Marcus Raskin, who channeled his discontent as a young aide in the Kennedy administration into helping to found the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank that became an abundant source of research about nuclear disarmament, the Vietnam War, economic inequality, civil rights and national security, died on Sunday December 24 2017 in Washington. He was 83.
The cause was heart failure, said his son, Jamie, a Democratic congressman from Maryland.
Mr. Raskin and Richard J. Barnet started the institute in 1963, fiercely devoted to maintaining its independence by refusing to accept government funding.
In 1967, he and Arthur Waskow, a senior fellow at the institute, wrote a “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” a manifesto that urged young men to refuse to participate in the war. Early the next year, Mr. Raskin and four other antiwar activists were indicted in Boston on federal charges of conspiracy to counsel young men to violate the draft laws. One of their acts was distributing Mr. Raskin’s manifesto.
All but Mr. Raskin were convicted. A year later, the convictions of the four others were overturned.
Mr. Raskin was soon playing a role in a much larger story: the revelation of the Pentagon Papers, the enormous classified study that unmasked the decision making that had led the United States into the Vietnam War.
In 1970, Daniel Ellsberg, the disillusioned analyst for the RAND Corporation who had drafted the study, gave Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet copies of a part of it. Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet, along with Ralph Stavins, used documentation that Mr. Ellsberg had given them in writing the book “Washington Plans an Aggressive War: A Documented Account of the United States Adventure in Indochina” (1971).
Largely because of its antiwar activism, the institute was kept under illegal surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the 1960s and ’70s. Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet’s names were among many on President Richard M. Nixon’s so-called enemies list.
Marcus Goodman Raskin was born in Milwaukee on April 30, 1934. Mr. Raskin was accepted to study piano at the Juilliard School at age 16 but abandoned a musical career to study politics at the University of Chicago. He later graduated from the university’s law school.
Mr. Raskin worked on the staff of Representative Robert W. Kastenmeier, Democrat of Wisconsin, in Washington. Harvard sociologist David Riesman, who recommended that McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy’s national security adviser, meet Mr. Raskin.
Mr. Raskin joined Mr. Bundy’s staff on April 17, 1961, the first day of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by an anti-Castro force of Cubans overseen by the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Raskin was moved to the Bureau of the Budget in 1962.
By the end of 1962, Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet, who had been with the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, had left their jobs to raise money and form the institute. Once established, it gave them a national platform and influence in left-leaning Democratic circles. After leaving as director, Mr. Raskin remained at the institute as a senior fellow and distinguished fellow, writing, fund-raising and formulating ideas for social action.
In addition to his son, Mr. Raskin is survived by his wife, the former Lynn Randels; two daughters, Erika Raskin and Eden Raskin Jenkins; another son, Noah; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandson. A previous marriage, to the former Barbara Bellman, ended in divorce.
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