CHAPTER 2 From Brahmins to Trotskyists
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Lyndon LaRouche endured a wretched childhood filled with his father's relentless bullying and physical attacks and his mother's relentless religious fanaticism. In The Power of Reason, he writes:
Carol White, LaRouche's former longtime companion in the 1960s, recalls that
Conditions grew so bad that as a teenager he ran away from home. Again from Carol:
In his "Conceptual History of the Labor Committees" essay in the October 1974 Campaigner, LaRouche glosses over this period. He merely states that after moving to Lynn, he had his first "quasi-political" experience when he "violated his family's organic Republican traditions" and joined the ClO's Shoeworkers' Union "in connection with a regular summer job."
The family was further inflamed by the fact that by age fourteen, LaRouche first began having serious doubts about religion. Asked by San Francisco Focus, "When did you stop being a Quaker?" he replied: "Well, I had a big philosophical wrestling match about the time I was fourteen years old  . . . and I had the big wrestling match because the Quaker philosophy is like a radical Calvinism philosophy in some respects – that man should not interfere with the affairs of government. You take care of your own personal affairs and don't meddle in the affairs of the world." He would later write of this period: "I had been raised in an axiomatically Republican and evangelical Quaker family; without family prompting I became the only active Alfred Landon supporter I ever knew personally at that time, at the age of fourteen. Before December 7, 1941, I had been won over to Roosevelt, and was making such compromises with my Quaker conscience as seeing engineering or ambulance-service employment in combat areas overseas."2
LaRouche reports that during his early teenage years, he turned to an auto-didactic reading of various major Western philosophers from Descartes to Kant and Leibniz after his grandmother Ella gave him a set of writings of philosophers published "in the Harvard Classics." In the 1983 EIR biography of LaRouche (LaRouche: Will This Man Become President?), he states that around the age of 12:
LaRouche's urge to study philosophy happened around the same that Joseph LaRouche died and the family relocated to Lynn, where they were plunged into a running feud with the larger Quaker community as well as into the bitter family struggle over Joseph LaRouche's estate. That LaRouche would start searching into the writings of Western philosophers to try to find some alternative to his family's all-consuming religious mania makes psychological sense.
CLASS WAR IN NEW ENGLAND
Over the next few years LaRouche would turn even more to the Left. In the mid-1930s he joined a CIO-allied union while working a summer job, a decision that enraged his father and led to his decision to flee from home. To understand the depths of his father's anger, it is necessary to recall the bitter world of class struggle in New England in the 1930s.
In the mid-1930s, the CIO – with support from the American Communist Party – launched a massive drive to organize New England's shoe industry workers. In January 1936, the CIO backed the first test case challenging "company union" restrictions of the Wagner-Connery Labor Disputes Act against the Lion Shoe Company in LaRouche's home town of Lynn.3 In February 1937, the CIO-backed United Shoe and Leather Workers union won a 15% pay hike in twenty-seven shops in the Boston-area shoe industry. Workers also set up pickets in once company towns like Lynn, Salem, Newburyport, and Keene, New Hampshire, to spread their demands.4 In April 1937, Powers Hapgood, the New England secretary of the CIO, helped lead a brutal strike in the Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine. The state's governor responded by putting the entire area under the control of the Maine National Guard.
In spite of all attempts to repress it, the CIO kept gaining strength. On 4 May 1937, the New York Times reported:
The CIO's success enraged the conservative AFL. On 13 August 1938, AFL vice-president John Frey appeared before the Special House Committee Investigating Un-American Activities (HUAC) and identified some "284 alleged Communist members who were or are on the CIO payroll," reported the 14 August 1938 New York Times(whose page one story was headlined "Communists Rule the CIO, Frey of AFL Testifies"). One of the unions singled out by Frey for Communist domination was the United Shoe Workers. Frey said that:
To Lyndon LaRouche, Sr, his teenage son's decision to join the CIO's shoe workers union was akin to something like being a collaborator with the Communist Party.
It was during this period that LaRouche found a kind of surrogate father figure in Benny Shapiro, an extremely committed anti-fascist Jewish immigrant from Poland. In the 1988 version of The Power of Reason, LaRouche frames this period this way:
LaRouche alludes to his running away from home after he had entered Northeastern and earned poor grades there this way:
LaRouche reported that his "business" in the hotel that day was his attempt to leave America for an "assignment constructing a military base in Africa." However after the outbreak of the war, he had to decide what to do next. He further reports that his father tracked him down in New York City, possibly an admission by LaRouche that he did in fact abandon his family for New York. In any case, a few days after his acquaintances left for Africa:
STRAIGHT INTO CAMPTON
With the outbreak of World War II in December 1941 (just two months after his father had been expelled from the Lynn Meeting), LaRouche was faced with the prospect of registering as a conscious objector (CO). He left Northeastern and worked through much of 1942 assisting his father in the consulting business. As we will see, LaRouche also reports that starting in January 1942, he first began to seriously study Marx's Capital even while working for this father. Then just a few days before Christmas in December 1942, he was interned in Camp 32 in West Campton, New Hampshire. Ironically, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) helped supervised Camp 32 for the government so that the very organization that his father had so bitterly railed against was now in charge of his only son. The camp COs also split into two groups.
