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Library: Appendix A: CIPA and the School of Social Work: The Early Labor Committee Network at Columbia

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The high drama of Columbia '68 can obscure the fact that the NY SDS Labor Committee that emerged from the strike was (broadly speaking) a merger of Tony Papert's Columbia PL chapter with LaRouche's CIPA. Yet without the presence of the early CIPA network at Columbia, the history of the Labor Committee at Columbia could have turned out quite differently. A radical anthropology student named Bob Dillon proved an early critical link between LaRouche and the future CIPA cadre at Columbia.1 Ed and Nancy Spannaus, CIPA recruits from Columbia destined to play a significant role in the Labor Committee's history, were both graduate students at Columbia's School of Social Work. Another early CIPA recruit from the School of Social Work named Tom Karp co-founded the West Side Tenants Union with Ed Spannaus.2

In the summer-autumn of 1966, the School of Social Work group first gravitated to West Side CIPA and James Weinstein's congressional campaign. The West Side CIPA network intersected a larger debate over the future of welfare organizing. Richard Cloward and Francis Fox Piven – both of whom taught at the School of Social Work – launched their organizing work for what became the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) partly through the West Side CIPA network.3 In March 1973, New Solidarity published four centerfolds on the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) and the Labor Committee-sponsored National Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organization (NUWRO). All the articles were either written or co-written by Nancy Spannaus who, with her husband Ed, graduated from the School of Social Work in 1967. From the first article:

Before NWRO was even officially christened, its leaders had been confronted with a devastating critique of their method and with the principles of the only effective organizing strategy for recipients. In a paper distributed at a Welfare Rights Teach-In in New York City in November 1966, the predecessor organization of the Labor Committee (West Village Committee for Independent Political Action) raised, and answered, three crucial questions for the movement: 1) Will it result in adequate welfare benefits?; 2) Where will the new money come from?; and 3) how realistic is the strategy even in its own terms? The paper warned that under conditions of the emerging economic crisis, dreams of a guaranteed annual (and adequate) income would soon be punctured. It pointed out the dead-end of a strategy which pits the poor against working people, predicting that in particular, without a class approach to taxation, "the movement will be forced to accept whatever 'solutions' and 'concessions' the government had to offer."4

THE SPANNAUSES

Nancy Bradeen Spannaus grew up in an academic environment: her father Donald headed the Classics Department at the University of Cincinnati. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1965 with a B.A. in philosophy and then earned her M.S. at the School of Social Work. She spent the next two years working professionally as a social worker. As for her husband Ed, he was born in Seattle in 1943, the son of a Lutheran minister. A graduate of the University of Iowa, Spannaus worked with SNCC in Mississippi for the Civil Rights Movement. As he later recalled:

My first contact with SNCC and the Movement came on a one-week trip to Greenwood, Mississippi, in the spring of 1964, with a group of students from the University of Iowa. We were involved in voter registration . . . . When I returned to Iowa I began recruiting students for the Summer Project, although I did not think I could go myself, for financial reasons. After the disappearance of Cheney-Goodman-Schwerner, I felt I had to go, and my parents arranged a sponsorship from a church human relations group, which enabled me to come to Mississippi in late July. . . .There was a COFO [Council of Federated Organizations] office in Moss Point, and a small group of workers there, and we met regularly with the larger group in Pascagoula and possibly Biloxi also. . . . I worked primarily on voter registration . . . . Once I was there, I wanted to stay after the summer, but the draft and Vietnam loomed large, so I went back to Iowa in mid-September, where I turned the local civil rights group into a Friends of SNCC chapter. . . .
In December 1964, I and others in Iowa organized our first demonstration against the war in Vietnam, which we held in a snowstorm at the federal Post Office in Des Moines, Iowa. In the summer of 1965, I worked part-time with SNCC in Chicago, and spent many evenings at the ongoing, 24-hour a day vigil outside the Chicago Board of Education. . . . I then went to New York, to graduate school at Columbia University, while spending time with SDS, PL, etc. During my second year there, I worked with Local 1199 of the Hospital Workers Union organizing tenants in the South Bronx. In the fall of 1966, I met Lyndon LaRouche (then known as Lyn Marcus), when a friend took me to his economics class at the Free University of New York. What LaRouche was saying about the need for an economic program as the basis for all social progress made complete sense to me, and I began working with him . . .5

In 1967 Ed Spannaus and Bob Dillon wrote "The Road to Socialism and the Tasks before Us" for SDS's 25 June-2 July National Conference at Ann Arbor. Dillon described himself in the document as being from "Columbia SDS and West Village CIPA," while Spannaus listed his affiliations as "Columbia Social Work School, West Village CIPA, and MDS."6 In 1967, Spannaus, along with Tony Papert and Bob Dillon, took part in the first sit-in against CIA recruiting at Columbia. After getting his MS in 1967, Spannaus helped create the West Side Tenants Union. He then worked "as a consultant to the Ford Foundation" and spent 1971 to 1974 as a social worker in the Housing and Development Administration.7

