Cry for the duck?
You silly chickens!
This is a hawk.
See now how he moves.—LYNDON H. LAROUCHE, JR., "Morning Is a Wonderful Day"
In the mid-1960s Lyndon LaRouche saw protest movements burgeoning throughout America and sensed for the first time the real possibility of political power. What he needed to start with, he decided, was a cadre of several hundred full-time organizers, tightly organized and armed with the correct strategy and tactics. He understood that such a vanguard could only seize power in a social crisis far greater than that triggered by the Vietnam War or the civil rights struggle. But he believed such a crisis was inevitable. If the organization and program were developed years in advance, the masses could be swiftly mobilized at the right moment.
This appeared to be standard Marxist doctrine, but LaRouche added his own unique twist: The members of the revolutionary party must be intellectually of a superior breed—a philosophical elite as well as a political vanguard. In the following years this innovation became more and more important in his thinking, and he broke completely with Marxism. He began to portray his philosophical elite as the forerunners of a biological-cultural master race, which he called the "golden souls" after Plato's aristocratic usage. They would rise to power, he taught, by championing the interests of industrial capitalism.
LaRouche's swing from far left to far right was not without precedent: Mussolini was also a socialist before throwing in his lot with the upper classes and launching Italian fascism. But in LaRouche's case there was an additional twist. He had adopted Marxism as a young man to escape the ultraconservatism and religious fundamentalism of his parents. His shift to the right in the 1970s would be partly a return to this mental universe of his childhood.
Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche, Jr., was born in Rochester, New Hampshire, on September 8, 1922, the oldest of three children. His father, the son of a French-Canadian immigrant, was a United Shoe Machinery Corporation roadman earning a comfortable salary. His mother, the former Jesse Weir, came from an evangelical Protestant background. Both parents regarded themselves as orthodox Quakers, Lyndon Sr. having converted from Roman Catholicism in his teens.
Lyndon Jr.'s first ten years were spent in Rochester, where his two sisters were born and where he attended the School Street elementary school. The rest of his childhood and youth were spent in Lynn, Massachusetts, to which the family moved after Lyndon Sr. resigned from United Shoe to launch his own business.
LaRouche has described his childhood as that of "an egregious child, I wouldn't say an ugly duckling but a nasty duckling." He felt socially isolated. This was partly because of his precociousness. He learned to read at age five and was soon dipping into adult books in the family library. Kids at school called him "Big Head." A greater problem was his parents' strictures. When he was about to begin first grade he was summoned to the family dining room and told that under no circumstances could he fight with other children, even in self-defense. This resulted, according to LaRouche, in "years of hell" from bullies at school.
Despite their belief in nonviolence, LaRouche's parents did not fit the popular stereotype of gentle and tolerant Quakers. The two were ferocious sectarians who accused their co-religionists of closet Bolshevism and embezzlement of religious funds. They wanted their son to share these beliefs. LaRouche recalls being herded with other children into a basement when he was eight years old to listen to a woman evangelist fulminate against the evils of communism. She denounced him to his parents when he accidentally crumpled his song sheet.
LaRouche writes that his mother spent most of her time on "church work" and that his father's chief interest, apart from his career, was in assisting this work. How this affected LaRouche is suggested by his vehement opposition as an adult to matriarchal elements in religion (e.g., the goddess Isis and the Virgin Mary), as well as his numerous psychological tracts about an archetypal "witch mother" who renders her children and husband "impotent."
Visits to his grandparents provided young LaRouche some relief from the rigid home atmosphere. He was especially fond of his maternal grandfather Weir, a United Brethren minister in Ohio, who stimulated his interest in biblical history. Forty years later this interest would resurface in LaRouche's conspiracy theories about the ancient Near East.
LaRouche continued to feel like a social leper in high school. He withdrew into his books, took long walks in the woods, and accumulated an enormous resentment against his peers. He found solace in the great philosophers, especially Descartes, Leibnitz, and Kant, whose works helped him rationalize his social isolation. He was the victim, he mused, of an educational system based on the evil ideas of John Dewey and British empiricism. This belief persisted into adulthood. In his 1979 autobiography, The Power of Reason, he describes his high school tormenters as "unwitting followers of David Hume" (the eighteenth-century philosopher).
Kant's ideas in particular prompted LaRouche to question his parents' beliefs and their plans for him to become a minister. He stopped carrying the King James Bible to school every day. But when his sisters rebelled more openly, LaRouche disapproved. He regarded them as shallow creatures, concerned only with winning the approval of their peers,
In spite of his growing doubts about religion, LaRouche supported his parents' war against their Quaker brethren. The immediate issue was a trust fund for religious education left by a wealthy uncle of LaRouche's mother. The LaRouches objected to the money being given to the liberal-minded American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
The bitterness of this dispute is reflected in a 1937 tract LaRouche Sr. published under the pseudonym Hezekiah Micajah Jones. Its rambling and abusive style and obsession with conspiracies foreshadow LaRouche Jr.'s writings forty years later. The elder LaRouche denounced the Friends' handling of religious trust funds as a "swindle." Quaker ministers, he said, were preaching the "principles of Communism," and he could count on his fingers the number of them that were not part of the plot. He singled out Quaker reform leader Rufus Jones for urging "love for everyone including, without doubt, Satan." "The Orthodox Quaker," LaRouche Sr. vowed, "will not join hands with the ungodly, nor will he go down into Babylon and join forces." Only Orthodox Quakers, he said, have a "right to the name Christian."
