CHAPTER 5 TROTSKYIST WRECKER?: THE SWP YEARS [1949-1961]
< CHAPTER 4 Lyndon in Wiener World: Cybernetics, MIT, CIA, and the Macy Foundation | SMILING MAN FROM A DEAD PLANET: THE MYSTERY OF LYNDON LAROUCHE | CHAPTER 6 The "Many Theories of L. Marcus": From the SWP to the Birth of the "Fifth International" (1959-1966) >
Pdf file downloadable here (213 Kb)
"My role and all my principal policies in shaping the development of the NCLC were essentially predetermined by 1963, before I encountered a single collaborator for this undertaking. Since the first steps toward founding the organization, in the summer of 1966, my policy has always been to bring the organization's development and outlook to one which was essentially predetermined as my object before 1963."
In January 1949, Lyndon LaRouche joined the Lynn, Massachusetts branch of the Socialist Workers Party led by Larry Trainor. He would remain inside the SWP for almost two decades until his formal break in late 1965 after he had just turned 44. One of LaRouche's "old comrades from the SWP days" told the Boston Phoenix (1/29/74) that LaRouche
The Phoenix then reports, "Even after LaRouche broke with the SWP, there were old SWP comrades in Boston who would get 15 or 18 page letters every month or six weeks setting forth LaRouche's latest thoughts on the state of the movement and the Marxist dialectic."
An old Boston SWP'er informed the Phoenix that LaRouche did work in an SWP factory cell in the Lynn GE plant "but he couldn't get up every morning so he got canned." An SWP member named Michael Tormey, who once was very close to Larry Trainor, told a different story in a 23 June 2014 e-mail to a Marx group on the Internet:
[Another source says LaRouche's job at the plant was as a "quality checker." I am unaware of any evidence that Trainor expelled LaRouche from the Lynn branch of the SWP and LaRouche writes nostalgically of Trainor in The Power of Reason.]
LaRouche's reasons for joining the SWP remain murky. In Conceptual History of the Labor Committee, he says he
In Conceptual History, LaRouche states that his first big dispute with the SWP occurred a few months after joining the Boston local. He says he secured employment at the GE River Works in Lynn, Massachusetts, in order to conduct "colonization." He claimed that he was almost immediately in the thick of the fight between the UE local leadership allied with the CPUSA and the CIO organizers tied to Walter Reuther who were trying to oust them. LaRouche here refers to a late 1940s bitter fight inside the CIO's United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers Union (U.E.) whose former president, James Carey, had been deposed by Albert Fitzgerald, who had received crucial support from the American Communist Party. LaRouche claimed he proposed and initiated efforts to make a tactical alliance with the Fitzgerald faction against the anti-CP Reutherites but was soon put under local SWP discipline for this "offense" because Bert Cochran and Farrell Dobbs had then opted to build a "Third Camp" between the Reutherites and Fitzgerald due to pure "Stalinophobia." How much LaRouche really was in the thick of anything can be questioned if he actually wound up getting fired for not being able to wake up in time for the job. (It is even possible he was suffering from hepatitis at the time and thus physically incapable of working.)
In the 1988 version of The Power of Reason, LaRouche offers this version of his initial encounters with the SWP. After reporting on his first encounter with an SWP member on the boat home from India, LaRouche says that his eventual decision to join the party first began at Northeastern in 1946 where he met some SWP and CP members but that he only became involved seriously with the SWP in October 1948.
LaRouche reports that he had become disgusted with Truman and he wanted Dwight Eisenhower to run for President in 1948 and he wrote Eisenhower (then head of Columbia University) a letter suggesting just that. Although Eisenhower replied to LaRouche's missive, he said he could not run. LaRouche also writes that [Henry] "Wallace had looked interesting briefly, for saying some things that others seemed unwilling to mention, but that favorable impression did not last for long, especially as he became more deeply involved with the Communists. Dewey presented himself as an unmitigated disaster." Hence he "dropped any interest in mainstream politics."
LaRouche had other worries as well. Shortly after dropping out of Northeastern, his father put him to work. In the spring of 1947, Pacific Mills wanted to market its goods to "medium-sized shoe manufacturers" and his faster was contacted for his advice. Lyndon, Sr., in turn, recruited his son "to conduct the particular sort of survey" that Pacific Mills needed, a job that seems to have involved a fair amount of business travel as well. During this period, he reconnected with the SWP. Again from the 1988 version of The Power of Reason:
After joining the SWP's Lynn branch, he now began work in a factory. Again from the 1988 version of The Power of Reason:
Throughout his SWP career, LaRouche's main criticism of the Soviet Union was aimed at Bukharin and "the Liebermanites," who wanted to decentralize the Soviet command economy during the Khrushchev and early Brezhnev eras. LaRouche's cybernetics-inspired economic vision was always of an economy centralized to the utmost degree. He also seems to have lacked any deep emotional commitment to the culture of Trotskyism and the bitter feelings many Trotskyists felt towards Stalin. Only as a state planner and hyper-centralist did LaRouche strongly identify with the Trotskyist "Left Opposition" inside the Soviet Union, which first outlined the "forced industrialization" of the country on the backs of the peasantry; an economic policy Stalin later adopted in his famous Five Year Plans and brutal assault on the "kulaks."
