Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 14, 2017

This is what American fascism looks like: the Lyndon LaRouche story (part two)

Filed under: Fascism,LaRouche — louisproyect @ 5:59 pm

Lyndon LaRouche carries out the fascist turn

(part onepart three, part four, part five)

Roy Frankhouser, KKK leader who LaRouche bonded with in 1975

When I was a young activist in the 1960s and 70s, there was no “anti-fa” movement in the USA. For that matter, there was not much in the way of an anarchist movement and the one that existed identified much more with the Kropotkin-type philosophy of Paul Goodman rather than trying to smash fascist gatherings on campus or elsewhere.

In a curious role reversal, it was mostly the left that had to fend off assaults from the ultraright. On May 22, 1970 the Jewish Defense League, a fascist-Zionist group led by Rabbi Meier Kahane, stormed into the offices of two pro-Palestinian groups in New York and beat staff members with wooden clubs, leaving three victims hospitalized.

We also had to watch out for Cuban exiles who were trying to intimidate anybody involved with Cuban solidarity. The month after the JDL attack, gusanos set fire to the SWP headquarters in Los Angeles as the LA Free Press reported:

A Citizen’s Committee has been formed in Los Angeles in response to the arson attack on the Socialist Workers Party Headquarters. Named the Citizens’ Committee for the Right of Free Expression, the organization is asking for a full-scale investigation into the fire-bombing and the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the attack.

The Committee was formed in response to a series of terrorist attacks in the Los Angeles area. The most recent attack occurred May 27 at the campaign headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). On that day, at approximately 12;40 P.M., a band of heavily armed men entered the building. Four campaign workers, Peter Seidman, Sally Whicker, Carole Seidman and Tiby Alvin, were in the office at the time. Armed with M-1 semi-automatics and submachine guns, the terrorists forced those present into one room and made them lie face down on the floor. According to Carole Seidman, the invaders continually shouted, “You will die for Fidel!” and “We are going to kill you commies.”

While the victims were being held at gunpoint, other members of the invasion force began smashing kitchen utensils, pulling down bookshelves and overturning desks. They then poured gasoline all over the floors and walls and ignited the office.

As the terrorists fled the scene, Peter Seidman began trying to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher. When Seidman realized this was futile, the magnitude of the flames being too great, the occupants fled down the fire escape.

When I arrived in Houston in 1974 on assignment with the SWP, our bookstore had already been badly damaged by a KKK pipe bomb. In addition, the Klan had blown up the Pacifica radio station transmitter twice and fired a machine gun through the kitchen window of our comrade Fred Brode who was a leader of the antiwar movement in Houston. Fred had fled Nazi Germany to escape persecution as a revolutionary socialist just before Hitler took power. As a young man he had fought the Nazis on the streets of Berlin during the Weimar Republic.

(Parenthetically, I should mention that the JDL, the gusanos and KKK would be beaten back by the sort of broad-based civil liberties campaign the SWP organized and not by street-fighting. Our philosophy was to avoid being perceived as taking the law into our own hands, something that would cut across our efforts to gain public support. This meant insisting that the police arrest the lawbreakers, a tactic that was frowned upon in ultraleft circles.)

In addition to the ultraright, we always had to deal with violent attempts by sections of the left to break up meetings or protests. In 1970, the PLP wing of SDS was trying to destroy the Vietnam antiwar movement through physical attacks on rallies and meetings. Reporting for the SWP’s newspaper, Tony Thomas referred to one of the incidents:

On May 24, a national steering committee meeting of the SMC held in Boston was attacked by over 50 PLP and SDS members led by SDS National Secretary John Pennington. John McCann, an SWP member who was coordinator of the fight that led to the successful Massachusetts 1970 antiwar referendum, was savagely beaten at this meeting.

John, who is deceased, lost the sight in one eye as a result of this attack.

