SEARCH

edit SideBar

CHAPTER FIVE: At Swarthmore Things Grow ''Tensor''

< Appendix: The Red and the Black: The Labor Committee and the Black Panthers in Philadelphia and Baltimore | HIAB | CONCLUSION: How It All Ended >

Pdf file downloadable here


PHILADELPHIA-SWARTHMORE: SUMMER/FALL 1970

Nestled in a wealthy Main Line suburb not far from Philadelphia, Swarthmore College long played a significant role in Philadelphia SDS.1 One reason goes back to the school's Quaker roots. During the 1950s, the Quakers' American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) defended accused Communists hunted by local "loyalty boards."2 Because of that history, Swarthmore seemed a particularly hospitable college choice to political "progressives" in general and to the parents of "red diaper babies" in particular.

After Steve Fraser landed in Philadelphia in 1967 on orders from the Progressive Labor Party to build a cadre organization, he contacted PL members and sympathizers scattered throughout the region, including Swarthmore. It was the Penn strike, however, that first exposed many members of the Swarthmore-Bryn Mawr-Haverford College nexus to the Labor Committee. In his study of the Philadelphia New Left, historian Paul Lyons notes that some 50 Swarthmore students were active in the February 1969 sit-in at the University of Pennsylvania. The "bomb plot" arrests of Fraser and Swarthmore student Dick Borghmann also caught many people's attention. Although National SDS did all it could to bury the story and avoid giving comfort to the Labor Committee, the April 1969 arrests made front-page headlines in Philadelphia.

The year 1970 would prove decisive for the emergence of a powerful Labor Committee faction at Swarthmore. During that time, Swarthmore's Labor Committee supporters included at least four faculty members: the Russian department's Thompson Bradley, the Philosophy department's Dan Bennett and Uwe Henke, and the French department's Jean-Claude Barre. Thompson Bradley had tenure and Dan Bennett was in a tenure-track position, while both Henke and Barre served as lecturers in their respective departments.

After they burned their bridges at Swarthmore, Henke and Barre remained committed Labor Committee members and they both relocated to New York to work in the group's National Office. In a 1971 visit to Germany, Henke helped recruit a group of radical German medical students who then lived in a commune. They, in turn, became the core of the Labor Committee operation in Europe.3 Although Barre left the organization in the mid-1970s, Henke served for many years as a member of the group's National Executive Committee (NEC) and only broke with LaRouche sometime in the mid-1980s.

THOMPSON BRADLEY AND DAN BENNETT

On 2 November 1970, Swarthmore's most prominent academic radical, Thompson Bradley, became the temporary chairman of the Fraser-Borgmann Defense Committee (FBDC). He also contributed an article to New Solidarity on Frank Rizzo and his repressive police. Bradley, however, broke with the Labor Committee relatively early and became active in the New American Movement (NAM). The most important radical professor at Swarthmore in the early Labor Committee orbit, however, may have been Dan Bennett. Without Bennett, the Labor Committee story at Swarthmore would have been radically different.

On 4-9 March 1973, New Solidarity spoke with Bennett following his failure to obtain tenure from Swarthmore. In his interview, Bennett recalled: "My first contact with radical politics was at Stanford. The core of the department there were people from Queens [College] who had been forced out during the McCarthy period." At Stanford, Bennett worked as a graduate student under the philosopher Donald Davidson, who had taught at Queens College from 1947 to 1950. Davidson was almost as influential on American philosophy at the time as W.V.O. Quine, whom Davidson had studied under at Harvard.4

A leading student of Davidson, Bennett is credited with influencing Davidson's ideas on a philosophy of action, after Bennett returned to Stanford from a year studying at Oxford. While at Stanford, Bennett befriended another graduate student disciple of Davidson's named Fred Newman and supervised Newman's doctoral dissertation. In the late 1960s Newman led his own group called Centers for Change (CFC). In 1973 CFC would ally with the Labor Committee; in the spring/summer of 1974, CFC formally merged with the Labor Committee. Newman, however, split with LaRouche early that fall and founded his own International Workers Party (IWP), now known today as the New Alliance Party (NAP).5

After leaving Stanford, Bennett began his professional career teaching philosophy at Brandeis. He also served as a faculty adviser to the Northern Student Movement (NSM), then informally known as the "Friends of SNCC." In the mid-1960s, however, Stokely Carmichael reorganized SNCC as a "black only" organization. Bennett, however, rejected the new turn, telling New Solidarity:

I was the faculty adviser to the Northern Student Movement after the black-white split. At Brandeis we were able to keep black and white together. We organized 200 tutors a week to go into Roxbury, but we realized pretty soon that we could only do this in a larger context of political organizing and education, so we designed a program (which was not in the catalog) to do political organizing in Roxbury. We used ideas to organize, so it's no surprise that these ideas were a threat to the "standards" of my professional colleagues who think philosophy is an activity restricted to libraries.

