edit SideBar

CHAPTER 2 From Brahmins to Trotskyists

< CHAPTER 1 Fighting Quakers | SMILING MAN FROM A DEAD PLANET: THE MYSTERY OF LYNDON LAROUCHE | CHAPTER 3 Introduction: Orbiting Wiener World >

Pdf file downloadable here (258 Kb)

Lyndon LaRouche endured a wretched childhood filled with his father's relentless bullying and even physical attacks. In The Power of Reason, he writes:

In general, my home life during the 1930s was increasingly unsatisfactory. Except for a few close childhood friends, my social life apart from religious activities was a total failure. . . . My play life as part of social life generally was usually poor, and frequently left me with a bad taste in my image of myself afterward. . . . It is not risking much of an exaggeration to report that I had a childhood, but never a youth.1

Conditions grew so bad that as a teenager he ran away from home reports a source once close to LaRouche:

In his youth, Lyn was a misfit. He was a large child, but his family had raised him never to respond to violence with violence. As a result, he was bullied by kids and could only "hit back" at them verbally. He had a vicious mouth even then. He also hated school and was a very poor performer in school. To make matters worse, his father, Lyndon LaRouche Sr. would fly into terrible rages for small infractions and would then beat Lyn physically.
When he was 17 or so, he ran away from the family. (There was a dispute between him and his father according to Lyn because he had been working at a summer factory job and joined the local union. When his father found out he beat him up.) So Lyn ran off to New York City and got a job as a messenger and hung out in bars. He was discovered around the time that the war started and agreed to return back home.

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.

LaRouche was 14 years old in 1936. 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

Although LaRouche is cryptic here, the idea that a Quaker would participate in a war even by working as a medic was very much in the liberal AFSC tradition that his father so despised.


Over the next few years LaRouche would turn even more to the Left. In the mid-1930s he joined a ClO-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 ClO-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 New England Council of the Committee for Industrial Organization, seeking to bring shoe workers under its banner, announced plans today for the formation of a new shoe union. In a statement the council declared that the new union, which would be an amalgamation of old unions, would be known as the United Shoe Workers of America. Two unions, the United Shoe and Leather Workers and the Shoe Workers Protective Union, had voted in favor of the new organization.

The ClO'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:

This CIO organization, headed by Powers Hapgood, who is a combination of a radical, possibly a Communist and everything also that composes someone who likes to make trouble in the labor world. The main facts, however, are that this organization, when it became affiliated with the CIO, took into membership all of the members of the United Shoe Workers, the membership of which was largely communistic.

To Lyndon LaRouche, Sr, his only teenage son's decision to join the ClO's shoe workers union was akin to something like being a collaborator with the Communist Party.


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) and going to prison or being drafted. No doubt under intense pressure from his family, he chose at first to become a CO. By 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 split into two factions, the "100er." The first group supported the AFSC's management of the camp while the second bitterly opposed it. LaRouche, for his part, chose to become a "2%er."5 Many of the 2%ers 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 2%ers 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 group in New York posed the real threat to world peace. Churchill, not Hitler, was the real "warmonger."

Anti-interventionists on both the left and the right viewed World War II as essentially a 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 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 that were lost in World War I had been sacrificed for a meaningless cause. Antiwar films such as The Big Parade and books like 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 also worked feverously to encourage American isolationist sentiment, and this fact also plays a role in LaRouche's history.


While incarcerated in Camp 32, LaRouche became good friends with F. Porter Sargent, whom he later described in a long article in New Solidarity7. 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 also had an unusual and highly 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 three years, he went on to study neurology but quit without getting a Ph.D. 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 own 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 also published critiques of the British Information Service and specific British government officials. In late 1939, his efforts even 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 also 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


George Sylvester Viereck

Although Time didn'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:

Q: What was Viereck's connection with Porter Sargent?
A: Viereck told me that he financed the book of Porter Sargent.
Q: How?
A: I suppose he bought for Flanders Hall a certain number of copies, so that thereby was removed the financial risk for Mr. Sargent.

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 curious entanglement with Viereck illustrates just how murky political divisions were in the run-up to World War II.


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 "2%" faction. As a result of these encounters, he first began reading Capital. 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.

