By DENNIS KING
NOTE: This website has been attempting for months to make sense of the suicide of Kenneth Kronberg. On April 11, 2007, Kronberg, the owner of PMR Printing Company in northern Virginia and a long-time follower of political cult leader Lyndon LaRouche (who has his headquarters in Leesburg, Va.), jumped from a bridge only hours after LaRouche issued a memo harshly criticizing Kronberg's political and business performance and suggesting that PMR's Baby Boomers (meaning the older generation of LaRouche followers) should commit suicide.
In July this website published the article "Lyndon LaRouche and the Art of Inducing Suicide" which examined earlier LaRouchian fantasies of getting people to kill themselves, and also described reports by ex-members of the LaRouche organization that LaRouche and his inner circle had repeatedly denounced and bullied Kronberg over a period of years, making him the scapegoat for financial difficulties of PMR that actually were the result of LaRouche's failure to pay huge past-due bills to the firm.
What follows is a fresh example from the past that I think illuminates the relationship between fantasies of inducing suicide and the particular type of organizational culture that has evolved within the LaRouche movement.
Over a quarter of a century ago, the Lyndon LaRouche organization (the National Caucus of Labor Committees, or NCLC) controlled not only PMR but also a second printing company, the Detroit-based Renaissance Printers. Like PMR, which was paired with the type house World Composition Services, Renaissance worked closely with its own associated typesetting firm, Computype, also run by LaRouche followers.
In 1981, the head of Renaissance, one Kenneth Dalto, and other NCLC cadre involved with Renaissance and Computype, ruminated over LaRouche's treatment of Computron Technologies Corporation, a multimillion-dollar Manhattan software company owned by two top LaRouche aides. LaRouche had looted the income of Computron to pay for his 1979-80 New Hampshire Presidential primary campaign, and then, when Computron was facing bankruptcy, he blamed its financial difficulties on his own puppets--the two principals and several of the firm's officers--driving them out of the NCLC through a campaign of denunciations, abuse and threats (sound familiar?).
The people at Renaissance and Computype decided this was not going to happen to them. As they began discussing how to leave the NCLC, they found that other NCLC members around the country were also fed up with the increasingly erratic behavior of Der Abscheulicher. After months of secretive consultation and planning, 117 members from Detroit, Boston, Houston, Chicago and Atlanta (approximately one-third of the LaRouche movement's total U.S. membership) issued a letter announcing their resignation "effective Friday, October 30, 1981, from membership and all official positions in the National Caucus of Labor Committees, the International Caucus of Labor Committees, and all other LaRouche-affiliated organizations."
This was the greatest setback to LaRouche's political ambitions up to that point. It was also deeply embarrassing to him in his fancied role as an infallible genius, because two years earlier he had made one of his classic grotesque misjudgments, promoting Dalto--the head of the NCLC's Detroit organization as well as the CEO of Renaissance--to the National Executive Committee and placing him in charge of the 1980 LaRouche Presidential campaign.
Lyn: "We know how to crush this murderous filth"
LaRouche wanted to go after his former disciple hammer and tongs, but Dalto--unlike Ken Kronberg at PMR Printing 26 years later--was well-shielded from the NCLC founder's bullying tactics. First, he was in Detroit rather than New York (the national NCLC headquarters at the time); second, he'd quit, so LaRouche could no longer threaten him with demotion or subject him to "ego-stripping" sessions; third, most of the Detroit organization had resigned along with Dalto, so LaRouche had no troops on the ground for a serious intimidation campaign; and fourth, Dalto had a Teamster-linked business partner with whom LaRouche did not want to tangle. (LaRouche had encouraged this partnership because of his own fantasies about working with the Mafia--now it had all come back to haunt him.)
Completely outmaneuvered by the Dalto faction and unable to strike back effectively, LaRouche compensated by circulating empty threats and wildly abusive allegations in the NCLC morning briefings and other internal documents. As usual, he wove into the attacks a Nazi-style tirade against the Jews. The split had been instigated, he claimed, by Jewish businessmen and mobsters, above all the Detroit financier Max Fisher. The "Fisher-centered banking apparatus" had supposedly sunk its "dope-soaked" teeth into the Dalto group. Dalto was the "Judas" of this operation (who the "Jesus" was, was obvious). As to the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith: "We know how the ADL officials and others have been playing the game....We now know exactly how to proceed to crush this murderous filth."