Turning to world affairs, the pamphlet berated certain Quakers who had criticized "one of the governments opposed to Communism" (apparently either Mussolini's Italy or Hitler's Germany) at a world peace conference in Philadelphia. The pamphlet also chided participants at a regional Friends conference in Providence, Rhode Island, for not responding favorably to an anti-Jewish speech by a Palestinian Arab. According to LaRouche Sr., the speaker presented his views "well and authoritatively . . . his attitude should be given more consideration."
In October 1941, the Lynn Meeting disowned LaRouche Sr. for his disruptive behavior. His wife and nineteen-year-old son resigned in protest. The LaRouches later established a schismatic Quaker group in Boston, and the bitterness persisted for decades. In a 1978 article, LaRouche Jr. charged that the American Friends Service Committee had used ''intelligence-mode 'dirty tricks' operations" to isolate his parents.
Before Pearl Harbor, LaRouche attended Northeastern University in Boston. By his own account he received poor grades and incurred his father's wrath. In late 1942 he entered a Civilian Public Service (CPS) camp for conscientious objectors, as did many other young Quakers. The camp, in West Campton, New Hampshire, was administered by the AFSC. LaRouche promptly joined a small faction at odds with the administrators.
After a little over a year LaRouche became fed up with CPS life, which he later compared to "a 'soft' model of the Nazi concentration camps." The experience had taught him, he said, the "unbridgeable dividing line" between "bestiality" (i.e., the AFSC) and "humanity." He contacted the Selective Service to enlist in the Army as a noncombatant.
LaRouche has given two versions of this decision. In a 1974 autobiographical piece, he said that after engaging in political discussions with socialists and ex-Communists in the camp and being introduced to the first volume of Marx's Das Kapital, he decided to join the Army. In a second version, written after his swing to the right, he does not mention any Marxist influences, and claims he intended to join the Army all along. According to this version, he entered the CPS camp for a few months as a temporary concession to his parents, to soften the blow of his inevitable enlistment.
The late Boston publisher Porter Sargent, who was LaRouche's close friend in the CPS camp, confirmed the first version to the Boston Phoenix. He said LaRouche had been a "serious deep pacifist," well versed in "all the ways of active nonviolence."
LaRouche was inducted into the Army in early 1944 and served as a private in medical and ordnance units in the China-Burma-India theatre. While stationed near Calcutta he attempted, without much success, to organize GIs to work with the local Communist Party. In his 1974 reminiscences, he told of meeting P.C. Joshi, a Calcutta Communist leader. Joshi supposedly rejected the twenty-three-year-old LaRouche's suggestion that the Indian Communists should stage an immediate uprising in Bengal against the British colonial government. LaRouche said he walked out of Joshi's headquarters thoroughly disillusioned with Stalinism: "By the time [I] reached the bottom of the stairs, [I] was a sort of hardened Trotskyist."
This story also underwent heavy revision. A 1983 LaRouche campaign biography, prepared under his close supervision, says that his contacts with Indians, including lowly street sweepers, left him deeply "gratified and touched" by their admiration for U.S. capitalism. He returned to America, according to this version, determined to provide India with a "flow of capital-goods exports."
LaRouche was mustered out of the Army in May 1946. Later that year he gave Northeastern University a second try. He intended to major in physics, but soon quit in protest over what he regarded as an all-pervasive academic "philistinism." His autobiographical writings do not mention any subsequent attempt to gain a university degree.
In December 1948, LaRouche applied for membership in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), an affiliate of the Trotskyist Fourth International. This was no trivial decision. The Cold War and the resulting Red Scare were already underway. Dozens of Communist Party members had been indicted on conspiracy charges. The trade union movement was in the throes of a political purge that would soon extend to the academic world and the arts. The SWP, which had been targeted under the Smith Act during the war, remained on the Attorney General's list of subversive organizations and was under close FBI surveillance. As Senator Joseph McCarthy began his demagogic rise, both the SWP and the Communist Party feared that fascism was taking hold in America. Many leftists tore up their party cards, hoping to avoid the worst to come.
LaRouche was admitted to full party membership in early 1949 and adopted a party pseudonym to avoid trouble with employers and the FBI. Journalists have speculated that his choice, "Lyn Marcus," was intended to suggest a personal affinity with Lenin and Marx, although LaRouche says it was based on the nickname "Marco Polo" given to him during the war.