As it so happens, a great deal 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 concrete friendship with Engels, whose "day job" involved running his father's textile factory in Manchester. LaRouche's own father ran a business devoted to designing new machinery for the shoe industry. During the war, LaRouche said that his father even designed "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 subchapters with titles like

The Specialized Worker and his Tools
The Development of Machinery
The Value Transferred by the Machinery to the Product
The Compensation Theory with Regard to the Workers Displaced by Machinery
Repulsion and Attraction of Workers through the Development of Machine Production: Crises in the Cotton Industry
The Revolutionary Impact of Large-Scale Industry on Manufacture, Handicrafts and Domestic Industry
Modern Manufacture
The Length of the Working Day and the Intensity of Labor Constant; the Productivity of Labor Variable


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. 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 book 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 2er 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, an "n-1" event took place and the name became spelled "Lyn." One guess is that in 1949 he chose his "party name" as a pun since he really was "Lyn from Lynn." (Once he left the SWP and established the NCLC, he dropped the second "n" from his name.)


In 1943 LaRouche like Hinton decided that he also wanted out of West Campton. His decision threw his parents into a new frenzy. Asked by the San Francisco Focus, "Were your parents upset with you because of the break?" he replied:

Oh, extremely. This was the bitterest strain between me and my parents that ever happened. They had their tears, crying and so forth. It went on for six or seven years.
SF Focus: How did it affect you?
LaR: Well, it was an upheaval, a very good one, in the sense that I had to take responsibility for the state of affairs around me.

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 2%ers 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 2%er allies went to jail or to go to jail with them.

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:

He says he entered the camps under duress from his family. . . . However, he did not go from the camp directly to the army. He applied for transfer to a non-sectarian [CO] western camp which was rehabilitating land in the desert. He got into trouble there and then applied for non-combatant status in the Army. In later years he pretended to have gone through boot camp and trained recruits. The latter can't be true. About the former I don't know.

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 early 1980s, LaRouche described his experiences at the end of the war in a rather opaque way:

I recall the few months after the close of the war. I was pulled back from northern Burma [Myitkyina] into Calcutta. First to a replacement camp outside Calcutta, where I found myself informed that I had been drafted to be the enlisted men's representative from that camp the transfer came as promptly as the relevant officials learned of the selection. I finished my time attached to an ordinance unit, and found myself immersed in both the Indian independence circles and among a circle of Calcutta Anglo-Indians: the subject was the ordering of the post-war world.15

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 gone. 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 also undoubtedly helped inspire the 2%er resistance movement to become far 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 also 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:

My association with the Communist Party of India, as intense as it was brief, began mere weeks before the outbreak of the Bengal Revolution of 1946. Millions of Bengali had defeated the British police and army by sheer mass of Bengalis and the political "leftism" then rampant through British army ranks. These millions were milling through Calcutta in the most massive concentrated display of seemingly spontaneous revolution in human history. All that was needed for the first party with some standing in this mass to give the "demonstration" a further practical task, a direction: "We are the government of India! Let us begin to govern!" No one, including the Communist Party, moved. Like today's disgusting "lefts" leading "single issue" peace movements, they watched, until, after days of march, march, march, the millions of the revolution had dispersed out of sheer exhaustion and lack of leadership. . . . P.C. Joshi, field leader of the CPI, explained the treachery to me: The CPI was honoring Stalin's agreement with Churchill. I went down the stairs from the CPI headquarters, already a Trotskyist by the time I reached the street.


After returning from the war in May 1946, LaRouche enrolled (possibly for the second time) as a freshman in Northeastern University intent on studying physics. A source once close to LaRouche recalls:

As Lyn tells of his college career, his high school grades were poor, but he wanted to attend MIT. Since he was a genius, his mother took him to meet with the MIT admissions people and they agreed to accept him but he could not get a scholarship. His father could not afford tuition so he applied to his paternal grandmother [Ella LaRouche], or perhaps for some reason the school approached the paternal grandmother before offering him a scholarship because she was a wealthy woman. In any event the story goes that she sabotaged his getting into MIT. This was before the war. As a result, he attended the much inferior Northeastern University. However after the war he should have been in a good position to attend MIT using the GI Bill, but instead went back to Northeastern which he hated.

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.


After dropping out of college, LaRouche wound up working for his father's consulting firm.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 United Shoe Machinery Corporation has monopolized manufacture and distribution of some shoe machinery, Federal Judge Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr., ruled today. He found that the company violated Section 2 of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act . . . but he rejected a United States Justice Department request that the corporation be dissolved into three separate companies. The decision came more than five years after the Federal Government filed its complaint on December 15, 1947. The case involved the longest trial ever held in this Federal court.

During the late 1940s, LaRouche's father also spent some time working for the American government in Europe as a technical consultant to the shoe industry 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.