Like PLP/SDS, another group that emerged out of SDS seemed to be on the same warpath. As I indicated in my first post on LaRouche, he formed the National Caucus of Labor Committees in January 1969 out of the implosion of SDS with a 600 member cadre made up of many Columbia University students and graduates, some of whom have remained with him after nearly 50 years.

In 1973, LaRouche launched Operation Mop-Up that targeted the CPUSA in the same way that the Maoist PLP had targeted us in the SWP. It began as a war of words as NCLC members went to CP public meetings to harangue the speakers while the CP denounced them as government agents. Par for the course in the left back then. Dennis King reports on the build-up and deployment of Mop-Up:

Months prior to Mop Up, LaRouche had ordered the most physically agile NCLC members to undergo training for street fighting. This training was now stepped up. Members were organized into flying squads armed with metal pipes, clubs, and nunchukas (Okinawan martial arts devices consisting of two sticks attached by a chain). The idea was to go into action as mini-phalanxes with the nunchuka wielders in the center.

Mop Up began in New York, and spread to Philadelphia, Buffalo, Detroit, and other cities. Attackers were sometimes brought from out of town so their faces wouldn’t be recognized. In several cities they broke up public meetings and invaded leftist bookstores, beating anyone who tried to bar their way. In New York they ambushed individual CP leaders on the street. In Detroit they administered a savage beating to a partially paralyzed left-wing activist on crutches. In Philadelphia, twenty-five to thirty NCLC members raided a meeting of the Public Workers Action Caucus. “The steps were a mass of blood,” said a PWAC activist. “As soon as I walked out I was hit by a pole,” Although no one was critically injured in any of the attacks, several were hospitalized with broken bones and many required medical treatment for cuts and bruises.

The biggest attack on the CP took place on April 23, 1973 when 60 NCLC members stormed a meeting at Columbia University being held for CP mayoral candidate Rasheed Storey. Armed with nunchakus and brass knuckles, they charged the platform that included Joanna Misnik who was representing the SWP candidate. A joint CP-SWP defense guard broke off chair legs to beat back the assault, leaving many NCLC members badly injured. This was pretty much the end of such assaults on the left.

Defending the attacks, LaRouche, using his pseudonym Lyn Marcus, wrote an article titled “Their Morals and Ours” that used language that seemingly rested on his Trotskyist background:

However, the article also pointed forward to his evolving fascist ideology. Dennis King compared the bravado of his language to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. While LaRouche wrote that “All those mighty ‘Communists’ can do is hide behind the nightsticks of the local police, while publishing tear-jerking accounts of their own casualties”, Hitler used a similar formulation in “Mein Kampf”: “Any meeting which is protected exclusively by the police discredits its organizers in the eyes of the broad masses. . . . [A] heroic movement will sooner win the heart of a people than a cowardly one which is kept alive only by police protection.”

If LaRouche had backed off from attacking Marxist groups like the CP or the SWP, he still targeted African-American leaders who he also considered his enemies, using a mixture of ultraleft jargon and racist epithets. They singled out Amiri Baraka, the poet and Black nationalist, for special attention since they had talked themselves into believing that he was a CIA agent. They distributed a pamphlet called “Papa Doc Baraka: Fascism in Newark” that referred to him as a “gutter dweller,” an “animal,” a “mad dog,” “Aunt Jemima,” and “Superfly.” A cartoon on the pamphlet’s cover portrayed him as a hyena with thick lips drooling over a baby’s corpse.

The mixture of racism and ultraleftism cropped up during the struggle for busing in Boston, where the NAACP and its supporters in the SWP backed a plan to desegregate the public schools. In 1974, they had meetings with the white racist anti-busing group known as ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights) and ran an anti-busing congressional candidate justified on the basis that busing was a CIA plot to divide the working class.

By 1975, the transition to fascism was complete. The proof was their willingness to begin working with the KKK at the very time when its chapter in Houston was terrorizing the left.