After moving to New York in October 1954, LaRouche began planning his new life with his first wife, a fellow SWP member named Janice Neuberger who worked as a secretary in the SWP's national office then located at 116 University Place in Greenwich Village. Although he was involved in the SWP in the New York area for over a decade, he was largely ignored by the organization. A former SWP member named Clara Fraser who left the SWP in 1965 around the same time as LaRouche describes him this way:
Another SWP member named Frank Lovell had a similar impression. At a 1986 Socialist Scholars Conference in New York, Lovell (who had worked in the group's national office in the 1950s) recalled the man he called "Lindy." He explained that most people in the SWP didn't know what to think of LaRouche because they couldn't understand what he was saying. LaRouche would frequently stay up night after night composing long papers that he would then dispatch to puzzled SWP leaders like the party's National Organizational Secretary Tom Kerry.3 Asked if he thought LaRouche could have been some kind of FBI agent or government informant, Lovell replied with an emphatic "no." Simply put, LaRouche was a marginal and eccentric figure even inside the ever-shrinking universe that was the 1950s SWP; he simply wasn't taken seriously.
Although both Fraser and Lovell are right in that LaRouche had absolutely no impact on the SWP as a national organization, his relationship to the SWP is more complex than might be imagined. To better understand why, one must enter the highly murky world of Trotskyist politics of the period and the insular issue that wracked the world Trotskyist movement from the 1950s till the early 1960s: "Pabloism."
Max Shachtman and James P. Cannon,
detained by US military, Minneapolis General Strike,
1934, Minnesota Historical Society.
When LaRouche arrived in New York, the SWP had just gone through a wrenching split with the Paris-based headquarters of the Fourth International then led by "Michel Pablo," an Egyptian-born Greek Trotskyist whose real name was Michel Raptis. The split involved the Trotskyist movement's postwar assessment of the Soviet Union. Pablo had been influenced by Isaac Deutscher, the Polish Trotskyist who wrote a classic three volume biography of Trotsky. Like Trotsky, Deutscher argued that the postwar Trotskyist movement should take a more favorable view of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satraps as "deformed workers states" worth "critically" defending. He claimed that especially after Stalin's death, the Soviet bureaucracy would inevitably become more democratic. Pablo, now a top leader in the Paris-based Trotskyist "Comintern" known as the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI), wrote a document in January 1951 entitled "Where Are We Going" where he attempted to address not just developments in the East Bloc but also revolutions in both China and Yugoslavia. In it he argued:
Since "the objective process is in the final analysis the sole determining factor, overriding all obstacles of a subjective order," Pablo believed that it was still conceivable that "the Communist Parties retain the possibility in certain circumstances of roughly outlining the revolutionary orientation."4 Pablo's views flew in the face of "orthodox Trotskyism" represented by SWP leader James Cannon. In a Winter 1954 Fourth International article entitled "Trotsky or Deutscher?: On the New Revisionism and Its Theoretical Sources," Cannon labeled the Stalinist bureaucracy "the chief prop of world capitalism" as well as "the chief obstacle in the workers' movement to the emancipating revolution of the workers." This belief was now being challenged by a "new revisionism" advanced by Deutscher, "a Polish former communist . . . who passed through the outskirts of the Trotskyist movement on his way to citizenship in the British Empire." Deutscher's "shady game" began when he "identified nationalization and planned economy, made possible by the October Revolution, with Stalinism, the betrayer of the Revolution and the murderer of the revolutionists." Deutscher next used this argument to call for the Trotskyists to back away from ferocious direct attacks on the post-Stalinist USSR. The Fourth International should accept the notion that it now was necessary to critically defend these "deformed workers' states" from a left neutralist point of view. Deutscher justified his argument or compounded his error (depending on one's point of view) by claiming that the Soviet bureaucracy, starting with the Malenkov government, would gradually move away from Stalinism and evolve in a more democratic manner. As Cannon puts it:
Pablo and his co-thinkers in the world Trotskyist movement adopted some of Deutscher's basic arguments. They believed that the pressures of the Cold War were now so immense that the "base" of the CPs would force the leadership towards a more revolutionary path. Under such conditions, Trotskyist ideas would enjoy a renaissance. Pablo specifically argued that the Fourth International should make an "entrist" (or "French turn") into both Communist as well as the Social Democratic parties. There they would function as the "left-wing" of both groups. The Fourth International would still be preserved as a literary "think-tank" of sorts but not as an independent political structure, a strategy quickly dubbed "liquidationist" by Pablo's foes.