A source once close to LaRouche also recalls that:

After the war he came back in a state of total exhaustion and had to take to his bed for a significant length of time. He was treated for some kind of histamine failure and was given injections prepared from the serum used by a bee to sting people. This was very difficult for him physically. So he came home from the war and collapsed in his parents' bed. Then he got a job going around the U.S. writing radio commercials. This was a period in which he got into brawls in bars . . . .21 When he got home he worked for Porter Sargent to put the finances of his book biz in order. He also joined the SWP. This led to his taking a job at GE on the factory line in a section which did quality checking. . . .
Somewhere in this period he had two bouts of hepatitis and was bed-ridden for another year. Then he decided to join the SWP branch in NYC and probably used his "connection" with his father's consulting [company] and a reference from Porter Sargent he landed a job with a management consultant firm in NYC. Janice LaRouche, his first wife, was the secretary for the SWP in New York City.


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 also maintained ties to some "Council Communist" radicals who 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 reported that he and his "dear friend" remained close after World War II and that in the early 1950s he did some 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


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)

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:

One morning in late March 1946, Don Morrill was chipping paint off one of the forward hatches of the SS General Bradley.26 It was the last troop ship but one to leave India for the United States. Three young soldiers approached him. One of the men introduced himself as Lyndon LaRouche, from Lynn, Massachusetts, Morrill's hometown. The four immediately fell into a political discussion. Morrill explained that he had been a supporter of Leon Trotsky prior to the war.
Morrill remembers LaRouche as a brilliant fellow who spoke French and German fluently.27 His parents, Morrill discovered, were prominent Quakers.28He was an excellent chess player, taking on four tables simultaneously and winning. Morrill and LaRouche soon became close friends, spending their time talking politics. It was a heady time. Fascism had been defeated and millions around the globe had hopes of a new and better world emerging from the carnage of war. Morrill and LaRouche had witnessed the revolutionary turbulence of the peoples of the Indian subcontinent who were in the throes of casting off their imperial masters. They were not the only soldiers considering socialist ideas. By the time the boat reached the American shore, LaRouche was a Trotskyist.
Sometime in 1947, LaRouche joined the Lynn branch of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the main American Trotskyist group, taking on the party name Lyn [sic] Marcus. The branch was composed primarily of workers from the nearby General Electric plant. Morrill was an active union militant. LaRouche, however, displayed little interest in union affairs and divided his time with the nearby, larger Boston branch. By 1952, LaRouche had moved to New York City, where he found employment as a business consultant. Morrill lost touch with him.29

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

stayed very active in the party until he left Boston. . . . "He attended all the meetings . . . It seemed like his only interest in life was politics. But what the hell, he never worked; he lived with his parents until he left town. His whole life was wrapped up in the movement. I never heard him say a good word about any writer of literature," said this senior comrade.

This same source also told the Phoenix:

"Lindy had an encyclopedic mind, he could remember anything. And back then, he had a very orthodox theory, but he was willing to argue at the drop of a hat whether it was a period or a comma at the pause. No one would argue with him; you'd just 'yes' him to death because he came on like a screwball."

The Phoenix 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 member also told the Phoenix that LaRouche did work 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 ClO'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 Dune brothers, Larry Trainor himself, and Harold Robinson, 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 even visited him in 1972 for a talk about the old days and Trainor's views on the SWP.30


LaRouche's political rationale for joining the SWP remains murky. In Conceptual History of the Labor Committee, he says he

joined the SWP's Boston local in early January 1949, after a few weeks probation, at the point that the national SWP was undergoing a drastic loss of membership. [I] joined, in fact, for the same reason that many were leaving: political reaction was on and there was no place outside an organized socialist group in which to act and develop as a socialist.31

So why did it take LaRouche three years to join the SWP? In "How the Workers League Decayed," he writes:

I did not join the SWP on my return to the U.S. later that year. I was poorly impressed by the Militant and by the mediocrity of world outlook of SWPers to whom I have talked. They were good, sincere people, but saw politics in "small change" terms. After a few exploratory contacts, I confined myself to campus political issues until almost the last post-war leftists had "sold out," when I joined the SWP in the Winter of 1948-49. Poor as the SWP was, there was no other place for an honest revolutionary to go.

