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

December 31, 2017 in Blogs

By Phyllis Bennis, FPIF Focal Points

With Marc gone, few are left of that extraordinary earlier generation.

With the sudden passing of the Institute for Policy Studies co-founder Marcus Raskin on Christmas Eve, we've lost a life that paralleled most of the important progressive movements of the last 60 years—and conceptualized some of their boldest ideas.

Marc left his position at the Kennedy White House in 1962, dismayed by that administration's aggressive war drives in Vietnam, Cuba, and nuclear weapons development. Along with Dick Barnet, who left the State Department at the same time, he created the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the first-ever independent progressive think tank—designed to change the world from outside Washington's centers of power.

IPS's history from then on tracked the civil rights and Vietnam anti-war movements; the anti-nuclear movement; the early women's, environmental, and gay rights struggles; the movements against corporate globalization, South African apartheid, and the wars in Central America, right up through the post-9/11 anti-war mobilizations; and the racial and economic justice, immigrant rights, environmental, women's, and LGBTQ rights movements of today.

Marc's own history of activism is pretty amazing. Here was a former music prodigy, philosopher, lawyer, and government wonk, jumping into what would eventually be called the New Left before anything had that name. He welcomed SNCC activists and others to IPS for months-long seminars on how Washington worked, providing desperately needed respites for exhausted civil rights workers beaten down—literally—by police and Klan violence, and the massive political suppression that enabled it.

Marc organized early draft resistance that led to his indictment in the Boston Five conspiracy trial, and traveled back and forth to the Soviet Union building citizen diplomacy to counter the Cold War. (According to one—ahem—fellow traveler on one of those trips, Marc, a former Juillard student, got into a piano competition with their government minder, each trying to outdo the other in complex music. History doesn't record who won.) Decades later, Marc envisioned the plan that led to IPS creating the Cities for Peace movement in the run-up to the war in Iraq. His imagination never stopped.

But what is sometimes left unmentioned in the stacks …read more


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