Archive for April, 2007

by way of background

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Mull this for a moment, and…

The following comes from Tim Wohlforth’s 1994 book The Prophet’s Children: Travels on the AMerican Left, and is somewhat redundant to this here. As a matter of course, I think this book excerpt is a little more lucid, maybe simply because it is situated in a longer narrative, and ultimately one of more significant reach.

I pass this along with an admission that I am pouring through a different book co-written by Wohlforth, On the Edge: Poltiical Cults Right and Left, for a somewhat more pertinent and diabolical post, which may just end up being a few excerpts from this book which serve as very specified case studies and may have me actually having something to say, which would be entitled “How to Dissolve a Cult“. Useful to whom, I can’t quite say.

Shouldn’t I be mocking the latest political Prostitution Scandal or something?


That year we got our next wave of recruits from the SWP, and we could not have done worse. We began discussions with LL. I had known Lyn just a little when I was an SWP member. He lived in a nice apartment on Central Park West with his wife, Janice, and small child. Lyn earned his living at the time as an economic consultant, playing no role at all in the party discussions in the 1961 to 1964 period. After we had all left, L suddenly stirred from his slumbers and started submitting lengthy documents to the SWP discussion bulletin. He developed positions that at least appeared to be close to ours, and we began a collaboration.

He had by then left his Central Park West wife and was living in the Village with Carol Larrabee (Schnitzer, White), a woman who had joined the SWP during the regroupment period. L had a gargantun ego. A very talented, brilliant fellow, he was convinced he was a genius. He combined a strong conviction in his own abilities with an upperclass arrogance that, happily, I rarely encountered in radical circles. He assumed that the famous comment in the Communist Manifesto, that a “small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class” was written specifically for him.

The characteristics of L’s thinking process, which he would later develop to reactionary extremes, were already present when I knew him in 1965. He possessed a marvelous ability to place any event in the world within a larger perspective, a talent that seemed to give the event meaning. The problem was that his thinking was schematic and lacking in factual detail, and ignored contradictory considerations. His explanations were just a bit too perfect and his mind worked too quickly that I always suspected that his bravado covered superficiality. L had the “solution” to anything and everything. It was almost like a parlor game. Just present a problem to L, no matter how petty, and without so much as blinking his eyes, he would come up with the solution, usually prefacing his remarks with “of course.”

I remember private discussions I had with L in 1965 when he went on at length about Kennedy, Rockefeller, and the Trilateral Commission. L held to a view that there existed a network of foundations and agents of the more moderate, internationalist-oriented, Eastern-based capitalists who sought to avoid unrest at home through reform projects and to avoid revolution abroad through development programs like the Alliance for Progress. He was very much a believer in conspiracy theories. I, even in my most ultraleft days, was a bit of a sceptic. For L, even as a radical, the liberals were the main enemy.

I was distrubed by L’s thinking process in those days. I do not claim to have realized then where he would end up, but he definitely made me uncomfortable. He seemed to be an elitist with little interest in the plight of ordinary people. His ideas were too schematic and mechanical for my taste. I could not agree with the position he expounded in that period that the Vietnam War was a battle over Vietnam’s capabilities of becoming the breadbasket for the industrialization of Asia. I also was suspicious of conspiracy theories.

L stayed with us only six months — I think our little group was not big enough to contain him — and he moved on to Robertson’s Spartacist League. Unable to win this group over to “Lism”, Lyn and Carol left after a few months. Sometime later we got a letter from him in which he announced that all factions and sections of the Trotskyist Fourth International were dead and that he and Carol were going to build the Fifth International. I suppose, in a way, this is what he thinks he has done.

