton ads of George Bush’s 1988 campaign, is made more acceptable by the overt racism of the far right. Racist stereotypes are used opportunistically to reach an angry White constituency of middle- and working-class people who have legitimate grievances caused by the failure of the bipartisan status quo to resolve issues of economic and social justice.

Scapegoating evokes a misdirected response to genuine unresolved grievances. The right has mobilized a mass base by focusing the legitimate anger of parents over inadequate resources for the public schools on the scapegoat of gay and lesbian curriculum, sex education, and AIDS-awareness programs; by focusing confusion over changing sex roles and the unfinished equalization of power between men and women on the scapegoats of the feminist movement and abortion rights; by focusing the desperation of unemployment and underemployment on the scapegoat of affirmative-action programs and other attempts to rectify racial injustice; by focusing resentment about taxes and the economy on the scapegoat of dark-skinned immigrants; by focusing anger over thoughtless and intrusive government policies on environmental activists; and by focusing anxiety about a failing criminal justice system on the scapegoat of early release, probation, and parole programs for prisoners who are disproportionately people of color.

Such scapegoating has been applied intensively in rural areas which see emerging social movements of “new patriots” and “armed militias” who are grafting together the conspiracy theories of the hard right John Birch Society with the ardor and armor of the paramilitary far right.

These hard right and far right forces are beginning to influence state and local politics, especially in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain states, through amorphous patriot and armed militia groups, sovereignty campaigns, and county autonomy movements as well as some portions of the anti-environmentalist “Wise Use” movement. The same regions have seen contests within the Republican Party on the state level between mainstream Republicans and the theocratic right. Some Republican candidates pander to the patriot and militia movements as a source of constituent votes. The political spectrum in some states now ranges from repressive corporate liberalism in the “center” through authoritarian theocracy to nascent fascism.

The Road to Backlash Politics

How did we get here? Despite the many differences, one goal has united the various sectors of the antidemocratic right in a series of amorphous coalitions since the 1960s: to roll back the limited gains achieved in the United States by a variety of social justice movements, including the civil rights, student rights, antiwar, feminist, ecology, gay and lesbian rights, disability rights, and antimilitarist movements.

Hard right nativists formed the core of Joseph McCarthy’s constituency after World War II. After McCarthy’s fall, they retreated until the late 1950s and early 1960s, when a network of anti-communists spread the gospel of the communist and secularist threats through such books as Dr. Fred Schwartz’s 1960 You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists). At the 1964 Republican convention, the growth of hard right forces became apparent. Goldwater’s candidacy represented a reaction to the values of modernity. Unlike traditional conservative politics, which sought to preserve the status quo from the encroachments of the modern world, Goldwater’s politics sought to turn back the political clock. This reactionary stance remains a key component of the US hard right today. In 1961, Goldwater said, “My aim is not to pass laws but to repeal them.” Twenty years later, Paul Weyrich, chief architect of the New Right, said, “I believe in rollback.”

Hard right activists such as Phyllis Schlafly and John Stormer had helped engineer Goldwater’s nomination. Schlafly was a convention delegate in 1964, and went on to found the Eagle Forum, which fought the Equal Rights Amendment. Stormer wrote a book called None Dare Call It Treason. Their aggressive anti-communist militarism worried many conventional voters, and their conspiracy theories of secret collusion between corporate Republican leaders and the communists–Schlafly called them the “secret kingmakers” in her pro-Goldwater book A Choice Not an Echo–brought the hard right and far right out of the woodwork as Goldwater supporters, which cost votes when they began expounding on their byzantine conspiracy theories to the national news media.

Most influential Goldwater supporters were not marginal far right activists, as many liberal academics postulated at the time, but had been Republican Party regulars for years, representing a vocal reactionary wing far to the right of many persons who usually voted Republican. This hard right reactionary wing of the Republican Party had an image problem, which was amply demonstrated by the devastating defeat of Goldwater in the general election. The current right-wing avalanche began when a group of conservative strategists decided to brush off the flakes who had burdened the unsuccessful 1964 Goldwater presidential campaign. They decided it was time to build a “New Right” coalition that differentiated itself from the old, nativist right in two key ways: it embraced the idea of an expansionist government to enforce the hard right’s social policy goals, and it eschewed the old right’s explicitly racist rhetoric. Overt White supremacists and segregationists had to go, as did obvious anti-Jewish bigots. The wild-eyed conspiratorial rhetoric of the John Birch Society was unacceptable, even to William F. Buckley, Jr., whose National Review was the authoritative journal of the right.

While the old right’s image was being modernized, emerging technologies and techniques using computers, direct mail, and television were brought into play to build the New Right. After Goldwater’s defeat, Richard Viguerie painstakingly hand-copied information on Goldwater donors at the Library of Congress and used the results to launch his direct-mail fundraising empire, which led to the formation of the New Right coalition. And to reach the grassroots activists and voters, right-wing strategists openly adopted the successful organizing, research, and training methods that had been pioneered by the labor and civil rights movements.

When Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, his campaign payoff to the emerging New Right included appointing such right-wing activists as Howard Phillips to government posts. Phillips was sent to the Office of Economic Opportunity with a mandate to dismantle social programs allegedly dominated by liberals and radicals. Conservatives and reactionaries joined in a “Defund the Left” campaign. As conservatives in Congress sought to gut social-welfare programs, corporate funders were urged to switch their charitable donations to build a network of conservative think tanks and other institutions to challenge what was seen as the intellectual dominance of Congress and society held by such liberal think tanks as the Brookings Institution.

Since the 1960s, the secular, corporate, and religious branches of the right have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build a solid national right-wing infrastructure that provides training, conducts research, publishes studies, produces educational resources, engages in networking and coalition building, promotes a sense of solidarity and possible victory, shapes issues, provides legal advice, suggests tactics, and tests and defines specific rhetoric and slogans. Today, the vast majority of “experts” featured on television and radio talk shows, and many syndicated print columnists, have been groomed by the right-wing infrastructure, and some of these figures were first recruited and trained while they were still in college.

Refining rhetoric is key for the right because many of its ideas are based on narrow and nasty Biblical interpretations or are of benefit to only the wealthiest sector of society. The theocratic right seeks to breach the wall of separation between church and state by constructing persuasive secular arguments for enacting legislation and enforcing policies that take rights away from individuals perceived as sinful. Matters of money are interpreted to persuade the sinking middle class to cheer when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Toward these ends, questionable statistics, pseudo-scientific studies, and biased reports flood the national debate through the sluice gates of the right-wing think tanks.

Thus, the right has persuaded many voters that condoms don’t work but trickle-down theories do. The success of the right in capturing the national debate over such issues as taxes, government spending, abortion, sexuality, childrearing, welfare, immigration, and crime is due, in part, to its national infrastructure, which refines and tests rhetoric by conducting marketing studies, including those based on financial response to direct-mail letters and televangelist pitches.

Corporate millionaires and zealous right-wing activists, however, can’t deliver votes without a grassroots constituency that responds to the rhetoric. Conveniently, the New Right’s need for foot soldiers arrived just as one branch of Christianity, Protestant evangelicalism, marched onward toward a renewed interest in the political process. Earlier in the century, Protestant evangelicals fought the teaching of evolution and launched a temperance campaign that led to Prohibition. But in the decades preceding the 1950s, most Protestant evangelicals avoided the secular arena. Their return was facilitated by the Reverend Billy Graham, perhaps the best known proponent of the idea that all Protestants should participate in the secular sphere to fight the influence of Godless communism at home and abroad, and others ranging from the international Moral ReArmament movement to local pastors who helped craft theological arguments urging all Christians to become active in politics in the 1950s and 1960s.

A more aggressive form of Protestant evangelicalism emerged in the 1970s, when such right-wing activists as Francis A. Schaeffer, founder of the L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland and author of How Should We Then Live?, challenged Christians to take control of a sinful secular society. Schaeffer (and his son Franky) influenced many of today’s theocratic right activists, including Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and John W. Whitehead, who have gone off in several theological and political directions, but all adhere to the notion that the Scriptures have given dominion over the Earth to Christians, who thus owe it to God to seize the reins of secular society.

The most extreme interpretation of this “dominionism” is a movement called Reconstructionism, led by right-wing Presbyterians who argue that secular law is always secondary to Biblical law. While the Reconstructionists represent only a small minority within Protestant theological circles, they have had tremendous influence on the theocratic right (a situation not unlike the influence of Students for a Democratic Society or the Black Panthers on the New Left in the 1960s). Reconstructionism is a factor behind the increased violence in the anti-abortion movement, the nastiest of attacks on gays and lesbians, and the new wave of battles over alleged secular humanist influence in the public schools. Some militant Reconstructionists even support the death penalty for adulterers, homosexuals, and recalcitrant children.

One key theocratic group, the Coalition on Revival, has helped bring dominionism into the hard right political movement. Militant antiabortion activist Randall Terry writes for their magazine, Crosswinds, and has signed their Manifesto for the Christian Church, which proclaims that America should “function as a Christian nation” and that the “world will not know how to live or which direction to go without the Church’s Biblical influence on its theories, laws, actions, and institutions,” including opposition to such “social moral evils” as “abortion on demand, fornication, homosexuality, sexual entertainment, state usurpation of parental rights and God-given liberties, statist-collectivist theft from citizens through devaluation of their money and redistribution of their wealth, and evolutionism taught as a monopoly viewpoint in the public schools.” Taken as a whole, the manifesto is a call for clerical fascism in defense of wealth and patriarchy.

While dominionism spread, the number of persons identifying themselves as born-again Christians was growing, and by the mid-1970s, rightists were making a concerted effort to link Christian evangelicals to conservative ideology. Sara Diamond, author of Spiritual Warfare, assigns a seminal role to Bill Bright of the Campus Crusade for Christ, but traces the paternity of the New Right to 1979, when Robert Billings of the National Christian Action Council invited rising televangelist Jerry Falwell to a meeting with rightwing strategists Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips, Richard Viguerie, and Ed McAteer. According to Diamond, “Weyrich proposed that if the Republican Party could be persuaded to take a firm stance against abortion, that would split the strong Catholic voting bloc within the Democratic Party.” Weyrich suggested building an organization with a name involving the idea of a “moral majority.”

While Falwell’s Moral Majority began hammering on the issue of abortion, the core founding partners of the New Right were joined in a broad coalition by the growing neoconservative movement of former liberals concerned over what they perceived as a growing communist threat and shrinking moral leadership. Reluctantly, the remnants of the old right hitched a ride on the only electoral wagon moving to the right. The New Right coalition was built around shared support for anti-communist militarism, moral orthodoxy, and economic conservatism, the themes adopted by 1980 presidential candidate Ronald Reagan.

The ardor and activism of the paranoid nativist and Americanist wing of the New Right made many mainstream Republicans nervous. Even Goldwater divorced himself from the more extreme New Right partisans, saying, “These people are not conservatives. They are revolutionaries.”

The Reagan Administration was masterful at buying the loyalty of the paranoid nativist wing of the New Right. While Reagan gave mainstream Republicans a green light for the lucrative trade with such communist countries as the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, he gave the meager markets in Central America, Africa, and Afghanistan to the hard right as a testing ground for their plans to fight communism and terrorism through covert action. While he negotiated with the Soviet Union, he continued to celebrate Captive Nations Day.