He also recalled that while at Brandeis: "I gave a course on Sartre with [then undergraduate] Angela Davis which was not in the catalog . . . . I also taught social and political philosophy in which I discussed the ideas of the Marquis de Sade. One of the things they brought against me was that this was not a standard work."

UWE HENKE

After leaving Brandeis, Bennett was hired by Swarthmore and he soon became the de facto head of the school's philosophy department. It was during this time that Bennett hired a German leftist philosophy graduate student named Uwe Henke (Uwe Henke von Parpart) as a lecturer in Swarthmore's philosophy department. Born in 1939, Henke came from an old Konigsberg-based East Prussian Junker family. His father reportedly joined the Nazi Party in order to attend university and then served as a career officer in the German General Staff. He was assigned to the Eastern Front for his anti-Hitler views and killed in action while serving with the Waffen-SS Das Reich Division.6 Henke later recalled that some of his earliest childhood memories involved walking endlessly as he and his mother fled west from the invading Soviet army.

As a student in West Germany, Henke reportedly obtained an MA in philosophy and mathematics. He also served in the German Navy and in 1961 he was assigned to NATO's Paris headquarters. When Bennett first met him, Henke was studying for a PhD in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. At the time, Penn's philosophy department was shaped by the work of famous mathematicians and logicians, including Gottlob Frege, Kurt Gödel, W.V.O. Quine, and Georg Cantor and questions related to the philosophy of science and mathematics. Henke's special interest was in the work of Frege, a nineteenth-century German mathematician and logician. Henke studied under a brilliant mathematician named Stanley Tennenbaum, who taught in Penn's philosophy department and who was himself a personal friend of Kurt Gödel.7

"PHILOSOPHY 10"

Although Bennett was obviously a radical, he was not a traditional Marxist. Yet it would be hard to call him "anti-Marxist." Instead, he seems to have wanted to develop his own critique of Anglo-American analytic philosophy as the basis for a new kind of philosophical and political radicalism that freely drew on Marx's ideas.8 At Swarthmore, Bennett helped lead a faculty caucus of the New University Conference (NUC), which was established in 1968 as a national organization for radical teachers, grad students, and academic staff. Bennett and his NUC colleagues now created a new course formally known as "Methods of Inquiry" but which was referred to by everyone on campus as Philosophy 10.

Drawing on Bennett's experience at Brandeis, Philosophy 10's "Young Hegelian" intent was to challenge prevailing academic orthodoxy and to introduce a new approach to philosophy that stressed the importance of action in the world. Launched in 1970, Philosophy 10 had a huge impact. It would also become enmeshed in fierce controversy due to its opposition to demands from Swarthmore's black student union for the university to provide them with a separate "black-only" cultural center. From the 2-6 April 1973 New Solidarity:

The Philosophy 10 experience . . . [attracted] to its lectures numerous professors, sometimes involving them in discussions. Philosophy 10 also became involved over a controversy when the Swarthmore Afro-American Students' Society (SASS) demanded the administration give them a cultural center that would only be used by blacks.
Some of the Phil. 10 instructors immediately called a mass meeting of the whole student body. Generally in support of the cause of the black oppressed, they were opposed to the "chauvinistic" "community control" content of the present SASS demand. Consistent with their Phil. 10 work, they knew that no problem could be solved in isolation, but that the resolution to any particular issue was to be found by recourse to the process encompassing it. . . . This "holistic" – or class-wide – perspective put forward by the Phil. 10 members won out as the conception advanced and respected by serious radicals on campus.

The ensuing controversy badly split Swarthmore SAAS. Dennis Speed, then the head of Swarthmore SAAS, decisively broke with its more nationalist members and joined the Labor Committee.

TENSOR

The Phil. 10-allied radicals even created a short-lived campus paper called Tensor.9 Again from New Solidarity:

A few days after the initial meeting, an important fraction of the Swarthmore students involved formed the "Tensor" movement. Tensor – from the name of the short-lived newspaper the group published – was the practical extension of the Phil. 10 perspective. Participants in Tensor were essentially seeking to reveal the connection between education and science on the one hand, and socialist organization on the other.
Philosophy 10 had criticized university education for treating as discrete, compartmentalized bundles of facts, subjects which could be comprehended only as determined parts of a larger, more inclusive process. Tensor leveled this criticism against the basic assumptions of bourgeois education and scholarship.
Through articles on philosophy, history of science, and economics, Tensor members began to grasp why creative thinking was a necessary component in the development of society and in political organizing. Real creativity lay in the ability to solve concrete problems, to actually alter a situation for the better. . . . In this framework, Tensor sketched the scientific value of philosophy as its usefulness as an organizing tool in building a working-class force capable of saving humanity from the stagnation and collapse implicit in the coming depression. Members of Tensor concluded that the immediate task of education was to further this organizing. This political conclusion sent shivers down the spines of the college's administrators.