I continued to follow L’s political evolution after he left our group. Dennis King, who has made a study of L, has noted that I was “one of the first observers to spot something amiss.” In the beginning of 1967 L and his wife joined a relatively broad coalition of New Left intellectuals called the Committee for Independent Political Action. He gained control of the West Village CIPA branch and started gathering a coterie of young intellectuals. He had finally discovered his milieu, and success swiftly came his way. Through a combination of rather high-level classes and spirited polemics, L won over a group of graduate students, most of whom were members or sympathizers of Progressive Labor. Progressive Labor was in that period at the height of its strength within SDS. L’s gifted young intellectuals included […]

It was the Columbia University occupation and student strike in 1968 that established Larouche on the left. The student movement there was being led by SDS. There were two main factions in SDS, reflecting a split developing in the national organization: Mark Rudd’s Action Faction, and a somewhat more moderate group known as Praxis Axis. The rather appropriate names were coined by L. The Rudd group was interested only in provocative demonstrations and punch-ups with the cops. It would soon emerge as the Weatherman group of underground terrorists. The Praxis group was influenced by the French intellectual Andre Gorz, who held that a new working class was being created by modern technoloy. The students were the vanguard of the new working class. Gorz’s ideas gave the group a kind of mainstream “student power” perspective. L captured most of the PL-SDS group at Columbia and was able to come forward as a relatively strong third alternative. He presented a plausible program for linking the struggles of the students with the struggles of the surrounding poor black community. This was a period when many students radicalized by the Vietnam War and the black struggle were beginning to look for a way to carry the leftist struggle beyond the campus gates. L appeared to some to have a program that could fulfill this wish.

After quickly regrouping his followers into the SDS Labor Committee (later to become the NCLC), L began to hold meetings in the Columbia area. From time to time I attended these meetings. Some twenty to thirty students would gather in a large apartment not far from Columbia. They would sit on the floor surrounding L, by now sporting a very shaggy beard. The meeting would go on at great length, sometimes for as long as seven hours. It was difficult to tell where discussions of tactics left off and an educational presentation began. The students were given quite esoteric assignments, such as searching through the writings of Sorel to discover the anarchistic origins of Rudd, or studying Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital. For some reason, perhaps because the SDS movement was strong on spirit and action but rather bereft of theory, L’s ruminations found a home.

L in this period developed a series of ideas by extracting and distorting some theories from the Marxist tradition. Even today, from his right-wing position, he retains this element in his thinking. He held these ideas, in an elementary way, even in the period of his membership in our organization. Most important was his Theory of Hegemony. He wrote in 1970: [consult the book yourself.]

L drew this notion from his interpretation of Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?, where Lenin speaks of intellectuals bringing socialist conciousness to the workers. He then expanded it by drawing from Gramsci’s notion of hegemony. L’s goal was to forge an intellectual elite corps that would gain hegemony on the left and then capture from on high the allegiance of the masses. I am not arguring that L’s interpretation of Lenin and of Gramsci was in any way an accurate one — Gramsci, for example, was a strong believer in an automonous working-class movement — but only showing which strands of the Marxist tradition appealed to L and motivated him and his followers in his radical period.

A necessary corollary of L’s concept of a superior intellectual revolutionary elite is the concept of an inferior class. Here L distorted Marx’s distinction between the class itself (ordinary conciousness) and the class for itself (socialist conciousness). he also made heavy use of Lenin’s polemic against the “economists” in Russia who, in Lenin’s opinion, were adapting to the backwardness of ordinary conciousness of the workers. It appeared that L and his followers, even in their radical stage, had a low opinion of ordinary human beings. In 1969, for example, L followers Steve Fraser and Tony Papert wrote about forcing “working people and other groups to begin to part with their habitual swinish outlooks.”

The second strand of L’s thought was his Theory of Reindustrialization. This concept remains the heart of his current economic theory and rightist agitation. L began with a rather orthodox theory of capitalist crisis derived from Marx’s Capital and Luxemberg’s The Accumulation of Capital. He was convinced that capitalism had ceased to grow, or at least ceased to grow sufficiently to meet the needs of the country’s poor. This created an economic crisis that would only worsen. he believed international capitalism was on the brink of entering what he called the “third stage of imperialism” (see his pamphlet of the same name published in 1967). The “third stage of imperialism” was an attempt by the developed nations to overcome the stagnation at home and revolution abroad by formenting a new industrial revolution in the third world. L expected this to take place in India. His idea was the advanced nations would use their unused capacity to make capital goods and export them to India, setting up factories that would employ the country’s surplus work force.

At this point in the argument L borrowed from his Trotskyist background to develop a transitional program that would, he hoped, motivate the masses to support him so that he could resolve this worldwide crisis of capitalism. Trotsky proposed a program that addressed the immediate needs of masses of people in the hope that the struggle around these demands would lead the people to realize the need for socialism. L hoped to win the support of American workers by promising that his program would supply jobs. For example, during the Vietnam War his idea was to reconvert the war industries to this peaceful reindustrialization.

