by Chip Berlet

(adapted from a forthcoming book)

Totalitarianism is a zealous form of political 
organization new to this century's mass 
society. The style, strategies, 
tactics, and internal organizing practices of the 
totalitarian group were outlined by 
historian-philosopher Hannah Arendt in her book 
The Origins of Totalitarianism. 

In recent years there has been a revisionist 
interpretation of Arendt's work, linking nazism 
and communism as two sides of the same political 
coin, or claiming that all communist or Marxist 
movements are totalitarian, or that only Nazi and 
communist ideologies can become totalitarian. 
Arendt specifically repudiates this simplistic 
interpretation of her work when she writes 
"...ideologies of the nineteenth century are not 
in themselves totalitarian," and that although 
fascism and communism became "the decisive 
ideologies of the twentieth century they were 
not, in principle, any `more totalitarian' than 
others." According to Arendt, the ideological 
victory of fascism and communism over other 
twentieth century belief structures was "decided 
before the totalitarian movements took hold of 
precisely these ideologies" as a vehicle for 
seizing and holding state power. 

Under totalitarianism there is strict control of 
all aspects of the life of the individual in the 
group through the use of coericive measures, 
physical or emotional. 

The allure of undeniably efficient and expedient 
totalitarianism is what Stalin succumbed to in 
his rush to create a socialist society. Not 
totalitarianism as defined by cyncial 
philosophical revisionists such as Jeane 
Kirkpatrick and Henry Kissinger, but 
totalitarianism in the original definition as an 
organizational form characterised by centralized 
control by an autocratic leader or hierarchy. 

Totalitarian groups are characterised by 
centralized control by an autocratic leader and 
surrounding hierarchy. 

Totalitarianism has left its mark on this 
century--and the vast majority of progressives 
around the world have learned an important lesson 
from the disasterous consequences, and have 
rejected the siren call of totalitarianism which 
infected both Hitler and Stalin in their zealous 
rush to power. Some elements of the NAP's 
methodology and style mirror the early stages of 
several European fascist movements in the 1930's. 

Totalitarian movements historically have shared a 
number of similarites: 

*** A methodological link between the 
psychological and the political which forms both 
a theoretical world-view and a justification for 
indoctrinating members in an effort to create a 
new consciousness through a unique and exclusive 
technique understood only by the group's leaders. 

*** Psychologically coercive techniques to 
manipulate members' views and actions. 

*** Attempts to establish hegemonic relationships 
with other similar political groups, and, failing 
that, attempts to undermine the group and 
establish parallel organizations. 

*** Virulent and unprincipled attacks on critics, 
including insults, agent-baiting, threats by 
attorneys and defamation lawsuits. 

*** Re-writing of the group's political and 
organizational history to meet current needs. 

*** A closed and covert hierarchical internal 
structure that is not necessarily congruent with 
the public organizational structure. 

*** Differentiation between internal in-group and 
external out-group reality, use of propoganda, 
and implementation of a "secret-society" style. 

These similarities do not change the fact that 
the totalitarian LaRouchite philosophy is 
apparently neo-fascist while the totalitarian 
Newman and Parente philosophies are apparently 
left-progressive, but it does mean that 
internally, all these groups have an 
authoritarian hierarchy whose existence is 
denied, they rely on psychologically-manipulative 
practices to control core members. These 
political groups match a cult paradigm and are 
far from democratic, despite outward claims and 

The propaganda and organizing techniques used by 
the internally-authoritarian and 
psychologically-manipulative cult groups run by 
Lyndon LaRouche, Fred Newman, and Geno Parente 
(and others) mirror totalitarianism. 

It is crucial to note the relationship of 
LaRouche, Parente, and Newman during the early 
1970's in light of their subsequent activities. 
All three white male political leaders viewed 
Marxist revolution through an egocentric prism 
which pre-supposed the centrality of one special 
individual's will in shaping history. All three 
used psychologically manipulative techniques to 
enforce obedience in the institutions they have 
built--institutions which sought political 
hegemony over other groups. All three groups 
share many elements of the a totalitarian 
movement which is correctly defined by its style, 
structure and methods not by its stated or 
apparent ideology. 