"TWO TYPES OF CONSCIOUSNESS"

In the summer of 1971, a former Swarthmore student named Joe Horowitz wrote a fascinating profile of the school for an education magazine called Change.10 Horowitz points out that after Nixon invaded Cambodia in May 1970, a group of Swarthmore students and professors launched "their own indigenous version of Marxism that dubbed itself 'Holism'":

The vanguard of the movement was a group of thirty or so students and three or four professors who had created a Marxist-Hegelian newspaper called Tensor. . . . For most of May, 1970, Tensor monopolized the use of Swarthmore's student center, where perhaps ten professors and 300 students (at first there were 750, over half the student body) congregated nightly to contemplate their new-found political consciousness. Most of these meetings were truly remarkable. A self-conscious attempt was made to avoid any sort of stratification or formal structure, and at its best the leaderless group achieved a formidable sense of oneness. . . . Since the philosophy department was dominated by Tensor elements, the movement apparently had a good foothold on the resources of the parent institution.

Horowitz summarizes the Tensor critique of "bourgeois liberalism" this way:

Liberalism is an ontology of atoms, a worldview that posits a whole equivalent to the sum of its many parts. Liberal social theory views society as atomized. Early liberals saw society as a piecemeal collection of relatively autonomous "individuals"; in our time, there is an updated liberal social theory called "pluralism" that sees relatively autonomous groups interacting somewhat as individuals did in the older model. The ontology of liberalism yields a theory of how we know that is predicated on the functionality of the gap between one atom and another, between the knower and the known, between subject and object. Needless to say, this same liberal viewpoint informed Swarthmore's approach to educational pedagogy: At Swarthmore College, the implicit philosophy of education is based on the epistemology of liberalism.

In contrast, Tensor's "anti-liberal thrust" was to launch an all-out assault on the foundations of the old system. Again from Horowitz:

In great part, what Tensor preached was merely socialism. But it was also more than that, because by concentrating on the philosophical underpinnings of socialism, Tensor managed to supersede parochial political categories. The distinction between the holistic ontology of Hegel and Marx and the atomistic ontology of James Mill and Swarthmore College translated readily for the group into a distinction between two types of consciousness, the first a quasi-religious transcendence of individuality, the second egocentric, existentialist, and hence manipulatory in its alienated relationship to things and to other people. The catchword was not "Socialism" or "Marxism" but "Holism" – the transcendence of every ontologically atomistic ramification of liberalism. Everything that vitiated the integrity of the whole was suspect. Barriers of all sorts – between subject and object, student and teacher, college and community, between one academic discipline and another, between the school year and the summer, between the academicians and the "outsider" – were challenged in the course of the crisis.
There was much that was gauche about Tensor. Many of the mass meetings were uneventful; a few were even ugly. . . . But the energy and exhilaration of the strike at its peak were extraordinary and Swarthmore's communal consciousness was expanded. If nothing else, people discovered the meaning of learning by doing, and concretely perceived the limitations of a conventional liberal education.

Horowitz describes the key Tensor players this way:

The main thrust behind Tensor came from two members of the philosophy department – Dan Bennett and Uwe Henke; Henke is a Marxist and Bennett is at least a holist. Two Marxists in the modern language department, Jean-Claude Barre and Thompson Bradley, played secondary roles.
Bennett and Henke were also in great part the driving force behind the New University Conference and the "Methods" course. The NUC was a loose collection of 15 or 20 young faculty members who were disgruntled for one reason or another. There was a leftist political faction composed of Bennett, Henke, Barre, and Bradley, and a larger group of professors interested mainly in institutional change at the college. It was the NUC group that concocted "Methods of Inquiry" or "Phil 10."
The weekly Phil 10 lecture, held in a room so stuffed with people and dogs that it seemed more like an arena than a lecture hall, was a major campus social event, a contest in which the participants vied with one another for attention and notoriety. Informality and lack of decorum resulted in a sense of shared experience, of instruction without condescension. And there was a smattering of content, too: the "coherent view of scientific inquiry" (the course's alleged goal) that was arrived at was holistic. Phil 10 was an experiment in holism on several levels; it laid the groundwork for the May mass meetings.

"MASS STRIKE" – LYNDON COMES TO SWARTHMORE

Philosophy 10 fostered an intense "true socialist" communal feeling on campus. This is why Philosophy 10 "laid the groundwork for the May mass meetings," as Horowitz notes. But those meetings were triggered by the incredible events that May: the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and the stunning killings at both Jackson and Kent State. In the wake of the crisis, Swarthmore, like many other schools across the nation, essentially suspended classes as students went "on strike" against the war. But the Philosophy 10 experience made the impact of the strike especially deep at Swarthmore.

Philosophy 10 also developed in a much broader political environment of which Horowitz was apparently unaware. During the months preceding the May strike, the Labor Committee presence on campus significantly increased in the wake of the Penn strike, the Fraser-Borghmann arrests, and the collapse of national SDS. The Philadelphia Labor Committee now became influential enough to have LaRouche briefly speak at a huge anti-war demonstration in Philadelphia on 8 May 1970 in a park not far from Independence Hall.