The "one hundred percenter" faction supported the AFSC's management of the camp while the "two percenter" group bitterly opposed it. LaRouche, for his part, chose to become a "two percenter."5 Many of the two percenters were highly political and argued that they should engage in peaceful non-resistance to government power inside the camp and that to accept the deal struck between the Roosevelt government and the AFSC was to tacitly collaborate in the war effort.
A great many of the two percenters came from anarchist, pacifist, Socialist Party, Communist Party, and other left-wing backgrounds. Until 7 December 1941, the vast majority of Americans – both left and right – were firm isolationists. It is also worth recalling the role played by the American Communist Party in promoting left-wing isolationist sentiment. From 23 August 1939 till the day Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the CP tirelessly campaigned against American support for England. The party argued that British imperialism – and pro-British financiers inside America like the Morgan finance group in New York – posed the real threat to world peace. Churchill, Hitler, was the real "warmonger." Anti-interventionists on both the left and the right viewed World War II essentially as a disastrous repeat of World War I. Both then and now, British imperialism wanted to trick America into fighting on its side in an imperialist war between rival capitalist powers. The only principled position, therefore, was to resist participation in yet another senseless war, much as the American Socialist Party had opposed American entry into World War I.
In the 1920s and 1930s, many Americans were convinced that the lives of their soldiers lost in World War I had been sacrificed for a meaningless cause. Antiwar films such as The Big Parade and books and films such as All Quiet on the Western Front became huge hits. Throughout the 1930s, populist Congressmen zeroed in armaments manufacturers and claimed that these "merchants of death" promoted war solely for private economic gain. Resistance to American involvement in a new war in Europe also swept many American campuses in the late 1930s, spearheaded both by Communist Party front groups as well as the student wing of America First.6 At the same time, the German government worked ferociously to encourage American isolationist sentiment, and this fact also plays a role in LaRouche's history.
F. PORTER'S PATER
While incarcerated in Camp 32, LaRouche became good friends with F. [Francis] Porter Sargent, whom he later described in a long article in New Solidarity.7 They met while on a government-assigned work detail. Sargent later recalled their encounter in an interview with the Boston Phoenix:"I met him (LaRouche) in the "Louse Camp," a section of the camp where they put us in tents and used us for guinea pigs for medical experiments. They covered us with lice and told us not to scratch."
F. Porter Sargent came from an old New England family that first arrived in America in 1630. Like LaRouche, F. Porter had an unusual and domineering father. F. Porter's father, Porter Sargent, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 6 June 1872. At 19 he talked his way into Harvard even though he never finished high school. After graduating cum laude in just three years, he went on to study neurology but quit without getting a PhD. Instead, in 1904 he created the "Sargent Travel School for Boys" that sponsored rich men's sons on a "grand tour" that alternated between Europe and the Orient. After the outbreak of World War I made travel difficult, Sargent set up his Handbook of Private Schools, the most authoritative publication in the field, as well as his own publishing house, Porter Sargent Publishers, which was located on 11 Beacon Street in Boston. A caustic critic of higher education, he used the preface to the handbook to comment on educational issues as well as on the events of the day.8
As an isolationist, Porter Sargent opposed American intervention in both World Wars I and II. In May 1939 at age 67, he launched his own weekly newsletter which featured attacks on the interventionists alongside comments on educational matters. Sargent began publishing his newsletter after the isolationist Senator Gerald Nye read portions of a book by Sidney Rogerson entitled Propaganda in the Next War into the Congressional Record. A longtime progressive Republican Senator from North Dakota, in 1934 Nye established a famous Senate Committee to investigate the munitions industry and its war profiteering in World War I. Nye later became a founding member of America First. He promoted Robertson's book because it explained "how Britain might seduce the U.S. into the coming war against Germany."
Porter Sargent began his antiwar efforts by sending out 10,000 reprints from Nye's Congressional Record insert, along with his own comments, to his extensive mailing list. He followed up with his newsletter. Sargent also republished his political essays in Getting U S into War, a 640-page opus released in April 1941 and reprinted that September. Getting U S into War included reproduced letters from America First supporters as well as from other critics who denounced Roosevelt's support for the British Empire. Sargent particularly hated the House of Morgan, which he identified as the leading pro-British banking network in America. He published critiques of the British Information Service and specific British government officials. In late 1939, his efforts earned him a puff piece in Time magazine. In its 25 December 1939 issue, Time noted that H.L Mencken, John Dewey, Charles Beard, Stuart Chase, Robert Maynard Hutchins, and other "bigwig" types were "egging" Sargent on. Time quoted Johns Hopkins' president Isaiah Bowman telling Sargent that "If you cut the bulletins off, I shall cut you off in my will."