This entire economic schema, which made up the bulk of Lites writings and agitation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was presented in an increasingly frenetic manner, bolstered by predictions of economic doom. L was a crisis-monger of the first order — though our group gave him a run for his money. L and his followers became increasingly convinced that the fate of the world rested with their group and with their leader — LL, Jr. The resources, both technological and human, were present for this glorious economic transformation. The problem lay with the cussed stupidness of the nation’s leaders and swinishness of the masses. If only L were in power all the world’s problems would be dwelt with swiftly.

In the early 1970s, as the Left in the United States shrank under the impact of conservative times, L lashed out with a series of attacks on the SWP and the CP. Soon his group was denouncing all leftists and seeking support from extreme right-wingers. The Lites began mouthing anti-Semitic phraseology, promoting the nuclear power and arms industry, advocating a Star Wars defense, and baiting gay people. The old Trotskyite, a member of my own small organization, had emerged as a Fascist! I am most struck by the elements of continuity in L’s thinking. This where I believe there are lessons for the Left.

Most important is L’s elitism. Ordinary human beings were viewed by L the leftist and by L the Fascist as a swinish element to be manipulated. L never absorbed the humanist and compassionate side of the Marxian socialist tradition. He is not alone in expressing this defect. We need only think of Stalin, who could ruthlessly permit the death of millions of peasants and consciously purge and murder hundreds and thousands of his own Communist cadres, all in the ostensible interests of “history”. A more recent example is Pol Pot’s conduct in Cambodia. Only socialism rooted in humanism can any longer be considered socialism. Once an individual, party, or state is no longer anchored in this view, then terms like “left” and “right” lose any significance.

In fact it is quite remarkable how the “new” L organizes his followers in a Leninist cadre fashion, drives them with a vision of their historic tasks and necessity of their actions, and successfully reaches layers of society with “transitional” slogans that appeal to economic needs or old prejudices.

Old Business.

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Well, I’m in this for the long haul, so bear with me anyone who doesn’t care.
OLD Business.  There is a difference between commenters Steve and Dianne Bettag.  Dianne Bettag appears to me an autotron.  Steve seems a decent sort, misguided but aren’t we all?  I’m referring here to some people who have commented in the past.  Dianne Bettag threw out the canard about Dennis King and High Times, an item that seems to have come from on high from Larouche.  Steve furthered it, but once I rebuffed it, moved on with original thoughts on the matter of Dennis King.  I was not in any position to say anything about King.  I finally have read some items from his website, and I at least know the reference to this…
P.S. I originaly wasn’t going to go there about Denis King, but I have to. When King’s book first came out, not wanting to buy it, I read large portions of it sitting in the bookstore. I finally quit in disgust when I got to his claim that LaRouche considers “Bronze, Silver and Golden souls” as biologically determined. Anybody that has even minimal competence in the study of LaRouche’s views would know that he has consistently been implacably hostile to any notion of the biological determination of the human personality. So by characterizing LaRouche’s notion of golden souls as representing a biological type, King shows himself to be either dishonest, or at the very least incompetent in understanding his subject.

I feel myself rummaging through into an area that looks ultimately meaningless to any larger picture.  If I could get my hands on a physical copy of King’s book, I would be in better shape.  My time online is short, and I tend to multi-task while online.  I’m not apt to read a 300 page book online.  But the interview that King posted online delves into the matter, and I see that he picked it up… somewhere.  (Probably a matter of looking at the footnotes of his book to see what publication Larouche discussed colors of souls.)