Inside the SWP, a pro-Pablo current arose in the early 1950s known as the "Cochran/Clark group." The Cochran/Clarke group had strong roots in the "proletarian" wing of the SWP. During the McCarthy period, they wanted the SWP to take a more open approach to American labor unions where there was still some CP presence. In Pablo's argument, they saw a possible way to justify closer Communist/Trotskyist collaboration inside the trade union movement during the Red Scare. They also tended to view Cannon's faction as largely made up of "museum pieces" of the Trotskyist Old Guard whose historical role had come to an end. For Cochran/Clarke, Cannon's influence did not come from the correctness of his arguments but from the fact that the Old Guard allies enjoyed considerable social prestige, senior positions, long-standing personal connections, loyalties and sentimental attachments with the party faithful. In short, Cannon symbolized "the Last Hurrah" of the founding fathers of American Trotskyism, who were unable to adapt to a complex new set of political complexities posed by the Cold War.
In the May 1953 SWP Plenum, Cannon claimed that Cochran and his supporters had introduced the slogan "Junk the Old Trotskyism!" In his 30 May 1953 speech to the Plenum, Cannon even threatened to quit the party in protest: "During the course of the past year, I had serious doubts of the ability of the SWP to survive. . . . I thought that our twenty-five year effort . . . had ended in catastrophic failure, and that, once again, a small handful would have to pick up the pieces and start all over again to build the new cadre of another party on the old foundations."
In his Winter 1954 article, Cannon was still irate at the thought that the Cochran group had even promoted a view similar to Pablo's in the pages of the SWP's Fourth International, which Clarke then edited and which, Cannon claimed, hadn't been cleared by the SWP's editorial board. Echoing Pablo, Clarke raised the idea of a self-reform of the Soviet bureaucracy a la Deutscher and asked:
For Cannon such ideas were a betrayal of Trotskyism:
Michel Pablo in Greece (1993)
Pablo echoed an equally false view when he argued that the transition period from capitalism to socialism would not follow classic Marxist models of revolution. Instead, "deformed revolutions and workers states" would become the "norm" rather than the exception for decades (if not centuries) to come. James Robertson, who later founded his own Trotskyist sect called The Spartacist League, supported Cannon's position. In his essay The SWP A Strangled Party, Robertson describes the Cochran/Clarke tendency inside the SWP this way:
"I SORT OF WALKED OUT"
When LaRouche arrived in New York in October 1954, he did so initially to work for a business client who owned a New York machinery firm that was in economic trouble. He left that job in early 1955 but was soon hired to work for the George S. May Company (a business consulting firm specializing in industrial "efficiency"). He says that he first started out "in the field" but was soon moved to research. He spent three straight years with the firm and he later tried to create his own consulting business that aimed at specializing in computers and automation. From the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason:
During this time, the SWP was still in turmoil over the just concluded clash with Cochran/Clarke and the developing split inside the Fourth International that would divide it into two virtually separate organizations until the "reunification" talks of the early 1960s. The loss of the Cochran/Clarke faction only reduced the party's rapidly dwindling ranks. As an "orthodox Trotskyist," LaRouche formally sided with Cannon.
In his essay How the Workers League Decayed, LaRouche writes,
As the Los Angeles-based Cannon withdrew more and more into semi-retirement, the SWP's national leadership was run out of New York by Farrell Dobbs, Tom Kerry, and Joseph Hansen. All were "Old Guard" Trotskyists but they were far less interested than Cannon in polemics and far more concerned with keeping the SWP from totally hemorrhaging membership. By 1960 the SWP had less than 500 members nationwide. Many of the SWP's intellectuals identified with the Cochran/Clarke group and when they left with them so did many of the party's sharper minds. The Old Guard that ran the SWP clearly viewed LaRouche's as eccentric and irrelevant as well as harmless. Stepped in the classic 1930s proletarian culture tradition, they dismissed LaRouche as a textbook petit-bourgeois radical egghead who had a million ideas about everything but who couldn't last even a few months inside a real factory. That they didn't worry about his promotion of possibly heretical ideas, I suspect, largely stems from the fact (as Frank Lovell explained) that the SWP leadership hadn't a clue about what he was saying about in his endless memos and personal letters. If they could not understand him, no one else would either.