That Sargent would have highly prominent left-liberal friends like Charles Beard, Stuart Chase, and John Dewey cheering him on is not surprising. Sargent saw himself as a crusader against "economic royalism," warmongering munitions manufacturers, and other reactionaries. He actively promoted the "progressive education" views of John Dewey. In his 1945 book, The Failure of Education, Sargent even opined on the educational state of Stalin's Russia: "With modern mass methods, the Soviets have succeeded in changing a hundred and sixty million Russians, superstitiously religious, ignorant and lazy, into rationalistic, hardworking people, ardent for learning."9
THE REICH STUFF
George Sylvester Viereck
Although Timedidn't mention it in its article, Hitler's most prominent American propaganda agent also was "egging" Sargent on. Der Fuhrer's American propaganda czar was George Sylvester Viereck. A once highly regarded poet and literary critic, Viereck served as Germany's leading propaganda agent in both World War I and World War II. During the run up to World War II, Viereck published repeated attacks on English control over America through the Berlin-backed Flanders Hall publishing house. Flanders Hall books included One Hundred Families that Rule the Empire by Giselher Wirsing and Lord Lothian Against Lord Lothian, which was reportedly ghostwritten by Viereck himself. After World War II ended, the United States government learned about Viereck and Sargent's collaboration in the late 1930s. In the summer of 1946, The Public Opinion Quarterly published "Confessions of a German Propagandist," a transcript of an interrogation of Dr. Heribert von Strempel by Captain Sam Harris of the War Crimes Tribunal. Strempel had been the First Secretary of the German Embassy in pre-war Washington, D.C., where he was put in charge of "cultural relations." Strempel freely admitted that he also took part in an extensive German campaign to counter British propaganda operations in America in an operation that had been financed out of the "Kriegskostensonderfonds" ("war cost special funds"). From the Harris-Strempel interrogation:
Did Viereck also supply Sargent with the names of specific British officials that Sargent later attacked? Although I know of no evidence that F. Porter Sargent harbored any special love for Hitler, his father's curious entanglement with Viereck illustrates just how murky political divisions were in the run-up to World War II.
A KAPITAL ADVENTURE
In his October 1974 Campaigner essay, "Conceptual History of the Labor Committees," LaRouche recalls that after entering the CO camp, he quickly fell into heated debates with former CP and Socialist Party COs, many of whom would undoubtedly have been members of the "two percenter" faction. As someone who had begun studying Capital a year earlier when working for his father's consulting business and with his own experience working in a factory, LaRouche was well prepared for any debate. In his June 1970 essay "How the Workers League Decayed," LaRouche writes: "My own self-conscious personal political history begins in January 1942. Five years intensive study of Hobbes, Rousseau, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, et al. culminated one January 1942 night in the reading of the first eight chapters of Capital.
Much of Volume One of Capital is devoted to understanding technological innovation and its effect both on the specific factory and the economy in general. Marx discusses this in terms of "relative surplus value" which in conventional Marxist terms means a change in the rate of surplus value "caused by an increase in productivity, which reduces value of commodities consumed by workers, hence reduces value of labor-power, hence reduces necessary labor and increases surplus labor with given length of working day."10 The primary driver for the increase in relative surplus value was scientific and technological improvements in machinery. Marx knew about such matters not only from his interest in the abstract world of economic theory but also from his friendship with Engels, whose "day job" involved running his father's textile factory in Manchester. LaRouche's own father also designed new machinery for the shoe industry. During the war, LaRouche said that his father even invented "a device which undercut the moccasin-vamp stitching on United Shoe's Outsole Rapid Lockstitch machine (ORL), forcing the company to cut their royalties substantially."11
Marx's writings then must have held special interest given that Volume One of Capital includes sub-chapters with titles like
"MARCO POLO" OR WHAT'S IN A NAME?
During his sojourn at Camp 32, LaRouche reports that he was nicknamed "Marco Polo" by his fellow prisoners because of his deep desire to travel although a former Labor Committee member says that LaRouche once told him that "Marco Polo" had been a nickname first given him by fellow students when he was much younger. Curiously, there was a real life "Marco Polo" among the inmates named William Hinton, who would later became famous for Fanshen, his study of Mao's China. In 1936 at age 17 Hinton postponed entry to Harvard and hitchhiked from Vermont to San Francisco. He then worked on a boat that took him first to Japan and then to northern China. From there he hopped on the trans-Siberian railroad to Europe before returning to the United States. While LaRouche was reading Capital, Hinton was reading Edgar Snow's pro-Mao book Red Star over China, a work that convinced Hinton of the existence of just wars. Hinton then left the camp to enroll in the Army (although he was rejected from service due to a perforated eardrum). LaRouche and his fellow two percenters, however, hated Hinton because as a 100%er he supported the AFSC.12
As for LaRouche's "Marco Polo" camp nickname, it had a curious aftermath. When LaRouche became known after the 1968 Columbia strike as "Lyn Marcus," the charge was leveled at him by the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) that he had chosen the name to remind the reader of "Lenin Marx." The fact that LaRouche at the time sported a Karl Marx beard only seemed to seal the argument. In fact when LaRouche joined the SWP in 1949, he chose his "party" name "Lynn Marcus" and his articles in SWP publications starting in 1954 are signed "Lynn Marcus." In his post-SWP writings, however, he just spelled his name "Lyn." One guess is that in 1949 he chose his "party name" as a pun since he really was "Lyn from Lynn."