In Michigan, they met with followers of KKK Grand Dragon Robert Miles, who was serving time for bombing school buses in Pontiac, Michigan to protest busing. They nominated his chief aide Vernon Higgins to be their 1974 candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives. Even though Higgins turned out to be an FBI informant, the NCLC continued to coalesce with Klansmen such as Roy Frankhouser, the Pennsylvania Grand Dragon and Miles’s close friend. When Frankhouser was tried that year in Philadelphia on charges of transporting stolen explosives to Miles’s associates, they sponsored a press conference to support him.

In the next installment in this series, I will discuss Lyndon LaRouche’s use of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in his continuing fascist assault on the left. Unlike today’s alt-right, he was able to gain the kind of access to the power elite that will remain out of reach to people like Richard Spencer for the foreseeable future.


  1. Fascinating reference to the PL attacks. PL, of course, was not alone in its use of violence.

    That said, I don’t think PL’s violence directly inspired LaRouche although one never knows about such things as some leading PL types were in the Labor Committee leadership. But I would have to see actual evidence that they played a real role in thinking up the attacks on the CPUSA. I think not myself.

    As for Baraka, he was, of course, the East Coast head of Ron Karenga’s US (United Slaves) organization that had the shooting war with the Panthers. The Newark Teachers Union helped finance the pamphlet against Baraka.

    On Baraka, US, the strike, and the Labor Committee, see http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.HIABChapter6Appendix3Newark-Baraka.

    The support for the NTU was an extension of the Labor Committee’s backing of the UFT in the 1968 strike, something else I examine at great length in How It All Began for those interested in such matters.

    The Labor Committee’s Security Staff and its overtures to the right can’t be understood without first knowing that a faction inside the far right was itself trying to make tactical alliances with the Left. I go into this in some detail here:
    http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.UnityNow1. Also here: http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.UnityNow2 and here http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.KENDUGGANLAROUCHESFAVORITESATANIST?

    As far as I know, this is the only real in-depth examination of “Unity Now” that exists anywhere. I hope I’m wrong but somehow I doubt it.

    However, my main reason for posting is to see if anyone knows more about Roy Frankhouser and his connection to the SWP. Frankhouser, after all, hosted Farrell Dobbs in Reading in 1960. I tried to find out more but all I really know is based on what I have outlined in this “Palimpsest World” appendix on Frankhouser and his earlier courtship/infiltration of the SWP. If anyone else knows more, I hope they will post here.


    Frankhouser’s FBI file discusses this in some detail as well.

    Finally it is worth noting that the SWP/YSA played the key role (IMO) in wrecking LaRouche’s attacks on the CPUSA. Certainly the Maoists could have cared less. One key guy seems to be Joseph Hansen and I think he may have acted in part because in LaRouche he saw a new Gerry Healy in the making.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — August 14, 2017 @ 9:20 pm

  2. OK I get the fascistic connection of LaRouche vis-a-vis this Leftist Push in the mid 70’s, for as Trotsky argued without an organized working class resistance Fascism is unthinkable, but how does this correspond to today when the Left is so weak and Unionism is voted down 2 to 1 by Black Workers at Nissan in Mississippi?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 15, 2017 @ 3:55 am

  3. Karl Friedrich,

    You pose a key question. I think Poulantzas’s answer may shed some light. He believed that a key factor in the rise of fascism is deep discord *among the ruling classes* as to how to contain a crisis situation.

    Poulantzas points out that in cases of ‘classic’ fascism of the European type (German and Italian, particularly), fascism consolidated itself firmly AFTER major *defeats* for the working class struggles. Meaning, at low historical points for laboring classes to put up an effective counter-fight (e.g., at a point when even a decade-long drive to unionize an auto plant hands you a 2-to-1 defeat).

    In Poulantzas’s view, the main impetus for the rise of fascism is the deep discord among the ruling class elites as to what solutions to bring to a crisis situation. The fascistic solution is to impose discipline on the members of the ruling elites, and the society at large, not so much on the working class militancy in particular (the subjugation of which is an always-automatic constant, no matter which wing of capital is holding power).

