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< CHAPTER 5 Trotskyist Wrecker?: The SWP Years (1949-1961) | SMILING MAN FROM A DEAD PLANET: THE MYSTERY OF LYNDON LAROUCHE | CHAPTER 7 From John Diebold to Eugen Dόhring: Rethinking ''The Third Stage of Imperialism'' >

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"On the L. document, I'm afraid I must confess that I too have not understood a word of Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky if this is the ABC of Marxism. In fact, in rereading the document I thought of a cartoon that is a favorite of mine. Several workmen have just unwrapped a very large canvas and the art dealers are looking at it. In the middle of the large white canvas is a perfect black dot. And one of the art dealers is saying to the other one, "I don't care if he is the world's greatest painter, I still think he's kidding." This is the quality I carried away from reading the L. document."

Spartacist League leader James Robertson in a 9/23/65 discussion commenting on a LaRouche ("L") document entitled The Coming American Socialist Revolution.

The abject failure of LaRouche's winter 1958 grand vision for the SWP and his virtual banishment by a more or less united Political Committee seemingly sealed his fate. Yet on New Year's Day, 1 January 1959, an event happened that helped revitalize the now tiny SWP and even gave LaRouche a new lease on life. On that day Fidel Castro took control of Havana.


Che and Fidel Castro

In order to grasp the impact of Cuba on the SWP, it is necessary to locate the Cuban Revolution within the broader context of the Trotskyist movement. At the time of the Cuban Revolution, world Trotskyism still remained stalemated in a six-year long "great schism" over the issue of "Pabloism." In 1953 the SWP broke off its previous alliance with the Paris-based Internationalist Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI) then led by "Michel Pablo" (Michel Raptis). Pablo's potential allies in the SWP (the Cochran/Clarke faction) were also expelled.1 The SWP then established the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) with other anti-Pablo forces, They included Gerry Healy's then tiny British sect "the Club" (later renamed the Socialist Labour League (SLL)) as well as a French groupuscule run by Pierre Lambert.

The Cuban Revolution – or more accurately the Trotskyist movement's interpretation of it – provided a key bridge between the IS and the SWP. The Cuban Revolution, after all, had taken place without support from Russia. The Cuban Communist Party had actually dismissed Fidel Castro as an adventurist troublemaker. Cuba proved a political godsend for the SWP, which had been hemorrhaging party members throughout the 1950s. SWP leader Farrell Dobbs soon visited Cuba where he proudly wore a sugarcane-cutter's hat. Although the SWP did not found the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPFC), it now became its single best organized component precisely because the CPUSA still officially reflected the views of its Cuban counterpart. However, many CP members and sympathizers enthusiastically supported Castro and they grudgingly worked inside the FPFC side by side with "the Trots."2Nor could the CP just continue to mindlessly denounce "Trotskyite wreckers" after the 1956 20th Congress of the CPSU and Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin's crimes.

It now seemed increasingly possible not only that the IS and SWP could work out some form of reunification but that solidarity over Cuba could help heal at least some of the devastating divisions between the Trotskyists and some of the Soviet-allied Communist Parties. At least Murry Weiss – a key SWP "Regroupment" advocate – thought so. Tim Wohlforth recalls that Weiss "could not contain his enthusiasm" for the events in Cuba. For Weiss, "the implication [of Cuba] went beyond the narrow confines of the SWP, a party within which he felt increasingly suffocated. He dreamed of some broader revolutionary reunification that would go beyond Trotskyism and prepared his own departure from the party."3

In How the Workers League Decayed, LaRouche says much the same thing: "[because] both the Pablo-Mandel and SWP factions viewed Cuban developments similarly, Weiss conceived of the grandiose scheme in which he foresaw a reunification of the two "Fourth Internationals" as the lever through which to draw Castro into the same new communist international." The proven success of FPFC was an indication of what the future might hold. The next step was for Weiss and other leading SWP members such as Joseph Hansen to begin serious reunification talks with Pablo's and Mandel's Paris-based International Secretariat.


There was just one problem with the SWP's new-found infatuation with Cuba. A group of SWP cadres found themselves in fundamental disagreement with the SWP's Fidelphilia. This group's two most important leaders – Tim Wohlforth and James Robertson – had been former members of Max Shachtman's Independent Socialist League (ISL). Although Robertson and Wohlforth supported the Cuban Revolution against outside interference from the United States, they also wanted to know, as Wohlforth put it, "Were we to be more than the defenders of Cuba and become its supporters, its advocates?" As former Shachtmanites, they were particularly worried about the lack of democracy already evident in Cuba. In 1961, for example, the new Cuban government suppressed the tiny Trotskyist group there which had been in continual existence since the 1930s. Robertson and Wohlforth's "Minority Tendency"(MT) argued that the SWP should view the Cuban Revolution far more critically. Their own small clique, however, soon shattered following a bitter dispute between Wohlforth and Robertson. Robertson claimed that the SWP had ceased to be a truly revolutionary party and had now become both "liquidationist" and "centrist." Wohlforth, however, felt that the MT should remain inside the SWP as an internal faction despite all the odds against it succeeding. In 1963, Robertson's new "Revolutionary Tendency" (RT) was formally expelled from the SWP. Robertson's clique took the vast majority of former members of the "Minority Tendency" with it while the few who remained with Wohlforth now renamed themselves the "Reorganized Minority Tendency." When Wohlforth's own tiny group was itself finally expelled from the SWP in September 1964, it had exactly nine members.

Yet both Robertson and Wohlforth shared a guardian angel of sorts in the rotund shape of Gerry Healy, leader of the British SLL. Starting in January 1961, Wohlforth began sending detailed letters to Healy (at times on a daily basis) reporting on factional developments inside the SWP. Wohlforth also supplied Healy with long theoretical pieces on the Cuban Revolution. Healy, however, never responded to a single theoretical document. Simply put, Healy cared little about the "Minority Tendency's" finely honed views on Havana. What Healy quite passionately did care about was the proposed reunification between Mandel's IS and the SWP. Healy wanted to block reunification at all cost. In a document that the SLL sent to the SWP in January 1961, Healy demanded that the clash with the Paris-based International Secretariat be intensified, not decreased.

