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No Joke

"They say things like LaRouche is a leader of a cult or that he is anti-Semitic, or some other vile epithet," the release says. "Don't be fooled by these rumors and lies." They originate from Gestapo-style "thought police," and the families of the financial oligarchy who "exert control over politics in the U.S., through the top-down management of 'approved' popular beliefs, and religions, just as the oligarchy of the Roman Empire administered political control through the approved pantheon of pagan gods."

But Erica didn't see any of that. Looking back at that moment, when a keystroke might have altered her son's fate, she starts to weep.

Lyndon LaRouche addresses supporters during an April 30 Webcast in Washington. (Stuart Lewis - EIRNS)

"I AM GOING TO MAKE YOU ORGANIZERS -- by taking your bedrooms away from you . . . What I shall do is expose to you the cruel act of your sexual impotence . . . I will take away from you all hope that you can flee the terrors of politics to the safety of 'personal life.' I shall do this by showing to you that your frightened personal sexual life contains for you such terrors as the outside world could never offer you. I will thus destroy your rabbit-holes, mental as well as physical. I shall destroy your sense of safety in the place to which you ordinarily imagine you can flee."

According to Dennis King, author of Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism, that is an announcement LaRouche made to his own followers in an early 1970s memo.

Becoming a faithful follower of LaRouche is like entering the Bizarro World of the Superman comic books, says Paul Kacprzak, 45, who joined LaRouche as an idealistic teenager in the 1970s and worked for him for about a decade. As long as you stay inside the movement, everything you are told makes a certain sense. But if you try to view it from the outside, he says, "it's Bizarro World."

Born in 1922, LaRouche spent a painful childhood in New England, he writes in a 1988 version of his autobiography, The Power of Reason. His parents were fundamentalist Quakers and fierce anti-communists. When other children taunted him, he writes, his father forbade him to fight back. He endured years of torment and "numerous beatings," from bullies.

He was an unsuccessful student, he recalls, because he refused to believe his teachers' accepted truths. In geometry class, for example, "I could not accept the axioms and postulates," LaRouche writes. Later, attending Northeastern University in Boston "enraged" him, he writes. His instructors "lacked the competence to teach me on conditions I was willing to tolerate." So he quit.

LaRouche's mother wanted him to become a minister. Instead, he became a communist organizer. As a leader of the National Caucus of Labor Committees, LaRouche ordered a series of physical attacks on rival groups, according to King. The attacks, which King says involved beatings with metal pipes, clubs and martial arts devices known as nunchuks, took place in New York and other cities in 1973 and 1974, and became known among leftists as "Operation Mop-Up." LaRouche's autobiography maintains that he and his followers were acting in self-defense.

During this period, LaRouche wrote about psychological techniques for transforming recruits into faithful organizers. In one treatise, "Beyond Psychoanalysis," he wrote that organizers should strip recruits of their egos and reduce them to a state called "little me," in order to rebuild their personalities around a new socialist identity. LaRouche opined in another manifesto, "The Sexual Impotence of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party," that "Sexual impotency is generally the causal root of Left political impotency." To become politically potent, he said, leftists must confront their sexual problems, such as their fear of and desire for their sadistic mothers.

For three decades, LaRouche and his followers have accused enemies, including American, Soviet and British intelligence agencies, of sending brainwashed zombies to assassinate him. In December 1973, a 26-year-old British LaRouche associate named Christopher White claimed that he had been brainwashed as part of a plot to kill LaRouche. LaRouche activists announced that they'd been forced to put White through a grueling "de-programming," and offered recordings of the sessions to a New York Times reporter as proof.

"There are sounds of weeping, and vomiting on the tapes, and Mr. White complains of being deprived of sleep, food and cigarettes," the resulting Times story says. "At one point someone says 'raise the voltage,' but (LaRouche) says this was associated with the bright lights used in the questioning rather than an electric shock."

"During the intensive questioning on one day, Mr. White complains of a terrible pain in his arm," the story says, adding that LaRouche can be heard telling him: "That's not real. That's in the program."

Soon afterward, the Times reported, another LaRouche follower, Alice Weitzman, wrote a desperate note claiming that she was being held prisoner, folded her plea for help into a paper airplane, and sailed it out the window of her New York City apartment. According to the Times, when police arrived, they found several LaRouche followers who said they were "staying" with Weitzman because she had been brainwashed as part of a plot to kill LaRouche.

Brainwashing hysteria quickly spread through the LaRouche organization, Kacprzak says. He attended LaRouche meetings in the United States where there were "people writhing on the floor saying, 'I've been brainwashed, somebody de-program me!' "

In 1977, LaRouche married a much younger German woman, Helga Zepp, a key organizer for his operations in Europe. Their relationship, his second marriage, had a profound impact on LaRouche organizations in the United States, Kacprzak recalls. "We basically became a German organization," he says. "We'd have classes in German. They'd be teaching German language. We'd be reading German poetry."

At one point, Kacprzak and his colleagues received a memo announcing that after LaRouche was elected president, he would declare his wedding anniversary a holiday and give all U.S. workers a week off. "A couple of things hit me," says Kacprzak. "One, this is frigging crazy, and, two, how come nobody in this frigging office thinks this is crazy?"

