American political activist Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. (born 1922) has maintained one of the most intriguing careers in the history of U.S. electoral politics. After attaining notoriety in the early 1970s as the Marxist-inspired founder of the U.S. Labor Party, LaRouche made an abrupt shift to the ideology of the right later that decade.
Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche, Jr., was born on September 8, 1922, in Rochester, New Hampshire, the first of three children. His father was a Canadian émigré from Quebec province who was employed by the United Shoe Machinery Corporation after the family settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. LaRouche's parents were converts to the pacifist-oriented Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers, and LaRouche requested and received conscientious objector status during World War II. He attended Northeastern University in Boston for a time in the early 1940s and later served with the U.S. Army in India and Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the final years of the war.
In the late 1940s, LaRouche reenrolled at Northeastern University but again dropped out, this time to work at River Works, a Lynn, Massachusetts, company that built some of the first jet engines for the U.S. Air Force. Although he claimed to have been recruited into the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) while working at the plant, an approximate two-decade span in his life was obscured by his use of aliases and his claims of cloak-and-dagger domestic-surveillance activities. He later asserted that agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) pressured him to report back to them on other party members and SWP activities. “I would not inform, but I said I would look at this thing, as a good citizen,” he told New York Times reporter Robin Toner in 1986.
From the mid-1950s to the early 1980s, LaRouche lived in New York City, where he worked in such high-skilled jobs as computer programming and management consulting and founded typesetting and printing businesses. His first marriage, to a woman whom he met through his SWP activities, ended in 1963, a few years after he left the party. For a while, he was involved with a part splinter group, Revolutionary Tendency, and taught courses in Marxist dialectical materialism at the loosely organized, low-cost, and independent Free University of New York.
In the late 1960s, LaRouche established the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC), a network of left-leaning college campus groups whose original intent was ending U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. Those committees became the basis for the leftist U.S. Labor Party, which he set up in 1973, when he also used the pseudonym Lyn Marcus. That alias, as well as LaRouche's full name and New Hampshire origins, were detailed in a front-page article in the New York Times on January 20, 1974. Under the headline “How a Radical-Left Group Moved toward Savagery,” reporter Paul L. Montgomery described a curious incident involving “well-dressed militants of a Marxist group” who were identified as NCLC members and LaRouche acolytes. They had been arrested a few weeks earlier, Montgomery wrote, “and charged with unlawfully imprisoning [Alice] Weitzman, a member who had been recently expressing skepticism about the organization's views.”
In 1976, LaRouche entered the U.S. presidential race as a candidate of the U.S. Labor Party. A year later, the party abruptly shifted its ideological platform to the far right, which LaRouche subsequently explained in lengthy articles published in Executive Intelligence Review, a magazine he had founded in 1974. In 1978, the New Benjamin Franklin House Publishing Company, one of several ventures affiliated with his growing empire, issued Dope, Inc.: Britain's Opium War against the U.S., a book co-authored by a purported investigatory-journalism arm of the U.S. Labor Party. Its chapters attempted to infer links between global banking and the international trade in narcotics trafficking. In what became one of the oft-repeated claims associated with LaRouche's followers, Dope, Inc. claimed that members of the British royal family had links to this source of wealth via 150-year-old merchant banking concerns based in Hong Kong, still a British Commonwealth territory in the late 1970s. On the book's first page, LaRouche included a dedication “to the often-unsung U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officers who have so often, so obscurely, died or languished in undeserved imprisonment in the silent war of the United States against the British monarchy's illegal drug traffic into our nation.”
LaRouche's voluminous archives of essays for Executive Intelligence Review and other publications regularly lambasted former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the International Monetary Fund, defense contractors and arms merchants, and major philanthropic organizations such as the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, all which he accused of being part of a well-coordinated effort to deceive the public and influence regimes at home and abroad. The LaRouche organization's ongoing criticism of the so-called “Zionist lobby” in U.S. politics prompted mainstream media sources to describe the founder and his supporters as odiously right-wing anti-Semites. At the height of cold war tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, LaRouche contended that his group was actually a fierce opponent of Communist ideology at home and abroad.