After LaRouche addressed the crowd, he journeyed to Swarthmore and that night he debated a Swarthmore economics professor named Frederic Pryor at a crowded event held at the Swarthmore Friends Meeting House. LaRouche and Carol then headed to the Student Center to spend virtually the entire night and into the next morning discussing Marx and radical politics with dozens of students. LaRouche's presence that night capped at least two years of intense Labor Committee campus organizing. Yet by the opening of the new school year that fall, Swarthmore's intense political activism and utopian fervor had begun to evaporate. Horowitz reports that by October 1970 all attempts to continue an alternative pedagogy seem to have collapsed:

Of the remaining five core curriculum courses, the two taught by Dan Bennett – "Metaphysics" and "Social and Political Philosophy" – lasted only a month, at which point Bennett and ten or fifteen key students split over personal and political matters. The students, most of whom already lived in Philadelphia, decided to divorce themselves from the campus altogether and began to publish a weekly newspaper "for workers and the unemployed." Meanwhile Bennett secluded himself from both Swarthmore and Philadelphia in the little town of Marcus Hook.
Uwe Henke, Jean-Claude Barre, and Thompson Bradley continued to teach but they now devoted considerable time to a leftist political organization in Philadelphia called the "Labor Committee." And for two of the three, the future is cloudy. Bradley, unlike the other NUC members, has been at Swarthmore for a long time (nine years) and is widely regarded as a permanent "house radical." Barre has not been rehired for 1971-1972 because of faculty overcrowding in the modern languages department and Henke's departure seems fairly imminent, given his ambitious political aspirations.

Swarthmore's administration now wanted to get rid of as many NUC members on campus as possible, even if that meant pushing out talented teachers. According to Horowitz:

While nobody claims that everyone concerned in the "purge" was a terrific teacher and a wonderful person, the group as a whole is superior to the Swarthmore faculty norm. Uwe Henke was once reputedly called "the finest young philosopher in the country" by a visiting evaluator, and Dan Bennett is the college's most charismatic professor.

THE FBI INVESTIGATES

Even as the radical wave began ebbing by the fall of 1970, the FBI manifested a heightened interest in the goings-on at Swarthmore. The following excerpts come from a report by an FBI informant on a meeting of the Philadelphia Labor Committee that took place shortly before the Black Panther Party-organized Constitutional Convention over the 1970 Labor Day holiday weekend at Philadelphia's Temple University. The file was stolen from the FBI and first came to light when it was reprinted in WIN magazine in March 1972.

SAC = Special Agent in Charge
IS = Internal Security
FNU = First Name Unknown
TO: SAC (100-46556)
FROM: SA JOHN T. BLAIR
DATE: 9/24/70
SUBJECT: PHILADELPHIA LABOR COMMITTEE IS-SDS
On 9/1/70, PH948-S advised that on Friday evening 8/28/70, he had visited the residence of [Swarthmore psychology instructor - HH] JOSEPH BERNHEIM ______. He added that ANITA GRETZ, member of the Philadelphia Labor Committee, had advised him that a meeting of the Labor Committee was to be held that evening at ______. Upon arriving, informant discovered that the meeting was to be held on 9/1; however, he was invited to sit and talk awhile with those present. Present was one (FNU) BENNETT [obviously Dan Bennett – HH], and UVA [sic] HENKE and wife and also DAN WASSERMAN. BENNETT, like HENKE, is reportedly an instructor or professor at Swarthmore College and WASSERMAN is supposed to be a student at Swarthmore. All individuals were sitting around discussing the coming Black Panther Party Conference and smoking marijuana.
. . . From statements made by BERNHEIM, HENKE, BENNETT, etc., it would appear that they consider themselves "intellectual revolutionaries," but are not organizational types and not personally activists.11

In its 1973 article following Dan Bennett's failure to gain tenure at Swarthmore, New Solidarity writes:

The FBI, after investigating acting Philosophy chairman Bennett over the summer [of 1970], staged an armed invasion of a large off-campus student residence in October. In February [1971], police agents tried to infiltrate one of Tensor member Barre's courses. When the famous Media [Pennsylvania FBI Office] files were disclosed, the college community had the surprise of discovering that several Swarthmore employees had informed federal agents on the activities of some students and faculty for over a year! Change magazine, a Ford Foundation-financed counter-insurgency publication, expressed its interest in Swarthmore by publishing an article on the Phil.10-Tensor developments.