LaRouche had led his followers to the political right by the time Ronald Reagan reached the White House. He added environmentalists to his list of enemies, talked about having connections in the intelligence world, championed nuclear energy and the Strategic Defense Initiative, and sought donations from retirees and disaffected farmers in the heartland.

LaRouche also relocated his headquarters from New York City to Leesburg, then a sleepy semirural town of about 12,000 people. Many followers moved with him, along with business enterprises such as printing operations. Corporations operated by LaRouche associates bought property worth millions.

LaRouche moved into a rented mansion patrolled by heavily armed guards. According to a 1985 Washington Post series, there were sandbag-buttressed guard posts and metal spikes in the driveway. The gun-toting guards alarmed the locals. So did LaRouche's rhetoric. LaRouche said he needed the security because teams of assassins were gunning for him and just might start slaughtering people on the streets of Leesburg.

Civic leaders who criticized LaRouche were denounced by followers and in LaRouche literature as commies, homosexuals, drug pushers or international terrorists. According to one published report, LaRouche denounced the Leesburg Garden Club as a "nest" of Soviet sympathizers. One lawyer who opposed LaRouche on a zoning matter went into hiding after what she told the New York Times were menacing phone calls and a death threat. In October 1986, more than 275 armed officers from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies staged a dawn raid on LaRouche's Leesburg operations. LaRouche and six followers were later arrested and convicted of multiple felonies stemming from their aggressive fundraising operations. As a result, the Federal Election Commission, which had sparred with LaRouche over the years, tried to stop funding his presidential aspirations while he was in jail, but LaRouche challenged the decision in federal appeals court and won in 1993. LaRouche was released from prison the following year, but his operations have never fully recovered from the criminal convictions, former members say. Many followers left the organization. One of LaRouche's former vice presidential candidates is mixing paint and stocking shelves at a Virginia hardware store.

Yet by his own reckoning LaRouche has had a "cumulatively large and probably permanent" impact on American politics. Government prosecutions of him, he writes in his e-mail, ultimately made him "a folk hero" in the United States and around the world. He doesn't rule out the possibility of making a ninth presidential bid in 2008. "My ghost will not be laid," he writes. According to federal financial disclosures, LaRouche reported in 2003 that he earns a salary of $26,451 from his Executive Intelligence Review News Service Inc. and lives in a rented home in Round Hill, Va. The remote estate is on an unpaved road, a mile off the blacktop. At the foot of LaRouche's driveway, stone dogs sit sentry. There is a metal security gate and a phone box visitors must use to gain entry. From the crotch of a nearby tree, a security camera is trained on the phone box.

Neighbor John Ross says he is glad to have the heavily guarded LaRouche living next door because "nobody is going to break into my house." Strolling his pasture one night, Ross spotted LaRouche security patrols wearing night-vision goggles. Once, Ross's scanner picked up their chatter as they communicated with each other with hand-held devices, he says. They were speaking German.

THERE WERE PROTESTERS ALL OVER THE NATIONAL MALL the spring day in 2002 when Michael Scott Winstead stopped to chat with a LaRouche organizer from Baltimore. Winstead gave the organizer his phone number and said he wanted to help stop the war in Afghanistan.

Winstead, a dark-haired former actor who'd once had a role in the touring company of Up With People, was at low ebb. He'd left college without a degree. He had dreamed of a career in the theater but was working as an office temp. Soon after his chance meeting on the Mall, Winstead attended a LaRouche speech and then a "cadre school" to learn how to be a LaRouche Youth Movement organizer. The cadre school, held at a Virginia state park, was a taxing series of lectures and discussions that "scared you to death" about the state of the world, says Winstead, now 28. "He tells these kids 'You have no future, you are finished, the economy is collapsing. It's going to be famine and flood . . . unless you find not God, but find me, or support me, or we win.' In times like this someone could look around and believe that. Things are bad, right?"

He joined the youth movement without hesitation. Soon, he was living in a house with other LaRouche followers and working fulltime at the Baltimore field office, a red brick building in an industrial park. He'd been promised a salary of $300 a week, but his paychecks dwindled, he says. When he asked why, he recalls, "They said, 'Well, you know we have to send Lyn all over Europe.' "

There were some benefits to the job. He was exhilarated when youth movement members stormed a political gathering shouting slogans, or showed up en masse without an appointment at some congressman's office. It made Winstead and his cohorts feel powerful, he says, and it was a group bonding experience. Bonding with the group was important because, they were told, they had a crucial mission.

The group's leaders, Winstead says, "were constantly asking us if we would die for these ideas." At one retreat of about 100 young people, a LaRouche organizer asked for a show of hands. "Most of the group raised their hands," Winstead says. "I think I did. The thing is, they frame it along the lines of Martin Luther King's [notion that] a man who hasn't found anything to die for isn't fit to live."

Visits home were frowned upon, he says. Parents were derided as "brainwashed baby boomers" or agents of the worldwide conspiracy against LaRouche.

LaRouche followers were expected to work six days a week, he says, beginning at 8 a.m., when a few dozen activists would gather at the office to sing -- typically old slave spirituals. Then they'd listen via speakerphone to an organization leader give a news briefing highlighting events that, Winstead says, "support their view that the world is crumbling basically and the economy is collapsing."

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