After arriving in New York, LaRouche at first imagined he could somehow win the leadership of the SWP over to his cybernetics-inspired vision by the sheer brilliance of his ideas. It soon became obvious, however, that LaRouche was quickly labeled a crackpot to be ignored as much as possible. The fact that LaRouche composed his missives instructing the SWP leadership on what he considered the basics of Marxism at night to old radical union leaders while he spent his days working as an "Industrial Engineer"/"speedup" expert at the May Company must have made him seem comical. It is not terribly surprising, then, that after finally coming to New York and meeting with the national leaders of the SWP and finding himself personally marginalized even within a highly marginal if not dying political sect, LaRouche more or less decided to ignore the SWP just as it had ignored him. In a November 1986 interview with the San Francisco Focus, LaRouche discussed this early period in New York:
After he failed to convert the SWP to his ideas in 1954, LaRouche reports in How the Workers League Decayed.
In other words, LaRouche still remained a dues-paying member of the party, even if he had withdrawn from active political work inside the party.
LIFE WITH LYNDON
The LaRouches lived during this time in an apartment on Central Park West in the upper 80s, not far from the American Museum of Natural History. Carol White recalls:
Lyndon and Janice, however, maintained close social ties with a circle of SWP members around Murry and Myra Tanner Weiss. In How the Workers League Decayed, LaRouche comments: "While I was, from my first serious discussions with Weiss, in 1955, always in profound disagreement with him on the issue of the comprehension of and approach to conjunctural perspectives, he and my former wife were part of the same close circle of personal friends. . ."
Former SWP member Tim Wohlforth who first met Weiss during this time describes him as "an exceptional man," quite heavy with "a big face, wire-framed glasses, and receding hair." Wohlforth said that Weiss
Murry and Myra Weiss had a particular ability to recruit youth. They wanted to modernize the SWP to make it more attractive to younger radicals. Through their work, a network of younger SWP leaders like Tim Wohlforth and James Robertson were recruited into the YSA from Max Shachtman's old Workers Party (later renamed the Independent Socialist League) after Shachtman liquidated the ISL into the Socialist Party.
From 1954 to early 1957 LaRouche had virtually nothing to do with the SWP. Then around March 1957, the fellow who had "sort of walked out" of the SWP sort of wandered back in. From How the Workers League Decayed:
LaRouche told the San Francisco Focus that his reentry into the SWP had been inspired by the FBI!
In the 1988 version of The Power of Reason, LaRouche gives a more detailed account. After stating that he had essentially cut his ties to the SWP, he remarks that he was "induced to re-encounter the SWP" thanks to the FBI:
What was LaRouche's strange reference all about? Who was "K"? And why did the FBI believe that the moribund SWP now posed some kind of new challenge to national security?
LaRouche's contact with the FBI went directly against SWP policy as Carol White recalls:
Was LaRouche compromised? Without having full access to his FBI files, it is impossible to know for sure. Yet one cannot overlook the fact that even LaRouche reports that not long after his encounter with the FBI, he again became active inside the SWP. He would also ally with those members of the SWP most opposed to a reconciliation between the Trotskyist movement and the Communist movement over issues such as Cuba. Carol White further recalls that LaRouche suspected his wife Janice may have been having an affair with Murry Weiss, something Janice LaRouche always denied. Yet if LaRouche did believe it, it would not be surprising if he did inform on Murry Weiss to the FBI, in part out of personal anger and in part because Weiss was a "high value target" for the FBI as one of leaders of the reunification of the SWP with the Paris-based United Secretariat around the issue of Cuba in particular. The FBI and the CIA were both highly interested in any and all developments involving the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPFC), a group that had a large contingent of SWP members that Murry Weiss helped organize.
IN THE WAKE OF THE 20th CONGRESS
The beginning of one answer to these questions starts with 1956 20th Party Congress of the CPSU and its revelations about Stalinism. That same year witnessed the Hungarian Uprising. The combined impact of both events led to a shattering split inside the American Communist Party headed by John Gates, whose faction soon abandoned communism after leaving the party. For its part, the SWP tried to make overtures both to the Gates faction as well as the majority group still allied with Moscow but now no longer capable of defending Stalin's diatribes against Trotsky. A key leader of the SWP's "regroupment" tactic was none other than Murry Weiss. In 1958, "regroupment" began to pay a few dividends when the SWP helped sponsor the "Independent Citizens Committees" for Corlis Lamont's U.S. Senate campaign. The Lamont campaign was backed by the CP-influenced National Guardian as well as by W.E.B. Du Bois. This is, I suspect, what LaRouche meant when he refers to "a little deal with the Soviets and others" and "kindergarten politics."