Under Reagan, the nativist-Americanist rightists received appointments to executive agencies, where they served as watchdogs against secular humanism and subversion. For example, a Phyllis Schlafly protege in the Department of Education succeeded in blocking for several years all federal funds for the Boston-area Facing History and Ourselves project, which produces a curriculum on the Holocaust, genocide, and racism; the staffer denounced the program as secular humanist psychological manipulation.

The first attempt to build a broad theocratic right movement failed in part because Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, with its Baptist roots and pragmatic fundamentalist Protestant aura, had only a limited constituency; it failed to mobilize either the more ethereal charismatic and Pentecostal wings of Christianity or the more moderate branches of denominational Protestantism. Apart from the abortion issue, its appeal to conservative Catholics was microscopic.

But as early as 1981, Falwell, Weyrich, and Robertson were working together to build a broader and more durable alliance of the theocratic right through such vehicles as the annual Family Forum national conferences, where members of the Reagan Administration could rub shoulders with leaders of dozens of Christian right groups and share ideas with rank-and-file activists. This coalition-building continued through the Reagan years.

Most Christian evangelical voters who had previously voted Democratic did not actually switch to Reagan in 1980, although other sectors of the New Right were certainly influential in mobilizing support for Reagan the candidate, and new Christian evangelical voters supported Republicans in significant numbers. But by 1984, the theocratic right had persuaded many traditionally Democratic but socially conservative Christians that support for prayer in the schools and opposition to abortion, sex education, and pornography could be delivered by the Republicans through the smiling visage of the Great Communicator. Reagan did try to push these issues in Congress, but many mainstream Republicans refused to go along.

Despite its successes, the hard right felt that Reagan lacked a true commitment to their ideology. In 1988, during Reagan’s second term, some key New Right leaders, including Weyrich, Viguerie, and Phillips, began denouncing Reagan as a “useful idiot” and dupe of the KGB, and even a traitor over his arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union.

Under the Bush Administration, this branch of the right wing had less influence. It was this perceived loss of influence within the Republican Party, among other factors, that led to the highly publicized schism in the late 1980s between the two factions of the New Right that came to be called the paleoconservatives and the neoconservatives.

Patrick Buchanan, who says proudly, “We are Old Right and Old Church,” emerged from this fracas as the leader of the paleoconservatives. (The term neoconservatives, once restricted to a small group of intellectuals centered around Commentary magazine, came within this context to refer to all conservatives to the left of the paleoconservatives, despite substantial differences among them. For example, traditional neoconservatives like Midge Decter were concerned with a perceived deterioration of US culture, while the conventional conservatives at the Heritage Foundation were concerned almost exclusively with the economy.)

The paleoconservatives’ America First policy supports isolationism or unilateralism in foreign affairs, coupled with a less reverent attitude toward an unregulated free market and support for an aggressive domestic policy to implement New Right social policies, such as the criminalization of sodomy and abortion.

The paleoconservatives are also more explicitly racialist and anti-democratic than the neoconservatives, who continue to support immigration, civil rights, and limited government.

The strongest glue that bound together the various sectors of the New Right’s pro-Reagan coalition was anti-communist militarism. Jewish neoconservatives were even willing to overlook the long-standing tolerance of racist and antisemitic sentiments among some paleoconservatives. This led to some strange silences, such as the failure to protest the well-documented presence of a network of emigre reactionaries and anti-Jewish bigots in the 1988 Bush campaign. The neocons could not be budged to action even when investigative writer Russ Bellant revealed that one aging Republican organizer proudly displayed photos of himself in his original Waffen SS uniform, and that Laszlo Pasztor, who had built the Republican emigre network, was a convicted Nazi collaborator who had belonged to the Hungarian Arrow Cross, which aided in the liquidation of Hungary’s Jews. (Pasztor is still a key adviser to Paul Weyrich.)

The hard right saw Bush as an Eastern elite intellectual, and even his selection of Dan Quayle as his running mate to pacify the theocratic right was not enough to offset what they perceived as Bush’s betrayal over social issues.

When the scandals of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker rocked televangelism and Pat Robertson failed in his 1988 presidential bid, some predicted the demise of the theocratic right. But they overlooked the huge grassroots constituency that remained connected through a Christian right infrastructure of conferences, publications, radio and television programs, and audiotapes. Robertson lost no time in taking the key contacts from his 1988 presidential campaign and training them as the core of the Christian Coalition, now the most influential grassroots movement controlled by the theocratic right.

Still, the theocratic right kept its ties to the Bush White House through chief of staff John H. Sununu, who worked closely with the Free Congress Foundation and even sent a letter on White House stationery in July 1989 thanking Weyrich for his help and adding, “If you have any observations regarding the priorities and initiatives of the first six months or for the Fall, I would like to hear them.” The Bush White House also staffed an outreach office to maintain liaison with evangelicals.

After the election of Clinton, the New Right alliance eventually collapsed. That became clear during the Gulf War, when Buchanan’s bigotry was suddenly discovered by his former allies in the neoconservative movement. Neoconservatives who championed the anti-Sandinista Nicaraguan contras were offered posts in the Clinton Administration. And Barry Goldwater, toast of the reactionaries in 1964, lambasted the narrow-minded bigotry of the theocratic right, which owes its birth to his failed presidential bid.

The 1992 Republican Party convention represented the ascendancy of hard right forces, primarily the theocratic right. The platform was the most conservative ever, and speakers called repeatedly for a cultural war against secular humanism.

The similarities between Goldwater’s 1964 campaign and the 1992 Republican convention were marked. Phyllis Schlafly was present at both, arguing that liberals were trying to destroy the American way of life. In 1964, Goldwater had targeted the deterioration of the family and moral values; in 1992, the Republicans targeted traditional values.

The genius of the long-term strategy implemented by Weyrich and Robertson was their method of expanding the base. First, they created a broader Protestant Christian right that cut across all evangelical and fundamentalist boundaries and issued a challenge to more moderate Protestants. Second, they created a true Christian right by reaching out to conservative and reactionary Catholics. Third, they created a theocratic right by recruiting and promoting their few reactionary allies in the Jewish and Muslim communities.

This base-broadening effort continued through the mid1990s, with Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition writing in the Heritage Foundation’s Policy Review about the need for the right to move from such controversial topics as abortion and homosexuality toward bread-and-butter issues-a tactical move that did not reflect any change in the basic belief structure. Sex education, abortion, objections to lesbian and gay rights, resistance to pluralism and diversity, demonization of feminism and working mothers continued to be core values of the coalition being built by the theocratic right.

John C. Green is a political scientist and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute at the University of Akron in Ohio. With a small group of colleagues, Green has studied the influence of Christian evangelicals on recent elections, and has found that, contrary to popular opinion, the nasty and divisive rhetoric of Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, and Marilyn Quayle at the 1992 Republican Convention was not as significant a factor in the defeat of Bush as were unemployment and the general state of the economy. On balance, he believes, the Republicans gained more votes than they lost in 1992 by embracing the theocratic right. “Christian evangelicals played a significant role in mobilizing voters and casting votes for the Bush-Quayle ticket,” says Green.

Green and his colleagues, James L. Guth and Kevin Hill, wrote a study entitled Faith and Election: The Christian Right in Congressional Campaigns 1978-1988. They found that the theocratic right was most active–and apparently successful–when three factors converged:

  1. The demand for Christian Right activism by discontented constituencies.
  2. Religious organizations that supplied resources for such activism.
  3. Appropriate choices in the deployment of such resources by movement leaders.

The authors see the Christian Right’s recent emphasis on grassroots organizing as a strategic choice, and conclude that “the conjunction of motivations, resources, and opportunities reveals the political character of the Christian right: much of its activity was a calculated response to real grievances by increasingly self-conscious and empowered traditionalists.”

The Roots of the Culture War

Spanning the breadth of the antidemocratic hard right is the banner of the Culture War. The idea of the Culture War was promoted by strategist Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation. In 1987, Weyrich commissioned a study, Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda, which argued that cultural issues provided antiliberalism with a more unifying concept than economic conservatism. Cultural Conservatism: Theory and Practice followed in 1991.

Earlier, Weyrich had sponsored the 1982 book The Homosexual Agenda and the 1987 Gays, AIDS, and You, which helped spawn successive and successful waves of homophobia. The Free Congress Foundation, founded and funded with money from the Coors Beer family fortune, is the key strategic think tank backing Robertson’s Christian Coalition, which has built an effective grassroots movement to wage the Culture War. For Robertson, the Culture War opposes sinister forces wittingly or unwittingly doing the bidding of Satan. This struggle for the soul of America takes on metaphysical dimensions combining historic elements of the Crusades and the Inquisition. The Christian Coalition could conceivably evolve into a more mainstream conservative political movement, or–especially if the economy deteriorates–it could build a mass base for fascism similar to the clerical fascist movements of mid-century Europe.

For decades anti-communism was the glue that bound together the various tendencies on the right. Ironically, the collapse of communism in Europe allowed the US political right to shift its primary focus from an extreme and hyperbolic anti-communism, militarism, and aggressive foreign policy to domestic issues of culture and national identity. Multiculturalism, political correctness, and traditional values became the focus of this new struggle over culture. An early and influential jeremiad in the Culture War was Allan Bloom’s 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind. But neither the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union, nor the publication of Bloom’s book accounts for the success of this Culture War in capturing the high ground in popular discourse. Instead, it resulted from the victory of hard-right forces within the New Right (which helped lead to its demise as a coalition), and the concomitant embrace by hard right activists of a nativist, theocratic ideology that challenged the very notion of a secular, pluralistic democracy.

At the heart of this Culture War, or kulturkampf, as Patrick Buchanan calls it, is a paranoid conspiratorial view of leftist secular humanism, dating to the turn of the century and dependent upon powerful but rarely stated presumptions of racial nationalism based on Eurocentric White supremacy, Christian theocracy, and subversive liberal treachery.

The nativist right at the turn of the century first popularized the idea that there was a secular humanist conspiracy trying to steer the US from a God-centered society to a socialist, atheistic society. The idea was linked from its beginnings to an extreme fear of communism, conceptualized as a “red menace.” The conspiracy became institutionalized in the American political scene and took on a metaphysical nature, according to analyst Frank Donner:

“The root anti-subversive impulse was fed by the [Communist] Menace. Its power strengthened with the passage of time, by the late twenties its influence had become more pervasive and folkish….A slightly secularized version, widely shared in rural and small-town America, postulated a doomsday conflict between decent upright folk and radicalism–alien, satanic, immorality incarnate.”

This conspiratorial world view continued to animate the hard right. According to contemporary conspiratorial myth, liberal treachery in service of Godless secular humanism has been “dumbing down” schoolchildren with the help of the National Education Association to prepare the country for totalitarian rule under a “One World Government” and “New World Order.” This became the source of an underlying theme of the armed militia movement.