PASSAGE TO INDIA
In 1943 LaRouche decided that he also wanted out of West Campton and transferred to a government-run CO camp in the West. After discussions with another camp inmate named Quentin Stodola who had earlier attended Queens College, they both decided to take up military service. LaRouche now soon found himself being inducted to the military at Fort Bliss. He eventually traveled to the Far East on the USS Admiral Benson for service in the India-Burma borderlands. In a story entitled "How a Radical-Left Group Moved Toward Savagery" in the 20 January 1974 New York Times, reporter Paul Montgomery writes that LaRouche told him that after he entered the CO camp in New Hampshire "he says, [he] was converted from Kant to Marx by Communist party members. Realizing the futility of protest, he joined the Army and served as a medical corpsman in India-Burma."
LaRouche's decision to reject CO status threw his parents into a new frenzy. After all, his own father had been a religious CO in World War I. Asked by the San Francisco Focus, "Were your parents upset with you because of the break?" he replied:
In this same interview, LaRouche says that "I was only a CO for about a year, then I couldn't stand it anymore. The clincher was meeting the other COs. I said I'm not one of these. I don't belong here. I called the Selective Service Board and said, "Get me out of here."
What LaRouche didn't mention was that 1943 saw the beginnings of a nationwide total resistance campaign inside the federal camp system launched by the two percenteres like David Dellinger who aggressively refused to cooperate with either the AFSC or the government. Instead, they opted for mass incarceration in federal jail.13 LaRouche would have been faced with choosing either to remain in the camp under the AFSC as his two percenter allies went to jail or to go to jail with them. It may also have been the case that LaRouche, like Hinton, simply changed his mind about the struggle against Nazi Germany and Japan. Whatever his reasons, LaRouche enlisted in the Army as a non-combatant medic and served in the India-Burma theater during World War II, After the war ended, he was stationed in Bengal and Assam.14 A source once close to LaRouche added these comments:
The same source also recalled him saying that during his time in Assam, he "worked as a medical orderly giving injections to soldiers who ran afoul of wild animals in the jungle." In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, LaRouche states that during basic training he declined two offers to enter into Officer Candidates' School. As for his military service, he writes that after arriving in India:
In the early 1980s, LaRouche described his experiences at the end of the war in a rather opaque way:
Some years earlier, however, LaRouche wrote that after the war ended in 1946 he became "briefly attached to the Communist parties." In "Conceptual History" he claims that he visited the headquarters of the Indian Communist Party (CPI). There he says he told the then-head of the PCI, P.C. Joshi, that the Indian CP should launch a mass uprising against British rule. When Joshi failed to agree with him, LaRouche joked that he became a "Trotskyist" on the spot. LaRouche's decision to identify with Joshi shows just how far to the Left he had come. LaRouche would certainly have been exposed to the strongly anti-British colonialist and pro-Mahatma Gandhi views of many of the radical pacifists inside Camp 32. In August 1942, Gandhi launched his famous anti-British "Quit India" movement centered on peaceful acts of civil disobedience. In response, the British jailed virtually the entire leadership of the Indian Congress Party. (Gandhi's actions may have helped inspire the two percenter resistance movement to become more militant in America as well.)
Following orders from Moscow, however, Joshi and the CPI strongly opposed Gandhi and backed the British because England and the Soviet Union were then close allies. By 1946, however, the wartime rationale that had led the CPI to accept British rule no longer applied. Still, Stalin's line remained one of compliance with the Allied Powers both in Europe as well as in the East.16 More importantly, the fact that LaRouche would even want to visit Joshi suggests that he clearly thought of himself as a radical. LaRouche states in "How the Workers League Decayed" that while in India at the end of the war, "I began recruiting GIs to accompany me in seeking out and joining the nearest Communist Party." He then adds:
Although LaRouche focuses the spotlight on himself, there were many radicals in the Armed Forces in India, especially many soldiers from England, who were themselves sick of the Tories and continued British rule in the sub-continent.
After returning from the war in May 1946, LaRouche enrolled (for the second time) as a freshman in Northeastern University intent on studying physics. A source once close to LaRouche recalls:
When asked by San Francisco Focus, "So you got a BA in that?" (Political Economy) LaRouche replied,"No, I first majored in physics and I dropped out of that. I was a problem case. I was never happy with the University. I went to Northeastern, and I didn't graduate. I dropped out of the thing. One day I said I'm out, and I was out. I was sick, intellectually. That was back in 47."