In his New Solidarity interview, Bennett describes the events of 1970 this way:

We saw the [Cambodia invasion] strike as a mass-strike phenomenon, in which it would be possible to spread our ideas by spreading the strike to broader layers. Tensor became a citywide educational and organizing effort. Contacts were with left groups, including the Panthers, in an attempt to include the working class in the strike around working-class issues. The administration was very uptight about the "outsiders" on campus.
During the summer [of 1970] the group I was in put out a newspaper and formed an IWW print union. (The IWW was important because it organized employed with unemployed.) I was then put under FBI surveillance with the help of some of the college staff, and later some other people connected with Tensor were raided by the FBI, who were allegedly searching for two Brandeis girls who were supposed to have done something.

Although Bennett's recollection is touchingly vague, the "two Brandeis girls" were on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. They were Susan Saxe and Katherine Ann Powers; both women were members of a gang led by a black ex-con turned radical bank robber named Stanley Bond. In mid-September 1970 the gang broke into a National Guard armory in Massachusetts, stole weapons, and firebombed the facility. A few days later, on 23 September 1970, they carried out a bank robbery that resulted in the killing of a Massachusetts police officer named Walter Schroeder. After being arrested in Philadelphia on 17 March 1975, Saxe pled guilty to the 1970 Massachusetts robbery and to the robbery of a Bell Savings Bank in Philadelphia.

The FBI opened a new inquiry on Dan Bennett on 11 November 1970 after "a Boston informant" reported that Bennett "might have some contact with the subjects" Saxe and Powers, both of whom had gone underground. The two fugitives had been Brandeis students at the time Bennett taught there and they almost certainly knew him as a leading radical professor on campus. Most likely the FBI received a report that Saxe may have been in the Philadelphia area and then took a harder look at Bennett to see if he had been contacted by her.

The FBI failed to find any dirt on Bennett aside from the fact that he had angered Swarthmore's administration by not getting permission ahead of time to bring Philadelphia Black Panther Party leader Reggie Schell to speak on campus in October 1970. Yet the FBI clearly believed that there might have been some support network for the fugitives, if the report of the raid on an off-campus site by FBI agents cited in New Solidarity is accurate. Why the FBI tried to "infiltrate" Jean-Claude Barre's French class, however, remains unclear.

CONCLUSION

With the ebb in the student movement at Swarthmore, a fresh group of newly radicalized Labor Committee supporters now looked off-campus to engage in "real world" organizing. Yet the Labor Committee presence on campus remained strong and the organization drew in new recruits from Swarthmore until 1973. The Swarthmore network played an important role in the New York national office as well as in many Labor Committee chapters across the United States. Swarthmore-recruited cadre also played an important role in the factional conflict that arose inside the Labor Committee in 1970 and centered on the Philadelphia-based Steve Fraser, a topic that will occupy us in the next chapter. Many senior members of the Philadelphia Labor Committee maintained a personal relationship with Fraser, who had helped recruit many of them. In contrast, the new Tensor cadres looked to people like Bradley, Bennett, Barre, and Henke for guidance.

The crisis with the Fraser minority reached fever pitch in late 1970 and early 1971. During this time, the new Swarthmore members overwhelmingly opposed the minority position. When Fraser was finally expelled in late February 1971, power now shifted to the Swarthmore network, many of whom lived in communal digs in Powelton Village near the University of Pennsylvania. By March 1971, then, the old core Labor Committee group had essentially vanished and was replaced by the Philadelphia Labor Committee "2.0."


Notes:

1 On Swarthmore's role in SDS, see Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973). For the role the Swarthmore SDS LC played in the Penn strike, see http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.HIABChapter4Philly and, in particular, end note five.

2 The Quakers notably defended a group of Philadelphia public school teachers who came under relentless attack for their reported Communist Party affiliations.

3 From the memoirs of German Factnet member "Hecker":

1969: I moved from Frankfurt (where I had finished my pre-clinical studies) back to Dusseldorf, which hosted a pretty small Medical Academy. Working as a tutor in an anatomy course, I met Uwe Friesecke and Anno Hellenbroich who were then active in a group called "IKM": Initiative Kritische Medizin. I joined this group (mainly medical students) which held weekly meetings discussing mainly student and university policy issues such as: how to implement psychosomatic medicine and/or Medical Sociology into the regular curriculum etc. One member was Rainer Brenner who lived with his family in a dormitory where Ed Podhorn (who had come to Germany to avoid being drafted) and his wife Fran were his neighbors.
1970: The core group of the IKM decided to move together in order to intensify the political work; a house was found in the village Muenchrath and 11 people moved in: among them Hans Bandmann, Uwe F., Anno H., Rolf Pauls, Wolfgang Lillge (BTW: the only one still being an active LC member, now located in Berlin), Hartmut Selle (a sociology student), and myself plus four others who never had anything to do with the LC (two of them were members of the DKP).
1971: After the Podhorns had returned to the U.S., they contacted Uwe Henke (alias von Parpart) who was Fran's brother in law. . . . From the German end, I can only contribute that Rainer Brenner one day received a postcard asking him to get in touch with some "comrades" in Cologne (the correct address missing…) He and Hans B. went to Cologne and really found the people they were supposed to meet: Gus, Nick and Yannis (American ex-members can probably describe how the connection of the LC to the Greek Epanastasi (?) came about!) Anyway, through this contact, lectures were set up, which later on were regularly given by Uwe [Henke] vP and Webster Tarpley who both had moved to Germany and operated out of Hanover. I also remember that weekend seminars were held e.g. in the summer house of Uwe's mother near/or in Hamelin (Dave Goldman, Richard Shulman, Nick and his wife Barbara come to mind having participated in such meetings).