This nativist-Americanist branch of the hard right (or the pseudo-conservative, paranoid right, as Richard Hofstadter termed it in his classic essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”) came to dominate the right wing of the Republican Party, and included Patrick Buchanan, Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, the Rockford Institute, David Noebel’s Summit Ministries, and Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation and Institute for Cultural Conservatism. Of more historical importance are the John Birch Society, the Christian AntiCommunism Crusade, and Billy James Hargis’ Christian Crusade, although the John Birch Society’s membership doubled or tripled since the Gulf War in 1991 to over 40,000 members. Despite some overlap at the edges, reactionary hard right electoral activists should be distinguished from the extra-electoral right-wing survivalists, militia members, and armed White racists on their right, and from the Eastern establishment conservative branch of the right wing represented by George Bush on their left.

Secular humanism has been called the bogey-man of rightwing fundamentalism; it is a term of art, shorthand for all that is evil and opposed to God. While historically there has been an organized humanist movement in the United States since the mid-1800s, secular humanism as a large religious movement exists more in the right’s conspiracy theories than in actual fact. Secular humanism is a nontheistic philosophy with roots in the rationalist philosophies of the Enlightenment that bases its commitment to ethical behavior on the innate goodness of human beings, rather than on the commands of a deity.

The conspiracy that the right wing believes has resulted in secular humanism’s hegemony is both sweeping and specific. It is said to have begun in 1805, when the liberal Unitarians, who believed that evil was largely the result of such environmental factors as poverty and lack of education, wrested control of Harvard University from the conservative Calvinists, who knew that men were evil by nature. The Unitarian drive for free public schools was part of a conscious plan to convert the United States from capitalism to the newly postulated socialism of Robert Owen.

Later, according to the conspiracy theorists, John Dewey, a professor at Columbia University and head of the progressive education movement (seen as “the Lenin of the American socialist revolution”), helped to establish a secular, state run (and thus socialized) educational system in Massachusetts. To facilitate the communist takeover, Dewey promoted the look-say reading method, knowing it would lead to widespread illiteracy. As Samuel Blumenfeld argued in 1984, “[T]he goal was to produce inferior readers with inferior intelligence dependent on a socialist education elite for guidance, wisdom and control. Dewey knew it….”

For the hard right, it is entirely reasonable to claim both that John Dewey conspired to destroy the minds of American schoolchildren and that contemporary liberals carry on the conspiracy. As Rosemary Thompson, a respected pro-family activist, wrote in her 1981 book, Withstanding Humanism’s Challenge to Families (with a foreword by Phyllis Schlafly), “[H]umanism leads to feminism. Perhaps John Dewey will someday be recognized in the annals of history as the `father of women’s lib.'”

To these rightists, all of the evils of modern society can be traced to John Dewey and the secular humanists. A typical author argued:

“Most US citizens are not aware that hard-core pornography, humanistic sex education, the `gay’ rights movement, feminism, the Equal Rights Amendment, sensitivity training in schools and in industry, the promotion of drug abuse, the God-Is Dead movement, free abortion on demand, euthanasia as a national promotion…to mention a few, highly publicized movements…have been sparked by humanism.”

According to the right, by rejecting all notions of absolute authority and values, secular humanists deliberately attack traditional values in religion, the state, and the home.

The link between liberalism and treachery is key to the secular humanist conspiracy. In 1968, a typical book, endorsed by Billy James Hargis of the Christian Crusade, claimed, “The liberal, for reasons of his own, would dissolve the American Republic and crush the American dream so that our nation and our people might become another faceless number in an internationalist state.” Twenty-five years later, Allan Bloom, generally put forth as a moderate conservative, argued that all schoolteachers who inculcated moral relativism in school children “had either no interest in or were actively hostile to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

The Culture War & Theocracy

Most analysts have looked at the Culture War and its foot soldiers in the traditional family values movement as displaying a constellation of discrete and topical beliefs. These include support for traditional, hierarchical sex roles and opposition to feminism, employed mothers, contraception, abortion, divorce, sex education, school-based health clinics, extramarital sex, and gay and lesbian sex, among other issues.

Traditional values also include an antipathy toward secular humanism, communism, liberalism, utopianism, modernism, globalism, multiculturalism, and other systems believed to undermine US nationalism. Beliefs in individualism, hard work, self-sufficiency, thrift, and social mobility form a uniquely American component of the movement. Some traditional values seem derived more immediately from Christianity: opposition to Satanism, witchcraft, the New Age, and the occult (including meditation and Halloween depictions of witches). Less often discussed but no less integral to the movement are a disdain for the values of egalitarianism and democracy (derived from the movement’s anti-modernist orientation), and support for Western European culture, private property, and laissez-faire capitalism.

This orthodox view of the traditional values movement as an aggregate of many discrete values, however, is misleading, for it makes it appear that Judeo-Christian theism is simply one value among many. Rather, Judeo Christian theism, and in particular Christianity, is the core value of the traditional values movement and the basis for the Crusades-like tone of those in the hard right calling for the Culture War.

Traditional values start from a recognition of the absolute, unchanging, hierarchical authority of God (as one commentator noted, “The Ten Commandments are not the Ten Suggestions”) and move from there to a belief in hierarchical arrangements in the home and state.

As Pat Robertson said at the Republican convention, “Since I have come to Houston, I have been asked repeatedly to define traditional values. I say very simply, to me and to most Republicans, traditional values start with faith in Almighty God.” Robertson has also said, “When President Jimmy Carter called for a ‘Conference on Families,’ many of us raised strenuous objections. To us, there was only one family, that ordained by the Bible, with husband, wife, and children.”

In part, the moral absolutism implicit in the Culture War derives from the heavy proportion of fundamentalist Christians in the traditional family values movement. Their belief in the literal existence of Satan leads to an apocalyptic tone: “The bottom line is that if you are not working for Jesus Christ, then you are working for someone else whose name is Satan. It is one or the other. There is no middle of the road.”

The hard right activist, as Richard Hofstadter noted, believes that all battles take place between forces of absolute good and absolute evil, and looks not to compromise but to crush the opposition.

A comment by Pat Robertson was typical:

“What is happening in America is not a debate, it is not a friendly disagreement between enlightened people. It is a vicious one-sided attack on our most cherished institutions.

“Suddenly the confrontation is growing hotter and it just may become all out civil war. It is a war against the family and against conservative and Christian values.”

Paul Weyrich sees the struggle today between those “who worship in churches and those who desecrate them.”

The root desire behind the Culture War is the imposition of a Christian theocracy in the United States. Some theocratic right activists have been quite open about this goal. Tim LaHaye, for example, argued in his book The Battle for the Mind that “we must remove all humanists from public office and replace them with promoral political leaders.”

Similarly, in Pat Robertson’s The New World Order: It Will Change the Way You Live (which argues that the conspiracy against Christians, dating back to Babylon, has included such traditional conspirators as John Dewey, the Illuminati, the Free Masons, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission), the question of who is fit to govern is discussed at length:

When I said during my presidential bid that I would only bring Christians and Jews into the government…the media challenged me, “How dare you maintain that those who believe the Judeo Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?”

“My simple answer is, “Yes, they are.” If anybody understood what Hindus really believe, there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies in a country that favors freedom and equality….There will never be world peace until God’s house and God’s people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world.

“How can there be peace when drunkards, drug dealers, communists, atheists, New Age worshipers of Satan, secular humanists, oppressive dictators, greedy moneychangers, revolutionary assassins, adulterers, and homosexuals are on top?”

The most extreme position in the Culture War is held by Christian Reconstructionists who seek the imposition of Biblical law throughout the United States. Other hard right activists, while less open or draconian, share an implicitly theocratic goal. While it denies any desire to impose a theocracy, the Center for Cultural Conservatism, which defines cultural conservatism as the “necessary, unbreakable, and causal relationship between traditional Western, Judeo-Christian values…and the secular success of Western societies,” breaks with conservative tradition to call upon government to play an active role in upholding the traditional culture which they see as rooted in specific theological values.

The Culture War & White Supremacy

The theory of widespread secular subversion spread by proponents of the Culture War was from the beginning a deeply racialized issue that supported the supremacy of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. To the nativist right, in the 1920s as well as now, the synthesis of traditional values constituted “Americanism,” and opponents of this particular constellation of views represented dangerous, un-American forces.

As John Higham argued in Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925, subversion has always been identified with foreigners and anti-Americanism in the United States, and particularly with Jews and people of color. In the 1920s, subversion was linked to Jews, and the immigration of people of color was opposed in part because they were seen as easy targets for manipulation by Jews.

While antisemitism was never the primary ingredient in anti-radical nativism, the radical Jew was nevertheless a powerful stereotype in the “communist menace” movement. For example, some members of the coercive immigrant “Americanization” movement adopted the startling slogan, “Christianization and Americanization are one and the same thing.”

Virtually any movement to advance racial justice in the US was branded by the reactionary right as a manifestation of the secular humanist conspiracy. The National Education Association’s bibliography of “Negro authors,” foundation support for “Black revolutionaries,” and the enlistment of Gunnar Myrdal as an expert on the “American Negro” were all framed in this way. Similarly, the African American civil rights movement was from its beginning identified by the right wing as part of the secular humanist plot to impose communism on the United States.

In 1966, David Noebel (then of Billy James Hargis’ Christian Crusade, now head of the influential Summit Ministries) argued, “Anyone who will dig into the facts of the Communist involvement in the `civil rights’ strife will come to the conclusion that these forces have no stopping point short of complete destruction of the American way of life.” (In the preface, Noebel thanks Dr. R. P. Oliver, who is now perhaps best known as a director of the Institute for Historical Review, which denies that the Holocaust took place.)

In 1992, the civil rights movement is still seen in this light, as the rightist Catholic magazine Fidelity makes clear:

“It is no coincidence that the civil rights movement in the United States preceded the largest push for sexual liberation this country had seen since its inception….The Negro was the catalyst for the overturning of European values, which is to say, the most effective enculturation of Christianity.

“The civil rights movement was nothing more than the culmination of an attempt to transform the Negro into a paradigm of sexual liberation that had been the pet project of the cultural revolutionaries since the 1920s.”

The identification of sexual licentiousness and “primitive” music with subversion and people of color is an essential part of the secular humanist conspiracy theory, and one that has been remarkably consistent over time. The current attacks on rap music take place within this context.

In 1966, David Noebel argued that the communist conspiracy (“the most cunning, diabolical conspiracy in the annals of human history”) was using rock music, with its savage, tribal, orgiastic beat, to destroy “our youths’ ability to relax, reflect, study and meditate” and to prepare them “for riot, civil disobedience and revolution.” Twenty years later, these views were repeated practically verbatim by Allan Bloom, who wrote that rock music, with its “barbaric appeal to sexual desire,” “ruins the imagination of young people and makes it very difficult for them to have a passionate relationship to the arts and thought that are the substance of liberal education.”

The hard right’s attack on multiculturalism derives its strength from the right’s absolutism, as well as from its White racial nationalism. Samuel Blumenfeld was among the first to attack multiculturalism as a new form of secular humanism’s values relativism, writing in 1986 that multiculturalism legitimized different lifestyles and values systems, thereby legitimizing a moral diversity that “directly contradicts the Biblical concept of moral absolutes on which this nation was founded.”

Patrick Buchanan bases his opposition to multiculturalism on White racial nationalism. In one article, “Immigration Reform or Racial Purity?,” Buchanan himself was quite clear:

“The burning issue here has almost nothing to do with economics, almost everything to do with race and ethnicity. If British subjects, fleeing a depression, were pouring into this country through Canada, there would be few alarms.