LaRouche resorted--and encouraged his loyalists to resort--to a verbal sadism that employed jargon from the gangster movies and radio crime dramas of his youth. One memo boasted that the organization had obtained evidence of Dalto keeping a double set of books to rip off a Mafia investor. "Let the 'Mafia' rub out Ken...," LaRouche crowed. "Naturally, we shall not be reticent in mentioning to certain circles certain facts now documented in our possession. Let the creep sweat. Let him run. Let him choose his hiding place." (The double set of books was a LaRouche fabrication, and no physical harm came to Dalto from the Mafia or anyone else.)
Fantasies of car bombs and "cement overshoes"
LaRouche also concocted, and encouraged his followers to concoct, crude and filthy jokes for the NCLC daily briefings as a means of dehumanizing Dalto and other defectors--women as well as men--in the eyes of the remaining members, and also to delude his loyalists into feeling victorious in the aftermath of the split. The jokes in question (which it's safe to say would only be regarded as funny by a LaRouche movement insider) were of the same tenor as the psychological warfare jokes and smear rumors the NCLC would later use against Henry Kissinger, Petra Kelly, Jane Fonda and many others, including myself.
In the course of the assault-by-joke campaign, the male members of the Dalto faction were depicted as "sodomists," while the women were described as a "string of whores." Some of the jokes had to do with sexually transmitted diseases, acts of extreme perversion (as with animals), sexual humiliation, and rape. The author or authors of these jokes appeared to be obsessed with thoughts of anal, and anal-oral, sexual practices.
Other jokes focussed on the gangster-movie themes LaRouche was evoking in his own speeches. In one such joke, the "Chicago Mafia" plants a bomb under Dalto's "Lincoln Continental." In another, he arrives at the gates of Hell "wearing a new, custom-fitted pair of cement overshoes."
Dalto was referred to in some jokes as "Little Don Venice," an apparent allusion (by way of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice) to LaRouche's claim that the former NCLC Detroit leader had sold out to the Jews.
Wouldn't it be funny if the traitor committed suicide?
A Little Don Venice joke of Nov. 3, 1981 embodied a fantasy of Dalto being driven to suicide. Although its language was mild compared to several of the more extreme jokes, it eerily foreshadowed the infamous April 11, 2007 suicide memo. The text of the joke was transmitted to members of the LaRouche organization worldwide via the headquarters Telex machine; shortly thereafter, it was passed on to several journalists by ex-members, who obtained their copies from discontented individuals still inside the organization (again, sound familiar?). Here it is:
THE SUICIDE OF LITTLE DON VENICE
It started as a practical joke.
Little Don Venice never failed to get his hands on a woman alone in the same room with him, except the one time he cut his hand badly on the zipper of his fly trying to get it out to reach for the lady in question. The temptation to play a particular sort of practical joke overwhelmed a friend of Little Don's. This friend, who ran a competing string of whores, talked one of his whores to [sic] pass herself off to Little Don as a visiting businesswoman, with one added very special instruction included.
So, it transpired, that after Little Don had finished his customary huffing and puffing, the whore said quietly, "I'm ready to start whenever you are."
The friend who had played the little joke was so filled with remorse that he put up the money out of his own pocket to bribe the Jesuit into ignoring the fact that Little Don had died a suicide.
Is the subtext of this 1981 joke really all that different from the subtext of the 2007 suicide memo? The former speculates on how funny it would be--and how gratifying to NCLC members' sense of loyalty to Lyn--if the traitor Ken Dalto were to be induced to commit suicide. The 2007 document suggests (not just speculates) that it would be best for Lyn and the organization if Boomers such as Ken Kronberg were to kill themselves to make way for younger and more enthusiastic cadre. (Note that the harsher message, the 2007 one, was aimed at the individual whose perceived offense was relatively less serious: Kronberg, unlike Dalto, had never led a rebellion against LaRouche.)
An organizational "culture of abuse"
Both messages spring from the LaRouche organization's internal culture--one of psychological abuse, sadism, paranoia and hostility in which (a) low-performing members (or those who are less than totally obedient to LaRouche's whims) are screamed at in daily why-didn't-you-meet-your-quota meetings or in special ego-stripping sessions; (b) those who denounce LaRouche and leave the organization are hounded by threats and slanders; and (c) persons in the outside world who oppose the organization or can otherwise be fitted into LaRouche's crypto-Nazi conspiracy theory about an evil usurious elite become the target of psywar campaigns and other forms of nastiness.
