The La Rouchie Code

    While Portland doesn’t have the dramatic climatic changes of New England, we still have reliable natural cycles to remind us that we’re approaching the end of the year. One must exercise caution when walking through the Park Blocks, because this is the season that brings the return of slippery leaves, angry street preachers, and the representatives of the LaRouche Youth Movement.

    Lyndon LaRouche has been an oddball contrarian on the American political scene since the 1960s, when he was a communist. He has since joined the Democratic Party and run for president multiple times. He is now the leader of the LaRouche Political Action Committee, which is known for its political pamphlets with B-movie titles like Children of Satan IV: Cheney’s ‘Schmittlerian’ Drive for Dictatorship, Foot in the Door for Fascism and The Cities of the Plain, which readers of Marcel Proust and the Old Testament will recognize as Sodom and Gomorrah.

    Other commentators have called the LaRouche Youth Movement a “political cult” and called LaRouche himself a variety of names, including “fascist,” “homophobe,” and “anti-Semite.” (Sources available at As I have neither the time nor the space to address all these accusations, I shall limit myself to my reading of the LaRouche PAC’s latest publication, Is Joseph Goebbels On Your Campus? John Train and The Bankers’ Secret Government.

    Let me start by saying that I don’t know that I have a problem with LaRouche on any issues of political philosophy. I agree with him that there is a great deal of corruption in our government, that the government is too closely tied with corporate interests, and that the unchecked diminution of natural resources will lead to economic and ecological disaster. It is not their political ideals but their rhetoric that would prevent me from ever joining the ranks of the LaRouche supporters.

    On one hand, there’s a lot that I like about the LaRouche method. In our day of dumbed-down sound bites and focus-group-approved slogans, the LaRouche PAC regularly publishes magazine-length “pamphlets” (available from, if you don’t want to talk to the on-campus representatives). I respect the effort that goes into researching and writing the articles, many of which aim to give in-depth historical information about the issues. Unfortunately, the writers throw so much into the pot and draw so many connections that it’s hard to judge how valid any of it is.

    One of the first things you’ll notice in perusing the LaRouche literature is the prevalence of Nazi references. LaRouche and company are even more fascinated by the Third Reich and its leading personalities than the History Channel is. One can draw parallels between aspects of the Bush administration and elements from the Third Reich, and Nazism should not be off-limits as a point of comparison in political discussions. But the legacy of the Third Reich should not be evoked lightly, and the LaRouche emphasis on Nazism seems almost obsessive. I see no need to argue with the statement that “the Gestapo is the absolute epitome of evil,” but it is an affront to the Jewish people (and all other Europeans) to say that Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s were “the moral equivalent of Himmler and Goering’s Gestapo.”

    For a political platform that pays so much lip service to opposing the evils of Nazism, the LaRouche literature has a number of disturbing parallels to Nazi rhetoric. The subtitle mentions “The Bankers’ Secret Government,” and there are a number of references to an international conspiracy of financiers. The pamphlet never refers to the financial conspiracy as Jewish in any way, but it’s still strikingly reminiscent of anti-Jewish propaganda from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion through the Third Reich.

    The parallels to Nazi rhetoric are even more striking when the Larouchies move on to the topic of 20th-century art. Steinberg writes that the “Paris Review was part of an onslaught against Classical European culture, promoting the most perverse existentialist literature, degenerate post-modernist art and expressions of music and dance right out of the pit of Weimar Kulturkampf.” What is truly perverse is that these charges mirror those of the Nazis, who declared that modern art was “un-German” and “Jewish-Bolshevist” and presented a propagandistic exhibit entitled “Degenerate Art” (“Entarte Kunst“). The reference appears even more muddled when we take into account that the jazzy, sexy Weimar Republic (as represented in Cabaret) was overthrown by the Nazis, and that Kulturkampf (“culture battle”) refers to 19th-century struggles between Otto von Bismarck and the Roman Catholic Church.

    The LaRouche agenda should be approached with a pound, not just a grain, of salt. I don’t doubt the sincerity and good intentions of his supporters, but any politician who thinks he can make political arguments by calling his opponents the “Children of Satan” and makes puns from “Hitler” is not a serious alternative to politics as usual.