“The central objection to the present flood of illegals is they are not English-speaking white people from Western Europe; they are Spanish speaking brown and black people from Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Buchanan explicitly links the issue of non-White immigration with multiculturalism, quoting with approval the xenophobic and racist American Immigration Control Foundation, which said:

“The combined forces of open immigration and multi-culturalism constitute a mortal threat to American civilization. The US is receiving a never-ending mass immigration of non-Western peoples, leading inexorably to white-minority status in the coming decades [while] a race-based cultural-diversity is attacking, with almost effortless success, the legitimacy of our Western culture.”

The Free Congress Foundation’s Center for Cultural Conservatism disavows any racial nationalist intent while bluntly arguing that all non-White cultures are inferior to traditional Western cultures.

Race & Culture

The major split inside the right-wing crusaders for the Culture War is based on whether or not race and culture are inextricably linked. Buchanan and the authors of the Bell Curve argue for biological determinism and White supremacy, while Weyrich and Robertson argue that people of all races can embrace Americanism by adopting northern European, Christian, patriarchal, values–or, in their shorthand: traditional family values.

It’s important to state clearly that neoconservatives, for the most part, share Buchanan’s distaste for multiculturalism. The American Spectator, for example, has argued:

“The preservation of the existing ethnocultural character of the United States is not in itself an illegitimate goal. Shorn of Buchanan’s more unhygenic rhetoric, and with the emphasis on culture rather than ethnicity, it’s a goal many conservatives share. If anything, a concern that the ethnocultural character of the United States is being changed in unwholesome ways is the quality that distinguishes the conservatism of Commentary and the Public Interest from the more economically minded conservatism that pervades the Washington think tanks.”

In part, it is legitimate to argue that the distinction between the old and new conservatives on the issue of race is slim. At the same time, however, the distinction between the approaches the old and new conservatives take on race is the distinction between White racism and White racial nationalism. While systemic racism enforced by a hostile, repressive state is dangerous, the massed power of racial nationalism, as expressed in the activities of the racial nationalist, clerical fascist regimes in Eastern Europe during World War II, is vastly more dangerous.

The embrace of White racial nationalism by the paleo conservatives has been extensive. Chronicles magazine wrote in July 1990:

“What will it be like in the next century when, as Time magazine so cheerfully predicts, white people will be in the minority. Our survival depends on our willingness to look reality in the face. There are limits to elasticity, and these limits are defined in part by our historical connections with the rest of Europe and in part by the rate of immigrations. High rates of nonEuropean immigration, even if the immigrants come with the best of intentions in the world, will swamp us. Not all, I hasten to add, do come with the best intentions.”

In his distaste for democracy, Buchanan has explicitly embraced racial nationalism. In one column, titled “Worship Democracy? A Dissent,” Buchanan argued, “The world hails democracy in principle; in practice, most men believe there are things higher in the order of value-among them, tribe and nation, family and faith.” In April 1990, he made a similar statement: “It is not economics that sends men to the barricades; tribe and race, language and faith, history and culture, are more important than a nation’s GNP.”

Buchanan has also stated:

“The question we Americans need to address, before it is answered for us, is: Does this First World nation wish to become a Third World country? Because that is our destiny if we do not build a sea wall against the waves of immigration rolling over our shores….Who speaks for the Euro-Americans, who founded the USA?…Is it not time to take America back?”

The basic thesis of White racial nationalism is expressed by David Duke, who won 55 percent of the White vote in Louisiana while arguing:

“I think the basic culture of this country is European and Christian and I think that if we lose that, we lose America….I don’t think we should suppress other races, but I think if we lose that White–what’s the word for it–that White dominance in America, with it we lose America.”

It is difficult not to see the fascist undercurrents in these ideas.

The Hard Right’s Disdain for Democracy & Modernity

In the 1920s, at a time, not unlike today, of isolationism, anti-immigrant activism, and White racial nationalism, democracy was seriously challenged. With its anti-elitist, egalitarian assumptions, democracy did not appeal to the reactionary rightists of the 1920s, who insisted that the US was not a democracy but a representative republic. Today, Patrick Buchanan, Paul Weyrich, and the John Birch Society also insist on this distinction, which can more easily accommodate the anti egalitarian notion of governmental leadership by an elite aristocracy. As Hofstadter pointed out, the pseudo conservatives’ conspiratorial view of liberals leads them to impugn the patriotism of their opponents in the twoparty system, a position that undermines the political system itself.

While hard rightists claim to defend traditional US values, they exhibit a deep disdain for democracy. Dismissive references to “participatory democracy, a humanist goal,” are common; Patrick Buchanan titled one article, “Worship Democracy? A Dissent.” Like many hard rightists, Allan Bloom mixes distaste for humanism and democratic values with elitism when he argues:

“Humanism and cultural relativism are a means to avoid testing our own prejudices and asking, for example, whether men are really equal or whether that opinion is merely a democratic prejudice.”

More specific rejections of democracy are common currency on the hard right these days. Paul Weyrich, for example, called for the abolition of constitutional safeguards for people arrested in the drug war. Murray Rothbard called for more vigilante beatings by police of those in their custody. Patrick Buchanan has supported the use of death squads, writing, for example:

“Faced with rising urban terror in 1976, the Argentine military seized power and waged a war of counter-terror. With military and police and free lance operators, between 6,000 and 150,000 leftists disappeared. Brutal, yes; also successful. Today, peace reigns in Argentina; security has been restored.”

Perhaps the most disturbing manifestation of antidemocratic sentiment among the reactionary rightists has been their apparently deliberate embrace of a theory of racial nationalism that imbues much of the protofascist posturings of the European New Right’s Third Position politics. Third Position politics rejects both communism and democratic capitalism in favor of a third position that seems to be rooted historically in a Strasserite interpretation of National Socialism, although it claims to have also gone beyond Nazism.

Third Position politics blends a virulent racial nationalism (manifested in an isolationist, antiimmigrant stance) with a purported support for environmentalism, trade unionism, and the dignity of labor. Buchanan has endorsed the idea of antidemocratic racial nationalism in a number of very specific ways, arguing for instance, “Multi-ethnic states, of which we are one, are an endangered species” because “most men believe there are things higher in the order of value [than democracy]-among them, tribe and nation.” In support of this view, Buchanan even cites Tomislav Sunic, an academic who has allied himself with European Third Position politics.

Over the past several years, Third Position views have gained currency on the hard right. The Rockford Institute’s magazine Chronicles recently praised Jorg Haider’s racial nationalist Austrian Freedom Party, as well as the fascist Italian Lombardy League. In a sympathetic commentator’s description, the Third Position politics of Chronicles emerge with a distinctly volkish air:

“Chronicles is somewhat critical of free markets and spreading democracy. It looks back to agrarian society, small towns, religious values. It sees modern times as too secular, too democratic. There’s a distrust of cities and of cultural pluralism, which they find partly responsible for social decay in American life.”

Similarly, Paul Weyrich’s Center for Cultural Conservatism has praised corporatism as a social model and voiced a new concern for environmentalism and the dignity of labor.

In the wake of the schism within the right wing, the formation of coalitions is just beginning. Whether the US is indeed endangered because it is multicultural may depend on whether mainstream conservatives embrace a paranoid, conspiratorial world view that wants a White supremacist theocracy modeled on the volatile mix of racial nationalism and corporatism that escorted fascism to Europe in the mid-century.

Defending Democracy & Diversity

If the left of the current political spectrum is liberal corporatism and the right is neofascism, then the center is likely to be conservative authoritarianism. The value of the Culture War as the new principle of unity on the right is that, like anti-communism, it actively involves a grassroots constituency that perceives itself as fighting to defend home and family against a sinister threatening force.

Most Democratic Party strategists misunderstand the political power of the various antidemocratic right-wing social movements, and some go so far as to cheer the theocratic right’s disruptive assault on the Republican Party. Democrats and their liberal allies rely on short sighted campaign rhetoric that promotes a centrist analysis demonizing the “Radical Right” as “extremists” without addressing the legitimate anger, fear, and alienation of people who have been mobilized by the right because they see no other options for change.

That there is no organized left to offer an alternative vision to regimented soulless liberal corporatism is one of the tragic ironies of our time. The largest social movements with at least some core allegiance to a progressive agenda remain the environmental and feminist movements, with other pockets of resistance among persons uniting to fight racism, homophobia, and other social ills.

Organized labor, once the mass base for many progressive movements, continues to dwindle in significance as a national force. It was unable to block the North American Free Trade Agreement, and it has been unwilling to muster a respectable campaign to support nationalized health care. None of these progressive forces, even when combined, amount to a fraction of the size of the forces being mobilized on the right.

“It’s a struggle between virtual democracy and virulent demagoguery,” says author Holly Sklar, whose books on Trilateralism document the triumphant elitist corporate ideology implemented in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Trilateralist belt-tightening policies have caused material hardships and created angry backlash constituencies.

The right has directed these constituencies at convenient scapegoats rather than fostering a progressive systemic or economic analysis. Ironically, among the right-wing’s scapegoats is a conspiratorial caricature of the Trilateralists as a secret elite rather than the dominant wing of corporate capitalism that currently occupies the center and defends the status quo.

Suzanne Pharr, an organizer from Arkansas who moved to Oregon to help fight the homophobic initiative Measure Nine, is especially concerned that even in states where the theocratic right has lost battles over school curricula or homophobic initiatives, it leaves behind durable right-wing coalitions poised to launch another round of attacks. Pharr says:

“Progressives need to develop long-term strategies that move beyond short-term electoral victories. We have to develop an analysis that builds bridges to diverse communities and unites us all when the antidemocratic right attacks one of us.”

Obviously, individuals involved with the antidemocratic right have absolute constitutional rights to seek redress of their grievances through the political process and to speak their minds without government interference, so long as no laws are violated. At the same time, progressives must oppose attempts by any group to pass laws that take rights away from individuals on the basis of prejudice, myth, irrational belief, inaccurate information, and outright falsehood.

Unless progressives unite to fight the rightward drift, we will be stuck with a choice between the nonparticipatory system crafted by the corporate elites who dominate the Republican and Democratic parties and the stampeding social movements of the right, motivated by cynical leaders willing to blame the real problems in our society on such scapegoats as welfare mothers, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and people of color.

The only way to stop the antidemocratic right is to contest every inch of terrain. Politics is not a pendulum that automatically swings back and forth, left and right. The “center” is determined by various vectors of forces in an endless multidimensional tug of war involving ropes leading out in many directions. Whether or not our country moves toward democracy, equality, social justice, and freedom depends on how many hands grab those ropes and pull together.


This article is taken from the book Eyes Right!: Challenging the Right-Wing Backlash.

Chip Berlet is a former senior analyst at Political Research Associates.

Margaret Quigley was an analyst at PRA from 1987 until her untimely death in 1993. She and Berlet had been working on this manuscript, which Berlet completed. Portions of this chapter previously appeared in the December 1992 issue of The Public Eye and the October 1994 issue of The Progressive.