A key part of the negotiations between the SWP and IS involved reaching a joint understanding on Cuba. By 1961 it was clear that both the IS and the SWP shared very similar views on Cuba. Knowing this, Healy decided to throw his support to any group that might block such a deal so he now began to aggressively court the SWP "Minority Tendency." Despite Healy's efforts, at a party convention in New York in July 1963, the SWP decided once and for all to carry out reunification. A new Trotskyist "Comintern" of a sort was formed and named the United Secretariat of the Fourth International." As soon as reunification was complete, Healy's SLL denounced the SWP for following the "Pabloite" path and severed all formal ties with the SWP.

In the fall of 1965, the SLL and Pierre Lambert's French Trotskyist group launched its own International Committee for the Fourth International (ICFI). To increase its stature, Healy desperately needed some representation from America. Although Healy had been in intensive correspondence with Wohlforth since 1961, he decided he needed to court James Robertson's Revolutionary Tendency (RT). With some 60 members, the RT was far larger than Wohlforth's gang of nine. Healy therefore demanded that Wohlforth immediately open "unity talks" with Robertson. One of the unity talks between the Robertson and Wohlforth cliques was held on 5 August 1965. A brand new supporter of Wohlforth's American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI) accompanied Wohlforth to the talks. He had secretly joined the ACFI tendency in 1965 because he was still technically a member of the SWP.

His name was Lyndon LaRouche.


Tim Wohlforth first met "Lynn Marcus" when then-SWP member Wohlforth visited LaRouche's Central Park West apartment sometime in the late 1950s. In an article for In These Times, Wohlforth recollected: "When I first knew him, LaRouche was inactive in the SWP and was earning a living as an economic consultant in the shoe industry. He was a real loner, immersed in his own intellectual pursuits and isolated in a party with strong working-class pretensions, who had little use for intellectuals of any type."4 Wohlforth further recalled that LaRouche did virtually nothing during the entire period between 1961 and 1964 when he and Robertson were opposing the SWP majority over Cuba. In a pamphlet entitled ''What Is Spartacist?' 'Wohlforth writes that LaRouche

sat out the whole period of struggle between 1961 and 1964. In that period, he kept the closest personal relations with Murry Weiss, the leader of the liquidationist wing of the party. However, by 1965 he had come out in opposition to the SWP leadership, particularly around the question of the international crisis and economic perspectives.

As for LaRouche, he reports in How the Workers League Decayed that Healy's objections to the SWP's new Cuba policy were strictly based on opportunist political considerations: "Healy 'politicized' his objections by developing an absurd counter-position on Cuba – so silly that the Wohlforthites in the USA instantly regarded Healy's Cuba position as their own!" According to LaRouche:

Healy criminally slandered Castro et al. by likening Cuba to Algeria, Egypt, etc. Then, having equated Cuba with Egypt, Healy damns Cuba as a capitalist state by citing the capitalist features of a Bonapartist regime like Nasser's! When Castro, whose socialist qualities hardly recommend him as an expert on socialism, also committed the public blunder of likening Cuba to Algeria, etc., Healy, instead of analyzing and correcting Castro's mistake, grinned at the factional mileage he could extract from this nonsense.

LaRouche, however, at the time simply avoided discussing the Cuba imbroglio as Wohlforth recalled: "In the summer of 1965, I headed a small group of Trotskyists, the American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI), which had split from the SWP in September 1964. LaRouche had slept through the tumultuous party debates over Cuba, only to awake and find himself more alone than ever inside the party."


According to Wohlforth, LaRouche's sole involvement with the SWP was as a member of a personal social clique around Murry Weiss. In fact, it actually was LaRouche's then-wife Janice who maintained a close personal tie to the Weiss circle. As for Weiss, in What Is Spartacist? Wohlforth comments: "It must first be noted that Myra Tanner Weiss, together with her husband [Murry], stood in the right-wing of the party. . . . The Weiss's had been the most enthusiastic Pabloites on the Political Committee. In fact it was in this period [1961-64] that Murry Weiss came to the conclusion that Cochran had been right in 1952 in his liquidationist course."

The Weiss group found itself in a subterranean battle with "old guard" headed by Farrell Dobbs. Not surprisingly, these hardened veterans of the 1930s did not want to lose their prestige – as well as their pensions and party salary – that would come with an eventual dissolution of the SWP along the lines suggested by "Pabloism" in particular. Instead, they hoped to bring down Weiss even as they used his talents in both the FPFC and the realignment negotiations. Wohlforth recalls that after he became involved in the SWP's National Office, he slowly discovered "the subterranean Dobbs-Weiss conflict. The Dobbs people saw Murry as the leader of a 'petty bourgeois clique' while Murry's supporters saw the Dobbs people as ingrown and conservative." 5

By 1963 the SWP's leadership strategy was clear. They wanted to get rid of both Wohlforth – who for all practical purposes now functioned as Healy's agent inside the SWP – and Robertson since they threatened to wreck any possible chance to rejuvenate the SWP with their criticism of Cuba. On the other hand, they knew that Weiss wanted to dissolve the SWP into some new broader social movement. In response, the SWP leadership adopted a centrist strategy that would open up the organization to new alliances but still maintain the SWP's organizational integrity against the "liquidationist" Weiss. Through the early 1960s, the SWP leadership marginalized both factions and replaced them new cadre directly loyal to the old guard leadership. The clash between Weiss and the SWP's top leadership was particularly palpable inside the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA). At a 29-31 December 1961 YSA conference in Chicago, Wohlforth – a former leader of the YSA – recalls that not only was he isolated over his views on Cuba but that

The key youth who had worked with our group of former Shachtmanites in creating the YSA were, with the importance exception of Sherry Finer (Dobbs' daughter), supporters of Murry and Myra Tanner Weiss. This group . . . led the attack on us on Cuba. Their reward was that they were maneuvered out of the leadership of the YSA. The victors were Peter Camejo and Barry Sheppard. Jack Barnes, who was in this period organizer of the SWP New York Local, would soon be moved into the youth as the YSA National Secretary, an important step in his ascendancy to leadership of the SWP itself.6

One new YSA leader, Barry Sheppard, later became an SWP leader. In his memoir, Sheppard discusses the Weiss clique, which he also viewed as a personal clique with shady ties to James Cannon. Sheppard clearly disliked the Weiss network for trying to undermine Dobbs' leadership:

The Weiss group acted like a set of friends who held themselves somewhat apart from the rest of the party. They supported each other in election for party posts and considered themselves a little superior politically and theoretically. . . . Dobbs and [Tom] Kerry regarded the Weiss group as a clique, but were opposed to organizing a counter-grouping or acting in a vindictive fashion towards Murry and Myra or their supporters.7

With Weiss's factional position gradually eroding – and given Weiss' own "liquidationist" views – it was only a matter of time before Weiss left the party. In What Is Spartacist? Wohlforth reports that "After the 1963 SWP Plenum, the Weiss' dropped out of political activities and in a short time all those in the party associated with them . . . dropped out of the party altogether."8


As I have shown, although LaRouche's then-wife Janice was personally close to Murry Weiss, LaRouche was not a member of the SWP Old Guard, the Weiss clique, or the Wohlforth/Robertson opposition. From 1961 on, he seems to have had absolutely nothing to say about the debates that raged inside the SWP. Curiously, however, LaRouche did claim that he tried to block an effort to "liquidate" the SWP that he says he learned about sometime in 1964 and which may have been linked to Weiss' larger plan. In an 8 September 1983 internal NCLC memo ("The Soviet KGB Versus the ICLC"), LaRouche writes that in November 1964

I learned directly of the organization of a plot to be run through SDS (from Jack Barnes of the SWP, who was brought into the arrangement) to create an anti-war movement around the networks-skeleton of Bertrand Russell, steered from California. The forces behind the projected anti-war movement were the same forces behind the orchestration of the U.S. role in Vietnam. I was resolved to attempt to destroy this anti-war movement from the inside, a tactic adopted from the vantage point of my own opposition to the war from a different vantage point than the leadership of the antiwar movement's leadership.

The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation enjoyed ties to individuals like Isaac Deutscher, the British-based Trotskyist whose writings influenced Pablo. During this same period, an American Trotskyist living in London named Ralph Schoenman managed the Bertrand Russell Foundation. The Bertrand Russell Foundation also came under attack by Gerry Healy's SLL, which argued that both the Foundation and the British Vietnam Solidarity Campaign accepted "Moscow's line of 'peace in Vietnam' in opposition to the call for clear-cut victory for the NLF."9


On 24 September 1964, Tim Wohlforth's tiny ACFI published the first issue of Bulletin of International Socialism, a modest 16-page mimeographed newsletter that also functioned as the mouthpiece for the Healy/SLL-allied tendency in America. In How the Workers League Decayed, LaRouche recalled that "The first issue of the Bulletin, distributed particularly to all known SWP oppositionists, included a supplement setting forth a fair vulgarization of the economic aspect of my 1958 theses. In response to this, Carol and I contacted Fred Mueller and began discussions with the Wohlforth group.10 (LaRouche's observation calls into question his earlier claim that someone inside the SWP had sent his winter 1958 theses to the SLL, which he said then adopted a "bowdlerized version" of it over the objections of Tom Kemp, the SLL's leading economist.11)

Whatever the exact sequence of events, sometime either in late 1964 or early 1965, LaRouche began holding a series of private talks with Wohlforth. We also know that on 5 August 1965, LaRouche attended at least one meeting of the "reunification" talks between Wohlforth's ACFI and James Robertson's RT/Spartacists. The gathering occurred a month before the last SWP national convention that LaRouche attended.12 In his article for In These Times, Wohlforth recalled: "After the September [1965] party conference [of the SWP], LaRouche and his new wife Carol left the SWP and joined our small group. For about six months thereafter, I met with LaRouche almost every day."

Wohlforth continues,

The LaRouches lived in a small, cluttered apartment in Manhattan's West Village [at 65 Morton Street] that was filled with books, documents and a portable typewriter. LaRouche was constantly churning out lengthy typewritten documents. I saw no signs that he was holding a job. LaRouche had a gargantuan ego. Convinced he was a genius, he combined his strong conviction in his own abilities with an arrogance expressed in the cadences of upper-class New England. . . . And he believed the working class was lucky to obtain his services.13

Later, in his memoirs, Wohlforth recalled that

The characteristics of LaRouche's thinking process, which he would later develop into such reactionary extremes, were already present when I knew him in 1965. He possessed a marvelous ability to place any event in the world within a larger perspective, a talent that seemed to give the event meaning. The problem was that his thinking was schematic and lacking in factual detail, and ignored contradictory considerations. His explanations were just a bit too perfect and his mind worked so quickly that I always suspected that his bravado covered superficiality. LaRouche had the "solution" to anything and everything. It was almost like a parlor game. Just present a problem to LaRouche, no matter how petty, and without so much as blinking his eyes, he would come up with the solution, usually prefacing his remarks with "of course."

Wohlforth stated that LaRouche on a personal level "seemed to be an elitist with little interest in the plight of ordinary people. . . . Ordinary people were viewed by LaRouche the Leftist and LaRouche the Fascist as a swinish element to be manipulated. LaRouche never absorbed the humanist and compassionate side of the Marxian socialist tradition." Wohlforth further reports that LaRouche was "very much a believer in conspiracy theories. I, even in my most ultra-left days, was a bit of a skeptic. For LaRouche, even as a radical, "the liberals were the main enemy."14


LaRouche's discussions with Wohlforth and Robertson centered on a document that he had prepared for the September 1965 SWP Convention entitled The Coming American Socialist Revolution.15 In the Spartacist League publication Conversations with Wohlforth (Marxist Bulletin, No. 3), LaRouche's comments were transcribed. (In the transcript, LaRouche is listed just as "L.")

L. — Their solution (i.e., the capitalists) is to attempt to establish a viable and productive peasantry in the backward countries and lay the basis for primitive accumulation to create an internal market and lay the basis for capitalist expansion. Since 1959, the U.S. has followed a policy of managed social revolutions; the general policy of imperialism is to support nationalist colonial revolution as long as they remain within control of imperialism.