It seems to amount to code language that slides him with Adolf Hitler.  I don’t know what to make of it as of yet, and I don’t even know if I want to bother with the effort to make something out of it.  It doesn’t strike me as terribly interesting.  I can analogies between Hitler and Larouche without pondering his views on predeterminism and free will.  (The joke I will come back to: fill in the blank — BLANK Youth Movement.  I wish to point out to the Steves of the world that may be reading this: that is roughly the first impression the average person, especially college student, has when met with this organization.)  As the interview rolls on, we are brought back to the policy initiative on the California ballot in 1986 and 1988.  My first thoughts when reading through them, and some campaign literature of the time, fully independent of Dennis King mind you?  Hitlerian, thank you very much.
There is a certain hysterical effect I see with King’s comparisons on Larouche and Hitler in terms of “breathe a sigh of relief once he goes to prison, but then…”  Comparing the post-prison career of Hitler and Larouche: okay — Hitler became the DIctator of Germany and overrun half of Europe.  Larouche?  Saw his momentum stop, struggled through a difficult decade unable to get his movement back on foot, before finding new targets of recruitment with a renewed strategy and clearer focus and a scape-goating of his old followers for his difficulties.  Two different paths entirely.
Whatever the faults of Dennis King, I assume that he has tracked Larouche’s money trail to a tee.  Which makes his admission, and I find it difficult to imagine that this has changed in the nearly two decades since this interview, that he can only speculate on where his start-up funding came from, one of those mysteries that unraveled will show us …  the real conspiracy.  Larouche has, simply put, manipulated the seedy world of Global finance that he’s hewed on about for the past four decades for his personal aggrandizement.  It is one of those profound ironies.

I think a cutsey Freakonomics-like lesson can be made of the Economic rules of the operation of Larouche’s, which I will pursue a bit … in a later post.

P.P.S. I continue to find more to respond to. LaRouche’s pro-technology views. He does not advocate technological without regard to environmental consequences. What he is against is the “environmental movement” which has been dominated by the idea that industry is somehow intrinsically bad for the environment and should be shut down or at least severly restricted. He sees this viewpoint as being promoted by those who oppose industry on other grounds – for example the question of industrializing the third world which would totally shift the financial balance of power worldwide.

Mercy me!  This is one of the lynch-pins of Larouchism, and at the heart of how he has managed to travel the ideologies around from a psuedo-Trotskyism to a psuedo-Reaganism to  — um — “FDR-Kennedy-Mackinley-Lincoln-Hamilton-Franklin Democrat”… Simply put, he likes big, shiny objects.  And he likes the idea that he might oversee the construction of these big, shiny objects — and control the lives of the masses.  (Statist is he.)   Larouche is taking credit, and backing, this largely universally panned proposal.   It is an insane proposal, the undersea channel across the Bering Strait connecting Russia with Alaska.  It is a way to appear relevant for the strange man in Virginia to his followers, but in terms of ideology… well, we can fully develop and develop and develop the Earth without any environmental impact statement because… we will building moon bases.  Limitless imagination!

The tedium of Max Boot

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

I looked over the political magazines and saw last week’s Weekly Standard and had one thought upon gazing the cover:

Good Gawd, more tedium from the esteemed Max Boot.

I next direct your attention to this book by Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder — a predominantly right-wing or conservative attack of various peoples who are proported “Schmucks”.  It’s the same genre that Bernie Goldberg got the ball rolling with his “101 People Who Are Screwing America”, which is the same genus as the Ann Coulter, and yes Al Franken, books which predominately skewer political enemies.  As with Goldberg, a Jack Abramhoff is tossed in, and a Mel Gibson.  And for the historical record, because we need to hate her for some reason or other…

Former Montana Representative Jeanette Rankin.

Because her lone vote against World War Two affected anyone … how? 

Basically the problem I ended up having, reading through this selection from the cheap rack of the book store, was its winding to an end of saying “We should of seen it coming”, and pointing out that she had the termerity to vote against entering World War One, and with words to the effect of “As America was Uniting together”.

Now, finding myself back to Max Boot.  There’s a question that I’ve heard from time to time posed in debates to liberal anti-war Democrats.  It was asked of Dennis Kucinich in various debates for 2004, and probably for 2008 as well.  I recall it asked in a primary debate between Cynthia Mckinney and the man who ultimately displaced her.  And I’ve heard it asked to various anti-war organizations, from the dreadful ANSWER to more respectable peace organizations.