Chip Berlet wishes to acknowledge the input of pro-democracy researchers and activists who met at the Blue Mountain Conference Center in upstate New York (including Suzanne Pharr, Loretta Ross, Russ Bellant, Skipp Porteous, Frederick Clarkson, Robert Bray, Tarso Ramos, Scot Nakagawa, Marghe Covino, and others); discussions at Lumiere Productions (with Frances Fitzgerald, Leo Ribuffo, John C. Green, and George Marsden); and the staff of Political Research Associates (especially with Jean Hardisty), as well as private conversations with Sara Diamond, Holly Sklar, and Matthew N. Lyons.

Fascism Wrapped in the American Flag

Co-authored by Joel Bellman

A Political Research Associates Briefing Paper
In Three Parts

Part One

Outside the Boston federal courthouse a photographer discretely snaps pictures of certain persons entering the building. In the echoing halls, private security guards whisper into tiny two-way radios. Those entering the second-floor courtroom pass through the gleaming arch of an electronic metal detector. When the main defendant leaves the courtroom, husky bodyguards surround him as he is hustled to a car waiting in the basement parking garage.

The scene is from the 1987 trial of perennial Presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. That trial, involving charges of credit card fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice, was declared a mistrial due to numerous delays, but a later criminal indictment in Virginia saw LaRouche and several of his key followers convicted on charges involving illegally soliciting unsecured loans and tax code violations.

Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. is frequently dismissed as a crank or political extremist with no further explanation of his views or the phenomenon he represents. In a democracy based on informed consent, to not understand the nature of the LaRouche phenomenon is a dangerously naive rejection of the lessons of history–because Lyndon LaRouche represents the most recent incarnation of the unique twentieth-century phenomenon known as totalitarian fascism. LaRouche is hardly the first proponent of these views, and he is unlikely to be the last. Therefore there is a deadly serious reason to study the rise and fall of Lyndon LaRouche, the man who brought us fascism wrapped in an American flag.

Who is Lyndon LaRouche?

LaRouche spent his formative years in the small industrial city of Lynn, Massachusetts as a Quaker, and the past fifteen years forging a fascist movement out of cadre originally drawn from idealistic Marxist college students. His name became more familiar to Americans in April of 1986 when two Illinois followers of LaRouche scored primary victories–garnering the official Democratic Party ballot slots for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State. In repudiating the LaRouche candidates, the Democratic Party’s candidate for Illinois governor, Adlai Stevenson, removed himself from the official ticket saying he could not in good conscience run on the same ticket with “neo-Nazis.”

With increased media coverage of the LaRouche network’s legal difficulties and clearly unusual political theories, most Americans probably 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 phenomenon which appears more sinister than comical when the details are sketched in with information emerging from court records, a careful reading of LaRouche’s theoretical writings, and interviews with dozens of former members, most of whom prefer not to be quoted by name.

They have been called crooks, con artists, a cult, obsessed with conspiracy theories, a private intelligence army, anti-Semitic. Some critics have called LaRouche America’s leading neo-fascist. A handful insist he is a neo-Nazi.They call themselves visionaries, 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.

Even his sharpest critics generally agree that Lyndon LaRouche himself is highly intelligent and well-read, with an astounding ability to garnish his conversation with historical references drawn from memory. And there is no doubt that LaRouche has built a multi-million dollar financial empire from a small publishing company and a software consulting firm programming Wang mainframe computers for the garment and trucking industries. The LaRouche network now runs publishing and information services linked worldwide by computerized electronic telecommunications systems. Estimates of the recent yearly gross income from the dozens of related front groups ranges from 10 to 30 million dollars, although several years of legal problems have apparently reduced that figure substantially.

Under different circumstance LaRouche might have ended up a mental derelict drifting the streets–a deranged ancient mariner pressing tracts crammed with conspiracies into the palms of startled passersby.

How did LaRouche take a handful of sincere Marxist student intellectuals and turn them into an international intelligence and publishing operation? How did a former pacifist Quaker end up sending his followers into the streets to beat up opponents? How did LaRouche become the guru of a group churning out conspiracy theories detailing a sinister plan by prominent Jews, Russian communists, and New Age Aquarians to manacle western culture with a new Dark Age? How can LaRouche claim to trace this conspiracy from Henry Kissinger and Walter Mondale back through history to the days of the Babylonian Empire? Why do the followers of someone so obviously deranged attract tens of thousands of votes in American election races? And why do most mainstream media outlets refuse to use terms such as “anti-Semite” and “small-time Hitler” when court actions have resulted in those terms being found not defamatory but “fair comment?”

Unraveling the Gordian Knot that is LaRouche is not difficult when you realize the multi-faceted nature of LaRouche and his organization. LaRouche is the Elmer Gantry of American politics; mixing equal parts of cynical con and fanatic fervor. The terms to describe LaRouche can be gleaned from the pages of any political science textbook. LaRouche’s political ideology is authoritarian. His view of history is paranoid. His economic theories are similar to Italian Fascism. His conspiratorial views are laced with racial and cultural bigotry and a large dose of anti-Jewish hysteria. His zealous stormtroopers are motivated by an internal organizational structure that is to politics what the blitzkrieg was to international diplomacy–that distinctive twentieth century phenomenon…the totalitarian movement. History teaches us that to ignore or dismiss such a person as an ineffectual crank can have devastating consequences.

The Long Road to Federal Court

As LaRouche’s self image and paranoia grew so too did his appetite for expensive intelligence-gathering and high-tech security devices. His quest for Presidential power made him bold. The funds needed to maintain LaRouche’s gargantuan self-image as the world’s premiere political economist and spymaster apparently forced his followers to use questionable methods of obtaining cash.

The resulting over-zealous fundraising efforts are what caught the attention of a Boston federal grand jury some four years ago. In the fading days of his 1984 Presidential bid, when the cash-starved LaRouche organization was buying expensive commercial air-time, hundreds of persons found unauthorized credit card charges totaling tens of thousands of dollars paid to one of the many front groups operated by the LaRouche network. LaRouche says it all was a mistake. The grand jury thought otherwise, indicted several of his top lieutenants, and cited three of his related organizations. Law enforcement agents raided his Virginia corporate offices searching for documents to verify the allegations.

In the course of the probe, LaRouche loyalists are alleged to have destroyed evidence and sent key witnesses out of the country. When the grand jury indicted LaRouche on a charge of conspiring to obstruct justice, he blithely told the press the CIA had suggested that documents be shredded and witnesses made scarce.

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, who has written of her experiences, she and other “LaRouchies” staffing LaRouche-controlled companies often did not receive paychecks; the money instead was 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. Other former members report they were under intense pressure to meet daily financial quotas.

Former LaRouche loyalists, who often call themselves “defectors,” 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, manipulation of guilt feelings, attacks on their sexuality and fear are used to control LaRouche loyalists, say former members. The sum of the LaRouche organizational techniques equals the formula for the cult-like totalitarian movement defined by political scientist Hanna Arendt.

From Socialist to Totalitarian Fascist

After serving as a non-combatant in World War II, LaRouche flirted with the Communist Party, USA and then drifted into the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) where he spent much of the 1960’s. After leaving the SWP, LaRouche became the political guru of the Labor Caucus of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) until SDS voted to expel them in 1969. LaRouche (using the name Lyn Marcus) then created the National Caucus of Labor Committees, which in 1972 had some 1,000 members nationwide.

But in 1973 NCLC underwent a drastic upheaval. LaRouche suddenly vowed to either destroy or establish his “political hegemony” over the American left. He began talking of the need for rapid industrialization to build the working class. He talked of a historic tactical alliance between revolutionaries, the working class and the forces of industrial capital against the forces of finance capital. He began developing an authoritarian world view with a glorification of historic mission, metaphysical commitment and physical confrontation. He told reporters that only he was capable of bringing revolution and socialism to the United States, and his speeches began to take on the tone and style of a demagogue.

In many ways LaRouche was adopting the same ideas and styles which took National Socialism, and turned it into part of the European fascist movement, and eventually played a key role in Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany. In fact, LaRouche was denounced as a neo-Nazi by U.S. Communists following a series of 1973 physical attacks on leftists. To be precise, NCLC members were likened to Hitler’s violent Brownshirts.

What happened to cause this dramatic shift? Some say it was a dramatic incident in LaRouche’s personal life. In 1972 LaRouche’s common-law wife, Carol Schnitzer, left him for a young member of the London NCLC chapter named Christopher White, whom she eventually married. For LaRouche, it was a crushing blow. His first wife Janice had similarly walked out on him a decade earlier, taking with her the couple’s young son.

This personal event apparently triggered LaRouche’s political metamorphosis. LaRouche went into seclusion in Europe, and defectors tell of his suffering a possible nervous breakdown. In the spring of 1973, he returned. His previous conspiratorial inclinations had now grown into a bizarre tapestry weaving together classical conspiracy theories of the 19th century and post-Marxian economics. He began articulating a `psycho-sexual’ theory of political organizing.

Sexism and homophobia became central themes of

the organization’s theories. A September 1973 editorial in the NCLC ideological journal Campaignercharged that “Concretely, all across the U.S.A., there are workers who are prepared to fight. They are held back, most immediately, by pressure from their wives. . . .” The problem with making the revolution, LaRouche apparently had concluded, was that women are castrating bitches. One former member left in disgust when she was told women’s feelings of degradation in modern society could be traced to the physical placement of female sexual organs near the anus which caused women to confuse sex with excretion.

In an August 16, 1973 internal memo, “The Politics of Male Impotence,” LaRouche told his followers:

“The principle source of impotence, both male and female, is the mother. . . .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. . . . I am going to make you organizers–by taking your bedrooms away from you until you make the step to being effective organizers. What I shall do is to expose to you the cruel fact of your sexual impotence, male and female. . . .I shall destroy your sense of safety in the place to which you ordinarily imagine you can flee. I shall not pull you back from fleeing, but rather destroy the place to which you would attempt to flee.”

In a cruel sense, LaRouche was true to his twisted words, those members who challenge the increasingly macabre political and social theories expounded by their leader were confronted by loyalists as politically and sexually inadequate traitors to the cause.

LaRouche also developed a fevered, comprehensive paranoid fantasy about the importance of his role in history–and a militant, new-found resolve to act upon it, wiping out all opposition to his leadership of the U.S. revolutionary movement. The result was Operation Mop-Up. Lyndon LaRouche took his sexual identity crisis into the streets.

Operation Mop-up raged from May to September of 1973. LaRouche’s followers in NCLC were ordered to brutally assault rivals from the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). NCLC thugs used bats, chains, and martial arts weapons in a campaign to establish “hegemony” over the American revolutionary movement. There were many injuries and some persons required hospitalization.

“Our hearts were not in it,” a former NCLC member says about his participation in Operation Mop-Up. “But with LaRouche it was all or nothing; the attacks were supposed to harden the membership.” Forcing student intellectuals into violent confrontations was an exercise in self-degradation which cemented their loyalty to NCLC, ex-members say, Their working-class Marxism gave way to an unquestioning, cult-like devotion to LaRouche. “Most of us now find the whole thing was crazy,” says a seven-year NCLC veteran who left the group in the mid-1970’s. Operation Mop-Up, however, was just the beginning.