As for LaRouche's cryptic reference to "the European side" of things, he is almost certainly referring to events in England. In 1957 a leading faction of the British Communist Party split from the CPGB over the 20th Party revelations and the brutal Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Uprising. Some 200 former CPGB members joined Gerry Healy's small Trotskyist tendency, which in March 1959 became the Socialist Labour League (SLL). A former British Daily Worker correspondent in Hungary during the 1956 Uprising named Peter Fryer led his CP faction into the SLL some time in late 1956 or early 1957, a few months before LaRouche "wandered back" into the SWP. Although Fryer personally fled the SLL in 1959 convinced that Gerry Healy was little more than a political gangster, the SLL continued to gain momentum as an influential Trotskyist groupuscule thanks to the former CPGB members who remained with Healy.7
In his 1988 version of The Power of Reason, LaRouche explains why he thought FBI SA Coffey might be on to something this way:
LaRouche next makes it clear that he means some kind of Soviet connection:
"Regroupment" also caught the attention of the FBI which placed at least 301 informants inside the SWP over a 16-year period. The FBI even had at least one informer present at SWP's National Committee Plenum in New York on 28 November 1958.8 Some estimates state that the government (this may include not just the FBI but other police agencies such as the New York Red Squad) controlled some 1,600 agents in and around the SWP from 1960 to 1976. In 1960, 52 of the SWP's 466 members were on the FBI payroll. The SWP was further targeted for the FBI's second COINTELPRO operation with the initial SWP COINTELPRO memo signed by Hoover on 12 October 1961. Given the SWP's prominent involvement in organizations like Fair Play for Cuba (FPFC), it is not hard to understand why. Yet the deeper reason behind the FBI's actions clearly was the Bureau's fear of the general "realignment" between the old Trotskyist and Communist Parties. As historian James Davis reports:
The historian David Garrow notes that between 1960 and 1976, the FBI "operated some three hundred member informants inside the SWP, with the numerical peak coming in 1961, when 54 individuals out of an SWP membership totaling 480, or 11 percent, were reporting to the FBI.10 James Davis also states that the SWP COINTELPRO lasted approximately 10 years and involved some 1,000 undercover informants. Over 50 informants held high ranking positions and they supplied over 7,000 internal SWP documents to the Bureau.11
Even the pre-COINTELPRO FBI operations against the SWP were remarkable. From 1943 until 1963, FBI wiretaps on the SWP recorded a total of some 20,000 wiretap days while FBI listening devices (bugs) accumulated some 12,000 days of eavesdropping-obtained information. If all this wasn't enough, between 1958 and 1965, the SWP's National Office at 116 University Place was broken into by the FBI some 81 times! Three YSA offices were entered some 16 times and 10,000 documents were removed or copied.12
Yet if LaRouche were an informant for the FBI, I know of no evidence to suggest that LaRouche was a trained infiltrator. A trained infiltrator following the advice of his "handler" usually works as hard as he or she can to ingratiate him or herself with the designated "target." LaRouche, to the contrary, almost went out of his way to marginalize himself. My own guess is that LaRouche was contacted by the FBI sometime around early 1957 and that he at times supplied the FBI with tidbits of information because doing so fed his ego as an important person secretly tied to powerful forces. LaRouche's obsessive fascination with the world of intelligence, as well as his deep fear of personal betrayal by "agents," may be rooted in his own relationship towards the FBI after he first was contacted in 1957.13
THE ECONOMIC COLLAPSE THESIS
When LaRouche reentered the SWP, he did so in the midst of a first major post-war U.S. recession that began in 1957. The recession fed LaRouche's belief that capitalism a la Keynes still hadn't escaped the threat of a future "breakdown crisis." In Dialectical Economics, LaRouche writes of the "decay of railway systems over the past half-century, the pattern of obsolescence in textile manufacturing, the aggravated technological rot feeding on highly exploited labor in the garment industry, the decay of the shoe industry" and "any number of comparable cases" as strong evidence that a "very large sector" of the U.S. economy was in long-term decline.
