I have had personal experience with the LaRouchians not too long ago (Summer of '04) when I was in New York City through my university's program at NYU.
I was walking to the Guggenheim Museum when I was pulled aside by a few older looking gentlemen. Let me say now that I was 18 at the time and really interested in the current presidential election and the (then) new situation in Iraq. I'd given money to all organizations that were not Republican and had filled out information forms for the DNC. So it wasn't too much of a shock when the man asked me to fill out a contact form and donate. I dropped in some loose change, grabbed a pamphlet called "Children of Satan I" about Bush and Cheney, snickered at its title, and left.
I didn't expect them to call me a week or so after I got home to talk about LaRouche. A young lady from NJ called me fairly regularly from July to about September. We read Plato's "Phaedrus" in a group over the phone, discussed LaRouche's policies, and just generally had what I thought were intellectual discussions. At this point, I didn't think that I was being recruited, really. I was enjoying myself! I'd never met people my age who enjoyed reading philosophy!
So August rolled around and school began. I didn't have a lot of time for long conversations over the phone and outside reading as my schedule was demanding enough as it was. I was accused of not being serious, of not caring about the status of the world economy, and of "letting the fascists control me."
Labor Day comes and the girl (Elena) invites me to go to what I was told would be a *war protest* in Washington, DC. I was excited! I convinced my mom to help with airfare, and I left on the Thursday of Labor Day weekend, not to return until Tuesday morning. I arrived to a nice hotel in VA, not far from DC. People have my name and a name tag ready for me...ok. The thought "Since when do protesters need name tags?" flashed through my mind, but I dismissed it. Surely there was a reason for this, right? I sat down and was immediately introduced to a young lady named Torrie from New England a another young lady named Nuala from Ireland. I then received a registration packet (?) and a conference schedule(?). "Hold on", I said, "I was told this was a war protest--NOT a conference!". And looking at the schedule it would be a slam-packed weekend indeed.
The meetings lasted at the bare minimum 2 and a half hours (and usually were 4-5 hours in length), but the topics seemed interesting to me. I figured that I would give it a try. At least I would spend the weekend productively keeping my mind active instead of veging out in front of the TV, right? So that night I meet some of the people I'd been corresponding with over the phone (Elena had gone to CA for another conference, and unfortunately wasn't there).
The plan was to do some more readings. There was a lot of confusion since there were many people who'd been holding and participating in many difference readings and discussions with people all over the country and world, but the night was enjoyable enough.
That morning, the speeches and such began at 9 AM. Mr. LaRouche was introduced by a Civil Rights leader whose name I can't recall and he spoke about the impending economic collapse and the fact that we were facing a major depression. He talked about FDR, whom he seemed to idolize, and sat down. There wasn't anything TOO inflammatory that was said at this session...but later on the bells began ringing telling me that this was not a good situation in which to be.
At the next session, he made some inflammatory comments regarding Jewish people, and then said things such as "Queen Elizabeth II is in charge of a drug cartel, which is crippling the American people". WHOA! I hadn't signed up for this, and this was only day one!
Being thoroughly confused, we thankfully broke for lunch. I went to a nearby restaurant with the aforementioned young ladies (Torrie and Nuala) and some of the other members of the movement. I asked questions, but really received no answers besides "LaRouche said it, so it must be so!" and "You shouldn't question him. That man is a genius!". Nuala and I exchanged looks.
The day it all came to a head was the next (Saturday). In the morning a woman got up and said that environmentalism was a fascist tool, that global warming basically didn't exist or was overhyped, and that Nader was an evil corrupt man.
They, then, opened up the floor for Q&A. Most of the people who got up prefaced their questions with things such as "Mr. LaRouche, it's such an honor to be in your presence...", "You're such an intelligent person, Mr. LaRouche! You must pave the way for the future...", etc. I got up and asked "Mr. LaRouche, I've just listened to the talk given by this woman here. I'm curious, are you against all environmentalism? How is that movement fascist?"
The answer I got was "It really IS a fascist movement! Just look on the Internet!" ...M'kay...the cracks that had begun to form the day before grew even more profound. I sat down.
Mrs. Zepp-LaRouche got up to speak next. Firstly, she spoke about how the LaRoucheian movement was growing in Germany and all over Europe, and how there were all kinds of candlelight vigils all over the world. She then talked about the EU and how horrible it was for the common people. Nuala sparked to attention on this one, as she was from Ireland. Mrs. Zepp-LaRouche said that it was crippling and ruining people's finances in Germany, that if a person lost their jobs, they had to sell all they owned to get government assistance--this included houses, cars, savings accounts, and even piggy banks given to children.
Nuala pointed out that this was in direct contradiction with the EU Bill of Rights.
After her speech, the meetings were over for the day. I walked outside with Nuala and we talked about it all, discussing our doubts and what we knew vs. what we had just been told. That night there was beautiful singing. The LaRouchians are well known for their singing, and they practice for hours upon end, but that didn't quell the doubts we had.
I changed my plane ticket that night to leave early Monday morning, which was good because it became obvious that we (Nuala and I) were being targeted as potential trouble makers. We were unable to be alone without a group member asking what we were doing/talking about, etc. At first, we engaged them in discussion about what we were thinking, but another guy told us that arguing was probably the worst thing you could do.
The more you argued with them, the more you got sucked in. I saw this with a few other people around me, so I kept my doubts between us.
The movement was just generally disturbing. There was a slavish hero worship to Mr. LaRouche.
Dissent (even in the form of questions) was discouraged (and that's putting it mildly).
I even saw their attempts to try to pull apart families. Another girl was there with her mother, and we found that we both lived in GA. Her mother did not speak English (They were Mexican). The members seemed REALLY uncomfortable whenever the girl or I would try to translate for her mother, and tried several tactics to separate the two of them.
One particular incident I recall is one of the days we had a break for lunch. A group of us were going to lunch, and her mother was going to come along. There is great enmity for those seen as being "baby boomers". "Baby boomers" to the LaRoucheian are the absolute *worst* generation in the history of the world, and they are responsible for all of the government's ills today. So, just as we were all about to leave, a Spanish-speaking woman literally swooped in and took her away for several hours. I don't know what all was said or done while she was gone. I know she wasn't physically harmed or anything, but probably subjected to LaRouche's policies in Spanish.
At lunch I had my cellophane with me, and my mother called to see how things were going and if I was alright. This caused a lot of concern, as my mother was one of "them" (a baby boomer in their eyes, even though she's not of that generation) and was trying to disengage me from the group.
Outside contact with those who were not members was discouraged.
Finally the meetings ended and Sunday came and went.
Sunday night I was so afraid of falling asleep and missing my flight and ending up having to stay with these people, that I stayed up all night with the girl and her Spanish-speaking mother.
When I got home, I strangely didn't get anymore calls from the LaRouchians. I guess they saw I was a lost cause, and that neither I, nor the Latina and her mother, nor Nuala were buying any of it.
It's no big loss.