Finally, a former German ELC member stated that in the 1970s, the DDR's Central Committee Secretariat (or Secretary of the Central Committee) with the approval of the SED CC authorized Jurgen Kuczinski to meet regularly with the NCLC. He first met the LC in the BRD and then later in the DDR. Kuczinski was a very famous economic historian who lived for many years in England. He was linked through family connections to Soviet espionage operations in the 1940s and 1950s.

As for LaRouche's future wife, Helga, she entered into the organization's orbit only in 1972. In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, LaRouche provides some valuable details. He reports that Helga was born in Trier on 28 August 1948; her parents married right at the end of the Second World War. Her father died when she was very young while her mother seems to have died just as Helga was finishing high school. ["Helga became an orphan shortly after completing her gymnasium studies, and has only one known surviving relative today." (285)]

After leaving the gymnasium, she went to train as a journalist and became a freelancer who managed to report from China after the peak of the Cultural Revolution. (Although LaRouche does not mention it, Helga was also briefly married during this period and her name was "Helga Zepp Ljustina.") LaRouche continues: "She sold her story after her return and refused a position with the newsweekly Der Spiegel to undertake higher studies in political science and philosophy at Berlin. It was there, in 1972, that she first intersected my orbit, attending a class on the subject of my work in economic science given by Uwe [Henke] von Parpart." (286)

In 1972, the Germans first sent a delegation to New York from the Rhineland to learn more about the Labor Committee. "Later, a second group, this time from Berlin" arrived in the spring of 1973 to take one of LaRouche's Marxist economic courses with Helga among them. After the trip, they decided to set up a more formal Labor Committee organization in Germany. LaRouche and Helga met again that summer when LaRouche went to Germany around the time of the inaugural conference of the International Caucus of Labor Committees (ICLC). Helga was present at the Munchrath meeting when LaRouche "deprogrammed" Konstantine George. Helga and another German member named Michael Leibig "performed an important part in the debriefing, while Uwe Friesecke took a key role in organizing the practical arrangements." (288) (For more on this incident, see Smiling Man from a Dead Planet.) Helga was also in attendance at the December 1973 conference in New York when LaRouche "deprogrammed" Chris White.

She married LaRouche in Wiesbaden, West Germany, on 29 December 1977.

Other former members have a less romantic view of the events. In the well-informed opinion of one:

Helga met Uwe Friesecke at some event or other in the fall of 1972 and was horizontally recruited into the LC. We called her "Die Maoistin" because she was indeed a Maoist and very politically unsophisticated. She looked . . . like just another leader's dumb girlfriend. Then she went to NY and met Lyn and became Miss Beyond Psych (avant la lettre) and the leader of the German local. It was pretty astonishing. She really was a leader, though, in her own way -- I don't think anyone felt like she'd just been foisted on us by Lyn. Anyway, I didn't.
The story we heard is that she married Mr. Ljustina, who was a Yugoslav, as a way to get a passport to get her into China. Also, ___ remembers hearing that she'd been told her father died, but in fact he had been living in Trier (her hometown) the whole time without acknowledging her. This was the kind of trauma that was discussed in those Beyond Psych sessions . . . .
The thing about attending a class given by Henke is nonsense. I am sure Henke never came to Berlin . . . [Sept 72-May 1973]. We continually begged him to give us more guidance, respond to questions, deal with the divisions in the Berlin local, and got nothing back from him -- and certainly not a visit. Lyn is rewriting history so that instead of fucking Uwe F, Helga studied with Uwe H.

It may be, however, that Helga heard Henke speak in Berlin sometime earlier. The larger point is that she entered the organization in part through her personal connection to Uwe Friesecke. As for Mr. Ljustina, he reportedly was a sailor on a freighter that made stops in Africa along the way so that Helga literally took "a slow boat to China."

In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, LaRouche states that sometime in 1972, Helga heard Henke give a presentation in Berlin, where she was studying and that even before coming into contact with the Labor Committee network, she had already began to question some aspects of Maoism:

One incident from the time immediately prior to her coming into my orbit is both typical of her and characterizes the state of mind which brought her into contact with von Parpart's lectures. She attended a Berlin event organized by some admirers of Mao-tse Tung. An address eulogizing the state of affairs in China was delivered by a spokesman for the Maoist students. Helga went to the microphone during the discussion period.
"I have just returned from three months in China."
Hysterical approbation from the assembled multitude.
Addressing the speaker, Helga quickly presented the second of her two sentences. "Nothing of what you have said about China is true."
Hysterical disapprobation. (286)

As Helga visited China sometime in 1971, this incident most likely would have taken place sometime in late 1971 or early 1972.

