Chapter Five

The Beethoven Gang

One would think that the many black, Hispanic, and Jewish members in the NCLC would have become an embarrassment to LaRouche as he swung to the ultraright. But he developed his own unique viewpoint on the relationship between ethnic minorities and fascism.

In a 1971 essay, still writing from an ostensibly Marxist perspective, LaRouche tried to imagine how fascism might come to America. He looked at Rabbi Meir Kahane's Jewish Defense League, Joe Colombo's Italian-American Civil Rights League, George Wallace's American Party, and various black-nationalist groups. These, LaRouche argued, were the germs of a uniquely American fascism. America is an "ethnic-cultural polyglot," and a powerful fascist base can't be built on one ethnic community alone. A successful U.S. fascism must include multiethnic alliances different from anything in Hitler's lexicon.

LaRouche predicted that the "mutually segregated" ethnic fascist groups would join with youth from the drug/rock counterculture in a "common front" around a "populist" cover ideology. This coalition would launch the "direct street-battle between socialism and fascism," growing into "the sort of large organization which U.S. fascism must become to be taken seriously."

He was aware that a fascist movement embracing white Christian ethnics, Jews, blacks, and Hispanics, even in segregated units, would seem to be a strange combination. But was it not fascism's nature to unite apparent opposites? (The NCLC acted on this principle in later years when it attempted, unsuccessfully, to unite elements of the KKK, the Black Muslims, the Jewish Defense League, and mob-linked labor racketeers under its leadership.)

The first application of "ethnic fascism" came in 1973, when the NCLC set out to organize street-fighting units, fascist in all but name, among black and Hispanic ghetto youth. LaRouche first alluded to this idea in his April 1973 speech announcing Operation Mop Up. "You think this CP stuff [Mop Up] is scary?" he asked. "Well, I'll tell you something that's really gonna scare you. In a few months we're gonna have 10,000 enraged ghetto youth, we're gonna organize street gangs. . . "

At an NCLC convention in late May he launched the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM), which he said would be a "paramilitary organization" reaching out to the type of ghetto youth who believe they can "make it as Superfly." It would "cut through" their "hustle" mentality and organize them on the basis of "what they really feel underneath," their feelings of despair and of "increasingly pure rage." RYM would teach them that rage is not just "robbing the corner candy store." Rage is the determination to "take it all"葉o seize control of America in alliance with other enraged groups.

LaRouche predicted that his message would "spread like wildfire" in the ghetto. Thousands would join RYM, where they would learn military discipline and revolutionary theory. "These youth will be able to debate philosophers," he boasted.

During that summer and fall, NCLC's small cohort of college-educated blacks, wearing Black Panther-style leather jackets and sunglasses, fanned out to Manhattan's Lower East Side, Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant, Newark's Central Ward, and other poor neighborhoods. The message was that gang members could become "Prometheans"様ike Zeke Boyd, a former Panther and the token black on the NCLC security staff.

LaRouche's organizers developed ties with the Outlaws, reportedly the largest gang in Bedford-Stuyvesant. New Solidarity said the Outlaws were a peaceful bunch attending RYM classes to learn to appreciate classical music. According to Christine Berl, this was not entirely accurate. "I gave the Beethoven class," she recalls. "They had guns in the room."

The NCLC tried to persuade RYM members to reject the subculture of the streets. A black NCLC member told The Village Voice that ghetto youth "spend their time practicing the jungle boogie. . . . They look like they're masturbating in public. I tell these kids I don't want to talk to them until they're human." Tolerance was never the NCLC's strong point. But like Marine recruits, the RYM members accepted this drill-instructor message without taking offense. The leader of the Outlaws, twenty-one-year-old Tea, said that if RYM was "ever ready to fight the government and pick up guns, the Outlaws will be right behind them."

A former LaRouchian, Dan Jacobs, writes that the RYM project was doomed to failure because the NCLC was never willing to accept the ghetto youth as anything more than exotic auxiliaries to stand around and look tough at rallies.