ORGANIZING FOR WELFARE RIGHTS

As social work professionals, the Spannauses worked closely with the Citywide Coordinating Committee of Welfare Groups, which in 1968-69 was run by Hulbert James. In 1970, the Labor Committee convinced a leading New York welfare organizer named Beulah Sanders to send a telegram of support to striking postal workers on behalf of Citywide, which co-sponsored a rally in support of the postal strike.8 Although Hulbert James was a leftist, he only offered "formal support" to the Labor Committee and failed to take any real action. After James was replaced by a former United Farmer Workers (UFW) organizer named Bob Mejita, Nancy Spannaus recalled in an article in her New Solidarity series on NUWRO that Citywide's new leader

agreed to collaborate with the Labor Committee and a social work group called Social Work Action for Welfare Rights (SWAWR) in organizing around the following program:
1) the development of productive jobs that all meet the material and social needs of all people in this city, i.e., construction, transit, daycare, with the necessary training attached;
2) the establishment of a guaranteed annual income that will provide $10,000 for a family of four, both employed and unemployed; and
3) taxes on the income of corporations and real estate should pay for these new jobs, wages, and income – not more taxes on working people.
The three groups formed a united front called ALLWIN (Alliance for a Living Wage and Income Now).

ALLWIN organized a conference of some 75 organizers but it failed to catch fire and soon dissolved. But even as ALLWIN floundered,

Citywide's newspaper was featuring community control of welfare as the new battle cry (now that the flat grant had cut off most monetary concessions). Two articles in the January 1969 issue, one by James and another by Jackie Pope, who later moved on to the Urban Coalition, tried to direct recipients into a struggle for caseworker jobs. Mejita continued his pro-working-class thrust, however, in the planning for a united-front demonstration against budget cutbacks in New York City that same spring. . . . Various city unions, including DC 37 of AFSCME and the Drug and Hospital Union joined WRO and liberal groups to plan an April 15 demonstration around demands to restore the cuts, to repeal the sales tax, and to "tax the rich, not the poor."

By the time the demonstration occurred, however, Mejita had been

all but removed from his position. James was brought in to represent Citywide at the demonstration, which he singlehandedly broke up and led into anarchist folly by piedpipering whoever would follow him down 5th Avenue into the waiting nightsticks and hooves of New York City's mounted police. The trade union co-sponsors of the demonstration interpreted this action as an indication of just how serious Citywide was about working with them and recipients were soon on their own again, with even many liberals falling by the wayside.

The Labor Committee now developed a new network in the Bronx thanks to another member, a social worker named Marjie Mazel, who organized the Bronx Alliance for an Adequate Income. Yet even after the WRO leadership cut off support for the project:

Citywide's executive board was not totally able to ignore an alternative to their increasingly unsuccessful strategy. The Board permitted a presentation on the productive jobs and taxation issue by members of SWAWR and the Labor Committed in the winter of 1969-70. While the initial response to the ideas was positive and a study group proposed as one method of follow-up, the executive, led by Mrs. Sanders, conveniently let the matter drop.

The NCLC, however, never gave up trying to push SWAWR to more than a formal agreement on an organizing perspective. But

SWAWR members did play an indispensable role in furthering united front work, however, by helping – in SWAWR's dying hour – to form the New York Coalition for Jobs and Services with the aid of the New York Labor Committee and the now-deceased Bronx Housing Crisis Coalition. It was this organizing center which first attracted NWRO leader Jeanette Washington into collaboration with the Labor Committee.

When the NCLC created the National Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organization (NUWRO) in 1972-73, Jeanette Washington helped lead the organizing effort.

CONCLUSION

Around the first-year anniversary of LaRouche's initial class at FUNY, the CIPA network programmatically intervened for the first time in national SDS with the Dillon-Spannaus co-authored "The Road to Socialism and the Tasks Before Us." In late November 1967, at an SDS meeting at Princeton, the proto-Labor Committee launched its first targeted intervention into New York SDS around a possible transit strike. In February 1968, the first Campaigner was published. The Columbia strike was just two months away.

Although the CIPA network opposed the war in Vietnam, it attracted organizers who had first been radicalized by the civil rights struggle and the fight against poverty, and not by fear of being sent to fight an unpopular war in Asia. This may help explain why social work grad students like the Spannauses were so open to LaRouche's economic views since their own experiences reminded them every day just how much America was not an affluent "post-industrial society." In the feverish climate of the late 1960s, CIPA's organizers no doubt struck many as drab left "social democrats" and "reformist" squares who spent their time on tenant organizing and handing out leaflets about the subway fare when the world was on fire. After the winding down of the war and the collapse of SDS, however, the CIPA-Labor Committee "long-term perspective" now appealed to more serious radicals who wanted to continue the long-term struggle.