An especially repulsive example of the culture of abuse in the middle 1980s was the sadistic mocking of senior citizens when they pleaded for the return of money they had lent the LaRouche organization (click HERE for details). Another example is the statement made by Michelle Steinberg (according to FBI agent Richard Egan's testimony at her 1986 bail hearing) regarding the attempts of a non-elderly loan victim to win restitution: "Piss on him. Fuck him. That's what he gets for lending us money."
The culture of abuse developed rapidly in the early 1970s as an extension of LaRouche's own fears, hatreds and power fantasies--and his underlying narcissism. First came the expulsion of the "Bavarian" faction and then in quick succession the rise of the security staff, the violence and hysteria of Operation Mop-Up and the Get Baraka campaign, and the development of the ego-stripping technique. By the middle 1970s the culture of abuse had clearly become dominant in the NCLC, and would be strengthened over the years by the development of a network of small-time bullies--persons like Phil Rubinstein and (in the 1980s) loan-fraud team leader Will Wertz--who exerted ruthless forms of psychological pressure to keep the rank and file slaving away for Lyn.
Who's human--and who's not?
At the heart of the culture of abuse is LaRouche's view that the NCLC and he himself are surrounded by less-than-human enemies with unspeakably evil goals who deserve to be psychologically destroyed and/or killed. This paranoia and hostility is frequently focussed on an internal enemy as well: If certain members happen to displease LaRouche for some reason, but refuse to accept the humiliations he chooses to bestow on them, he simply moves them from the human to the less-than-human side of the ledger so that they become fair game for the kind of nastiness that was directed at the Detroit faction.
This peculiarity is evidenced in LaRouche's April 19, 2007 letter of supposed condolence to Kronberg's widow, Molly, in which the NCLC chairman suggests that Mrs. Kronberg's husband, by refusing to "cling to that dedication of our living" (i.e., to LaRouche's cause), had proven himself to be one of those slackers who are "no more than virtually beasts." The same dehumanizing rhetoric is present also in LaRouche's Sept. 10, 2007 tirade against Mrs. Kronberg herself, in which he refers to "her perfervid devotion to ways and things Brutish."
The culture of abuse did not establish itself in the NCLC without opposition; there were several rebellions and splits by strong-minded individuals who could no longer countenance LaRouche's insanity. But the NCLC chairman managed to develop and retain a solid core of sycophants and tunnel-vision fanatics who were willing to play the role of psychological abusers, slanderers and bullies without hesitation. With the help of these individuals, he was able to keep a majority of the rank and file in a state of constant tension and fearfulness; thus, most would acquiesce in being ripped to shreds psychologically at some meeting or in some internal document, or would keep quiet while their closest comrades were being attacked in this manner.
Within such a bile-filled organizational culture, it was only a matter of time before adolescent jokes and fantasies about cement overshoes would be replaced by the real thing: a young man named Jeremiah Duggan killed while fleeing in terror from a thuggish indoctrination session...and a middle-aged man named Ken Kronberg reduced to despair by relentless denunciations (after a lifetime of loyalty to LaRouche) and jumping off a bridge.
The "Little Don Venice" jokes appeared under the heading "Zeke's Corner" in the NCLC daily briefings. "Zeke" is Zeke Boyd--Elijah C. Boyd--a former Black Panther who joined the NCLC in the early 1970s and is still a member today. Although he put his name to the jokes, ex-members who have known him doubt that he personally wrote most of them and point out that the jokes clearly reflect sexual obsessions unique to LaRouche's own speeches and writings. (We see here another parallel with the April 11, 2007 suicide memo, which was signed by culture-of-abuse enforcer Tony Papert but obviously was just a transcript of LaRouche's comments at a meeting the previous evening.)
Boyd, who once ran for the U.S. Senate as a candidate of the LaRouche movement's now-defunct U.S. Labor Party (he claimed to be the only genius on the ballot), is married to Barbara Boyd of the LaRouche legal department.
Barbara Boyd serves as the treasurer of LaRouche PAC, a political action committee registered with the Federal Election Commission. According to FACT Net postings by ex-members, she has made a number of recent phone calls to Ken Kronberg's widow, Molly, to harass her on behalf of a Little Don named Lyndon.--DK