In the 1980s, LaRouche amplified his efforts through the National Democratic Policy Committee (NDPC), a political action committee that managed to place candidates in the Illinois primary race for both lieutenant governor and secretary of state. This prompted turmoil in that state's mainstream party political organizations. He was also affiliated with a 1986 California ballot measure pertaining to persons who had tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); the roundly rejected state law would have forced public-health officials to set up mandatory quarantine protocols in San Francisco and other cities.
Meanwhile, federal authorities had been tracking LaRouche and his seemingly above-ground publishing enterprises, as well as the NDPC, for several years. His supporters hawked Executive Intelligence Review subscriptions at airports, collecting business cards from traveling executives and establishing sophisticated telephone-solicitation networks to ask for donations. In October of 1986, his offices in Leesburg, Virginia, were raided by law-enforcement authorities and grand-jury indictments were handed down for charges of credit-card fraud and obstruction of justice. In December of 1988, LaRouche was found guilty in federal court on charges of mail fraud and tax evasion. He served five years of a 15-year sentence at a Rochester, Minnesota, facility. Still a quadrennial White House contender, he managed to win 26,000 votes in the 1992 U.S. presidential election despite his incarcerated status.
In the 1992 campaign, LaRouche's vice-presidential running mate was James Bevel, a longtime figure in the U.S. civil rights movement. Widely known for his work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Bevel would not live to see himself portrayed by the rapper Common in the Academy Award-nominated 2014 film Selma. In the early 1990s, Bevel worked with LaRouche's Schiller Institute to expose a purported child-prostitution ring operating out of Nebraska. He would later be accused of criminal sexual conduct and convicted on an incest charge unrelated to the Nebraska case, which involved allegations of ritual satanic abuse and top-ranking Republican Party officials.
LaRouche announced his candidacy in the 2000 presidential election in October of 1999, predicting that the global financial system was teetering on the brink of collapse. Not surprisingly, Executive Intelligence Review and other publications associated with LaRouche maintained that the attacks of September 11, 2001, by Islamic fundamentalist jihadists were an attempt by Britain and other putative allies of the United States to destabilize the American political landscape. In the first years of the U.S.-Iraq War, he was among those who claimed that intelligence sources had fabricated evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. That claim was echoed by critics on the left and later taken up by Democratic Party figures, but LaRouche and his supporters reliably scorned all mainstream candidates, including two-term president Barack Obama.
Since the early 1980s, LaRouche has lived on a palatial, heavily guarded estate in upscale Loudoun County, Virginia. He and his German-born wife, Helga Zepp, cofounded the Schiller Institute, a think-tank in the former West Germany, shortly before the end of the cold war. Both the Schiller Institute and LaRouche's publications comment with predictable force on all major news stories, claiming a vast global conspiracy that props up mainstream democracies to enable predatory financial practices. One of the few political figures to escape the scrutiny of the LaRouche machine has been Russian President Vladimir Putin. Popular entertainment and mainstream media, LaRouche and his ideologues maintain, are mere propagandistic tools of a leftist elite whose companies promote spurious messages of peace and tolerance.
Dope, Inc.: Britain's Opium War against the U.S., New Benjamin Franklin House Publishing Company, 1978.
New York Times, January 20, 1974, Paul L. Montgomery, “How a Radical-Left Group Moved toward Savagery”; April 4, 1986, Robin Toner, “LaRouche Savors Fame That May Ruin Him.”
Hamiltonian, https://larouchepac.com/ (March 30, 2017), “President Trump Revives LaRouche's ‘American System of Political Economy.’”
Vice, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/78mnny/unwrapping-the-conspiracy-theory-that-drives-the-alt-right (February 23 2017), Scott Oliver, “Unwrapping the ‘Cultural Marxism’ Nonsense the Alt-Right Loves.”□