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:

After mid-1948, its criticisms of the Communist Party, combined with its principled hostility to the witch-hunt, overrode my earlier contempt for the poor intellectual quality of the SWP. An encounter with touring SWP candidate Grace Carlson during autumn of that year was almost decisive. Although I was not impressed by the general contents of her address, I was impressed by her non-philistinism during the address and the ensuring discussion-period. This presented me with what appeared to be a sample of the SWP leadership contrary to the poor impression made by SWPers I had known earlier.(148)

We also have to see the world as LaRouche and other leftists may have seen it at the time. When LaRouche formally joined the SWP in early January, 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 also successfully tested its first atomic bomb, leading many people 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. Seen 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 seems to 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 was being made irrelevant by world events. In a 8-14 May 1971 New Solidarity article ("SWP Headed for Split?"), LaRouche writes of this period:

The only essential difference between the SWP and CP during the 1940s and the real content of its "Trotskyism" versus "Stalinism" posture was the SWP's opposition to the "Popular Front" tactic of subordinating the political interests of working class people to alliances with the "progressive capitalists." That is an extremely important issue.

LaRouche disliked the "Pop Front." In a June 19-21 1972 New Solidarity piece on the SWP, he 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 also failed "to carry out an earlier agreement on launching a campaign for an independent working-class electoral effort in 1940."

In 1948 the SWP ran its own independent electoral campaign against Wallace and the Popular Front. 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 NS essay, he writes that in the wake of Trotsky's criticism:

It must be conceded that the SWP did immediately later carry out a partial shift away from the trade-union bureaucracy, as [AFL leader Daniel] Tobin and Roosevelt conspired to frame up the national SWP leadership in the first Smith-Act witch hunt trial, thus vindicating Trotsky's evaluation of the SWP's temporary trade-union allies. It must be conceded that beginning in 1948, the SWP did develop a caricature of the electoral policy Trotsky proposed . . . .

Looking back on these events over a decade later, LaRouche saw this period as also 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:

Trotskyism emerged from World War II with two general axiomatic perspectives. First, that the War would be followed by a wave of socialist revolutions in the advanced countries. Second, that Stalinism was "counterrevolutionary through and through." True to these perspectives, the end of the War was a period of general pre-revolutionary and revolutionary social ferment in Western Europe, with the concomitant emergence of renewed though far less advanced social ferment in the U.S. itself. If the French and Italian Communist leaderships had had a different-than-Stalinist character, they would have seized power in their countries in a period in which the endemic mood of the U.S. and British troops would have prevented effective U.S. military intervention against that seizure. The economic and social consequences of the U.S.'s loss of Europe in this way would have been the maturing of the economic and social conditions for a conjunctural crisis in the U.S. But, true to the second axiomatic perspective, Stalinism, on explicit instructions from Stalin, turned over Western Europe to U.S. imperialism, thus providing U.S. imperialism with the real basis for its postwar recovery, preventing the emergence of conditions for a social crisis in the U.S. and, incidentally, preventing the British Socialist movement from realizing the objective conditions for its further development.33

LaRouche then discusses the state of the SWP at the time he joined the party:

It soon became clear that this muddle-headed jargon about conditions abroad was only an abstract refraction of the developing, not-yet-articulated real issues: the growing disaffection in Trotskyist ranks with the perspective of social revolution in each party's own country as the realistic perspective of our epoch. That reality began to be projected into the realm of at least party-corridor discourse during 1949-50, as the party was compelled to retreat from a leading, active role in mass work, with the attenuation of both the party's practical relations and political perspectives of leadership of the U.S. (for example) working-class.
The "proletarian colonists" inevitably reacted to this development with a deep hatred of the Cannonism that had stripped years from their lives for the apparently fruitless course of "proletarianization." At the same time, petit-bourgeois elements in the apparatus were being driven to frenzy at the prospective loss of an audience to give homage to their petit-bourgeois proficiencies. The "colonists" turned away from the party toward the trade union bureaucracy. The petit-bourgeois apparatus elements sought a broader avenue for the appreciation of their talents in the still numerically significant ranks of the Stalinist peripheries. This process, a product of conditions of each Trotskyist movement in its own country, was given its subjective basis for expression by the death of Stalin and Deutscher's thesis of an evolutionary reformation of Stalinist forces.

Although LaRouche was recalling SWP "party corridor" discussions some 15 years later, I think that his notion that the SWP had become disoriented by the failure of the postwar era to live up to Trotskyist theories more or less 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 of 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 his fixation on the always ever imminent total collapse of capitalism mirrors the trauma of many of his peers. LaRouche was one of the last radicals of the Great Depression generation who "converted" to Trotskyism just before it entered into a period of massive decline.