    The fact that capitalism worldwide is facing a deep crisis is well established. The ‘neoliberal’ solution of the past forty years is clearly showing increasing holes perceptible to the populations living under this system worldwide. So, another way out of the crisis is called for.

    One solution, given all the oppressive apparatuses at their disposal (both legal and extra-legal), is to sow racism and violence and spread it among the lower classes. Hence, the importance of Trump’s mobs. I have always been fearful mostly of his mobs, not so much of himself as a ‘clever’ or ‘charismatic’ ‘leader’.

    The stuff that gets his mobs energized is so base, it doesn’t need a clever leader. It just needs a lot of social injustice present to be observable on a daily basis. And with the help of both parties in the U.S., a lot of social and economic inequality and injustice is plentifully observable to anybody who has to work hard to make ends meet. So, the easy ‘explanations’ and ‘solutions’ provided by half-clever Alt-right types have a fertile ground to plant racial hatred and harvest the benefits.

    Comment by Reza — August 15, 2017 @ 6:19 am

  4. So, the easy ‘explanations’ and ‘solutions’ provided by half-clever Alt-right types have a fertile ground to plant racial hatred and harvest the benefits.

    The recent atrocity in Charlottesville may not show fascism on the rise as a mass movement just at present. The alleged protest was against the removal of a confederate monument, which is going forward anyway. Similar removals have taken place across the south, and at present there is no sign of a reversal. The fascists will have to swallow that, which is a defeat–and a defeat in which, moreover, they may not be able to muster truly massive support among the population at large. So far, their numbers and militancy are less than at comparable moments in the historical past.

    Moreover, it’s now clear–black blocs the Tsarnaevs, and Hodgkinson notwithstanding–that the right wing of the Republican Party, at present, is the sole “terrorist” force that ordinary U.S. citizens have any real reason to fear on a daily basis.

    No message could possibly be clearer than driving a car into a mass of peaceful counter-protesters–it is unavoidably the copy of tactics that, per the current islamophobic mythology, are only ever employed by deranged muslims. How can an islamophobic movement surmount that obvious contradiction?

    Trump is not a leader in the strategic, controlling sense of a Hitler or a Mussolini. Rather, he is a troublemaker with a bully puppit, whose tactic is to talk about–or hint at–doing what he himself would never dare do and then deny it. There is no strategy, nor is one likely to come from the repellent Steven Miller or Sebastian Gorka, or even General Kelly. These are all behind-the-scenes men. Trump’s aim and that of his faction in the Republican Party is not to mobilize “mobs” but to appease them with a lot of idle talk and put them back to sleep in front of their television sets.

    But fascism as a true mass movement is nevertheless in the air. People have been studying it and reading its idiotic texts. The spores are everywhere. The real question is how rapidly it can be mobilized if a socialist opposition gains any ground–if the actual left actually pulls itself together and begins moving seriously toward socialism.

    It seems quite possible that this would happen very quickly under the right (wrong) circumstances–that one would not have the leisure of watching a fascist movement sprout, grow, sufffer defeat, correct its errors, and finally seize power, as happened with the Nazis. If needed, fascism might pop up fully formed almost overnight.

    Louis’s work on La Rouche fills in an important part of the recent historical picture surrounding this question and reminds us once again that fascism and the red-brown alliances that historically have always surrounded it are nothing new, and that their mere presence–however disturbing they may be, however cumulative their historical effect, and however urgently they require a response–need not be taken as a signal to panic.

    But Reza’s points from Poulantzas seem well taken too: if the inchoate strivings of the desperate white “mob” find an echo in a ruling class at a loss for new strategems of control and, then that is dangerous indeed, whatever you call the outcome–perhaps more so when you consider how expendable Trump himself actually is, and how easily he could be replaced in the affections of those to whom he has appealed.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 15, 2017 @ 4:56 pm

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