[Marxism] Marcus Raskin, Co-Founder of Liberal Think Tank, Dies at 83
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Thu Dec 28 17:30:21 MST 2017
NY Times, Dec. 28 2017
Marcus Raskin, Co-Founder of Liberal Think Tank, Dies at 83
By RICHARD SANDOMIR
Marcus Raskin, who channeled his discontent as a young aide in the
Kennedy administration into helping to found the Institute for Policy
Studies, a progressive think tank that became an abundant source of
research about nuclear disarmament, the Vietnam War, economic
inequality, civil rights and national security, died on Sunday in
Washington. He was 83.
The cause was heart failure, said his son, Jamie, a Democratic
congressman from Maryland.
Mr. Raskin and Richard J. Barnet started the institute in 1963, fiercely
devoted to maintaining its independence by refusing to accept government
funding. “We also had an extraordinary conceit,” Mr. Raskin told The New
York Times in 1983. “We were going to speak truth to power.”
With its seminars and research, the institute tapped into a changing
national mood: The optimism of President John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier
had yielded to an increasing disillusionment over the government’s
conduct of the Vietnam War. Mr. Raskin helped position the institute at
the center of the growing antiwar movement.
In 1967, he and Arthur Waskow, a senior fellow at the institute, wrote a
“A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” a manifesto that urged young
men to refuse to participate in the war.
“Open resistance to the war and the draft,” they wrote, “is the course
of action most likely to strengthen the moral resolve with which all of
us can oppose the war and most likely to bring an end to the war.”
Early the next year, Mr. Raskin and four other antiwar activists were
indicted in Boston on federal charges of conspiracy to counsel young men
to violate the draft laws. One of their acts was distributing Mr.
All but Mr. Raskin were convicted. A year later, the convictions of the
four others were overturned.
Mr. Raskin was soon playing a role in a much larger story: the
revelation of the Pentagon Papers, the enormous classified study that
unmasked the decision making that had led the United States into the
In 1970, Daniel Ellsberg, the disillusioned analyst for the RAND
Corporation who had drafted the study, gave Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet
copies of a part of it.
Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet then asked Neil Sheehan, a reporter for The
Times, if the newspaper would be interested in publishing highly
classified information. “Yeah, we do it all the time,” Mr. Sheehan said
in a telephone interview recalling his conversation with the men, whom
he knew from covering the antiwar movement.
He added: “They gave me 200 pages of what became the Pentagon Papers. I
looked at it and saw this was valuable stuff that The Times would
publish. I said, ‘Where did you get it?’ And they said, `From Dan
Mr. Sheehan subsequently met with Mr. Ellsberg, who gave him the full
trove, 7,000 pages. In June 1971, Mr. Sheehan broke the story, which was
accompanied by The Times’s printing of extensive excerpts from the
archive. The Washington Post soon did the same.
Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet, along with Ralph Stavins, used documentation
that Mr. Ellsberg had given them in writing he book “Washington Plans an
Aggressive War: A Documented Account of the United States Adventure in
Largely because of its antiwar activism, the institute was kept under
illegal surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the 1960s
and ’70s. Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet’s names were among many on President
Richard M. Nixon’s so-called enemies list.
Marcus Goodman Raskin was born in Milwaukee on April 30, 1934. His
father, Ben, was a plumber, and his mother, the former Anna Goodman, was
a seamstress who later worked in her husband’s business.
A musical prodigy, Mr. Raskin was accepted to study piano at the
Juilliard School at age 16 but abandoned a musical career to study
politics at the University of Chicago. He later graduated from the
university’s law school.
He never stopped playing the piano, however, and while in Chicago, he
tutored the future composer Philip Glass. “With him, I started on a real
technique,” Mr. Glass wrote in his memoir, “Words Without Music” (2015),
“and he was serious about my progress.”
After law school, Mr. Raskin worked on the staff of Representative
Robert W. Kastenmeier, Democrat of Wisconsin, in Washington, where he
was part of a group that wrote “The Liberal Papers,” a book of essays
that examined the future of liberal politics.
One of the essays, which Mr. Raskin wrote with Mr. Waskow, was critical
of nuclear deterrence theory. It impressed the Harvard sociologist David
Riesman, who in turn recommended that McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy’s national
security adviser, meet Mr. Raskin.
Mr. Raskin joined Mr. Bundy’s staff on April 17, 1961, the first day of
the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by an anti-Castro force of
Cubans overseen by the Central Intelligence Agency. At a staff meeting —
described by Kai Bird in his book “The Color of Truth” (1998) and in
“The Four Freedoms Under Siege” (2006), which Mr. Raskin wrote with
Robert Spero — it was clear to all in the room that the invasion was a
“Well, Che learned more from Guatemala than we did,” Mr. Bundy said,
referring to Che Guevara, the revolutionary ally of Fidel Castro.
Guevara had been in Guatemala for a C.I.A.-assisted coup against its
leader in 1953.
Mr. Raskin, who was 26, responded, “It’s interesting that Che learned
from Guatemala, but what have we learned?”
“Bundy stared at him stony-faced,” Mr. Bird wrote.
The next day, Mr. Raskin was informed that Mr. Bundy “would prefer you
not to come to the meetings — he’ll have you report to him at the end of
Despite that rocky start, Mr. Raskin continued to work for Mr. Bundy,
though they often disagreed: In a memo to Kennedy, Mr. Bundy called Mr.
Raskin a “young menace,” Mr. Bird wrote. Mr. Raskin was moved to the
Bureau of the Budget in 1962.
“Marc had a deep sense of international law, and people like Bundy, who
were operators, did not,” said Robert Borosage, who followed Mr. Raskin
and Mr. Barnet as director of the Institute for Policy Studies after
they stepped down in 1978.
By the end of 1962, Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet, who had been with the
United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, had left their jobs
to raise money and form the institute Once established, it gave them a
national platform and influence in left-leaning Democratic circles.
“Above all,” Sidney Blumenthal, then a reporter for The Post and later
an aide to President Bill Clinton, wrote in 1986, “I.P.S. pioneered the
modern politics of ideas in the capital. And even as conservatives were
clubbing I.P.S., they attempted to imitate its form. The Heritage
Foundation, for example, was modeled directly on I.P.S.”
After leaving as director, Mr. Raskin remained at the institute as a
senior fellow and distinguished fellow, writing, fund-raising and
formulating ideas for social action.
“He generated half of the best ideas that we pursued in the first decade
of this century, because he thought big and bold,” John Cavanagh, the
institute’s current director, said in an interview. One of them, he
said, “was to persuade hundreds of cities across the United States to
pass resolutions against the Iraq war. In three months, we had 350
cities and towns passing resolutions.”
In addition to his son, Mr. Raskin is survived by his wife, the former
Lynn Randels; two daughters, Erika Raskin and Eden Raskin Jenkins;
another son, Noah; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandson. A
previous marriage, to the former Barbara Bellman, ended in divorce.
When President George W. Bush announced that he was sending more troops
to Iraq in 2007, Mr. Raskin distilled some of the themes of his career —
disdain for war, suspicion of what he called “the national security
state” and a passion for human rights — into an essay. .
“We need to learn from this debacle,” he wrote on the institute’s
website, and listed recommendations: providing enough money for Iraqi
reconstruction, establishing an economic development program with the
United Nations and focusing on “passionate attachments” to people, not
“A new course in Iraq and a re-evaluation of America’s role,” he wrote,
“represents a melding of realism with high aspiration based on
cooperation, instead of fear and devastation.”
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