LaRouche went to work at the GE River Works in Lynn, under the SWP policy of industrial colonizing—the sending of intellectuals to work in factories in the hope of recruiting worker cadres. Within months he was put under party discipline for advocating a "tactical alliance" with the Stalinists. He soon tired of the proletarian life, and was glad to escape into a part-time job with his father. Although the SWP's sectarian dogmatism was beginning to remind him of his parents' religiosity, he thought the party could be changed from within. He spent much time with the late Larry Trainor, a middle-aged printer who headed the Boston SWP, seeking approval for his maverick views. Former Boston comrades recall him as an earnest young man whose life seemed to revolve around the Trotskyist movement's endless ideological debates.
In 1954, LaRouche moved to New York City and married fellow SWP member Janice Neuberger. The party's national center was in New York, and he hoped to gain recognition as one of its rising ideological stars. He became friendly with Janice's close friends Myra Tanner Weiss and the late Murray Weiss, who led a small SWP faction. Myra Weiss recalls that "Lyndy" was a "quite dedicated" party member. He faithfully attended branch meetings, distributed party literature, and participated in election campaigns. He also wrote long erudite documents that he circulated to party leaders. Several shorter pieces appeared under his name in SWP publications, and he occasionally gave party-sponsored lectures on economics. But according to Murray Weiss, he remained on the party's outskirts, never able to win the leadership's trust.
Through the years LaRouche has given various versions of his relationship to the SWP. In a 1970 essay he described his SWP membership from 1949 until his expulsion in 1966 as "my seventeen-year passage." The essay provided exhaustive details of his long struggle for a pristine revolutionism untainted by ideological compromise. However, his 1983 biography, written to win conservative support, omits any reference to the SWP. It depicts his involvement in unspecified "left politics" as lasting only for a brief period in the late 1940s. According to this account, LaRouche wrote to Dwight D. Eisenhower, urging him to run for President in 1948. When Eisenhower failed to enter the race, LaRouche reluctantly joined the left as the best alternative for struggling against "Trumanism.”
LaRouche has also repeatedly suggested that he served as a government informant within the SWP. In an October 1986 interview on ABC Radio's Bob Grant show he said he went back into the SWP after the early 1950s "because the FBI approached me to go back." He explained: "I promised [the FBI] if I found anything that was wrong, as a citizen I would tell them." But Janice LaRouche does not believe her ex-husband worked for the FBI. She believes he was sincere in his Marxist beliefs, and only discarded them years later. Other former SWP members who knew LaRouche agree with Janice.
The LaRouches' only child, Daniel, was born in 1956. At this point, LaRouche began to channel more and more of his energy into building a career in management consulting. For several years he was associated with the George S. May Company, often making a thousand dollars a week or more helping corporations reduce labor costs. He outlined his approach to troubleshooting in a 1962 essay: If management tells you to keep your nose out of an area, that area is precisely where you should snoop first.
LaRouche became interested in computer technology after reading Norbert Wiener's book Cybernetics. Recognizing that computers were the wave of the future, he pioneered in computer-complex installations and software design. He also tried his hand at computer theory, speculating on the possibility of a total-systems technology to manage the entire U.S. economy.
Janice recalls that he could work "for forty hours at a stretch without sleeping or eating." During one of these round-the-clock binges, ruminating on Marvin Minsky's artificial intelligence theories, he experienced a quasi-mystical inspiration that deeply altered his view of reality. "During the night I sat and paced, alternately, sleepless, going through the matter repeatedly," he wrote in The Power of Reason. "In that moment, I saw clearly, for the first time, the nature of the solution to the 'particle-field paradox'—not as something I understood . . . but as a solution I could 'see.’” LaRouche has never revealed the precise nature of this solution, yet he wrote that his experience was "on a relative scale of things . . . one of greatness. I know what the realized pinnacles of human personal development are in our time and, to large measure, in earlier times. I have, essentially, matched them."
He began to fancy himself an expert on psychoanalysis as well as physics. According to The Power of Reason, he held free counseling sessions with a troubled young man named Griswold, who supposedly was driven away by a tactless remark of Janice's. LaRouche heard several months later that Griswold had committed suicide. The news of this tragedy, LaRouche writes, was the "last straw" in his accumulated resentments against Janice. They separated in 1963, and he moved into an apartment on Morton Street in Greenwich Village with Carol Schnitzer, an SWP comrade who became his main collaborator in the founding of the National Caucus of Labor Committees.
Soon "Lyn Marcus" and "Carol LaRouche" (they never married) were deeply immersed in factionalism in and around the SWP. They organized support work for a Trotskyist-influenced strike of New York City welfare workers in 1965, and held conspiratorial meetings with expelled SWP members. LaRouche lost interest in his consulting business and spent most of his time studying and writing, seeking to develop a new version of Marxism that could bring him a personal following. His experience with the SWP's ineptness had convinced him that "no revolutionary movement was going to be brought into being in the USA unless I brought it into being."
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