LaRouche later continued:

The SWP et al. failed to see this and merely sees the U.S. and its allies as conducting a struggle against the colonial revolution . . . this is not the case. They are instead trying to circumvent the Permanent Revolution by sucking the working class and peasantry of these countries into the train of Ben Bella, Nasser, etc., and to use these regimes to lay the basis for reorganization for healthy internal agricultural development, and in turn the imperialist exploitation of these countries. Pabloites see this as progressive. If colonial revolution follows the Cuban/Ben Bella model, ultimately it is the victory of imperialism. . . . How does capitalism progress – by expanding production. But this has come to a halt in the advanced countries, and they expand instead in Latin America, in Africa, in India. We saw this in 1957 in Cuba, how consciously the bourgeoisie supported the Castro revolution. The only solution is to create a prosperous and productive peasantry and create an internal market for capitalist accumulation; otherwise it will have to confront class struggle in its own country in the last resort.

Conversations with Wohlforth contains Robertson's reaction to The Coming American Socialist Revolution. After reading it, Robertson commented: "The document has a very peculiar quality indeed. The SWP leadership will be riled by it and be able to rip it to pieces. The summary is interesting, but basically it is a right-wing and objective document. (8/5/65)." On 23 September 1965, another member of the Robertson faction named "Nelson" remarked: "The L. document might be characterized as left Freudian. If I wanted to be quite blunt, I would say it had a crackpot quality. . . . Comrades of the ACFI, if you are 99% in agreement with this document, as you stated before, then you are in bad shape."

Robertson returned to LaRouche's paper at that same gathering:

On the L. document, I'm afraid I must confess that I too have not understood a word of Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Trotsky if this is the ABC of Marxism. In fact, in rereading the document, I thought of a cartoon that is a favorite of mine. Several workmen have just unwrapped a very large canvas and the art dealers are looking at it. In the middle of the large white canvas is a perfect black dot. And one of the art dealers is saying to the other one, "I don't care if he is the world's greatest painter, I still think he is kidding." – This is the quality I carried away from reading the L. document. As to whether the aim of the bourgeoisie in the colonial world is to create a prosperous peasantry in order to find a new base for exploitation – I don't even want to deal with this. That is a very original contribution indeed!"


Kidding or not, LaRouche had made some significant inroads with Wohlforth since in the 8/5/65 unification talks, Wohlforth says, "The 1% disagreement I have with Marcus is not on this document but internationally we differ on Cuba. While we have not taken a formal position on the Marcus document, my own impression of it is excellent."16 When LaRouche left the SWP in the late fall of 1965, he clearly had established a niche inside the ACFI, which he and Carol formally joined in January 1966.17 In How the Workers League Decayed, LaRouche boasts that "From February [1966] until at least mid-August 1966, there was no question of my hegemony in the group on political questions . . . . Given another six months without interference from Britain, it would have been most difficult for Healy to have destroyed the people as he did."

In October 1965 – while LaRouche was still technically a member of the SWP – Gerry Healy flew to Montreal to try to jump start the "unity talks" between the ACFI and Robertson. Healy decided that one weekend he would meet with the ACFI leadership and the next weekend with Robertson's group. Wohlforth recalls:

Our whole New York group got into cars and drove to Canada. LaRouche and his wife volunteered to pick up Healy at the airport in their beat-up old Volkswagen, no doubt hoping to gain his ear before he met with the rest of us. Carol smoked a pipe while Lyn lectured Gerry about his various theories as if he were talking to a schoolboy. It was a long ride in from the airport, and, as Healy reported the incident to me that day, he almost decided to head back to London.18

In What Is Spartacist?, Wohlforth reports:

[A]t the Montreal conference which paved the way for the unity negotiations with Spartacist, Marcus was urged to remain as long as possible in the SWP and carry on serious work seeking to continue the struggle for political clarification the SWP had sought to break off with the split from the [Healy-run] IC and the expulsion of our tendency. Marcus resisted this and in the end simply pulled out of the SWP without a serious struggle. He also refused to keep the struggle inside the SWP on a principled level sinking into personal analyses and attacks on sections of the leadership."

One interesting side effect of his time in Montreal worth noting was LaRouche's introduction to Rosa Luxemburg's economic writings. In the foreword to Dialectical Economics, LaRouche ("Lyn Marcus") reports: "The author was unacquainted with Luxemburg's Accumulation of Capital and Anti-Kritik until late 1965, a failure remedied on the prompting of the British Marxist [and Healyite -- HH] Tom Kemp. Until that time the author had accepted the prevailing "official Marxist" deprecation of Luxemburg's economic-theoretical competence." Although LaRouche remained critical of certain aspects of Luxemburg's views, he now made it clear that he considered her one of the best Marxist economist since Marx himself.


By December 1965, LaRouche was writing articles for the ACFI's Bulletin of International Socialism19 In the 27 December 1965 issue of the Bulletin, there appears an article clearly written by LaRouche entitled "Bankers Slap Down LBJ: The Federal Reserve's Action and the Vietnam War Economy."20 In it, LaRouche warns of a potential crisis in the U.S. economy:

Further, European and Japanese holders of dollars and claims against dollars are impelled to trade these claims into gold instead of U.S. goods! Such a development threatens to bring about a devaluation of the U.S. dollar and an ensuing worldwide collapse far more devastating than that of 1929-31. The rise in U.S. interest rates does tend to ameliorate this threat. By pegging U.S. interest rates at a high level, foreign dollar holders are induced to invest their claims in U.S. government bonds and other paper instead of demanding immediate settlement in gold. This, again, only postpones the problem. . . .

One of the more interesting articles LaRouche wrote during his short sojourn in the ACFI appeared in the 14 February 1966 issue of the Bulletin under the title "Tax Landlords, Not People! An Alternative to Lindsay's Anti-Labor Program." Here LaRouche claims: "From Wall Street's point of view, New York City is merely a money-farm, its people so much livestock, to be milked, shorn and flayed to the limits of long-suffering popular endurance." Yet what is most striking is the article's attempt to translate LaRouche's grand economic ideas into programmatic actions over tax policy which he sees as key to future radical organizing in an urban setting:

This is not a proposal to establish "socialism in one city." This is the kind of demand a united city labor movement, with the support of students, minorities and middle-income people, can advance on the same basis as a trade-union struggle with an employer over wages and working conditions. It is also more than a trade-union struggle. A united ad hoc organization of trade unionists, students, and middle-income people on such a vital issue is, in practice, a "shadow" city government, a potential Labor party.