But the New York Police Department was not about to tolerate "red gangs," as LaRouche called them. It came down hard on RYM, arresting Tea, Tango, Sly, Ace, and others on charges including attempted murder, robbery, and illegal weapons possession. RYM members also were arrested in Newark and Philadelphia. New Solidarity complained in article after article that the arrests were politically motivated, but the NCLC was politically too isolated to mount an effective defense. RYM members became disillusioned and dropped away.

At the same time NCLC members were learning to talk out of both sides of the mouth. While RYM organizers urged ghetto youth to "take it all," New Solidarity editorials sent a very different message to ethnic whites: "Soon, you will lose your job用robably to a "welfare loafer,' a methadone-crazed dope-fiend . . . some gang member brought in from a ghetto neighborhood." The NCLC also physically attacked black activists and disseminated blatantly racist propaganda. This began during Mop Up, when blacks were priority targets. A black CP leader was assaulted on the street near party headquarters in Manhattan. A CP meeting in Harlem was terrorized by a contingent wearing hockey helmets. A meeting of the Martin Luther King Coalition in Buffalo was attacked by an all-white Mop Up squad, which beat up several people. New Solidarity meanwhile carried headlines such as "CP Turns Rebels into Niggers" and bestowed demeaning nicknames on black CP members容.g., "Ron 'Race Riot' Tyson."

In Newark the NCLC targeted poet turned activist Amiri Baraka, who had attracted national attention by his crusade for black community empowerment. NCLC members convinced themselves that Baraka was a CIA agent and hence fair game. They circulated a pamphlet called Papa Doc Baraka: Fascism in Newark. This and various New Solidarity articles called him 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 Negroid lips drooling over a baby's corpse. Baraka became the NCLC's Symbolic Black, just as Henry Kissinger would become its Symbolic Jew.

Baraka's and LaRouche's followers began to fight it out in the streets, much to the delight of right-wing elements in Newark's white ethnic community led by law-and-order advocate Anthony Imperiale. Followers of Imperiale began to echo some of the NCLC's charges against Baraka, and met with Newark NCLC members to explore the possibility of joint action. Individuals claiming to be affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan also approached NCLC members to express support. In September 1973 the NCLC staged an anti-Baraka demonstration that turned into a slugfest inside the Newark City Council chambers. Ten NCLC members were arrested, including Gus Kalimtgis, co-author of the Baraka pamphlet.

The NCLC developed a plan to take its anti-Baraka campaign nationwide. "The country will be saturated with our newspapers, leaflets, with the Baraka pamphlet, with meetings, forums, press conferences, rallies," boasted New Solidarity. It called on "every working class organizer" and "all trade unionists" in the country to join the fight. That fall violent clashes between the NCLC and black nationalists occurred on several campuses. At Harvard the NCLC security staff set a trap. They called a meeting, armed themselves, and waited for members of the Boston-based Mau Mau to filter into the room. "A signal was given," said a former NCLC member. "Suddenly a sea of nunchukas rose in the air and came down." One of the Mau Mau tried to pull a gun; NCLC members wrestled him to the floor. "They beat the shit out of him with sticks, then one of our guys stood over him with a shotgun while he lay there bleeding. The rest of the Mau Mau beat a retreat."

In the summer of 1974 the NCLC tried to whip up public fear of a new black-nationalist threat: Zebra killers. In the San Francisco Bay Area, members of a tiny prison-based cult had killed several whites for ritualistic reasons. The NCLC, with no evidence whatsoever, claimed that similar killers were about to erupt into the streets of New York City from a Bronx drug addiction treatment program run by leftist doctors. "You could be white. You could be black . . ." said an NCLC leaflet circulated in Manhattan. "This summer you will be walking down the street with your family and a cruising car will pull up beside you. A group of young black men will jump out of the car and surround you. As they close in on you, you may notice that their eyes show no emotion, their pupils are pinpoints. Your throat will be slashed, your wife will be stabbed, your children's heads will be smashed against the pavement. The attackers will be grinning or laughing."