What exactly made LaRouche "sick intellectually" remains unknown. What does seem clear is that he tried to be politically active as a student at Northeastern and had some contact with the American Veterans Committee (AVC). Yet his efforts met with little success. In a New Solidarity story, LaRouche complained that in a 1947 campus debate over the Baruch Plan and the related Atoms for Peace proposal, he found himself under attack from supporters of both the AVC and Americans for Democratic Action, as well as from certain unnamed professors.17 In short, while he may well have been "sick intellectually," he was also a failure at campus politics. Nor was LaRouche happy about national politics; he reports that during this time he wrote a letter to General Eisenhower, then the new head of Columbia University, urging him to run for President in the 1948 elections. Ike replied to LaRouche and thanked him for his comments even as he politely declined the suggestion.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
After dropping out of college, LaRouche wound up working for his father's consulting business.18 After the war ended, LaRouche's father began working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice as a technical adviser in an anti-trust action against United Shoe. In 1947 the government launched a legal action against United Shoe's monopoly practices. The case would last five years and culminate in a partial victory for the Justice Department. From a 19 February 1953 New York Times article entitled "United Shoe Machinery Held Guilty of Monopoly after Five-Year Trial":
The court case over the USMC's monopoly may have taken as one example an invention by LaRouche's father aimed at undercutting a USMC sewing device known as the ORL. In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, LaRouche writes that in the late 1930s:
During the late 1940s, LaRouche's father also spent time working for the American government in Europe as a technical consultant to the shoe industry in France during the postwar reconstruction of the Continent in the wake of the Marshall Plan.19 Meanwhile, LaRouche began to follow in his father's footsteps as a management consultant. In a New Solidarity article, he recalled that "I went into management consulting, which I was in more or less off and on. I found that my father and I got along better if we didn't work together, so I branched out into other aspects of consulting and became a specialist in computers."20 He also told the San Francisco Focus that in the late 1940s, "I worked as a management consultant. I did a few other things too. I'm a maverick, you know, and I would always move around and try a few things, for fear that I might be missing something. I worked in radio for awhile."
Carol White recalls that:
POLITICS AND F. PORTER SARGENT
During his time in Boston, LaRouche remained in close contact with his "dear friend" F. Porter Sargent. F. Porter was part of the bohemian circle of postwar leftists and pacifists whose ties had been forged in the CO camps. His book firm, for example, later published the work of Gene Sharp, the leading American interpreter of Mahatma Gandhi's theories of non-violent resistance. Sargent maintained ties to some "Council Communist" radicals that included the German-born Council Communist exile Paul Mattick, Sr, whose book Marx and Keynes F. Porter would publish in 1969.22 F. Porter Sargent, then, appears to have been very much a member of the "first New Left" centered on late 1940s journals like politics, Retort, and Dwight Macdonald's then-famous essay, The Root is Man.23
LaRouche clearly was aware of F. Porter's views. In a 1978 article on F. Porter,24 LaRouche recalled that he and his "dear friend" remained close after World War II and that in the early 1950s he did consulting work for the family book company that Porter had inherited after his father's death in 1951 at age 79. For his part, in 1971 F. Porter reprinted an abbreviated version of LaRouche's pamphlet "Third Stage of Imperialism" in an anthology published by his book company entitled Readings in U.S. Imperialism.25 In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, LaRouche reports that he and Sargent shared a strong interest in music in particular along with two other friends named Felice and Edmund Manna. F. Porter's mother was a woman named Margaret Upham, and one early Labor Committee recruit was a young woman also named Upham, who was related to this side of the family. Carol White later recalled: "Vis-a-vis Porter Sargent, Jr. They were good friends and we were also friends with Porter's cousin Baxter George Upham (Garance Upham's father.) They all lived on houses in a large family complex in New Hampshire."
As for LaRouche business relationship with Sargent, in the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, he writes:
That independent consulting assignment led LaRouche to relocate to New York City in October 1954.
THE LINDY TROT
Socialist Workers Party hands out
newspapers at anti-Iraq war
protest where tens of thousands
of marchers gathered at the Capitol
dome. (Washington, DC - January 2003)
Photography by DECLAN MCCULLAGH
Yet LaRouche would go politically in a radically different direction than his friend. In January 1949 at age 27, Lyndon LaRouche joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the American branch of Leon Trotsky's Fourth International. LaRouche's first known contact with the SWP can be dated to his last days in India and a shipboard encounter with an SWP member named Don Morrill. A former American SWP member named Tim Wohlforth interviewed Morrill some years later about LaRouche and reported:
LaRouche knew Morrill quite well and in The Power of Reason, he confirms that he was first introduced to the SWP by Morrill: "My first contact with the SWP was through an army acquaintance, Donald Morrill. Don was bright and had certain competencies, but was, throughout my acquaintance with him, stuck emotionally somewhere in adolescence . . . . Yet he was a good friend in general, and he and his wife Sue were good human beings of the sort for whom one works properly to build a better order of the world's affairs." (149)
One of LaRouche's "old comrades from the SWP days" told the Boston Phoenix that LaRouche
One of his SWP comrades told the Phoenix that "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." Another remembered that LaRouche even worked in an SWP factory cell in the Lynn GE River Works plant "but he couldn't get up every morning so he got canned."