Production, however, had boomed most in postwar Germany and Japan precisely or so LaRouche would argue because the immense destruction of pre-war factories under massive Allied bombing raids meant that even the "oldest" German or Japanese factory dated back to 1946. Yet as wages rose and factories aged, the German and Japanese ability to sustain a growing world capitalist system was beginning to run out of steam sometime in the 1960s. LaRouche, in short, rejected the conventional view that modern capitalism was now immune to major economic collapse. This idea had been embraced not just by conventional Keynesian economists but also by leading Marxists such as the Harvard-trained economist Paul Sweezy. The notion that capitalism had overcome the threat of a 1929-like "breakdown crisis" had long been Soviet orthodoxy as well.14
In March 1957 when he "wandered back" into the SWP, LaRouche came equipped with a new economic thesis about the coming collapse of capitalism. In How the Workers League Decayed, LaRouche writes that by 1958 he had even developed a master plan for both the SWP and the Fourth International based on his belief that an impending capitalist economic monetary crisis was just around the corner.15 In Dialectical Economics, LaRouche explains that he developed his views while working as a business consultant during the period he had more or less dropped out of the SWP. His new "perspective" emerged as a result of his study of the relationship between the automobile distribution industry (seemingly a fancy name for car dealers) and customers who were dependent on consumer credit:
LaRouche later tried to incorporate his idea about the coming collapse of capitalism into a Marxist framework, Writing about his ideas many years later in The Case of Ludwig Feuerbach, he states:
In the winter of 1958 LaRouche wrote a memo outlining the coming economic crisis. He later reported:
LaRouche says that he next spent a year in "various forums" giving presentations on the thesis that the capitalist world was on the brink of a huge monetary crisis and that this fact must determine a Marxist political perspective for the future.
But did LaRouche's ideas help influence the SLL as he claimed? What seems true is that Healy's SLL did believe some version of a coming capitalist economic crisis thesis. Whether Healy simply bowdlerized" LaRouche, or whether LaRouche borrowed from Healy if if they even heard of each other remains as unknown as the identities of the "representatives of the SWP's Political Committee" who supposedly sent LaRouche's thesis to the SLL. In November 1958 Healy visited Canada to confer with leaders of the SWP and LaRouche's document may have been one of a number of SWP internal documents that were shared with Healy.18
Whatever impact LaRouche's ideas may have had in England remains unknown. We do know from LaRouche himself what the SWP thought of his theories. From How the Workers League Decayed:
Based on LaRouche's testimony, the only two members of the SWP's Political Committee even vaguely sympathetic to LaRouche were Tom Kerry who seems to have good-naturedly tolerated LaRouche and Weiss, who was close to LaRouche's wife socially. But even they were clearly less than enthusiastic about the documents LaRouche submitted. In a June 19-23 1972 New Solidarity article on the SWP, LaRouche recalled about this period:"During the period from 1950-57, the SWP lost all of its base in the organized labor movement and gradually settled into a demoralized state, watching itself contract from thousands of members in 1947 to a couple of hundred during the deepest McCarthyite Dog Days of the 1950s."
LaRouche claimed that the old SWP leadership not only couldn't grasp the idea that following the 1957/1958 recession there would be an upsurge in youth and black radicalism that would presage a later working class revolt, but they were more or less indifferent to the very idea:
In fact, by the late 1950s the SWP had heavily invested in both the "regroupment" strategy and in independent attempts to recruit new blood into the party around the fight for civil rights and support for Castro's Cuba; both issues that LaRouche seems to have more-or-less ignored.
In the winter 1961 issue of the SWP's theoretical journal, International Socialist Review (ISR), however, LaRouche finally got a chance to lay out his "economic perspective" in an article entitled "Depression Ahead?" In History of the Labor Committees, LaRouche recalls that the SWP's response to his new ideas "was a shrug." In fact it was far more than that. The SWP leadership blocked LaRouche from using any SWP forum to present his ideas.
In How the Workers League Decayed, LaRouche writes:
The winter 1961 ISR "Depression Ahead" article identifies LaRouche not as an economist but as "a consulting engineer who writes and lectures on Marxist economic problems." LaRouche's article, which outlines the ideas that he would repeat for the next four and a half decades, begins:
The only "out" for capitalism was to demand "extreme sacrifice" by workers:
The only path the Kennedy government could now follow was the path of Hitler!
Yet the coming economic crisis could only be postponed but not avoided:
Perhaps the most surprising fact about "Depression Ahead?" is that the SWP allowed it to be published at all.19
LaRouche's "conjectural perspectives" aside, by the early 1960s the SWP's leadership itself had begun gradually to abandon the 1930s-inspired "labor metaphysic." The SWP now aligned itself with the prospectus advanced in the one-famous 1964 Triple Revolution Statement, which argued that the introduction of new cybernetic-inspired advances in technology insured that future challenges of the capitalist system would involve large sections of the old blue collar workforce being rendered obsolete both by computers and automation.20
CONCLUSION: THE PERSONAL AND THE POLITICAL
Lyndon LaRouche's two attempts to influence the SWP the first in 1954 and the second in 1957-58 were abject failures. From his reentry into the SWP in March 1957 until his final resignation/expulsion from the group in late 1965, LaRouche operated at best on the very margins of an already very marginal party. LaRouche's encounter with the FBI may have energized him to return more actively into the SWP's ranks but he had little success in internal party debates. Quite simply, he was viewed more of less as a joke, one of those eccentrics that an already tiny political party tolerates as long as they still pay their dues. The real SWP member in the LaRouche family seems to have been his wife Janice but her relations with party leaders like Murry Weiss really were more social than political.