Another source comes from the 1987 book Das Geheimnis der EAP that I summarized on FactNet:

The book . . . has a very extensive interview section with Herbert Knoblauch (pages 91-204) so the interview is a kind of mini-book in itself. Born in 1952, Herbert Knoblauch (HK) was in the EAP from 1975-76 and at the time of the interview he was studying computer science. He first encountered the ELC in Marburg in May 1973. The EAP was founded on 27 December 1974 in a former movie theater named “La Scala” in Wiesbaden. HK joined the ELC just as it was about to become the EAP.
ORIGINS
HK’s interviewer is Wolfgang Weirauch. . . . WW says the NCLC first came to Germany via Epanastasi which had about a dozen members in Germany. Epanastasi also had members in Sweden, Italy, and England. However the key guy who got the ELC going in Germany was Uwe. The core group of ELC leaders were recruited by Uwe out of a Dortmund commune. Out of the commune came Elisabeth Henke, Arno Hellenbroich, and Uwe Friesecke. At the time, Helga Ljustina Zepp was Friesecke’s girlfriend.
In the summer of 1972, “Lyn Marcus” spent a month in England and two weeks in Germany. After intense discussions, the group consolidated itself as the ELC in early 1973 with a core group of about 40 members. During a second long visit in the summer of 1973, LaRouche further builds the cadre group. During this time, “Durch eine Art Shocktherapie trennte Lyn Marcus das Paar Uwe Friesecke/Helga Ljustina Zepp. Helga Zepp erlitt einen Nervenzusammenbruch.“ ["Through shock therapy methods, LaRouche broke up Uwe and Helga as a couple. Helga suffered a nervous breakdown.”] At the same time, LaRouche also moved to make Helga the key leader in the organization. The actual ELC founding conference took place in Dusseldorf in June 1973. The ICLC was founded there at the same time. About 80 cadre take part. The second ELC conference occurs a year later in April 1974 at Frankfurt. Now there were about 300 members. At that time in all Europe it had about 400 members with 140 of them in the BRD.

4 On Davidson, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Davidson_.

5 In an essay entitled "Where is the Magic in Cognitive Therapy? (A philo/psychological investigation)" available on his web site, Fred Newman recalled:

My earliest discussions with [Donald] Davidson on these matters came early in the 1960s, while I was still a graduate student and he was justifiably identified as the genius of Stanford's philosophy department just about to set out to conquer the philosophical world. . . . My PhD. dissertation, written under the direct supervision of Daniel Bennett, a brilliant young Wittgensteinian at the time and ironically a former student and then a colleague of Davidson, was a study of the concept of explanation in history.

In 1968, Newman's dissertation would be published by Mouton under the title Explanation by Description: An Essay on Historical Methodology. It seems possible, then, that when Newman first encountered the Labor Committee, he may already have heard about the organization through his friend Dan Bennett.

As for Centers for Change, it emerged out of the City College of New York (CCNY) campus in Upper Manhattan where Newman taught. It started in the spring of 1968 as a small collective known as IF….THEN (I/T). I/T set up a storefront in the area around 168th Street in Washington Heights in May 1968. In July 1968 I/T split and the storefront folded. During its brief period of existence, I/T received some contributions from radical faculty members. A small group from I/T stayed together and created yet another storefront called Encounter House, which for a time was located around Wadsworth Avenue and then at 3890 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx. The group wanted to legally incorporate but because the name "Encounter House" was owned by a drug rehab center, they chose the name Centers for Change. By the spring of 1969, CFC had gotten some money from the Urban Confrontation Program run out of Sloan House YMCA, which seems to have been an encounter-session-type group meant to show suburban white teenagers the nitty-gritty reality of urban ghetto life. CFC then created the Robin Hood Relearning Company and the New World School, a free school that was founded in September 1969 but soon collapsed. In the fall of 1969 there was also a large infusion of "feminist consciousness" into CFC. In 1973 a CFC leader named Hazel Daren pushed for a political alliance with the Labor Committee around joint organizing for the Labor Committee's National Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organization (NUWRO). In NUWRO organizing, Daren worked with Class War, a tiny Maoist sect led by Jonathan and Kathy Leake, both of whom later joined the Labor Committee.

6 This summary of Henke's family background comes from former members of the Labor Committee who knew him. I have not been able to independently verify it. I am only reporting what Henke told other Labor Committee members about his background.

7 On Tennenbaum, see Melvyn Nathanson, "Tennenbaum at Penn and Rochester," available on the web. Henke later published an introduction to and translation of one of Georg Cantor's writings that was influenced by his studying with Tennenbaum. (See the January-February 1976 issue of the Campaigner available at http://wlym.com/archive/campaigner/7602.pdf.) One of Tennenbaum's sons, Jonathan, joined the Labor Committee in Europe in the mid-1970s.