In The Power of Reason, LaRouche mentions some of his SWP comrades from that time such as Stanley Lippman and Benjamin Fishman. He singles out both Fishman and Fishman's father (an Eastern European emigre involved with the Jewish socialist Bund) as being significant figures for him. Ben Fishman had been a one time president of his local tannery workers' union and may well have been associated with the CIO's organizing drive in New England during the 1930s.
The Boston branch of the SWP was led by an Irish-American print setter named Larry Trainor, whom LaRouche especially admired. A source once close to LaRouche recalled: "I believe that Lyn did have a romantic attraction to the old-timers in the movement, like the Dunne brothers, Larry Trainor himself, and Harold Robins, who was a guard of Trotsky's in Mexico." In The Power of Reason, LaRouche said that Trainor and Fishman represented "the best side of a stratum termed the SWP's 'proletarian kernel.'" (154) He even says that but for his friendship with Trainor, "I would have left the SWP by no later than early 1950." LaRouche felt so close to Trainor that he visited him in 1972 for a talk about the old days and Trainor's views on the SWP.30
JOIN THE PARTY!
LaRouche's political rationale for joining the SWP remains murky. In Conceptual History of the Labor Committee, he says he
So why did it take LaRouche three years to join the SWP? In "How the Workers League Decayed," he writes:
LaRouche's explanation leaves much to be desired. Although the Communist Party-backed Henry Wallace campaign for President finished with only 2.4% of the national vote in November 1948, the CP-New Deal Left had hardly "sold out."32 Nor could LaRouche have confined himself to "campus political issues" since he dropped out of Northeastern in 1947. Nor was the SWP the only place for an "honest revolutionary" since LaRouche could have joined the "Third Camp" Trotskyists in Max Shachtman's Workers Party or the Council Communist movement around Mattick and Karl Korsch, or even entered the left pacifist world of his friend F. Porter Sargent.
One possible explanation may be that LaRouche had been affected by the collapse of the CP-backed Popular Front Henry Wallace campaign of 1948. In The Power of Reason he writes of the SWP:
We also have to see the world as LaRouche and other leftists may have seen it at the time. When LaRouche formally joined the Boston branch of the SWP in early January 1949, the U.S. and the USSR remained locked in the Berlin Crisis that began in June 1948 and would continue unresolved until May 1949. On 29 August 1949, the Soviet Union successfully tested its first atomic bomb, leading many to fear that an almost unthinkably destructive new war was virtually inevitable. Then in October 1949 Mao declared the creation of the Peoples Republic of China. By 1949 the American Communist Party was so convinced that a future war was imminent that it began setting up a cloak and dagger-like "underground" parallel organization that included safe houses and secret couriers to keep the party functioning even after the American government arrested its public leaders. Viewed from the far left, the looming confrontation between Moscow and Washington seemed further confirmation that the world was still in the midst of a period of war and potential revolution. LaRouche may have been attracted to the SWP most of all because it was more militant than the CP at a time when the Popular Front option had being made irrelevant by world events. In a 8-14 May 1971 New Solidarity article ("SWP Headed for Split?"), LaRouche writes of this period:
LaRouche disliked the "Pop Front," and he may even have associated it with the Indian Communist Party's failure to challenge British rule in Calcutta in 1946 when LaRouche witnessed mass protests in the streets. In 1948 the SWP ran its own independent electoral campaign against Henry Wallace and the Popular Front with Grace Carlson as the SWP's vice-presidential candidate while Farrell Dobbs headed the ticket. Carlson's experience with the Popular Front came when the CPUSA supported the Smith Act persecution of Minneapolis Trotskyists that included Carlson, who was convicted under the Smith Act and sent to jail in 1941. In his introduction to James Cannon's Marxism on Trial work now available on the Internet, Dave Holmes explains:
When LaRouche heard Grace Carlson speak, he was in the presence of a formidable woman who had little love for the CPUSA and its role in helping to send her to prison, not to mention the CP's strong opposition to any labor protests or strikes while the war was still underway.
In a June 19-21 1972 New Solidarity piece on the SWP, LaRouche heavily quotes from a June 1940 stenographic transcript of an argument between Trotsky and the SWP's leaders over Trotsky's concerns that the SWP "was adapting to pro-Roosevelt anti-communist tendencies among labor fakers and militant rant-and-file members of the trade unions." He links this to Trotsky's complaint that the SWP had failed "to carry out an earlier agreement on launching a campaign for an independent working-class electoral effort in 1940." LaRouche writes that "the SWP labor policy of the late 1940s" resembled that of the Workers League in that both sects called for an independent trade-union based Labor Party. In his June 1972 New Solidarity essay, he states that in the wake of Trotsky's criticism:
Looking back on these events over a decade later, LaRouche saw this period as marking the start of the postwar decline and disorientation not just of the CP but the SWP as well. In the epilogue ("Cannonism in Perspective") to his 1965 SWP internal discussion document, The Coming American Revolution, he writes:
LaRouche then recalls the state of the SWP at the time he joined the party:
Although LaRouche was recalling SWP "party corridor" discussions some 15 years later, his notion that the SWP had become disoriented by the failure of the postwar era to live up to Trotskyist theories rings true. Lyndon LaRouche was fundamentally a product of the vast crisis of the 1930s. When he joined the SWP, he imagined he was joining a vanguard party in an era of war and revolution and not an aging and politically irrelevant sect that would only atrophy more and more in the next decade. LaRouche's early life, then, was not simply shaped by family crises, traumatic as they clearly were. His personal drama played out in a country wracked by economic collapse. LaRouche was a child of the Great Depression and the Second World War. LaRouche was one of the last radicals of the Great Depression generation who "converted" to Trotskyism just before it entered into massive decline accelerated by the rise of McCarthyism and the incredible attacks on the SWP by the FBI.
