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Remembering Marc Raskin—A Progressive Leader Whose Legacy Outlives His Death

Marcus Raskin.
Photo Credit: Photo around Youtube Screen Capture.

With the remarkable flitting of the Institute for Policy Studies co-founder Marcus Raskin on Christmas Eve, we’ve lost a life that paralleled many of the critical on-going movements of the last 60 years—and conceptualized some of their boldest ideas.

Marc left his position at the Kennedy White House in 1962, perturbed by that administration’s assertive fight drives in Vietnam, Cuba, and nuclear weapons development. Along with Dick Barnet, who left the State Department at the same time, he combined the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the first-ever eccentric on-going consider tank—designed to change the universe from outward Washington’s centers of power.

IPS’s story from then on tracked the polite rights and Vietnam anti-war movements; the anti-nuclear movement; the early women’s, environmental, and happy rights struggles; the movements against corporate globalization, South African apartheid, and the wars in Central America, right up by the post-9/11 anti-war mobilizations; and the secular and mercantile justice, immigrant rights, environmental, women’s, and LGBTQ rights movements of today.


Marc’s own story of activism is flattering amazing. Here was a former music prodigy, philosopher, lawyer, and supervision wonk, jumping into what would eventually be called the New Left before anything had that name. He welcomed SNCC activists and others to IPS for months-long seminars on how Washington worked, providing desperately indispensable respites for tired polite rights workers beaten down—literally—by police and Klan violence, and the large domestic termination that enabled it.

Marc orderly early breeze insurgency that led to his complaint in the Boston Five swindling trial, and trafficked back and onward to the Soviet Union building citizen tact to opposite the Cold War. (According to one—ahem—fellow traveler on one of those trips, Marc, a former Juillard student, got into a piano foe with their supervision minder, any trying to surpass the other in formidable music. History doesn’t record who won.) Decades later, Marc envisioned the devise that led to IPS formulating the Cities for Peace transformation in the run-up to the fight in Iraq. His imagination never stopped.

But what is infrequently left unmentioned in the stacks of appreciations of his life pouring in from around the world, and too mostly upheld over—even by those of us who were absolved to work with Marc over these many years—is the unusual plea he and his very tiny rope of confederates confronted as they took on this work in the post-McCarthy epoch of the late 1950s.

They faced a U.S. multitude ravaged by anti-communism, anti-liberalism, untrammeled racism, unacknowledged sexism, and informative censorship. When Marc incited from music to politics the country lacked a viable inhabitant left or on-going movement. The no-longer-influential Communist Party was hardly surviving, a bombard of its once vibrant, movement-linked past. The polite rights transformation was just commencement to rise, mostly singular to pockets of the South, while extremist assaults remained consistent and lynchings were still a common occurrence. The once-powerful labor transformation was hardly reunified, with the number, strength, and beliefs of unions still diminished. What would eventually turn the New Left, renowned from the old pro-Soviet comrade left, had nonetheless to emerge in any awake way.

It was into that unwelcoming swamp that Marc, in his early twenties, deserted a earnest music career to come to Washington to change the world. He worked first in Congress, drafting a set of essays famous as the Liberal Papers that analyzed what a rebirth of domestic liberalism competence demeanour like in that terribly illiberal period, and mobilizing the best members into what would after turn the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

He then changed to the White House, where he fast saw by the gossamer illusions of Camelot to commend the dangerous drive toward fight underway in the institutions Marc would be the first to name the “National Security State.” CIA-paid mercenaries had just been degraded at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, discussions of a rave of fight in Vietnam were just beginning, and nuclear weapons were rising in U.S. military planning. The majestic dangers led Marc, assimilated by Dick Barnet, to leave the Kennedy administration to better plea the threats of fight and the inhabitant confidence state—this time from the outside.

That all sounds so logical, such a transparent trajectory. But looking at it in the context of the United States of the late 1950s and early ’60s, it’s all the some-more extraordinary. McCarthy had been strictly rejected, but McCarthyism was still influential, so anti-communism remained absolute in open sermon and threats of fight with the Soviet Union continued to rise. The post-war inhabitant ideal abandoned the farrago of human beings in the country (people of tone were then a utterly tiny minority) to instead payoff and idealize a white middle-class suburban consent of men at work and women at home.

Without a awake inhabitant movement, there was no spontaneous network of on-going organizations to acquire Marc to D.C., there was no idealist.org to hunt for jobs where tyro activists could compare their post-college passion to a paid (even if not always well-paid) position in some non-profit. There was no indication of what a severe romantic consider tank—a rope of open scholars related to the movements just commencement to rise—might demeanour like. Marc and Dick had to figure it out for themselves—in a domestic moment where such undertakings challenged not only domestic energy but the overarching widespread domestic and social enlightenment of the country. Daunting doesn’t capture the half of it.

Following a new review about this epoch with Heather Booth, a champion of village organizing and longtime crony of Marc and IPS, I’ve been consumed with this—for me—previously careless reality that Marc, along with Dick, and a few others faced. They were, in some ways, the in-between cohort. They were half a era younger than the heroes who fought in Spain, who were jailed as “premature anti-fascists,” who fought in WWII and then came home to fight against injustice and Jim Crow separation and McCarthyism—and as a outcome were blacklisted, jailed, or forced into outcast and infrequently suicide. And they were half a era older than the ’60s activists who built SNCC and went south as Freedom Riders; who combined the New Left and incited their campuses into bastions of resistance; and who orderly teach-ins formed on The Vietnam Reader that Marc edited with Bernard Fall, and that fast became the bible of the anti-war movement.

They were on their own—and what a universe they transformed. Every transformation creates its own leaders, just as much as leaders create movements. Our leaders currently are different—far some-more women, some-more people of color. They are amazing.

But now, with Marc gone, few are left of that unusual progressing generation. Those few sojourn among the pantheon, the norm to the own past—for they are the ones on whose shoulders we mount as we pierce brazen by this newly-dangerous period. Go well, Marc. We’ll keep operative in your name—challenging the new threats, interlude the next wars, transforming the new world, anticipating the new leaders. Go well.

© 2017 Phyllis Bennis


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