Arendt's theories were first published in the 
1950's, long before people like LaRouche, Newman 
and Parente arrived on the political scene, yet 
her analysis reads as if it were a study of the 
Executive Committee of the National Caucus of 
Labor Committees (the secret core leadership of 
the LaRouche network), the International Workers 
Party (the secret core leadership of the New 
Alliance Party, the Rainbow Lobby and the 
Institutes for Social Therapy), and the Communist 
Party (Provisional) (the secret core leadership 
of the National Labor Federation and its related 
fronts, the Eastern Service Workers, California 
Homemakers, etc.). 

Arendt discusses how totalitarian movements are 
built around a central fiction of a powerful 
conspiracy, (in the case of the Nazis, a 
conspiracy of Jews which dominates the world,) 
that requires a secretive counter-conspiracy be 
organized. Totalitarian groups organize the 
counter-conspiracy in a hierarchical manner which 
mimics the levels of membership and rituals of 
social and religious secret societies. 

According to Arendt, most people get their first 
glimpse of a totalitarian movement through its 
front organizations: 

"Sympathisers, who are to all appearances still 
innocuous fellow citizens in a nontotalitarian 
society, can hardly be called single-minded 
fanatics; through them, the movements make their 
lies more generally acceptable, can spread their 
propaganda in milder, more respectable forms, 
until the whole atmosphere is poisoned with 
totalitarian elements which are hardly 
recognizable as such but appear to be normal 
political reactions or opinions." (p. 367) 

LaRouche, Newman and Parente have spawned dozens 
of front organizations, each designed around some 
issue of mass appeal. For instance, LaRouche 
followers used the front device of Proposition 64 
in California to take a generalized fear over the 
spread of AIDS and steer it towards an acceptance 
of authoritarian methods such as quarantine 
isolation of suspected carriers and job 

Arendt also explains that different 
constituencies react to propaganda messages from 
totalitarian groups in different ways: 

"The whole hierarchical structure of 
totalitarian movements, from naive 
fellow-travellers to party members, elite 
formations, and the intimate circle around the 
Leader, and the Leader himself, could be 
described in terms of a curiously varying mixture 
of gullibility and cynicism with which each 
member, depending upon his rank and standing in 
the movement, is expected to react to the 
changing lying statements of the leaders and the 
central unchanging ideological fiction of the 
movement." (p. 382) 

Arendt explains that average members of 
totalitarian groups need not believe all the 
statements made for public consumption, but they 
do believe "all the more fervently the standard 
cliches of ideological explanation." (p. 384) If 
a lie is detected by the mass of people or even 
the average member, it is dismissed as having 
been a tactical necessity which only further 
proves the cunning and wisdom of the leader. 

For the elite members, even the basic ideological 
explanations of the group are not necessarily 
believed, but are seen as "fabricated to answer a 
quest for truth" among the lower ranking 
followers. For the elite, facts are immaterial. 
Their loyalty is to the leader who embodies 
truth, and they require neither demonstration nor 
explanation of the leader's assertions: 

"Their superiority consists in their ability to 
dissolve every statement of fact into a 
declaration of purpose. In distinction to the 
mass membership which, for instance, needs some 
demonstration of the inferiority of the Jewish 
race before it can safely be asked to kill Jews, 
the elite formations understand that the 
statement, all Jews are inferior, means, all Jews 
should be killed." (p. 385) 

At the top is "the intimate circle around the 
Leader" for whom all statements are "mere devices 
to organize the masses, and they feel no 
compunction about changing them according to the 
needs of circumstances." (p. 385) 

The ultimate goal of a totalitarian movement, of 
course, is to propel the totalitarian leader 
toward total, ruthless, world domination. 
Political issues and positions are transitory 
tactical tools that move the organization and its 
leader toward power. Historically, when power is 
attained, the political allies and issues are 

Leninist Democratic Centralism + totalitarianism = Stalinism 

Hitlerian Ultra-Racialist Fascism + totalitarianism = Nazism