Rural Queensland is fertile ground for reactionary populist groups. Isolation, withdrawal of services and sharp practices by the banks have given farming communities a lot to be angry about. In the late ’80s, the Citizens Electoral Councils (CEC) took root in these communities, set up by Eric Butler’s League of Rights. It campaigned around issues like farm subsidies, tariffs, economic growth and immigration controls. In the early ’90s, domination was wrested from Butler’s clique by followers of a U.S. rightwinger, Lyndon LaRouche. Ian Storey explains the evolution of LaRouche and argues the need for vigilance to prevent the CEC getting a toehold in the union movement.
After this change, the CEC moved into the cities. CEC members can now be found pushing literature on campuses and in suburban shopping centres. As with many far right organisations, it speaks to people in a language they want to hear, proposing solutions to their problems which on the surface sound plausible, but in fact are based on crazy conspiracy theories and vicious bigotry.
In a disturbing development, the CEC has begun to organise in the union movement in Melbourne.
Populist conspiracy theories. Groups such as the League of Rights and the CEC usually attract a hard core of fascists, and typically fantasise about a crusade of historical proportions. LaRouche claims that he and his followers represent a 3,000-year-old faction of “Neo-Platonic humanists” locked in mortal struggle with an equally ancient intrigue that today includes the British royals, the British Secret Service, the “Zionist Lobby,” the Mafia, the IMF, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banks and the former Soviet Secret Service.
CEC literature compares LaRouche favourably to Albert Einstein, and his theories cover everything from Confucianism to Chaos Theory. He is a zealous supporter of nuclear power and argues that there is a conspiracy to make radioactive material seem dangerous. A LaRouchite government would launch headlong into the implementation of nuclear power with, no doubt, little concern for the health effects to the average citizen. The CEC also claims that the greenhouse effect and the depletion of the ozone layer are conspiratorial hoaxes.
LaRouche has a particular obsession with the British Queen. “Of course she’s pushing drugs,” he once said. Predictably anti-semitic, the CEC claims that perhaps there were no Jews at all who perished in Nazi camps.
From sexist loner to fascist demagogue. Dennis King, author of Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism, relates that LaRouche, as a teenager, “withdrew into his books, took long walks in the woods, and accumulated an enormous resentment against his peers. He found solace in the great philosophers…whose works helped him rationalise his social situation.”
Somehow or other, LaRouche, then known as Lynn Marcus, drifted into the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the 1950s. Clara Fraser, who went on to found the Freedom Socialist Party, was then also a member of the SWP, and had dealings with him. “He never seemed to belong to any SWP branch; he was a loner. He was never active, never involved in any mass movement or internal organisational work. What he did was write — and write and write and write, until we all wished he’d be stricken by digital rheumatism… They said he was an economist, but nobody seemed to know where he worked or what he did. Sometimes I would feel sorry for him and go up and say hello; he never replied except in a mumble or a curt rejoinder. Once I mustered the audacity to ask him to explain his latest document. My polite interest invoked nothing but a look of utter contempt. I gave up on Lynn Marcus. Just one of those fringe eccentrics.”
Marcus left the SWP, resurfacing in 1968 as Lyndon LaRouche, a leader in an outfit called the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC). Fraser recalled that their paper, New Solidarity, went berserk over the emergence of feminism. “Feminism is shit,” it roared one day. “Mothers are fuckers, the enemy, witches. Women are the Achilles heels of revolutionaries, the cause of IMPOTENCE. Women turn men into deviants, queers, and schlemiels (bumblers).”
These rantings had Fraser warning: “The man is a menace…In a few years he’ll have storm troopers to beat up on workers.” LaRouche had found his comfort zone in fascism. Here he could live out his Great Thinker fantasies, pumping out ill-informed conspiracy theories and pseudo-science. Currently in jail for taxation offences, this megalomaniac woman-hater is the “spiritual leader” of the CEC.
Feeding on misery. At a time when the economy is booming for big corporations, small businesses are failing at a phenomenal rate. The CEC claims to offer hope to small business people, parading itself as their champion against big business and the banks, and promising low taxes and high tariffs.
Workers are facing a future in which there is little job security and falling real wages. For many people, electricity, gas and water supply are luxuries to be rationed, and decent food is increasingly a budgetary problem. Higher education, affordable housing, dental care and other health care have slipped from the grasp of many employed workers. For the unemployed, the situation is already desperate.
In typical rightwing fashion, the CEC resorts to scapegoating and bigotry to divert workers’ attention from the real game — the crushing of working class organisations. LaRouche has written that history would not judge harshly those persons who beat gay men to death with a baseball bat to stop the spread of AIDS. Women are treated as a threat to men’s jobs. Indigenous land rights, which in reality pose no threat at all to urban workers, are characterised as a Zionist conspiracy to divide the country, sponsored by the Queen’s husband! Immigrants are treated as sub-human invaders who pose a threat to the economic welfare of “our desirable nation.”
Subjected to even the lightest scrutiny, LaRouche’s theories are exposed as irrational nonsense. But Nazism is not concerned with debate. The CEC is attempting to build a mass movement of farmers, small business people and disaffected blue-collar workers to impose its program on society. Fascism, a creation of the 20th century, is still a real threat in the 21st.
Populism is good for business. One million people voted for One Nation in the 1998 election. In response, the four major parties have moved rightward. A few boatloads of desperate refugees has provided the Federal Government with the opportunity to adopt Hansonite immigration policies. The ALP and Democrats voted with the government to preserve their slice of the redneck vote.
The rabid fear campaign against refugees is a version of the tactic used to impose the racist Ten Point Plan on Indigenous Australians. Wherever big business sees a threat to its domination, expect a vicious outpouring of bigotry in the media.
It would be nice to be able to close our eyes and wish the monster of fascism out of existence. Unfortunately, it is a counterpoint to capitalism at times of crisis. It sows confusion and creates a diversion away from the failures of the market system. The CEC is the modern face of an old scourge. Anti-fascist activists successfully tossed it out of pro-MUA rallies in 1998. This tactic should be followed wherever it emerges from its bunker. Nazis out of the unions!