“Is there any war that the United States has fought that you have been in favor of?” or “Is there any scenario you can come up with where you would use military force?”
The Max Boot and the Jackie Mason question has to be “Is there any war that the United States has fought, historically, that you disagree with?” or “Is there any scenario you can come up with where you would forgo the use of  military force?”  (And I hear John McCain humming a few bars.)

the winner of the Democratic presidential debate…

Friday, April 27th, 2007

During the last Democratic presidential primary, a lot later in the game than we are now — I believe at a point where everyone basically knew that John Kerry was the nominee and the Beltway Rules allowed for John Edwards and Wesley Clark to carry on in respectibability, Ted Koppel hosted a debate between remaining candidates. It might have been a little earlier than I recall, with a fuller slate of candidates — but the precision is immaterial. At any rate, his question for Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton was “Why are you here?”

I can’t say much about Sharpton, but he was funny where the other candidates’ attempts at humor were rigid.

Last night, much earlier than it seems we should have these things, the Democrats held their first “debate”. The first first debate was canceled as the Democratic base winced at the Fox News sponsorship — the 2004 Fox News Democratic debate including several cringe-inducing framed questions, and whose high-light was legitimately Al Sharpton verbally beating up on some Larouchite hecklers in the crowd.

It’s a little early, and the show is a pointless exercise, ultimately, that doesn’t really tell you what the candidate’s administration would be like. But we string these alongs for a long year, without much of anything worth saying. Hence, hearing and reading about the debate, the candidate who you have to say created the most Buzz from this staged Meat-showing was…

Former Alaska Governor Mike Gravel!!

Witness him here.

This is fairly typical. As anyone can attest, the most interesting personality in the 2000 Republican primary debates, as we wound down to the end of it with three active candidates, was 2 percenter Alan Keyes (now of “Got beat by 30 points by Barack Obama as a party-picked carpetbagger” fame).

Mike Gravel’s take-down of Joseph Biden is particularly instructive, and worth a bit of dissemination.

Some of these candidates frighten me. [Who?} The top tier ones. Joe, I’ll include you in this. Joe, you have a certain arrogance, you want to tell the Iraqis how to run their country. We should just play ‘get out.’ It’s their country, their asking us to leave, and we insist on staying there, why not get out. You hear the statement, ‘the soldiers will have died in vain.’ The entire deaths of Vietnam died in vain. You know what’s worse than a soldier dying in vain? More soldiers dying in vain.
The tedium of Biden comes in what was his highlight for the night — the answer to the question of if he can assure the American people about his verbosity or something or other with the clipped answer “Yes” — and cue laugh track. But there is something about Gravel’s speech that I’ve been thinking about, and that is the pomposity of the populist anti-war sell of “If the Iraqis won’t accept our help — there’s nothing we can do”. That is not precisely what Gravel is referring to — I believe it’s more in line with the idea that we should split Iraq into three nations, but I’m guessing it’s in the same vicinity of “certain arrogance”.

There are more items here and here. I stand by every negative thing I said regarding his career, as read into by me from old news articles, on this blog during my “Retain a spot in the top 20 google searches” era for the man. And I’m not a fan of his radical ideas. But he seemed to add a certain levity to an otherwise pointless facade. I heard Paul Begala on Staphanie Miller this morning dismiss him, which was interesting because he did so by saying that “He makes Dennis Kucinich look like a statesman”, and then backtracking to apologize for Dennis Kucinich and proclaiming him a legitimate candidate with ideas and a following, hence viable enough for the debate. Understand Begala is a Hillary Clinton person, a more woeful spot to be in the Democratic party presidential games I do not know.
So it is that CNN is apparently not going to have Gravel in their next debate. Which seems to suggest this is the high-point in the Mike Gravel presidential campaign. I do not know if that is a shame or not, but I do know that in the next National Journal rankings — Mike Gravel should be given that “up arrow”.