It was just this "practical" attempt that Wohlforth later mocked in his "Many Theories of L. Marcus" article published in the Bulletin on 16 December 1968.21 Here Wohlforth comments that after LaRouche left the formal Trotskyist movement in the summer of 1966, "he happily threw himself into the construction of a student intellectual circle which transforms the Transitional Program into liberal reformist tax proposals, denies Leninism on the question of the party, and refuses at any time to assess historically the question of the Fourth International."


The convoluted courtship dance between the SLL, Wohlforth's ACFI, and Robertson's Spartacists took a new twist when Healy invited both Wohlforth and Robertson to attend a 4-8 April 1966 unity meeting in London. Wohlforth couldn't come for job reasons and sent a representative in his place.22 The United States government knew about the conclave as well. A 12 February 1966 Department of State message concerning Wohlforth was sent to London. It reads:

The Department has been advised that the subject [Wohlforth], head of the American Committee for the Fourth International and a former member of the Socialist Workers Party's National Committee, has been invited to participate in an international Trotskyist conference to be held in London, England, originally scheduled for January 1966, at which time consideration would be given to the proposed unification of the ACFI and the Revolutionary Committee of the Fourth International [presumably Robertson's group] in the United States. According to an informant, the conference has been rescheduled for April 1966, and Wohlforth will probably attend.23

(The identity of the informant remains unknown.)

Healy hoped to use the London gathering to recruit a subservient Robertson into becoming the front man for the proposed new Healy-allied group in America. Robertson instead used the conference to critique parts of the SLL program – including the idea that an imminent capitalist economic crisis was on the horizon. A now-infuriated Healy (reports Wohlforth) "suddenly became aware that the Robertson group had a mind of its own and (to its credit) did not worship at the feet of the SLL." Healy immediately banned Robertson from attending the rest of the conference.24 Healy then sent a message to Wohlforth in New York ordering him to quit his job and begin building a new SLL-allied Trotskyist party in America without any tie to Robertson. Now that it was clear that Wohlforth would be Healy's sole legate in America, LaRouche flew into high gear. In What Is Spartacist? Wohlforth says that:

It was Robertson's break at the [London] International Committee Conference which sent Marcus into a flurry of factional activity, breaking without a moment's hesitation any ties with the Fourth International. He organized a small faction within the ACFI, which, in collaboration with Robertson, sought to break as many in the ACFI as possible from the International Committee to fuse with Spartacist.

On 9 May 1966, LaRouche resigned from the ACFI. A delighted Robertson wrote in the June-July 1966 publication Spartacist

Now, since Wohlforth first called fusion off in an outburst at the March 20 joint membership meeting, over a quarter of ACFI's nearly 40 members has dropped from the organization or joined with L. Marcus and Carol Lawrence [the pen name for Carol LaRouche] in carrying out fusion with Spartacist.

(As we shall see later, LaRouche would have even less success in influencing Robertson than he had with Wohlforth.)


Two years after the split between LaRouche and the ACFI (now renamed the Workers League), Tim Wohlforth penned a lengthy polemic in the 16 December 1968 issue of the Workers League paper The Bulletin denouncing LaRouche. Entitled "Many Theories of L. Marcus," it begins: "Just as America has become the home for astrology, Scientology, witchcraft, and even the most obscure Indian guru clutches his Air India ticket to the States, so too with our Marxist scholastics and metaphysicians. And, as we shall see, we have a few homegrown ones too." Wohlforth then mocks a paper by LaRouche – modestly entitled "The History of Capitalism" – that had been submitted as an SDS Labor Committee document. Here LaRouche states that there would be no "Third Stage" strategy of imperialism due to the "cretinism" of the capitalist class in general.25 Wohlforth argues that LaRouche's "Third Stage" theory was always wrong and that LaRouche's notion that the Vietnam War was really being fought so that Vietnam could become the "rice bowl" for India was so economically reductionist as to border on the absurd. Wohlforth particularly objected to the notion that in LaRouche's new imperialist model there would be no "primitive accumulation" in the Third World since, if anything, the capitalists actually had to introduce higher living standards. But to do this, Wohlforth claimed, would eliminate the entire concept of "super profits." Only the rise of the working class could stop imperialism; capitalism was incapable of carrying out a modernization policy in Southeast Asia.

Wohlforth next turns to what he labels Marcus's "most preposterous theory to date." This was the notion that the Nazis killed six million Jews out of a "rational economic policy of primitive accumulation" and that Nazi race theory was merely an ideological excuse for an economically logical capitalist policy. In contrast, Wohlforth pointed out that the Nazis used millions of non-Jewish foreign workers as forced labor while they sent the Jews to death camps. In reality, the persecution of the Jews actually wasted German resources that could have been rationally used for the war effort.26

Wohlforth attacked LaRouche as a hopeless "revisionist" since LaRouche put forward the demand for four million new productive jobs. This idea, however, was merely a "transitional program" inside capitalism itself. But how could there be a transitional program inside the existing capitalist system? "Marcus is clearly a man of another era. How happy he would have been in the old FDR Brain Trust." For Trotsky, radical demands can't be met by capitalists. Marcus was, therefore, really promoting "reform demands limited by the existing capitalist structure. In no way, then, does Marcus differ on this question" from other revisionists from the Second International's Karl Kautsky to the Fourth International's Ernst Mandel. If anything, Marcus was even worse that the other revisionists with his call for an "orderly transition" to power by "using the capitalist corporate income-tax system for our own purposes in our own way." In Wohlforth's judgment: "Never before has a single man compressed into such a short statement so much revisionism." While Marcus holds out the path of "a peaceful road to power," real communists know that the core issue is class struggle and the forceful seizure of state power. Yet like both Khrushchev and Brezhnev, Marcus's concept of a "peaceful road to socialism" glides over this fundamental issue of class struggle.

