Although he has never seemed to have a following any larger than the entire population of Jefferson County, Ohio, Lyndon LaRouche's wacky yet sinister political movement and well-funded haranguing against the unseen hands of global power have provoked righteous denunciations, lawsuits and giggles from the mainstream (including as a throw-away joke in Mike Myers' So I Married an Axe Murderer, 1993). He was also the inspiration for one of my favorite pieces of doctored graffiti. After one of his followers had scrawled "Kill Satan/ Free LaRouche" on a bridge pier near my home, someone else came along and tampered with the message, so that it ultimately read: "Things to do Today/ 1. Buy Milk/ 2. Kill Satan/ 3. Free LaRouche."
Lyndon LaRouche was born on this day in 1922 in Rochester, New York. At the beginning of World War II, LaRouche was a college drop-out and conscientious objector in a Quaker work camp, but by the end of the War he was serving in a non-combat role with the U.S. Army in Burma, where he was introduced to socialism while observing anti-British demonstrations. After the War, he earned his living as an "economic consultant to the footwear industry," but indulged his political calling by joining the Socialist Workers Party.
In the 1960s, under the pseudonym of Lyn Marcus, he inspired a following as a Marxist theoretician in Greenwich Village, and founded a leftist organization called the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC). Around the time of his split with his common-law wife in 1973, however, LaRouche's approach became aggressive and isolative. Calling himself "Der Abscheulicher" (the "Abominable One"), he began to advocate the development of a goon squad to launch physical attacks against the "Nixon-allied Communist Party" and started to employ harsh, confrontational psychological techniques to his own followers (grilling; verbal abuse; denial of personal feelings and space) as a recruiting and deprogramming tool.
(As a sidelight -- in 1974, he briefly attracted psychologist Fred Newman to his crew, who advocated political action as a form of psychotherapy, with echoes of Reich; Newman quickly spun away from LaRouche and formed the New Alliance Party, best known as Lenora Fulani's first political vehicle.)
LaRouche's ferocious new identity was now three parts bully and one part delusional paranoia, as he apparently underwent a conversion similar to Mussolini's switch from socialism to right-wing fascism, but with the flavor of a psycho-religious cult. Some have theorized, however, that LaRouche is still a Marxist, but that he sports conservative duds to get money from gullible rich conservatives.
He ran for president in 1976 under the banner of his U.S. Labor Party (9th place, 40,084 votes), often addressing current issues with an articulate, mainstream-sounding veneer, but out of the other side of his mouth spewing an ornate theory of conspiracy that holds that the U.S. government is actually a puppet for Queen Elizabeth and the British banking elite (especially Jewish banking families), whose worldwide reign goes back for centuries and has swept within it the Pope, the CIA, the state of Israel, international drug cartels and other characters on the world stage. One famous assertion provides the flavor of his conspiracy yarns: "The Beatles," LaRouche once wrote, "had no genuine musical talent, but were a product shaped according to British Psychological Warfare Division specifications."
He ran again, as a Democrat, in the 1980, 1984 and 1988 primaries, but he was convicted of conspiracy and mail fraud in December 1988 for NCLC's solicitation of $34 million in loans from senior citizens (LaRouche complained it was retaliation by vindictive government agents), and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He ran his 1992 campaign, Debs-like, behind bars in a Minnesota federal prison, and was released in 1993. Settling in amidst ostentatious secrecy on a million-dollar estate in Loudoun County, Virginia, LaRouche has continued his manic pamphleteering and presidential campaigning unabated.
In 2000, he scored enough votes in the Arkansas primary to send delegates to the Democratic convention, but the Democrats fought LaRouche off in court, citing the fact that as a convicted felon, LaRouche was not a registered Democrat and therefore not entitled to be represented at the convention.