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 square looks, arcane rhetoric, fuddy-duddy "socialist realism," and 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 in Watts and Newark, or in the rock-drug counterculture symbols of youth rebellion right out of Zabriskie Point.

Yet the birth of the New Left still was well over a decade away. By the time LaRouche left Boston in either late 1953 or 1954, the Old Left and the SWP in particular was in membership free-fall since the only "Red" more and more Americans wanted to associate with was Lucille Ball. So what happens when prophecy fails? Was capitalism now permanently immune to economic crisis? This was one of the questions that LaRouche would spend the next decade trying to answer.


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 NS 11/7 & 11/10 1978.

6 Gore Vidal was head of the America First chapter at Yale.

7 NS 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 NS 11/10/78, LaRouche mentions Hinton by name.

13 David Dellinger was one such striker.

14 Lyndon LaRouche, "How the Workers League Decayed," 7.

15 LaRouche, Imperialism, 72.

16 A source once close to LaRouche also speculated about this time:

I think the whole story of his involvement with the Indian army [the U. S. Army in India] has to be seen in the light of his going AWOL from his Army post. Not so long ago it occurred to me that Lyn must have been dishonorably discharged from the Army. GIs from that period got significant benefits like life insurance, free medical treatment at VA hospitals which had a good reputation at that time, and free education.

Again, as the source points out, this is speculation.

17 NS 9/1/78.

18 The NS obituary for Lyndon, Sr., reports that his son served as a "consultant to the firm from 1947-52."

19 LaRouche reported 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 appearing in New York that same year.

20 NS 9/11/79. In a 1974 interview for the Boston Phoenix, his father 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 like Anton Pannekoek 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 NS 9/23/77.

25 Readings in U.S. Imperialism (Boston: P. 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 seems to have met around this time, LaRouche notes that

Martin is an avid pacifist of what might be called the "Yankee cracker barrel anarchist variety." Indeed, on this count, Martin's views closely resemble that of a late dear friend of mine, whom I found eminently agreeable on every point but political philosophy. In fact, Martin is acquainted with that late friend, originally from the same general geographical precincts and in the intellectual orbit of my late friend's circles.

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 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 leftwing 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) which examines such thinkers as Josiah Warren, Ezra Haywood, Lysander Spooner, and Benjamin Tucker 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 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 at all to do with the pro-Nazi Liberty Lobby, notwithstanding his father's curious past.

26 On page 73 of 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 and his father's presence in Paris in 1948, 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 as I believe it is some of his dates are still 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.

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, in fact, went through an astonishing decline. In 1946 the SWP reached its highpoint 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. 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, the CPUSA leader Earl Browder, was expelled from the American Communist Party in 1946 in the wake of the famous "Duclos letter."

33. L. Marcus. C Lawrence, "The Coming American Revolution," SWP Discussion Bulletin, 25 (6), xii-xiii.

LaRouche also in this same document polemicizes against the Pablo/Deutscher view of events as well:

However, just because the U.S. was not yet able to marshal the conditions for adventures against the Soviet Union, there emerged new deformed workers' states in Eastern Europe and, despite the efforts of Stalin to see Mao Tse Tung sell out to Chiang, the Chinese Revolution. This contradictory development meant to every empiricist in our movement that Trotskyism had failed on the count of both its axiomatic perspectives. To them, Trotskyism had lost its connection with the social revolution for this period of history; to them, the only course to save the Trotskyist organizations was either adapt as the leftwing of other political forces, e.g. Stalinism, or to withdraw into a complete sectarian existence for the indefinite future. Thus, the discussion of the "Buffer Countries" et al. had, at best, the character of an effort to "save the appearances" of Trotskyism.
The Trotskyist position of defense of the Soviet Union's revolutionary achievements was expressed in the description of the "Buffer Countries" as "deformed workers' states," while the purely formal appearance of "Stalinism is counterrevolutionary through and through" was saved by equating the epithet, "deformed" mechanically, to the call for the overthrow of the regimes in those countries. In the course of these bankrupt rationalizations, the historic and social content of a workers' state were replaced by the yardstick of purely economic forms of nationalization, central planning, and monopoly of foreign trade.

< CHAPTER 1 Fighting Quakers | NEW STUDY | CHAPTER 3 Introduction: Orbiting Wiener World >

Pdf file downloadable here (258 Kb)

Edit - History - Print - Recent Changes - Search
Page last modified on June 13, 2013, at 07:26 PM