LaRouche spent the summer and early fall of 1973 obsessed with his broken marriage, brooding over the humiliating betrayal, according to ex-members. Late in December, a revelation came; Christopher White, having already stolen his wife, had in addition been programmed by the KGB, with the aid of the MI5 division of British intelligence, to assassinate LaRouche himself–in retaliation for Mop-Up’s assaults on pro-Soviet Communist groups! Further, the CIA–jealous of LaRouche’s success in uncovering a previous NCLC victim of KGB brainwashing–had resolved either to kidnap LaRouche to extract his secret, or kill him itself to prevent his falling into Soviet hands.

Only LaRouche possessed the intelligence and perception to uncover and foil this fiendish plot, and not surprisingly, he alone held the keys for the cure–in White’s case, days of isolation and intense pressure from a battery of LaRouche inquisitors. White finally caved in and confessed to his alleged “psychosexual brainwashing” by the KGB/CIA/MI5 conspirators. Based on tape-recordings offered by NCLC members as “proof,” the New York Times later carried a harrowing account of this so-called “deprogramming” session. LaRouche’s revenge was complete; White–who had taken his wife–had been reduced to a repentant, sobbing psychological wreck.

LaRouche lost no time in applying his cure. Any sign of restiveness or dissent on the part of NCLC members now became evidence of “brainwashing” by the KGB, the CIA, or both.

One young woman, attempting to quit what was rapidly becoming a totalitarian cult, was held prisoner in a New York apartment by six fellow members in an effort to “deprogram” her. She somehow managed to fold a plea for help into a paper airplane, sailing it out the window–where it was found by a passerby who called the police. Among the NCLC members arrested were Edward Spannaus, a national spokesman for LaRouche who faced trial in the failed Boston prosecution; and Khushro Ghandhi, co-sponsor of Proposition 64, a LaRouche-sponsored California AIDS initiative defeated several years ago after an intensive public awareness campaign in which the initiative was widely denounced as a witch hunt against the homosexual community. Other defendants in the Boston case were part of the NCLC deprogramming drive, according to former members.

On January 3, 1974, the day the six “deprogrammers” were arraigned, LaRouche gave a long, rambling and altogether extraordinary speech–later reprinted in his own New Solidarity> –laying out his theory of how sinister forces had secretly kidnapped and brainwashed his followers. According to LaRouche, the methods used by the KGB and British Intelligence to brainwash the membership of NCLC caused fear of impotence and homosexuality to immobilize each member and thus destroy their capability to organize effectively. LaRouche’s pronouncements can easily be dismissed as a deranged conspiracy theory–but the words reveal his emotional and intellectual state at the time of the speech.

While perhaps offensive to some readers, only direct quotes can fully convey the incredible nature and content of LaRouche’s demented discourse:

“How do you brainwash somebody? Well, first of all, you generally pull a psychological profile or develop one in a preliminary period. You find every vulnerability of that person from a psychoanalytic standpoint. Now the next thing you do is you build them up for fear in males and females of homosexuality, aim them for an anal identification with anal sex, their mouth is identified with fellatio. Their mouth is identified only with the penis–that kind of sex, and with woman. Womanhood is the fellatio of the male mouth in a man who has been brainwashed by the KGB; that is sucking penises. . . .”

“First they say your father was nothing, your father was a queer, your father was a woman. They play very strongly on homosexual fears. It doesn’t work on women. . . .Most women are to a large degree homosexual in this society. The relationship between daughter and mother is homosexual, so the thing is not much of a threat.”

“But to young men it is generally a grave threat. . fears about masturbation. . . .They say, `See that sheep. Wouldn’t you like to do that to a sheep?'”

“It’s not the pain that brainwashes, it’s forcing the victim to run away from the pain by taking the bait of degrading himself. This persistent pattern of self-degradation, self-humiliation, is what essentially accomplishes the brainwashing.”

“Any of you who say this is a hoax–you’re cruds! You’re subhuman! You’re not serious. The human race is at stake. Either we win or there is no humanity. That’s the way she’s cut.”

LaRouche was speaking of the brainwashing plot he believed was being initiated against his followers. In fact, according to former members, LaRouche and his closest aides used this belief to justify a an internal campaign which was a”chain of psychological terror” as two members called it in their resignation letter. They charged the LaRouche-mandated sessions to cure their alleged “psychosis” were in fact an attempt to crush the will of “all individuals who have expressed political and intellectual opposition to the tendencies” surfacing inside the LaRouche organization. “What really happened,” says a dismayed former member, “is that LaRouche had gone bonkers and was systematically brainwashing us to accept his total control over the organization.”

Linda Ray says hundreds of persons left the LaRouche organization during this period. For Ray and others who remained, however, LaRouche’s increasingly bizarre and bigoted theories were accepted without question to avoid being subjected to “de-programming” sessions.

A Tactical Alliance with the Reactionary Right

In 1974 LaRouche first began to seek contact with extremist and anti-Semitic right-wing groups and individuals in an effort to forge a tactical alliance in opposing imperialism and ruling class banking interests in general–and the Rockefellers in particular. LaRouche’s obsession with conspiracy theories blossomed. Dovetailing with today’s American radical Right and neo-fascist neo-populist ideologies, his theories of a Rockefeller-directed global conspiracy of banking interests found a receptive audience.

Yet the core followers of LaRouche still thought of themselves as Leftists forging a temporary and cynical tactical alliance with `progressive’ industrialists to help rebuild a strong economy. With a healthy economy leading to full employment for the working class, the LaRouche followers figured they could then lead the reconstituted working class to revolution. Defectors report that during this period they were required to study Marxist and Leninist tracts and participate in paramilitary training classes led by fellow members.

Having founded the U.S. Labor Party as the NCLC’s electoral arm in 1973, LaRouche mounted his first presidential campaign under the USLP banner in 1976. His platform of “Impeach Rocky to prevent imminent nuclear war” garnered only 40,000 votes, but it afforded LaRouche more organizing opportunities on the far Right. Despite its declared Marxist stance, the NCLC stepped up efforts, with mixed success, to penetrate or co-opt such groups as the American Conservative Union, the John Birch Society, the Young Americans for Freedom, and the KKK.

Drawing upon his new contacts on the far Right (reportedly relying in part on Pennsylvania KKK leader Roy Frankhauser) LaRouche arranged with former CIA officer Mitchell WerBell III to provide the NCLC security force with armed self-defense training at WerBell’s paramilitary camp in Powder Springs, Georgia. Now deceased, WerBell introduced LaRouche into wider right-wing circles including a shadowy netherworld of spys, mercenaries, and intelligence operatives.

It was during this period that NCLC began to collect and disseminate intelligence on progressive groups. LaRouche publications frequently report their security staffers offer intelligence to domestic and foreign government agencies. While documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that U.S. government agencies frequently dismissed the material provided by the NCLC, it was provided nonetheless. Legal actions against some police agencies have discovered NCLC material in active files on terrorism and subversion.

As LaRouche’s fear of persecution and assassination intensified he moved further and further into right-wing circles. His ideological theories were constantly being repackaged to appeal to his new-found friends. One shift in LaRouche’s perception of who controlled the worldwide conspiracy came at the time of Nelson Rockefeller’s death; an event which left a major hole in LaRouche’s theoretical bulwark.

Ever alert to exploit shifting sentiment and historical opportunities, the U.S. Labor Party began to de-emphasise Rockefeller as the archenemy of civilization, replacing him with a worldwide conspiracy under the control of the “British Oligarchy” and their stooge. . .the Queen of England. A careful reading of USLP published material reveals, however, that a remarkable number of the British and other co-conspirators were Jews. It is this fact that prompted several major Jewish groups to denounce LaRouche’s theories as anti-Semitic.

This turn toward a Jewish conspiracy theory of history came shortly after the quasi-Nazi Liberty Lobby began praising a 1976 USLP pamphlet titled Carter and the International Party of Terrorism. The pamphlet outlined the “Rockefeller-CIA-Carter axis,” which was supposedly trying to “deindustrialize” the U.S. and provoke a war with the Soviet Union by 1978. (At this point LaRouche had not yet discarded his support for the Soviet Union, nor announced his support for “Star Wars” defense against his perceived threat of imminent Soviet attack.) In an overall favorable review of the USLP treatise on the Rockefeller-controlled global conspiracy, Liberty Lobby’s newspaper, Spotlight complained that the report failed to mention any of the “major Zionist groups such as the notorious Anti-Defamation League” in its extensive list of government agencies, research groups, organizations and individuals controlled by the “Rockefeller-Carter-CIA” terrorism apparatus.

LaRouche, never one to miss a cue, soon was running articles in his newspaper New Solidarity with themes that betrayed increasingly bigoted view of Jews and Jewish institutions. By the end of 1976, LaRouche had completed his drift to the extremist-right of the political spectrum where his bigoted conspiracy theories linking international bankers, influential Jewish families, furtive KGB agents, and secret societies found fertile ground.

Soon LaRouche was expounding a view linking certain Jewish institutions and Zionist movements to a plot to destroy Western civilization and usher in a “New Dark Age.” Linda Ray thinks that more recent LaRouche converts are not even aware of the group’s real history, nor of the cult-like inner circle which controls the secret financial operations.

Opportunistic or not, LaRouche’s erratic lurch to the right brought gains to the NCLC in membership and financial strength. Yet his right-wing theories and affiliations are still opaque to many observers who dismiss LaRouche on the basis of his cranky conspiratorial world view and general lunacy.

Part Two

The Paranoid Style

LaRouche’s parlaying of personal and political conspiracy theories into a multi-million dollar financial empire is unique, but paranoid political movements occur cyclically in American history. In his widely-quoted essay “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-immigrant movement which led to the Palmer Raids in 1919, the Red Scare of the 1950’s and other societal convulsions, are examples, wrote Hofstadter.

Such movements rise and fall periodically, according to Hofstadter, appealing to people fearful about the world political and economic situation, and longing for simple solutions to complex problems. The use of scapegoats is common among these movements. The findings of two academics who studied a LaRouche campaign contributor list (available from the Federal Election Commission) lend support to the thesis that LaRouche appeals to a paranoid constituency. In a 1986 press release, “Who Controls Us: A Profile of Lyndon LaRouche’s Campaign Contributors,” John C. Green and James L. Guth of Furman University identify LaRouche as “a new celebrity on the extreme right.”

“An analysis of his campaign contributors suggests that LaRouche should be taken seriously, not as a candidate, but as evidence of the failure–and success–American politics,” wrote the professors.

According to the results of the study, among LaRouche’s contributors are a significant proportion of Northern neo-populist conservatives, “profoundly uncomfortable with modern America and susceptible to conspiratorial explanations of their distress. One seemed to speak for the others when he listed his major concern as `who really controls us?’ To many of these alienated people, LaRouche’s outlandish views offer a plausible answer to this question.”

According to the study:

“Though LaRouche campaigns as a Democrat, most of his donors are independents, with the largest group `leaning’ Republican. but ordinary people as well, believing that no one can be trusted `most of the time.’ Very few say they are optimistic about their future or that of the country. They are equally disillusioned with politics, 40% report having become discouraged and ceased participating at some point. These attitudes extend to current political groups as well. Three-quarters feel `far’ from mainstream conservative organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. Roughly equal numbers feel `close’ and `far’ from more reactionary groups like the John Birch Society. Uniform dislike, however, is reserved for liberal advocates of change; the ACLU, Common Cause and Ralph Nader.