The CIPA/School of Social Work network reached the height of its influence on the last weekend of March 1973 when the Labor Committee launched NUWRO at a founding national convention in Philadelphia. Less than a week after that event, LaRouche suddenly began Operation Mop Up, his attack on the American Communist Party. As we now know, he did so without informing members of his own National Executive Committee, such as the Spannauses, presumably because he assumed they would oppose him if a serious policy debate occurred. Ironically, then, in the spring of 1973 LaRouche really did destroy the key group on the Left that could have opposed his bid for one-man rule – not the Communist Party, but LaRouche's original recruits to CIPA.


Notes:

1 In the very early 1970s, Dillon left New York to conduct extensive field work in Iran for his 1976 doctoral thesis, Carpet Capitalism and Craft Involution in Kirman, Iran: A Study in Economic Anthropology. Dillon only returned to America in 1972 or early 1973. Sometime in 1973, he concluded that LaRouche had gone off the deep end and left the organization by the end of the year.

2 Karp and his wife later moved to California. An early issue of New Solidarity lists him as the NCLC's San Francisco contact.

3 The 27 September 1966 issue of West Side CIPA's publication, 19, for example, ran an article entitled "Welfare Demonstrators Arrested" which reports on an organization of some 60 welfare groups known as the City-Wide Coordinating Committee that sponsored the protest. One of the five people arrested at the demo was Jeannette Washington, a welfare mother, welfare rights militant, and future Labor Committee ally. There is also a photo of Washington with Columbia's Richard Cloward. The 9 September 1966 issue of 19 features yet another future Labor Committee member named Tony Chaitkin. For 19, Chaitkin interviewed two of James Weinstein's rivals: the incumbent Democratic Congressman for the 19th District, Leonard Farbstein, and the liberal peace candidate and Democratic City Councilman Ted Weiss. In the small-world department, the entire back page of this issue is a cartoon by George Larrabee, Carol's ex-husband and himself a former member of the SWP. Larrabee's cartoon told the tale of the "Revolutionary Adventures of Captain Change." The most prominent future Labor Committee leader then active in West Side CIPA, however, may have been Leif Johnson, whose connections to SDS reportedly dated back to the time of the Port Huron Statement. Another important early member of the Labor Committee named Paul Gallagher co-wrote a 1968 text with Ed Spannaus entitled "Who Pays for Poverty" that appeared in Viet Report. Gallagher is listed in the pamphlet as an organizer with the West Side Tenants Union. For a critical analysis of West Side CIPA and the Weinstein campaign, see https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/bulletin/v03n05-w047-nov-07-1966-Bulletin.pdf.

4 This November 1966 document is most likely the "Political 'Second Front' against the War in Vietnam/Proposal for a City Tax on Landlords' Incomes." As for the Welfare Rights Teach-In, this may be a reference to an 11 November 1966 meeting called by West Village CIPA where the new document seems to have been distributed.

5 See http://www.crmvet.org/vet/spannaus.htm. For Spannaus' family background, see http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSvcid=204338&GRid=67704920&.

6 MDS stood for the Movement for a Democratic Society, a kind of SDS for grad students. According to Kirkpatrick Sale's book SDS, "several staffers at the Columbia School of Social Work actually formed an MDS in the fall of 1965." Ed Spannaus (who graduated from the Columbia School of Social Work in 1967) was quite likely either a founder or early member of the MDS chapter there.

7 From testimony at a LaRouche trial by a defense lawyer for LaRouche and available at Opening Statements:

Ed was born in Seattle in 1943. He was raised out there for many years. He spent part of his upbringing in Chicago, from the 1957 to 1961 time-frame, and went to college at the University of Iowa. He then went, as most of the defendants did, to graduate school. I think you can tell from the graduate schools that were selected, they are very selective schools themselves, going there in and of itself is a credential. Ed went to Columbia. He received his Master's degree there, scientific degree, but basically in social work. He committed himself to a variety of work projects following his graduation from Columbia in 1967. He worked, for example, in the city of New York in tenant organizing for a couple of years. He worked as a consultant to the Ford Foundation. He worked as a social worker in the New York Housing and Development Administration in the years 1971 to 1974.

8 Sanders became a top leader of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). She later served as acting secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Nixon Administration. On Sanders, see Felicia Kornbluh, The Battle for Welfare Rights Movement (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). Also see http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=22953.

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