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Appendix B: Name Game: How PL’s History Gurus Invented “Len Marcus”

< Appendix A: CIPA and the School of Social Work: The Early Labor Committee Network at Columbia | HIAB | CHAPTER TWO: Strike! Komm-unist Conspiracy, the Birth of the Labor Committee and Weatherman, the Power of Pie, “Contingency A,” and More Untold Tales from Columbia >

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When Lyndon LaRouche joined the Socialist Workers Party in 1949, members were encouraged to adopt "party names." At the time LaRouche worked as a factory organizer at a GE plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he lived at the time. He now dubbed himself "Lynn Marcus" as a pun on the fact that he was Lyn from Lynn.1 After leaving the SWP in early 1966, LaRouche changed the spelling of his "party" first name to his real name "Lyn." His decision to sign his early writings "L. Marcus," however, suggests that he didn't want to choose between "Lynn" and "Lyn" in printed works, since he had published articles as "Lynn Marcus" for the SWP.2 However, the claim that LaRouche chose his pseudonym to evoke in readers' minds the name "Lenin Marx" remains the most enduring legend about the early Labor Committee.

PL CREATES THE MYTH

In October 1968, the Progressive Labor Party's magazine Progressive Labor ran a long article by Rick Rhoads entitled "Len Marcus: Guru of Non-Struggle." "Len Marcus" comes with an extremely rare photo of a bearded LaRouche teaching a class at the Summer Liberation School. Head of the PL chapter at the City College of New York (CCNY) known as the "Progressive Labor Club," Rhoads worked with Steve Fraser, another cadre of the PL CCNY group. In August 1966, Fraser helped protest a HUAC hearing that was interrogating Rhoads. Jeff Gordon, another PL leader at Brooklyn College who was later briefly interested in the West Village CIPA campaign around the subway system, participated in the HUAC protest with Fraser. Rhoads' own actions at the Hearing led to his arrest as well. In November of that year, however, Rhoads was elected to the CCNY Student Council as an "avowed Communist" thanks in part to his actions at the HUAC Hearing.3

Shortly into "Len Marcus," Rhoads writes: "The leading advocate of such a miraculous line has, with fitting modesty, taken the pseudonym of 'L. Marcus,' after Lenin and Marx . . ." A one-page insert in the same article by PL's Roger Taus on the Labor Committee's role in founding Columbia's Summer Liberation School (SLS) is entitled "Len Marcus: Marxist or Scab?" A year earlier, Taus had been one of the PL-SDS members who sat in at Dodge Hall to protest CIA recruitment on campus. (Taus also worked with Alan Krebs at FUNY.) New York PL student leaders like Tony Papert had attended LaRouche's classes and knew his name was "Lyn." Upper West Side PL leader Jake Rosen met with the Labor Committee leaders around the time of the Columbia strike and he presumably knew LaRouche's real first name.4 Other PL members like Dennis King heard LaRouche talk at Columbia as well. Yet in October 1968 in the midst of the UFT strike, PL's history gurus – motivated either by stupidity or malice or a combination of both – misspelled "Lyn" as "Len" and by so doing launched the legend in print. The claim then took on new life even after it became clear that LaRouche's first name was Lyndon. For years Labor Committee critics would knowingly repeat the claim that the name "Lyn Marcus" really was meant to invoke "Lenin Marx," a claim that persists on the Internet to this day.5


Notes:

1 As for "Marcus," LaRouche said he was nicknamed "Marco Polo" at his CO Camp because he wanted to see the world so badly. See CHAPTER 2 From Brahmins to Trotskyists in Smiling Man from a Dead Planet. However LaRouche told one former member that his "Marco Polo" nickname was first given him by some of his fellow schoolmates as a child. It may be that he decided to embrace the nickname in the camp.

2 LaRouche did not go very far to conceal his real last name. For example, his long-time partner Carol published articles as "C. LaRouche" or "Carol LaRouche" even though she never formally married LaRouche. The early Labor Committee, for example, published a pamphlet entitled The Disadvantaged Teacher whose author was listed as "Carol LaRouche." As "C. LaRouche," Carol taught an SLS class on "U.S. Economic Growth and Political History." If LaRouche were truly desperate to conceal his last name, it seems unlikely that Carol would have used it so freely.

3 For a profile of Rhoads that mentions both Steve Fraser and Jeff Gordon at the 1966 HUAC Hearing, see the 4 October 1966 CCNY student paper Observation Post's article on Rhoads and available at http://digital-archives.ccny.cuny.edu/archival-collections/observation_post/1966/Vol%2040_No%203_October_04_1966.pdf. On Rhoads' later success at CCNY, see the 6 November 1966 New York Times. The photo of LaRouche teaching at the Summer Liberation School was later reprinted without acknowledgement of the original source in the 24 February 1969 issue of the Workers League publication Bulletin at https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/bulletin/v05n13-w102-feb-24-1969-Bulletin.pdf.

4 In Conceptual History of the Labor Committees, LaRouche writes that around the time of the Columbia protests: "Factional relations between the Labor Committee and PLP had been serious but had not yet become so embittered as PLP was to make them over the months to come. Jake Rosen, a leader of the national PLP, consented to confer with the Labor Committee, and a plan was worked out in connection with the planned anti-war demonstration of the following Sunday." (22) Speaking of names: While Jake Rosen was an important PL leader, Milt Rosen headed the organization. The two were not related, at least according to one long-time PL member.

5 Perhaps the funniest example of the evolution of the myth comes from an Internet pundit named Gary Severson who claimed that the name "Lyndon LaRouche" is meant to invoke "Lenin the Red."

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