During this same period LaRouche's personal life was in turmoil. For one thing, he either was fired or voluntarily left the May Company sometime in 1957 or early 1958, after, he says, the company became disillusioned at his pessimistic forecasts for the economy. As LaRouche tells it in the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, his prediction that with the larger economic downturn he saw on the horizon that was then emerging as the severe 1958 recession the prospects for the consulting business were not good did not sit well with his bosses:
It was after leaving the May Company that LaRouche tried to create his own consulting firm that would specialize in offering computer-based and other data-processing services to small companies, a project that led him to examine how computers operated as well as the related question of computer artificial intelligence.
Carol White recalled:
Carol reports as well that "Lyn was not divorced in the [early] 1960s. . . . They separated around then and Lyn had a great deal of trouble supporting himself. Her family had helped him out financially while he and Janice lived together.21 As for LaRouche's son, she said, "He was brutal to his son, and really quite uninterested in him." Around this same time, LaRouche became interested in the writings of Erich Fromm. He particularly liked the way Fromm promoted "the father principle" against "orthodox Freudianism." On 2 March 1962, LaRouche (a/k/a "Lynn Marcus") even gave a talk entitled "Freud and Marx. Their Theories of Knowledge" at a Friday night Militant Labor Forum. The notice for LaRouche's talk appears in the 26 February 1962 issue of the Militant on page two of the paper in the "Weekly Calendar" section. In Dialectical Economics, LaRouche writes: "Fromm, the one-time maverick genius of the Frankfurt School, is one of the several outstanding psychoanalysts to free himself from both Freud's metaphysical "libido" reification and the "orthodox Freudian" exaggeration of the influence of the "repressive father" on the development of the child's personality."22
Given what we know of LaRouche's own father, you don't have to be Sigmund Freud to find LaRouche's comments revealing. You just have to be Murry Weiss. Carol remembered that when they were discussing LaRouche, Weiss remarked that, in his opinion, "Lyn was a paranoid with delusions of glory."
1 In 1946 the SWP reached its high-point with some 1,470 members. It then dropped to 1,277 in 1948, 825 in 1950, 758 in 1952, and 480 after a split in 1954. By 1957 the SWP had only 434 members and in 1959 only 399. Only in the early 1960s did SWP membership slowly begin to rise again. Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987), 300.
2 Clara Fraser, Revolution, She Wrote (Seattle, WA: Red Letter Press, 1987). Fraser's memory is a little hazy. James Robertson's group left well before LaRouche. LaRouche initially was associated with Tim Wohlforth's American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI). Fraser was right, however, about LaRouche's pen name. During his SWP days he spelled his name "Lynn Marcus." (Since he came from Lynn, Massachusetts, this was part of the pun.) Only after he left the SWP, he dropped the second "n" and began spelling first name just as "Lyn" as an abbreviation for Lyndon.
3 Lovell further recalled that while Kerry was impressed with LaRouche's commitment to idea, he awaited with dread the moment he had to discuss those ideas with LaRouche in person.
4 Deutscher's ideas had an enormous impact on the emerging New Left and in particular on the founders of The New Left Review.
5 ''Harry Braverman was the third leader of the Cochran/Clarke tendency in the SWP.
6 Tim Wohlforth, The Prophet's Children: Travels on the American Left (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1994), 40.
7 Healy first tried to say that Fryer left because of ill health. Fryer then wrote an open letter in which he stated that the SLL was run as a Healy clique. Fryer also noted: "There is scarcely a single leading member of the League whom the general secretary [Healy] has not attacked in private conversations with me at some time or another, in such terms as these: 'I have got enough on P. To get him sent down for seven years.' 'I don't know what game P. is playing. He could be a police agent.' 'B. Is a primitive Irish peasant.' . . . 'G is a lunatic.' 'A . . . beats his wife." Cited in Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth, On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2000), 157.
8 Wohlforth, The Prophet's Children, 68.
9 James Kirkpatrick Davis, Spying on America: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program (New York: Praeger, 1992), 56-57.
10 David Garrow, "FBI Political Harassment and FBI Historiography: Analyzing Information and Measuring the Effects," The Public Historian, 10 (4) (autumn 1988), 8.