The Workers League leader next turns to Marcus's wrong concept of "the Party." Wohlforth argues that Marcus's idea of organization is at the heart of his blunders. Wohlforth attacks LaRouche for having only a vague idea of a political vanguard party. Against LaRouche, Wohlforth argues that the Left needs a party that is "conscious, disciplined, yes, disciplined, particularly and harshly and cohesively disciplined. We are speaking of a Leninist Party." In contrast: "Marcus's programmatic understanding demands of him that he organize a loose propaganda group which he hopes someday will lead to an even looser mass organization which will have confidence in L. Marcus's ability to administer the Federal Reserve System." For Marcus, then, the party is really a "cadre grouping of revolutionary intellectuals" who win the workers over to their ideas. But this is a totally one-sided view since both Marx and Lenin built a real workers' party. When Marx worked with the League of the Just, he didn't simply create a separate intellectual sect apart from the workers. Not so LaRouche: "What disdain for the working class Marcus represents! In everything he writes, it comes through."

Finally, Marcus showed his true colors when he worked with Wohlforth in the ACFI. During all that time he argued for some form of unification with James Robertson's Spartacist sect. Wohlforth said Marcus did this so that he could develop his own base and not because he cared about the future of the Fourth International. What Wohlforth means is that LaRouche wanted to unify with Robertson so that the new U.S. grouping wouldn't be totally controlled by Gerry Healy.27


The collapse of the April 1966 London "unity talks" between James Robertson and Gerry Healy proved decisive in LaRouche's decision to abandon the ACFI and ally with Robertson. In What is Spartacist? Tim Wohlforth recalls: "the first major explosion with Marcus came on the eve of the April 1966 Conference when ACFI [at a meeting held on 20 March 1966] was forced to reject Robertson's draft document as a basis for an American resolution to submit to the conference." Robertson's draft was submitted some time before the March conclave since Wohlforth then comments that LaRouche was "commissioned to work up an alternate draft for ACFI." However LaRouche's compromise draft "was not found acceptable by the Coordinating Committee of the ACFI either."28

With the rejection of both Robertson and LaRouche's proposed unification documents combined with the debacle of the Robertson-Healy talks, it was now clear that the ACFI was to be exclusively a Gerry Healy franchise. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, LaRouche and Carol issued a resignation letter from the ACFI dated 9 May 1966. LaRouche made it clear that his main reason for leaving the ACFI was the heavy-handed role that Healy had played in the movement.29 In What Is Spartacist?, Wohlforth quotes LaRouche as writing: "At the London Conference and in its sequel it became clear that the continued political hegemony of the SLL [Healy's Socialist Labour League] had become a decisive obstacle to the founding of a new international and an American Trotskyist movement at this juncture." Wohlforth then comments: "Marcus made no bones about it. He was breaking from the IC because of Healy's supposed organizational practices and not because of any political differences."30 For his part, in his 9 May 1966 Resignation Statement, LaRouche begins: "While Wohlforth walked along the path of Leninism we walked with him. For that we have no regrets." It concluded: "We carry out the historic task of fusion with the Spartacist League."


LaRouche's "historic task" fusion with the Spartacist League lasted seven weeks. All seemed to go well at first. LaRouche had a front page article ("Battle for Asia") in the June-July 1966 issue of Spartacist while Carol became the journal's managing editor. An editorial in that same issue announcing that the ACFI was on the ropes could not resist noting that Wohlforth's position inside the ACFI "was aggravated by the latter political break with the ACFI's proclaimed theoretical leader, L. Marcus, at the same time." Yet the Robertson-LaRouche alliance was built on sand. LaRouche, after all, had spent months trying to organize the ACFI out from under Gerry Healy. In so doing, he began more and more to envision implementing his own ideas for a new kind of radical party, ideas he originally outlined in a series of internal documents he wrote for the SWP's September 1965 National Conference.31 Here LaRouche endorses the idea that the new revolutionary party must be led by the "revolutionary intelligentsia." He now returned to this theme in his 9 May 1966 ACFI Resignation Statement:

A party not led by the leading layer of the revolutionary intelligentsia cannot be a revolutionary party, cannot conduct the struggle for ideological hegemony which is the absolute precondition for a socialist transformation. A party which lacks such a leading layer can neither lead the working class and its allies to power, except under the most extraordinary favorable circumstances, and is incapable of producing a "Left Opposition" to maintain the continuity of Leninism during periods in which the "proletarian kernel" of the movement defects to centrism.32

In July 1966, LaRouche and Robertson locked horns in a bitter fight ostensibly over economics. Their disagreements were not new. In the 1965 unity session talks documented in Conversations with Wohlforth, the LaRouche-ACFI theory about an impending capitalist crisis came under repeated sharp attack from Robertson's ally Shane Mage. Both Mage and LaRouche taught classes on "Marxist economics" at the Free University of New York (FUNY) just off Union Square starting in the spring of 1966 under the broad Spartacist umbrella. Although LaRouche had acted as a professional business consultant some years earlier, Mage was a professionally trained Marxist economist. His 1963 PhD thesis from Columbia's Department of Economics was entitled The Law of the Falling Tendency of the Rate of Profit: Its Place in the Marxian Theoretical System and Relevance to the United States. Mage then became an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. In the August-September 1966 issue of the ACFI's Bulletin that appeared after LaRouche's brief stint in the Spartacist League, and on the heels of Mage's decision to quit the Spartacists, Wohlforth's ACFI could not resist noting that Mage "was brought into the joint unity discussions" by Robertson in 1965. "At this session" of the talks with Mage present, he

launched into a major attack on the economic perspective of ACFI expressing his full confidence in the ability of capitalism to survive without serious economic crisis. Mage saw, instead, that the struggles of the future would occur despite this prosperity because of the alienation of man brought about by the meaningless of it all. Robertson and other representatives of Spartacist at this session supported Mage's economic position.

Wohlforth chuckled that as Mage became more enraptured by the rise of the New Left counterculture, he now began arguing that the "working class was no longer a meaningful revolutionary force in the modern world. The Spartacist organization then asked Mage to resign which he promptly did." With or without Shane Mage, however, it was still clear that James Robertson was not about to endorse LaRouche's brand of catastrophe economics, which – in turn – was intimately linked to LaRouche's broader "political perspectives."

Meanwhile LaRouche was intent on recruiting new acolytes into the ranks of the Spartacist League, who would follow his lead and not Robertson's. He viewed his FUNY class as the perfect place to begin. LaRouche's first FUNY class was in the spring of 1966. He then taught a second class fo the FUNY summer semester starting sometime around 5 July 1966. Although he was still a member of the Spartacist League, almost exactly around this same time, LaRouche and Robertson had their final falling out. From What Is Spartacist?:

By July [LaRouche and Robertson] were embroiled in a new faction fight as Marcus had discovered that while he shared in common with Robertson his hatred of the International Committee, he had nothing else in common politically. Robertson rejected out of hand Marcus's assessment of the international crisis and even denied that questions of the economy were of importance to the development of the party and its perspective.