“LaRouche is most criticized for his political intolerance, a trait exhibited by his contributors. To measure tolerance, we asked all donors to name a group they regarded as `dangerous’ and then asked if they would allow a member of that group to run for president, speak in a public place or teach in public school. Only a quarter of the LaRouchians would allow a member of their `dangerous’ group to engage in all three activities and another quarter would allow none.

“LaRouche would probably approve of their choice of `dangerous’ groups: more than half of the mentions figure prominently in `conspiracy’ theories of politics, such as communists, drug dealers, Jews, bankers, intellectuals and the mass media. Some `conspiracies’ are explicitly named: the `zionist-socialist movement,’ the `international drug ring,’ `cartel control of money’ and the `post-industrial counter-culture.’ But other donors identify mainstream organizations and leaders as `dangerous,’ including the `unilateral disarmament advocates,’ `eco-freaks,’ `Hayden and Fonda,’ `socialist Democrats’ and `big labor bosses.’

“These kinds of attitudes occur among other conservative activists, but rarely to this extent. And the LaRouchians differ from other conservatives in demographic terms as well. LaRouche’s donors seem to be the remnant of the `small town America’ of a generation ago. Nearly three-quarters were born in the Midwest or Northeast and more than half still live there, outside the major cities. Most spent their adult life in one or two states; the only major move they have ever made was to retire to the Sunbelt. Two-thirds are 55 or older, male, of WASP or German extraction, and products of [nuclear two-parent] families. They are not, however, particularly religious; most belong to mainline Protestant denominations and few are active church members. “

The authors concluded, “it is alienated people who make fringe candidates possible. LaRouche should be taken seriously as a symptom of distress in a small part of the body politic. His limited appeal is a sign of the basic health of America politics.”

One historian, author George Seldes, thinks LaRouche has followed another seldom traveled but clearly recognizable historic path–the road from Socialism through National Socialism to Fascism. Seldes has authored some ten books concerning authoritarianism and thinks LaRouche’s theories and style represent classic “Mussolini-style fascist” ideology. Seldes’ analysis carries weight especially since he wrote a biography of Mussolini in 1935 titled Sawdust Caesar.

Secret Agent LaRouche

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 the view. When Henry Kissinger was told of how LaRouche operatives met with high Reagan Administration officials in the early 1980’s, he 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.” These ties form the basis of the LaRouche “CIA defense” against the charges he conspired to obstruct justice. LaRouche claims he believed his security aide Roy Frankhauser, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and government law enforcement informant, was a covert conduit to the CIA.

John Rees, an ultra-conservative 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 possesses 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 consciously began distancing itself from contacts with the LaRouche network following the New Republicand NBC stories.

Russ Bellant, a long-time LaRouche watcher from Detroit, notes that in the mid-1970’s LaRouche simultaneously turned to the right and tried to link up with more respectable groups, including, for a brief period, several state Republican Party organizations. “Some tactical political alliances with various right-wing groups were made on the basis of LaRouche’s scurrilous disruption campaigns against mutual enemies, especially liberal Democrats,” says Bellant. In fact, LaRouche has consistently targeted the American left, and done so with material and moral support from small but significant elements in law enforcement, the Republican Party and the American far right. There is also evidence to suggest that the LaRouche organization maintained a cozy relationship with certain elements in U.S. and foreign intelligence, military and police agencies.

Bellant and other LaRouche-watchers feel the LaRouche network and its questionable finances and intelligence activities may have been overlooked by certain individuals in intelligence and law enforcement agencies. “These persons were focusing more on the information being churned up by LaRouche’s intelligence-gathering apparatus,” says Bellant.

LaRouche-related financial operations have run afoul of the law before, but by adopting an aggressive 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 Coalition has dragged on for over six years.

The 1986 Illinois primary victory by two LaRouche followers, however, raised the ante. “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,” says Bellant. There are probably a variety of reasons why the ties between LaRouche and various government agencies and personalities were severed in the mid-1980’s. Highly-publicized incidents such as the airport battle between LaRouchies and Henry Kissinger and his wife helped doom the LaRouche network’s relationship with the Reagan Administration–their profile just became too visible for a continued relationship.

Principled conservatives challenged the Reagan Administration to justify its flirtation with an anti-Semitic group. Intelligence specialists questioned the wisdom of sharing thoughts with a group which historically worked both sides of the political fence separating allies from adversaries. Even Oliver North got into the act when his fundraisers and security specialists found LaRouche emissaries were getting underfoot.

LaRouche security expert Jeff Steinberg, who used to meet with National Security Council staffers at the Old Executive Office Building in the White House compound, spent much of 1988 in a Boston courtroom facing criminal charges. However it appears the criminal investigation which led to the current legal problems faced by LaRouche and his followers began before the controversy over his ties to the Reagan Administration had reached key decision-makers in government agencies. While there is some evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and civil liberties violations in the course of some of the federal investigations and prosecutions, the claim by LaRouche spokespersons that the indictments are part of a government conspiracy to silence LaRouche appear to be without foundation.

Political Puzzle?

Russ Bellant’s articles on LaRouche have appeared in liberal Michigan weeklies and progressive publications, while John Rees tills the right side of the journalistic garden. But both agree LaRouche’s ideology is now neither Marxist nor conservative. Rees, who for years has written for conservative, anti-communist, and New-Right publications (including several magazines published by the John Birch Society), thinks it is unfair ever to 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.” Rees concedes that LaRouche’s politics are distorted and strange, saying “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 claims 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 cooperation with elements of the Aryan Nations Network,” adds Bellant who says the LaRouche network is a “neo-Nazi type of cult.”

Racism and Anti-Jewish Rhetoric

LaRouche has many connections to the racist political right in this country. Richard Lobenthal, Midwest Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, observes that LaRouche security advisor Roy Frankhauser “has been identified as present with other white supremacists at meetings held at the farm of Pastor Bob Miles in Michigan.” Leaders of the notoriously racist and anti-Semitic Aryan Nations have attended the same meetings. “Frankhauser’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.

LaRouche not only works in coalitions with bigots, he has also propounded ideas which are widely perceived to represent outright racism.

LaRouche, for instance, offended the Hispanic community in a November, 1973 essay (published in both English and Spanish) titled “The Male Impotence of the Puerto-Rican Socialist Party.” An internal memo by LaRouche asked “Can we imagine anything more viciously sadistic than the Black Ghetto mother?” He described the majority of the Chinese people as “approximating the lower animal species” by manifesting a “paranoid personality. . . .a parallel general form of fundamental distinction from actual human personalities.”

LaRouche’s use of hysterical Jewish conspiracy theories for ulterior political motives has lead him to be branded an anti-Semite by several major Jewish groups.

One ADL spokesperson, Irwin Suall, was once sued for defamation by LaRouche for calling him a “small time Hitler.” The jury ruled against LaRouche. According to LaRouche, only a million and a half Jews perished in the concentration camps, and they died primarily from overwork, disease, and starvation. This denial of the Holocaust is coupled with pronouncements saying there is nothing left of Jewish culture except what couldn’t be sold to Gentiles, or claiming British Jews brought Hitler into power.

While many of the ringleaders of the global conspiracy, according to the LaRouche philosophy, are Jewish, members of the LaRouche group rebut charges of anti-Semitism by pointing out that a number of them–including Janice Hart, former Democratic nominee for the Illinois Secretary of State–are Jewish. The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, which has successfully beat back several costly LaRouche lawsuits, rejects this explanation and insists the group is a paranoid, anti-Semitic political cult.

For his part, LaRouche claims to be merely anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Jewish groups and political scientists acknowledge the important distinction, but LaRouche rhetoric–such as leaflets distributed in California bearing the offensive headline “Smash the Kosher Nostra!” and naming a number of Jewish figures as part of a global conspiracy, leaves little doubt.

Since 1976, the NCLC’s ties to anti-Semitic, ultra-right groups and individuals have been well documented. LaRouche associates have cultivated ties to Willis Carto, a notorious racist and anti-Semite who helped found Liberty Lobby and the pseudo-scholarly Institute for Historical Review. This latter group publishes “historical revisionist” literature deriding the Nazi Holocaust as a Jewish hoax.

Former staffers at both the Liberty Lobby and LaRouche’s NCLC claim the two groups cooperated closely on several projects. In the March 2, 1981 issue of its newspaper Spotlight, Liberty Lobby cynically defended the relationship this way: “It is mystifying why so many anti-communists and `conservatives’ oppose the USLP [U.S. Labor Party –the NCLC’s original electoral arm]. No group has done so much to confuse, disorient, and disunify the Left as they have. . .the USLP should be encouraged, as should all similar breakaway groups from the Left, for this is the only way that the Left can be weakened and broken.”

Linda Ray, the outspoken former member of the LaRouche group, recently published a first-person account of her experiences in the Chicago-based national weekly In These Times. She recalls that after leaving the group, someone showed her a LaRouche organization pamphlet she had once sold on the street. “In it the Jewish symbol, the Star of David, was used as a centerpiece to point to six different aspects of the illegal drug trade. In this context, the Star of David was a symbol of evil.” She was shocked when she realized she had not recognized this while still working with LaRouche.

“Many people find it difficult to understand how Jews–such as I–could have worked for an anti-Semitic group. Perhaps the answer is that the members get so hypnotized by the simplistic `good guys and bad guys’ approach to history that they do not hear what LaRouche is really saying.”

Ray recalls how LaRouche claimed the British were a different “subhuman species” and how hisCampaigner magazine concocted the charge that the British created the Nazi movement.”Since the blasts were overtly directed against the British, Jewish members often did not recognize the subliminal anti-Semitism of the attacks. LaRouche, like the Ku Klux Klan, Hitler and Goebbels, was attacking the Rothschilds and other British-Jewish banking interests. In the wake of these anti-Semitic writings, many of us were confused. But we continued to defend LaRouche by lamely saying, `We’re not anti-Semitic. So many of our members are Jews. We always say in our publications that we are against the Nazis.’

“I remember reading in detail about the `subhuman species’ concept. Although I knew it did not make scientific sense, I presumed that it was a deep intellectual metaphor that was over my head.” When Ray left the group and finally came to grips with her role as a Jew working in an anti-Semitic organization, she says “It was as if I was waking from a nightmare.”

LaRouche’s relationship with Blacks–including his own Black NCLC members–is similarly confusing and complex. While LaRouche’s writings are replete with racialist assertions extolling white Northern European values at the expense of other ethnic values, he has in some cases succeeded in forging alliances with rightist or opportunist black politicians and civil rights leaders, such as Roy Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Hulan Jack, a former Borough president and powerhouse in the New York

Democratic Party. Articles from LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review have appeared in publications of Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. At the same time they are recruiting Blacks, LaRouche publications praise the wisdom of the Botha government in South Africa, and attack those who protest the system of apartheid.