11 Davis, 57.
13 In order to better answer these questions, it would be necessary to examine LaRouche's FBI file as well as the FBI's broader SWP files. However, even if LaRouche wanted to cooperate with the FBI, I suspect that just like the SWP National Office leadership; the FBI National Office leadership would have viewed LaRouche as a marginal figure unworthy of serious consideration. Of course without seeing the files, it is impossible to know for sure one way or the other. As for the FBI agent mentioned by LaRouche, there was an FBI agent named Francis Patrick Coffey, who joined the FBI in 1950 and served in the FBI's New York Office as a Special Agent. See http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3865392. Again, it is impossible to know without FOIA declassification if Francis Coffey was the FBI SA who approached LaRouche.
14 This argument first had been advanced by the famed Soviet/Hungarian economist Eugene Varga against the leading Soviet "crisis" economist Evgenii Preobrazhensky, a leading member of Trotsky's "Left Opposition."
15 LaRouche's analysis of an impending monetary crisis while unusual was by no means unique. LaRouche drew on the work of the Belgian-born Yale economist Robert Triffin, who in 1960 predicted a coming crisis in his book Gold and the Dollar Crisis: The Future of Convertibility. LaRouche cites Triffin's work in The Coming American Socialist Revolution first published in the SWP Discussion Bulletin (Vol. 25, No. 6) as a pre-convention document for the SWP's 1965 gathering.
16 Dialectical Economics, 232.
17 Tom Kemp, an academic economist and former CPGB member, joined the SLL with the Fryer group.
18 As I will show in the next chapter, LaRouche says that he only realized Healy's group had a "breakdown crisis" perspective sometime after 1964.
19 LaRouche wrote "Depression Ahead?" when he was 39 years old and one of the last SWP recruits who had entered the party with the vivid lived experience of the Great Depression. By the late 1950s, however, the frequently apocalyptic "class war" ideology and rhetoric that had inspired so many Depression-era radicals was now called into question. The CPSU turn to "peaceful coexistence" following the 20th Congress met real opposition. In the late 1950s, a faction of the CPUSA quit the party in the wake of China's attacks on the Russian "capitalist roaders." They then formed the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute a Marxist-Leninist Party in the United States (the "Vanguard Group"). In the early 1960s, an even larger pro-Chinese group left the CPUSA. In 1962 they became known as Progressive Labor (PL). Both groups proudly upheld the old "labor metaphysic" famously critiqued by C. Wright Mills. In the late 1950s, a similar tendency split off from the SWP. The "Global Class War" group organized around Sam Marcy and Vince Copeland later became the Workers World Party (WWP).
20 The early 1960s saw the brief flourishing of the left-liberal Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution. Tremendously influenced by the rise of automation and cybernetics, the Committee on the Triple Revolution in late March 1964 issued its own manifesto on the future. It outlined what it saw as vast structural changes in the future American economy that would be rooted in a radically changing composition of the American labor force. The document predicted a brewing major social crisis in America as technological modernization in particular fueled deep structural unemployment. The Triple Revolution: Cybernation, Weaponry, Human Rights was clearly meant to influence the Kennedy Administration along the lines of Michael Harrington's famous book The Other America but it only came out shortly after JFK's assassination. It was signed not just by leading liberals like Gunnar Myrdal, W. H. (Ping) Ferry, Linus Pauling, and H. Stuart Hughes but also the Socialist Party's Michael Harrington as well as two SDS leaders, Tom Hayden and Todd Gitlin. (For more, see the "Wiener World" chapters in this book on cybernetics and the Macy Foundation.) Also see LaRouche's discussion of the Triple Revolution in Dialectical Economics, 212-13.
21 Janice Neuberger LaRouche was born on 20 September 1924. She only had a high-school education as she dropped out of college. She and LaRouche had one son named Daniel. LaRouche met her in New York City where she worked as a secretary in the SWP's national office. After she and LaRouche divorced in the early 1960s, she became involved with the woman's movement and began holding "consciousness raising" sessions in her apartment to help women become more assertive in business. She went on to become a member of the board of NY NOW in 1968-69. Janice then became like her ex-husband a business consultant and held regular workshops for women entering the job market. She died on 4 December 2015 at age 91. See her entry in the 1973 edition of Who's Who Among American Women. A 20 January 1974 New York Times story by Paul Montgomery declared: "Mr. Marcus was married to a psychiatrist and has since been divorced," and in so doing launched the myth that Janice Neuberger was a psychiatrist. The confusion may be that after her divorce, Neuberger established her consciousness raising sessions much as her friend Murry Weiss reinvented himself as a licensed psychotherapist.
22 LaRouche was allowed to give exactly one SWP lecture on "Fromm's Views of Marx." At the time, Fromm was involved in the promotion of the "young Marx's" writings such as the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and The German Ideology as well as an attempt to integrate Freud's ideas into a Marxist worldview.