It is hard to imagine how black NCLC members went along with this. Sheer hysteria undoubtedly played a role, but more important was LaRouche's ideological "refraining" of the NCLC membership's view of racism. He began, as he often does, with what seemed to be a valid point: Poverty in black ghettos is perpetuated by destructive lifestyles and a self-defeating psychology. Unless these problems are addressed, the cycle of poverty cannot be ended. The point is a commonplace today, but in the early 1970s it was not something most sociologists or civil rights activists were ready to confront. LaRouche did confront it, in striking rhetoric, when he lashed out at "the illusion that the ghetto can survive by parasitizing on itself." Black NCLC members thus could fancy he was the one white radical leader who would never try to patronize them. White members could pride themselves on belonging to the single radical party hard-nosed enough to reject the politics of liberal guilt. But LaRouche developed no constructive program from his insights. He simply used them to bolster the NCLC's synthetic paranoia: The CIA invented ghetto street culture to control black youth, jazz is a form of brainwashing, Black Power advocates are part of the CIA-Rockefeller plot to set up black America for enslavement and genocide in concentration camps.

LaRouche thus turned his followers' views on racism and black liberation inside out. Black and white NCLC members rushed into the streets to battle Baraka with a clear conscience, believing they were saving the black community from the CIA. They also used epithets like "nigger" and "animal" without any qualms, telling themselves the terms merely referred to the targeted individual's enslavement to false values invented by the CIA.

This topsy-turvy logic helped NCLC leaders justify alliances and political positions they never would have dreamed of in previous years. In 1974, at the height of the anti-busing agitation in Boston, they traded intelligence with a leader of the stridently anti-busing ROAR, based in white ethnic South Boston. They also sponsored their own anti-busing congressional candidate in that troubled community. This was justified on the logic that busing was a CIA plot to divide the working class.

In Michigan, NCLC members began meeting with followers of KKK grand dragon Robert Miles, who had been convicted of bombing school buses in Pontiac, Michigan, to protest local busing. They even nominated the great knight hawk (sergeant at arms) of Miles's Klan organization, Vernon Higgins, as their 1974 candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives from Pontiac. Although Higgins turned out to be an FBI informer, the NCLC was not deterred from further dealings with Klansmen.

In 1975, members began what would be an eleven-year alliance with Roy Frankhouser, the Pennsylvania grand dragon and Miles's close friend. When Frankhouser went on trial that year in Philadelphia on charges of transporting stolen explosives to Michigan for associates of Miles, the LaRouchians sponsored a press conference to support him.

Curiously, the closer the ties the NCLC developed with Klansmen, the more it downplayed anti-black rhetoric. Instead, LaRouche moved into an anti-Jewish mode, attempting to promote anti-Semitism in black as well as white communities. The NCLC was not alone in this tactic. Klan and neo-Nazi leaders had long recognized the wisdom of tactical alliances with secondary enemies to concentrate maximum force against the primary enemy. In the mid-1960s the neo-Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell had suggested an alliance with the Black Muslims. Such thinking became more common in the 1970s as anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism took strong hold in black communities. When Louis Farrakhan emerged as America's premier black anti-Semite in the 1980s, he won the sympathy of many Klansmen and neo-Nazis, including Frankhouser. But LaRouche, unlike the Klan, did more than pay lip service to the idea of a black-white anti-Jewish front. In 1978 his National Anti-Drug Coalition began massive propaganda in black communities charging that Jews control the narcotics traffic. Issuing a warning to black Americans on the "Zionist evil," LaRouche said: "We [blacks and the NCLC] are poised to destroy this enemy politically, if we collaborate."

His overtly anti-black campaign of 1973-74 may have been short-lived, but it was of great importance in the NCLC's development. It was LaRouche's first really complicated experiment in ideological reframing葉he tactic of changing a person's emotional response to an idea by changing the context in which it is communicated. The anti-black campaign was essentially a dry run for what he next did to his Jewish followers, leading them step by step to believe that true liberation for Jews lay in the rejection of everything Jewish. The NCLC's left-wing Jews had the typical viewpoint of young leftists of the period: that racism against blacks is more evil and more worthy of protest than anti-Semitism. Once they violated the ultimate leftist taboo by attacking blacks, it was relatively easy to get them to attack their fellow Jews.