The fact that we know as much as we do about Lyndon LaRouche (which is probably not all that much) and his myriad of front organizations is largely due to the persistence of Dennis King.
King, a freelance writer and researcher with a moderately left political bent, has spent the last decade or so studying and exposing LaRouche as a fascist and an anti-Semite. In the late '70s, when most political observers and reporters were dismissing LaRouche as, at worst, an obnoxious screwball, King published an outstanding and frightening series of articles on LaRouche in a small New York weekly called Our Town. For his pains, King was harassed, sued and physically threatened by LaRouche's henchmen.
LaRouche went on to raise more than $200 million from both unwitting as well as fully witting sources, garnered almost 200,000 votes for president of the United States and gained access to the National Security Council during the first Reagan administration.
Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism is a detailed and gripping journey through the not always underground of American fringe (both left and right) politics. The bizarre LaRouche odyssey takes us from New England Quaker pacifism (he briefly served in a camp for conscientious objectors during World War II), the Communist Party of Calcutta, the extreme Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, in which he rose to some prominence, and finally to his own brand of American fascism.
Throughout it all LaRouche demonstrated a brilliant analytical mind, an increasingly wide streak of paranoia and megalomania and a hatred for a broad spectrum of enemies that have included at one time or another the Queen of England, the Soviet Union, Solidarity, rock musicians, Nelson Rockefeller, AIDS sufferers, environmentalists and always, always, Jews and Israel.
The list of LaRouche's "good guys" is equally as disparate, including the Shah of Iran, the Teamsters Union, the Soviet Union (no one ever called LaRouche consistent), various American racists, Ronald Reagan, accused Nazi war criminals, and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. King does a valiant job of helping the reader understand what makes LaRouche and his loyal acolytes tick. It isn't an easy task, and, not surprisingly, he doesn't quite succeed.
Disturbingly, in spite of LaRouche's vicious anti-Semitism, at one time as many as one-fourth of his followers were Jewish. Even today, many of his most trusted lieutenants bear names like Goldstein, Liebowitz and Steinberg.
While King attempts to explain the phenomenon by documenting how LaRouche has "redefined" the terms "Jew" and "Nazi," this effort doesn't quite work. In fairness, it is not for King to explain either Jewish self-hatred or the attraction of cults, which in fact the LaRouche organization closely resembles.
Probably the most frightening aspect of this book is the ease with which LaRouche and his front organizations were able to disarm so many seemingly rational people. Long ago he developed the ability to home in on those issues that grab us by our emotions.
Thus, long before it became the issue on the agenda of just about every candidate for public office, the LaRouche-run Anti-Drug Coalition published anti-drug broadsides urging citizens to drive drugs from their neighborhoods. I know of at least one Philadelphia politician who agreed to lend his name to their anti-drug efforts and was even scheduled to appear at one of their programs until I spent hours with him pouring over LaRouche publications. It was only after he threatened them with legal action that they removed his name from a list of endorsers.
In more than one poll a significant number of voters said that while they would not vote for a racist or anti-Semite out of agreement, they would not necessarily vote against them either if there were other important issues where they found themselves in agreement.
LaRouche, like David Duke, the newly elected Louisiana state legislator, well understands this. Fortunately, his outlandish political beliefs and his avarice have probably done him in. He and several of his closest associates are currently serving federal prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion.
But King's message isn't so much that LaRouche represents a direct threat to American democracy or even Jewish security. Rather, it is that our political system is nowhere as immune to the inroads of extremists as we would like to believe.
King raises many important and disturbing questions such as: Why weren't Democratic Party leaders more forceful in exposing LaRouche-supported candidates in local elections? Why were various Republican officials willing to allow access to LaRouche operatives? Why would radio talk-show hosts throughout the country have LaRouche or his representatives on their programs as guests? He still does these kinds of interviews from prison. While King doesn't fully answer these questions, he deals with them in a most thoughtful manner. They are questions with which we should all wrestle.