LaRouche's path to Marxism, then, was by no means unique. Yet in the 1960s, his views would seem antique to many in the New Left. Arguments over Marxist economic theories about capitalist breakdown that struck many New Left "baby boomers" as hopeless irrelevant had once been matters of life or death to members of LaRouche's generation. The New Left would revel in the "young Marx" of the 1844 Manuscripts and grapple with issues like "alienation." Godard's "generation of Marx and Coca-Cola" responded far more to One Dimensional Man than the old ideological war horses from the 1930s with their nostalgic glorification of an imaginary American working class. A "post industrial society" infinitely populated by Andy Warhol Soup Cans surely demanded the abandonment of the old "labor metaphysic." Instead, the New Left would desperately search for new "vanguards" in the Third World, in the ghettos, and in the rock-drug counterculture symbols of youth rebellion right out of Zabriskie Point. Yet the birth of the New Left still about a decade away. By the time LaRouche left Boston and arrived in New York in October 1954, the Old Left SWP was in free-fall.
1. The Power of Reason, 55, 57.
2 Lyndon H. LaRouche, Imperialism: The Final State of Bolshevism (New York: New Benjamin Franklin House, March 1984), 71.
3 See the 13 January 1936 New York Times, 2.
4 25 February 1937 New York Times, 7.
5 New Solidarity, 11/7 & 11/10 1978. The phrase "two percenter" most likely comes from a speech by the left-wing pacifist Albert Einstein who called for at least two percent of the men expected to go to war to resist entering military service and cooperating with their governments in any way.
6 Gore Vidal was head of the America First chapter at Yale.
7 New Solidarity, 9/1778.
8 Arthur Moehlman, "Porter Sargent: A Portrait," The Journal of Higher Education,20 (1) (April 1949), 182-84.
9 Porter Sargent quoted in Paul Mattick, "Between Two Wars," Western Socialist, July 1946.
10 Anthony Brewer, A Guide to Marx's Capital (London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984), 204.
11 The Power of Reason, 41.
12 In New Solidarity 11/10/78, LaRouche mentions Hinton by name.
13 David Dellinger is one of the most important political figure to come out of this period for the Left.
14 Lyndon LaRouche, "How the Workers League Decayed," 7.
15 LaRouche, Imperialism, 72.
16 Carol White speculates about this time:
Again, as the source points out, this is speculation. However in the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, the possibility that LaRouche may have been court-marshaled or demoted in some way while he was in Calcutta is suggested on page 38. LaRouche reports that when in Calcutta he was assigned to work in a warehouse "staffed by two Indian babus of the Brahman caste." He says while there he clashed with a very racist American sergeant that led to his being dismissed from all Army duties. As LaRouche tells it:
17 New Solidarity, 9/1/78.
18 The New Solidarity obituary for Lyndon, Sr., reports that his son served as a "consultant to the firm from 1947-52."
19 LaRouche recalls that his father had sent him from France an early copy of Norbert Wiener's book Cybernetics, which had been published first in Paris in 1948 before later appearing in New York that same year.
20 New Solidarity, 9/11/79. In a 1974 interview for the Boston Phoenix, Lyndon LaRouche, Sr., also spoke "generally about his consulting business which his son is still a vice-president."
21 In The Power of Reason, LaRouche writes that for a time he "took a miserable sort of job, traveling principally through the Mississippi Valley and southwest." (154-55).
22 The Council Communists were bitterly anti-Bolshevik. In World War II, they advocated proletarian world revolution in all nations and refused to offer "critical support" either for Stalin's Russia or the Allied Powers as the lesser evils. (As a teenager living in Philadelphia, Noam Chomsky was deeply influenced by the writings of Mattick, Pannekoek, and Karl Korsch.) In the 1940s and 1950s, Mattick and other Council Communist theorists were given a print forum in Western Socialist, the Boston-based journal of an obscure sect known as the World Socialist Party United States (WSPUS). In the 1940s, the Boston branch of the WSPUS was the second largest leftist sect in the city with only the CPUSA being larger. For a detailed look at the Council Communists, see International Communist Current, The Dutch and German Communist Left (London, 2001).