During his final showdown with Robertson, LaRouche penned "The Question of Marxist Economics" on 14 July 1966 in which he argued:

Members of the Resident Editorial Board have stated positions which cater to anti-theoretical, anti-Marxist sentiments pressing against our ranks from petty bourgeois ideology. . . . It has been stated, in support of those attacks, that Marxist economics is by no means essential to the seizure or holding of state power by the workers' movement. That rationale in itself constitutes a cardinal principle of anti-Marxism. . . . How can an organization call itself Marxist, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, reject as unimportant that theory to which Marx and Engels devoted their life's effort? How can an organization term itself Leninist, and deny the cardinal principle of Leninism, that "Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement"?


On 24 July 1966, LaRouche announced his resignation from the Spartacist League in a letter that he also sent to the ACFI's Bulletin. In it, LaRouche proclaimed: "The tragic fact is that the 4th International has been destroyed by various currents of revisionism within it, Healy's included; the task now is to begin those urgent steps toward building a 5th!" LaRouche had been thinking about how to build his own "5th International" for some time. Just a year earlier in the "Our Immediate Perspective" section of The Coming American Socialist Revolution, LaRouche outlined his strategy to target "intellectual youth" ("Leninist 'boomers'"):

We in the SWP are a party in name. Yet we lack today the most essential characteristic of a Leninist party: an active significant connection with the vanguard of the U.S. working-class. Yet we are a party by virtue of our intention – our strategic perspective – of becoming the party that we are not. We are, in numbers and our relationship to the working-class, a propaganda group bent on creating the party that does not yet exist in this country.
We shall become that party by training intellectual youths and workers who come to us as Marxist theoreticians, agitators, etc., qualified to develop the programs which will make our party actually, in competence and other qualities, fit to lead the working-class and its allies in this country to socialism. We will obtain that leadership not because we wear the mantel of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky; we shall not obtain that leadership by virtue of our traditions, our past accomplishments in leading the first great strikes of the CIO period, but because the working-class and its allies appoint us to that duty. We shall receive that appointment only if we earn it, though, first of all, our mastery of Marxism as a science, and secondly, the excellence we develop in practicing that science in the living struggles about us now. We seize Lenin's great work, the work which founded the victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia, What Is To Be Done? That is the cornerstone of our victory in The Coming American Socialist Revolution.33

In the epilogue to The Coming American Socialist Revolution entitled "Cannonism in Perspective," LaRouche also writes:

In this period of rising radical ferment among youth and minorities, in a reawakening of the pre-stages, in the form of rank and file ferment, of left-wing tendencies in the trade unions, our first task is to train a cadre of organizers, of Leninist "boomers," who can take to the boondocks of U.S. society to explain the current economic situation, to present the strategic world and national prospects for socialism, to penetrate every facet of radical ferment in student, minority and working-class movements.34

In mid-July 1966 the Smiling Man from a Dead Planet set out to build his new "Fifth International" based on students who had attended his FUNY "elementary Marxist economics" class, not all that far from his Morton Street home in the West Village. After two decades spent wandering in the desert of American Trotskyism, the pied piper was finally free at last to strike up his own merry tune.35


1 In volume one of his memoirs The Party, SWP leader Barry Sheppard has a long but interesting footnote on the "Pabloite" Cochran faction and the SWP in the early 1950s as well as on James Cannon's attempt to use Murry Weiss against Cochran. Sheppard writes that the Cochran group – which had its trade union roots in the UAW – believed by the early 1950s that the SWP had been far too optimistic about independent radicalism. They instead wanted "an orientation toward existing left milieus, including the Stalinists. They held that the party was exaggerating its prospects elsewhere. The Cochran group traced this failure to the optimistic projections that the party had made during the postwar labor upsurge of the 1940s, when the party had recruited many hundreds of workers across the country."

2 This fact may help explain why Lee Harvey Oswald when he attempted to get sponsorship from the FPFC allegedly had one photograph taken of himself holding the Militant and a rifle and another one of him holding The Daily Worker and a rifle.

3 Tim Wohlforth, The Prophet's Children, 99.

4 If Wohlforth's memory is correct and LaRouche was a consultant to the shoe industry, it suggests that LaRouche once again enjoyed some working relationship with his father.

5 Wohlforth, The Prophet's Children, 90.

6 Many of the new YSA leaders had been recruited around support for Cuba and were protegees of Joseph Hansen, a former Trotsky bodyguard.

7 Sheppard says that Weiss resigned from the SWP shortly after the 1965 convention, in part because he had suffered a very serious stroke and couldn't function at the same level as he had in the past.

8 Myra Tanner Weiss, the SWP candidate for Vice President in the November 1963 election, reportedly left the SWP completely a month later. However other reports say that Murry Weiss only left the SWP in the fall of 1965. My guess is that after his stroke Murry Weiss no longer played a leadership role in the SWP but that he remained a party member till after the 1965 convention.

9 See C. Lotz and P. Feldman, Gerry Healy: A Revolutionary Life, 248. Healy also believed that various "Pabloites" and Third Camp Trotskyists from groups like the International Socialists had ties to the Bertrand Russell Foundation.

10 "Carol" was Carol Schnitzer (also known as Carol Larrabee after the name of her first husband and fellow SWP supporter George Larrabee). She was a high school and college math teacher from a radical trade unionist family. She and LaRouche lived together in the West Village in an apartment on Morton Street after LaRouche left his wife Janice. Carol had lived there first and owned the lease.

11 LaRouche says that Tom Kemp – the Socialist Labour League (Healy) economist who rejected the collapse thesis – told LaRouche that his views were similar to those of Rosa Luxemburg. In her writings against the "revisionist" Eduard Bernstein in texts like Reform or Revolution?, for example, Luxemburg argued that the very things that Bernstein has pointed to as making a capitalist depression a thing of the past (such as the credit system) only aggregated the crisis. LaRouche says he first came to his theory of economic collapse not by reading Luxemburg but through his studies of the credit system and specific cases of capitalist bankruptcy while working as a business consultant in the mid-1950s. See Dialectical Economics, 232.

