Jun 4, 2015

LaRouche Movement: The far right cult alleged to be behind UK student Jeremiah Duggan's death

International Business Times UK
Tom Porter
June 2, 2015

The last time Erica Duggan spoke to her son Jeremiah was after midnight on 27 March 2003.

"He rang me in the early hours of the morning and he laid it straight out who the people were and that he was frightened, that he was in danger, and that he wanted to escape from them."

Later that day, Duggan was found dead by a motorway near Wiesbaden, Germany. Following a police investigation, German authorities ruled the 23-year-old had committed suicide "by automobile". In 2010, The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany rejected the Duggan family's request for a judicial review of the case.

For more than a decade, Erica has fought for the verdict to be overruled and for a proper investigation to be launched into the circumstances of her son's death. In May, partial vindication came when a UK coroner ruled Duggan did not kill himself.

Erica has all along had "no doubt" the shadowy LaRouche Movement, whose German affiliate the Schiller Institute organised the conference he attended before his death, had played a role in Jeremiah's death.

"He was at a meeting of the group the morning of his death attended by several senior members and was considered to be a spy and a traitor," she said.

Coroner Andrew Walker said Duggan's identity as a British Jew may have led the group described as a far-right cult by the Metropolitan Police to target him.

"The fact that he attended a conference run by this far right-wing organisation… together with Mr Duggan expressing that he was a Jew, British and questioning the material put before him, may have had a bearing on Mr Duggan's death in the sense that it may have put him at risk from members of the organisation and caused him to become distressed and seek to leave," Walker said.

Though he accepted Duggan had died after being hit by cars, he said "unexplained injuries" suggested there may have been an altercation at some stage before his death.

What is the LaRouche Movement?

Formed in the US by renegade economist and perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche in the 1970s, the movement that bears his name has branches in countries including Germany, France, Brazil, Australia and the Philippines, and thousands of estimated followers.

The movement claims to promote a revival of classical art and culture, reform of the financial system and the development of global economic infrastructure projects.

However, critics allege LaRouche is in fact a dangerous far-right cult that brainwashes followers and is one of the world's chief disseminators of anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Duggan became involved with the LaRouche group while a student in the Sorbonne, France, during the build-up to the war in Iraq.

"He told me he had met a man older than him who was teaching him about politics, and he gave the name Solidarité et Progrès, which I learnt is a French front group for LaRouche," said Erica.

"What they do is they have a very apocalyptic approach so they said: 'If we don't stop this war in Iraq, we will have a nuclear Holocaust and a Third World War and it is the most important thing to stop it. We have a way of stopping it. Come to this conference and see what you can do.'"

Jeremiah travelled to Wiesbaden, Germany, to the conference organised by the Schiller Institute, the German branch of the movement, which is run by Lyndon's LaRouche's wife, Helga Zepp-LaRouche.

"Jeremiah said to me he was thinking of becoming more politically active. So he was only going to find out about it really, he didn't know about it," she said.

Coded anti-Semitism

Matthew Feldman is an expert on far-right ideology and professor in contemporary history at Teeside University.

He said the group's anti-Semitism is coded, allowing it to "hide in plain sight" under the radar of authorities.

"Few groups are willing to be public with their anti-Semitism, so what we find is a code, and the use of such terms as 'international financiers', 'Zionists' or even more vague terms, such as 'special interests,'" Feldman said.

He said LaRouche openly expressed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories earlier in his political career.

"You need to go back to LaRouche in the 1970s when he is much more overt about these things, much more overt about Holocaust revisionism, about various forms of anti-Semitism and his connections with the far right were at that point well-established," said Feldman.

Former members of the group have testified it used brainwashing "ego stripping" techniques and intimidated those who wanted to leave.

The group is also alleged to have waged intimidation campaigns against political opponents and journalists in the US.

Erica, who has been in contact with several former members of the group, described it as a "form of modern-day slavery in a way". She said: "They destroy your powers of critical thinking. Undermine your belief in your self, and make you believe that you are surrounded by people lying to you and that the world is the enemy."

She believes Duggan's open, questioning nature may have led him to challenge the group's teachings.

For Feldman, these are hallmarks of far-right cults. He said: "It is important that far-right politics are a subculture, they a totalising thing. You don't stop being a far-right activist when you go to sleep or go home. You embrace it."

He said the group uses classical culture, economics and pseudo-science to form "a whole conspiracy they have set up which explains their counter-vision of the world".

Calls for an independent investigation

For Erica, the long fight for justice continues, with German authorities in her view yet to launch a proper investigation into the organisation, or acknowledge the true nature of the LaRouche Movement and Schiller Institute.

She called for an independent investigation into her son's death. Erica said: "I want a proper political enquiry when they look into what really happened and for the first time conduct a proper investigation."

Feldman said although the German government had a strong record on tackling religious cults, and pointed to a recent law banning the Church of Scientology in the country, questions needed to be asked about why it did not take the danger posed by LaRouche more seriously.

"If Jeremiah's death wasn't suicide, then what the hell was it? It is still an open question," he said. "It is something fishy and something in need of serious investigation. It is time for the Germans to take this seriously as well."

The US Anti-Defamation League and the Australian Anti-Defamation Commission have both described the organisation as anti-Semitic, and he asked why authorities allowed it to disseminate its message of hate with impunity.

He said Germany had not shirked the duty of facing its Nazi past and "it should be small step from owning that to saying we are going to lead the fight against far right groups that preach hatred and violence everywhere".

He added: "I think many of us would like to see more of that from the German state and prosecutors."

In a statement, the Schiller Institute described allegations of involvement in Duggan's death as "utterly preposterous", and disputed the recent coroner's verdict.

"At no time has anyone connected with the Duggan family ever presented any evidence or facts that refute the findings of the German authorities concerning the suicide of her son," said spokesman Bruce Director.

"Instead, over the last 12 years she and her representatives and collaborators have propounded wild conspiracies theories promulgated by the political enemies of Mr LaRouche in and around the British Monarchy and the circles of the now discredited former prime minister Tony Blair."

The Hessen Public Prosecutor's Office has also been asked to comment.