23 On this period, see Dwight Macdonald, The Root is Man (New York: Autonomedia, 1995).
24 New Solidarity, 9/23/77.
25 Readings in U.S. Imperialism (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1971) was co-edited by a radical Latin America expert and professor at Florida State University named Donald C. Hodges and K.T. Farm, a then-Maoist professor and expert on Wittgenstein. LaRouche also makes an oblique reference to F. Porter Sargent in a 9 September 1978 New Solidarity piece entitled "Yes, John Maynard Keynes was a Fascist." Commenting on the isolationist historian James J. Martin, whom he met around this time, LaRouche notes that
This "late dear friend" was F. Porter Sargent.
LaRouche describes his encounter with Martin in a 1 September 1978 New Solidarity story. Just a few weeks earlier, in a 15 August 1978 issue of New Solidarity, he claimed that from the eighth century B.C., "Jewish banking families were all an integral part of the force of evil radiating from the Great Whore of Babylon," and then in the very next issue (22 August) dropped his bombshell claim: "Granted, the Nazis did not kill six million Jews, but they did kill upwards of a million and a half."
As for the Martin, in the mid-1950s he became a protege of Harry Elmer Barnes, a leading "revisionist" historian of World War I. In the 1930s Barnes' views endeared him to left-wing isolationists like Charles Beard as well as to Viereck. After World War II, Barnes became prominent in the world of Holocaust Denial and argued that just as British propagandists had exaggerated German atrocities in World War I they were doing the same thing in World War II. Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Martin wrote a two volume attack on Depression-era liberal interventionists entitled American Liberalism and World Politics, which was published in 1964 by Devin Adair. Martin also felt comfortable in world of the far right Liberty Lobby, headed by the pro-Nazi "populist" Willis Carto. In 1984, Carto's Institute for Historical Review (IHR) published Martin's book, The Man who Invented "Genocide. In it, Martin attacked Ralph Lemkin, a Polish Jew and lawyer who lived for many years as a refugee in America where he tirelessly lobbied for an international law outlawing genocide.
Unlike Barnes, however, Martin was very much in the American individualist ("Yankee cracker barrel anarchist") tradition. Martin's book, Men Against the State: The Expositors of Individualist Anarchism in America (1827-1908) examines such thinkers as Josiah Warren, Ezra Haywood, Lysander Spooner, and Benjamin Tucker and is an acknowledged classic. Men Against the State was first published in 1953 by Adrian Allen Associates in DeKalb, Illinois. In 1957 Men Against the State was reprinted by the Libertarian Book Club, a famous "left anarchist" grouping whose founders included Emma Goldman. Even if Martin did come from "the same general geographical precincts and in the intellectual orbit of my late friend's [F. Porter Sargent's] circles," those circles in Sargent's case were much more likely to be left-anarchist decentralists, none of whom were invested in the particular strain of "historical revisionism" that led Barnes and Martin to Carto and the IHR. I have seen no evidence that F. Porter Sargent had anything to do with the pro-Nazi Liberty Lobby, notwithstanding his father's curious past.
26 On page 73 of his book Imperialism, LaRouche gives the name of the ship as the U.S.S. General Hersey and said that he returned to the United States via the Suez Canal.
27 This claim is disputed by one source who noted that "Lyn was not fluent in either German or French." However it may be that Morrill wasn't much of a linguist and thought that LaRouche knew both languages. Given LaRouche's French-Canadian grandfather, he almost certainly knew some French.
28 Given the family history with Quakerism, "notorious" might be a more apt word.
29 Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth, On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2000), 75-76. Although Merrill's memory is more or less accurate, some of his dates appear slightly off. In Conceptual History of the Labor Committees, LaRouche says he joined the SWP in January 1949 and began his "colonization" work inside the GE River Works at Lynn in the spring of that same year. LaRouche also says he got to know the SWP's national leaders in New York in "late 1954 and early 1955" and not two years earlier. For LaRouche's version of events, see the chapter "Trotskyist Wrecker."
30 Although it is impossible to prove, I suspect that this visit had a profound impact on LaRouche. By this time, Trainor had become a marginal figure inside the SWP after the party was taken over by the youth cadre around Jack Barnes. I think that LaRouche may have feared something similar could happen to him inside the NCLC and that he would wind up like Trainor if he didn't act to assert strong personal control over the Labor Committees. On Trainor, see The Power of Reason.
31 In the period that LaRouche was in the SWP, the organization experienced an astonishing decline. 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 just 399. See Alan Wald: The New York Intellectuals, 300.
32 As for LaRouche's reported disillusionment with CPI leader P.C. Joshi, by the time LaRouche returned to America, the American version of Joshi, CPUSA leader Earl Browder, was expelled from the American Communist Party in the wake of the famous "Duclos letter."
33. L. Marcus. C Lawrence, "The Coming American Revolution," SWP Discussion Bulletin, 25 (6), xii-xiii.
In this same document, LaRouche polemicizes against the Pablo/Deutscher view of events as well:
Pdf file downloadable here (258 Kb)