another edition of a category I’m apologetic for carrying on with…

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Stating the obvious…  Well, as posted a few months ago, maybe not completely.
Evidence points to a major news feature coming out in short order about the strange little man in Virginia and his operation, in wake of the suicide of Ken Kronberg.  This happens every so often, my big question is what is going to be rehashed by order of background information.  It is a good chance for the newspaper to float quotes from anonymous ex-members, pass on some things that Dennis King has to say, and throw in a defending quote or two from his flock of recently minted baby-boomer despising disciples.  I believe the Larouche news machine should be priming the pump right now, getting their template together to fill in the blanks for purpose of attacking the writer of the article, implying a conspiracy de jour against the Messiah-in-Chief, builder of a relatively expensive Potemkin Village world of a top-down model of culture and political activism.  (Larouche has taken credit most recently for a Chuck Hagel op-ed piece on Iraq and Dennis Kucinich’s measure to Impeach Dick Cheney.  His schtik is to float policy influence amongst his true believers, gist for the mill.)
I too went to Ken Kronberg’s funeral. A few noteworthy things:
1. There was no mention whatsoever of LHL or the Labor Committee throughout the service.
2. The sermon at some point quoted Kronberg as saying something like: I used to think the universe was run by conflict, everyone attacking each other, but now I know it’s run by Love. Pretty obvious polemic against You Know Who.
3. The written item called “Remembering Ken” that was passed out to those attending–which was written by Kronberg’s wife Molly, also a longtime member–did not mention LaRouche or the ICLC or PMR or Fidelio or Campaigner or ….–not a word.

There were a lot of LCers at the funeral, but it’s not clear whether they noticed any of this or not. The large number of ex-LCers present sure noticed it.

Looked like a posthumous repudiation of LaRouche by Kronberg–actually, not just posthumous (see the quote from the sermon).

Charming.  This is a world which I don’t quite know if it has any value in passing along, but it is a life and a statement.
My private speculations on what exactly is going to happen when, surely within 15 years and more than likely on the short end of that time period, the strange man in Virginia passes away togs henceforth and thusforth, and perhaps this is the end-game for the strange beast that has hunkered about since the 1960s:

Meanwhile, back at “Windy Hill”, the Archon’s rental mansion, I wonder if he knows just how deep the doo-doo is going to get. From the look of things at FACTNet I would surmise that those who are still hanging on, aside from the LYM, are just hanging around watching the vultures circle and waiting for them to pounce. Maybe waiting for the Archon to pass on, and the org with him. I simply don’t see it surviving. If Mrs. Archon has all the rest of the money locked up on her side of the pond then she can probably live well for a good long time, unless somebody decides to audit the books.

If you drew a line-graph of prosperity (or a potemkin prosperity), I imagine a peak in 1986, which drops down to a low through the Clinton era, and is funneled back up with a more apt target (Bush Administration) and a more strategically sound recruitment base, on college campuses.  I suspect the lines will diverge away as we move away from Cheney/Bush, and I’m not sure there’s enough anti-environmentalist college kids to suck into an anti-global warming crusade.
Which means that the clever Accounting box shuffling to paper over monetary deficiencies in various parts of Larouche, Inc. will strain more and more of the old Guard technocrats — the Ken Kronbergs — before a final bust.  But that’s just a theory.

Hey!  I found an online edition of the late 1970s “Dope, Incorporated”!  (Well, it popped before me.)  Weeee!

I should go make fun of Mike Gravel’s performance in the Democratic Debate now.

Ted Kulongoski and his trip to the supermarket

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

The other day, the Oregonian had on its front page the headline “Can You Eat on $21 a week?”  The answer to that question is… sure, with a bit of money to spare, actually, and relatively easily.  Your diet consists of Raisin Bran, spaghetti, potatoes, and … god, I’m drawing a blank on cheap eatings of past years… pancakes.  Sandwiches aren’t too expensive to make, either.  You will note that Ramen noodles and Macaroni and cheese are thrown out of this mix, and this is because when all is said and done they make you want to vomit.
So it is with a shrug that I initially met Ted Kulongoski’s schtik of eating off the food-stamp budget of $21 for a week.  “A skinnier Kulongoski will lobby for more funding for food stamps” went one report.  Nay — a $21 diet probably has the opposite effect.  Except then we get to the part of the report where “Kulongoski draws the line at mixed peanut butter and jelly” — good, because such a food-object is horrible to comprehend.  But here it dawns on me: $21 for a household as opposed to single bachelor.

Mother.  Father.  Kid.

Okay, yes, that is indeed impossible.

Boris Who?

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Overheard conversation, and I’d expect better from the second person (even as I didn’t see him, he was surely no younger than I, and the circumstances don’t suspect a person of the level of ignorance found behind the statement.)
“Boris Yeltsin died.”