LaRouchian rhetoric can often offend numerous constituencies simultaneously. The July 7, 1986 issue of the Illinois Tribunal, an insert tucked into LaRouche’s New Solidarity (now New Federalist) newspaper, covered the Ku Klux Klan counter rally against Chicago’s annual Gay Pride parade by charging: “The idea behind the KKK outburst was–amid heavy media coverage of a mere two dozen Klan demonstrators–to make citizens think anyone who wants to take serious measures against AIDS is a cross-burner and a Nazi. . . .In fact, the Klan does not exist–except as a special dirty-tricks operation of the FBI and the B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation League. ”

The article went on to say the founders of B’nai B’rith were “about as Jewish as Josef Goebbels.”When Illinois Congressman Sidney Yates faced LaRouche-backed challenger Sheila Jones, LaRouche supporters distributed leaflets titled “So, What’s A Nice Jewish Boy Doing Supporting Sodomy?” Former Chicago mayor Jane Byrne was targeted in one mayoral race with a LaRouche candidate’s campaign slogan of “Byrne the Witch.”

In attacking political enemies, LaRouche propaganda often utilizes racist, anti-Jewish, sexist or homophobic stereotypes.

Defining the Terms

The LaRouche cult fits the description of a totalitarian movement as outlined by Hanna Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is correctly defined by its all-encompassing style, structure and methods, not by its stated or apparent ideological premises or goals. Arendt wrote that not all fascist groups were necessarily totalitarian and not all totalitarian groups were necessarily fascist.

Is LaRouche a fascist? The goal of fascism is always raw power, and it will adopt or abandon any principle to obtain power. The chameleon-like nature of fascist theories is one of its hallmarks, and often leads to confusion as to whether it is on the political left or right as it opportunistically gobbles up popular slogans from existing movements.

Journalist James Ridgeway notes there are real contradictions in LaRouche’s politics: “While it maintains contacts with far-right groups, LaRouche’s organization is ideologically at cross-purposes with many which are nativist and anarchist. LaRouche is an internationalist and a totalitarian: he believes the masses are `bestial’ and unfit for citizenship.”

Freelance journalist Nick Gallo takes us a step further. In The Seattle Weekly he acknowledges that much of what LaRouche espouses “appears kooky, if only because his ideas certainly defy conventional political analysis. . . .However go beyond the individual positions on different issues and beneath the surface lurk echoes of sinister themes that have been prevalent in the 20th century: preservation of Western Civilization, purity of culture and youth, elimination of Jewish and homosexual influence, suspicion of international banking conspiracies.”

The opportunistic exploitation of anxiety-producing issues by LaRouchies is no surprise to Clara Fraser who knew LaRouche when he was in the Socialist Workers Party. Writing in the Freedom Socialist newspaper, she explains, “The pundits are intrigued and puzzled by his amalgam of right and left politics, a tangled web of KKK, Freudian, encounter therapy, Populist, Ayn Rand-like, and Marxist notions. They needn’t be. His is the prototypical face of fascism, which is classically a hodgepodge of pseudo-theories crafted for mass appeal. . . .”

Themes generally associated with fascism frequently recur in LaRouche’s writings. In the aggregate, LaRouche seems to like the idea of society with an authoritarian governing body, exercising social, political, economic, and cultural control, using force when necessary to maintain order and attain desired goals. Traditional democracy is contemptuously dismissed by LaRouche, who describes himself as a “traditional Democrat,” as the “rule of irrationalist episodic majorities.”

When LaRouche touts his followers as “neo-Platonic” theorists, most people aren’t aware that in The Republic, Plato outlined his view of a political system in which only a handful of enlightened “Golden Souls” would be allowed to participate in societal decision-making. While this was certainly a step forward from imperial dictatorship and rule by fiat, it is hardly a step forward for a participatory democracy. LaRouche, incidentally, has said his followers are “Golden Souls.”

Combining fascism and totalitarianism makes for a potent mixture, but even a totalitarian fascist is not necessarily a Nazi–for that you must include a “Master Race” theory and roots in an ostensibly socialist agenda for empowering the working class. . movement and German Nazi movement. In German the word itself–NAZI–was an acronym for the National German Workers Socialist Party. Most socialists now are painfully aware of that error. LaRouche apparently repeated the error.

But can an organization which has Jews and Blacks as members be called Nazi? The LaRouche network’s printed materials are full of ethnocentric, racist, and anti-Jewish rhetoric, but that doesn’t necessarily make it Nazi. Where is LaRouche’s theory of a master race? In fact, LaRouche himself has repeatedly enunciated just such a theory, but in his typically convoluted way. In the mind of Lyndon LaRouche, personal or political opponents are not even human, Jerry Brown and Tom Hayden are “creatures;” the rest of us are merely “beasts” or “sheep.”

According to Dennis King, it is LaRouche’s belief that his enemies are subhuman and his followers superhuman which makes “LaRouche more than a political fascist, but a neo-Nazi.” King, whose book on LaRouche is slated for publication in 1989, adds that “people afraid of that characterization should sit down and read his ideological writings. LaRouche talks about the existence of two parasitic species descended from Babylonian culture, the British-Jewish and Russian-Orthodox species, then there are the subhuman masses, then humanity represented by LaRouche and his followers, the Golden Souls, and then a new superhuman race which will evolve from the Golden Souls. It really is pure Nazism,” says King.

And if that makes no rational sense; and if some of his followers are Jews and Blacks? “So what?” retorts King “LaRouche is a totalitarian, he can define anyone he wants to as being a member of the human race, and anyone he wants to as being a member of an inferior race, and he can change the definitions from week to week–who is going to argue with him?”

Part 3

How Serious a Threat?

A surprisingly broad range of LaRouche’s critics think his political movement should be taken very seriously.

Richard 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 extremist who would ascend to political office and then subvert that office for their own purposes,” he says.

In California a LaRouche-backed referendum, Proposition 64, establishing restrictive public health policies regarding Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) demonstrates how the small LaRouche group there had a devastating effect when it found a fearful audience for its simplistic scapegoating theories.

Mark L. Madsen, a public health specialist for the California Medical Association says the LaRouche initiative, Proposition 64, was based on “absolute hysteria and calculated deception,” but even though the initiative was soundly defeated “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 initiative “created an immeasurable medical problem far beyond AIDS victims,” says Madsen. In California the number of regular blood donors went down 30%, and one health expert blames this directly on fear by blood donors of repercussions from possibly being identified as carrying the AIDS virus. “This fear, whipped up substantially by the hysterical LaRouche theories about AIDS, led to critical shortages of blood in the state of California,” says Madsen.

Leonard Zeskind of the Atlanta-based Center for Democratic Renewal helped build a coalition of Christian, Jewish, farm advocacy and civil rights groups to confront the spread of hate-mongering theories in the wake of the devastation of the rural economy throughout the 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 are still there. For those farmers who may have bought into these bigoted snake-oil theories, the effect has been harmful,” says Zeskind. ” 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,” says Zeskind.

Prexy Nesbitt, a consultant to the American Committee on Africa who has led 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 the 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,” charges 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 scientists 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.”

Many conservative and New Right groups have also taken stands against LaRouche’s brand of bigotry and opportunism. One staffer at the Heritage Foundation, a New Right think-tank based in Washington, D.C., called LaRouche an “intellectual Nazi” and a Heritage Foundation report warned of LaRouche’s danger to national security as a reckless purveyor of private intelligence.

New Right military specialist, retired General Daniel O. Graham, says LaRouche followers have significantly hampered his work. Graham, Director of Project High Frontier which supports and helped develop President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative plan for anti-missile 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 adds 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.” He adds: “Look, these people are purely interested in power. LaRouche doesn’t care about these issues one bit, it’s 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 opportunism and 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 LaRouche may appeal to frustrated, apathetic voters nevertheless.”

Bruce B. Decker, a lifelong Republican who has served on the staff of President Gerald Ford and on an AIDS 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 joined the California `Stop LaRouche’ coalition which beat back the LaRouche-sponsored Proposition 64, widely perceived as a homophobic and anti-civil liberties response to the AIDS crisis:”We 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. Isn’t that a lesson we’ve learned from history? That we all have an obligation to stand up together and forcefully oppose the victimization and scapegoating spread by these types of demagogues?”

After the Illinois primary Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) blasted his own party for 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 ignorant about such a movement,” said Moynihan. Ironically, when the New York Times covered Moynihan’s speech, they essentially censored him by repeatedly substituting the softer term “fascist” wherever Moynihan had said “nazi.”

Edward Kayatt, publisher of Our Town a weekly community newspaper on New York City’s upper East Side, is angered by that type of self-censorship and by the cowardice of most mainstream media on this point.

Kayatt has published dozens of articles on LaRouche, describing him as a neo-Fascist, neo-Nazi, anti-Semite and racist, including a lengthy series by Dennis King. Following the Illinois primary victory, Kayatt penned an editorial which blasted his colleagues in the press for covering up LaRouche’s political ideology.

Kayatt noted that “newspapers are of course afraid of libel suits (even though the New York State Supreme Court has ruled it is `fair comment’ to call LaRouche an anti-Semite). But how can the media justify censorship of a U.S. Senator who is sounding the alarm against neo-Nazism? The beast must be named, but within the media world only NBC-TV has shown the courage to do so.”

Both Kayatt and Chicago journalist Michael Miner lay some blame for the Illinois LaRouche victory at the feet of those media which chose not to publicize the LaRouchies. Kayatt and Miner note LaRouche’s use of litigation to silence critics. Miner wonders if some of the the “media’s disdain [for LaRouche] was not partly a reluctance to borrow trouble.” Kayatt agrees. “In the late 1920s, when Adolf Hitler began his march to power, one of the tactics was to entangle all his opponents in libel suits,” wrote Kayatt.

It is admittedly hard to cover LaRouche, especially since the media in this country tend to ignore historical connections and are reluctant to analyze ideological positions or treat a fringe political group seriously. Political coverage in the U.S. is frequently based on personalities and style rather than political content. Furthermore, when LaRouche is challenged by a reporter, he simply denies everything, or says it was taken out of context, and then claims his enemies are plotting against him–it is difficult for a mainstream reporter to report what LaRouche really says without appearing biased and vindictive or making LaRouche sound totally crazy.

But Kayatt isn’t satisfied with excuses. He reflects the sentiment of many who are concerned about media coverage of LaRouche when he says, “LaRouche will not march to power in America, but he can have a serious destabilizing effect on our institutions and can create a beachhead for organized anti-Semitism. To drive him back into political isolation, America’s publishers and editors must show some of their traditional courage and backbone.”

LaRouche’s legal troubles haven’t stopped his followers. They actively organized for the New Hampshire Presidential primary, and purchased several half-hour time slots on network television for campaign programming. For the most part, LaRouche fundraisers continue to use the same boiler-room phone-bank techniques they have used for years. Following the criminal indictments, LaRouche loyalists called people from whom they had previously secured loans and told them to blame the government for non-repayment of the original. They then asked for donations to fight the ongoing legal battles which they claim are part of a plot to destroy LaRouche.

The criminal indictments have slowed down LaRouche organizing and fundraising campaigns, but they have by no means solved the problem. No matter what the outcome in the legal arena, LaRouche and his followers can still do a lot of damage by further spreading 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 phenomenon indicates that we need to educate Americans about the theories and tactics of demagogues.”

If we intend to defend democracy we had best learn to recognize its enemies, and not be afraid to stand up and call them by name.