8 I believe Fred Newman may have tried to do something similar in his CFC/IWP group. See Newman's Manifesto on Method, published in 1974. From that dense text:

British Empiricism worked hand in greedy hand with British Imperialism and Capitalism. Two hundred years of British philosophy – epistemology, ethics, political science – is but a reasoned attempt to establish and impose the view that self-interest is a basic or natural feature of the human being: the fundamental emotion. The existence of the developing proletarian class is from the very beginning denied. It is denied by the development of a bourgeois theory of mind which ultimately separates all people from each other. Locke's Empiricism turns rapidly into Hume's Solipsism (the position that nothing exists except one's own mind) and Existential Nihilism (the position that nothing exists). Thus, classes are denied by a theory of mind which entails the total alienation of the "individual." Mill's Utilitarianism is but an abortive attempt of a well-meaning bourgeois lackey to "get people together again" after British Capitalism-Empiricism has "pitilessly" torn them apart.
One revealing, significant feature of the development of British Philosophy is the parallel development of epistemology and social political theory. From Locke to J.S. Mill, epistemology and theory of mind deny the existence of self (see Hume and his contemporary version B.F. Skinner) while social political theory (see Bentham, J.S. Mill, and contemporary types like M. Olson, Jr.), is based on rational self-interest. We see that the self-contradictory seeds of its own destruction are present in all aspects of bourgeois Capitalism. Yet we should not be so naive as to suppose that this was simply a communication problem between the British philosophers. The psychological theory based on Hume's destruction of self and the social theory based on Bentham's and Mill's adoration of self in combination serves the bourgeoisie. The elimination of self leads to a picture of the mind as a machine; the development of a self-interest theory leads to a picture of the mind as free. The result is the human being functioning as a free machine. Thus the activity of the human being is controlled.

And again:

The significance of the "subjective" component of understanding is properly stressed by Marcus [LaRouche]. Thus, e.g., he "correctly" points out that "the validity of physical science is subjective, not objective" and "the proof of science is not located in 'experiments,' but in the ideology, the prevailing 'consciousness-in-general' which provides the authority for those conceptions which properly govern experimental inference and the way in which experiments are structured for this purpose."
But these observations simply do not go far enough. They are reminiscent of the "enlightened" contemporary philosophers of science (Quine, Kuhn, Goodman, etc.). These theoreticians work to represent the subjective component of reality in a form which fundamentally holds on to a world view which parses reality according to such methodological distinctions as subjective-objective, universal-particular (or, in its mathematical version, set and set member). Indeed, Marcus' remarks (quoted above) are not at all unlike Quine's remarks about the indeterminacy of language in Word and Object. There Quine argues against the possibility of totally accurate translation of a given language La into another "radically" different language Lb (i.e., translation without potential loss of significant meaning) on the grounds that the fundamental subjective/objective dualism historically specifies the language to a particular society Sa. Now clearly Quine is stopped at this point (actually he is forced into a brand of pragmatism, operationally recognizable as fascism . . . . because his conceptualization of reality is not grounded in the class-for-itself, and the methodological dialectic (or dialectical methodology) that necessarily accompanies the notion of class-for-itself. That is, Quine, in the final analysis is simply another philosopher interpreting the world.

9 Tensor is a calculus reference. The term may have been chosen as a reference to something LaRouche wrote in his 1969 pamphlet The Philosophy of Socialist Education (From an Advanced Standpoint):

Dialectics in physical science, in mathematical science, is located quite differently than "official Marxist dialecticians" would have us believe. Dialectics is located in the process of attempting to introduce coherence into physical science, to introduce a holistic view of physical processes. Or, the general progress, through Gauss, Riemann, Maxwell, Einstein, et al. towards a solution to the "generalized field" problem. This development has been associated with the emphasis on a correlated trend in the development and usage of mathematical apparatus – e.g. the "tensor."

10 Joe Horowitz, "When Laos Was Invaded, Nobody Budged," Change, 3/4 (Summer 1971) and available on JSTOR. The discussion of the Tensor network is just one part of Horowitz's overview of Swarthmore.

11 The FBI files can be seen at http://www.scribd.com/doc/46984771/The-Complete-Collection-of-Political-Documents-Ripped-off-from-the-FBI-Office-in-Media-Pa-March-8-1971-WIN-March-1972. This is a copy of the WIN magazine issue that first published the files. Also see Martha Shirk, "Spying on Swarthmore" in Swarthmore, Fall 2014, Issue One, and available at http://bulletin.swarthmore.edu/fall-2014-issue-1/spying-swarthmore. On FBI surveillance in Philadelphia, see Betty Medsger, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI (2014).

Edit - History - Print - Recent Changes - Search
Page last modified on July 05, 2016, at 06:28 AM