12 LaRouche says he gave Wohlforth an internal "secret" SWP purge resolution so that it could be published in The Bulletin.

13 In These Times, 25 October-4 November 1986.

14 The italics are Wohlforth's. See The Prophet's Children, 130-35.

15 LaRouche apparently first showed the document to Robertson sometime in late July or early August 1965 since Robertson's comments are dated 5 August 1965.

16 LaRouche picked up some useful phrases from his experiences at the unification talks. For example: LaRouche continually used the phrase "class for itself." In Conversations with Wohlforth, there is a report on a conversation on 20 September 1965 between LaRouche and Shane Mage. LaRouche was under attack for promoting the idea that the "united front" would help workers overcome "alienation" when Mage remarked: "L's explanation of what he means by united front seems perfectly orthodox, so it would make much more sense if he would use the orthodox formulation, that the working class must cease being a class-in-itself and become a class-for-itself." From that moment on, LaRouche did just that. In The SWP – A Strangled Party, James Robertson writes about another future LaRouche buzzword, "hubris": "There is a phrase that fancy sociologists in college like to use – and when I had to fight Shachtmanite right-wingers I learned plenty of these sociological jargon/mystification words – called "hubris." Later in the NCLC, LaRouche loved to boast that he had "committed the crime of hubris."

17 In The Party, Barry Sheppard writes about LaRouche: "He was expelled by the New York branch for being a member of Tim Wohlforth's Workers League. . . . Prior to his expulsion, I discussed this charge with LaRouche and he admitted being a member of the Workers League [actually then still known as the ACFI – HH]. The expulsion seemed to be basically okay with him."

18 Wohlforth, The Prophet's Children, 138. LaRouche says he so annoyed Healy in Montreal that "the Central Committee of the SLL published a statement denouncing my political line in the weekly Newsletter."''

19 I have only been able to track down a few issues from volume two when LaRouche was an active ACFI member.

20 Bulletin (Vol.2, No. 22).

21 Bulletin (Vol. 5, No. 8-9).

22 By holding the talks in London and not Montreal, Healy could also show just how successful his SLL group was compared to either the Robertson or Wohlforth cliques. The SLL had recruited some significant members of the CPGB following the 20th Congress and the invasion of Hungary.

23 The report is cited in The Prophet's Children.

24 For Robertson's statement on the London conference at http: .

25 Given the date of Wohlforth's article, LaRouche is most likely discussing the meaning of Nixon's triumph in the November 1968 elections. LaRouche viewed Nixon as a creation of the "National Association of Manufacturers" group of capitalist small timers and not the more sophisticated wing of international capital based in New York, which he associated with support for "Third Stage" policies.

26 From Dialectical Economics:

Considerable silly rubbish has been written attributing the cause of the Second World War to Hitler's psychological peculiarity. The history of the German economy during the First World War and from 1936 to 1943 demonstrates that Krupp's circle of smokestack barons and not some quirk of Adolf Hitler governed every hazardous diplomatic and military gamble made by the Third Reich. . . . Physical plant, raw materials, food, and slave and semi-slave labor were appropriated with German thoroughness, down to the hair, gold fillings, and old clothing of Krupp-Hitler butchered victims. (353)
As a further measure of the capitalist economy, the welfare rolls within the concentration camps were successfully reduced by the mass extermination practices applied to the weak, the aged, women, children, depleted slave labor, and other unemployables. . . . The Second World War was imposed upon German "militarism" by the hysterical demands for immediate loot of the "smokestack barons" and financiers. (409-10)

27 In his What Is Spartacist? series in the Workers League paper The Bulletin (June-August 1970) and later issued as a pamphlet, Wohlforth stated: "Marcus simply completely succumbed to the lowest level of personal slander, conducting a political struggle on a level never witnessed before in a movement sadly accustomed to many excesses in such struggles. It was the incarnation of the petit bourgeois intellectual flaying his hands at the party, totally incapable of making a single objective political statement. It was subjective idealism gone mad."

It has to be added that the Workers League became itself infamous for slanderous attacks on its foes. For the full text of "Many Theories of L. Marcus," see

28 Wohlforth's formal rejection of LaRouche's alternate draft for unification ("Some Comments on Perspectives for the Fused Movement Submitted by Tim Wohlforth") is dated 3 March 1966 and is quoted in What is Spartacist?.

29 Around this time, there was a significant scandal in the Trotskyist movement after some Healy goons in London physically assaulted a SLL critic named Ernest Tate. For more on Healy, see

30 In What Is Spartacist?, Wohlforth provides a long quote from a 17 April 1967 LaRouche polemic entitled "What Makes Tim Wohlforth Run?" that seems to have been inspired by the rejection of LaRouche's alternate draft reunification document. Wohlforth also cites an extremely long series of quotes from a 3 May 1966 letter from Gerry Healy to LaRouche following the collapse of the London talks. LaRouche and Carol resigned almost immediately after receiving Healy's letter.

31 Besides "The Coming American Revolution" and its long epilogue "Cannonism in Perspective," the texts include "The Fragmentation of World Trotskyism" (SWP Internal Discussion Bulletin Vol. 25, No. 14) written on 9 August 1965 and "Economics and Politics" – written on 27 July 1965.

32 LaRouche quoted in the ACFI's Bulletin of International Socialism, Aug.-Sept. 1966. It is part two of a series entitled "Spartacist and the Intellectual in Retreat." See

33 "The Coming American Socialist Revolution," 29.

34 "Cannonism in Perspective," xv-xvi.

35 In the 1988 version of his autobiography The Power of Reason, LaRouche says he first gave a 13 week class on Marxist economics at FUNY starting in April 1966. If true, he would have started the class while still an active member of the ACFI. He then quit the ACFI and joined the Spartacist League. Hence his first "independent" class without any Trotskyist organizational affiliation would be the July class as this class was still ongoing at the time that he broke with the Spartacist League. A detailed history of the very early Labor Committee beginning with the July FUNY class can now be found in my new study How It All Began: The Origins and History of the National Caucus of Labor Committees in New York and Philadelphia (1966-1971) available at on LaRouche Planet.

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