Progressive icon mourned by county

IMG 0297 1Marcus Raskin playing the piano COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN RASKINMarcus Raskin, father of Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8) and an icon within the progressive community, died Dec. 24 at his home in Washington, at age 83. 

“Generations to come will cherish his memory and be inspired by his remarkable life,” Rep. Raskin wrote in an online statement. “He was a piano prodigy and musical sensation, a born philosopher and magical teacher, a political visionary, organizer and risk-taker.” 

Marcus Raskin was born in 1934 to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Milwaukee, Wis. After briefly studying music at the Juilliard School in New York, he earned his bachelor's degree, and later, his law degree, at the University of Chicago.

Following his studies, Raskin entered government service, holding positions on the staffs of several lawmakers before rising to a position in President John F. Kennedy's budget office.

After leaving the White House in 1963, Raskin founded the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive think tank specializing in both domestic and foreign policy. 

Around that time, he began to actively oppose the Vietnam War, publishing protest materials and conducting teach-ins.

As part of the antiwar movement, Raskin organized direct action efforts on draft resistance leading to a highly publicized federal indictment and eventual trial on conspiracy charges in 1968. Along with Benjamin Spock, Michael Ferber, Mitchell Goodman, William Sloan Coffin, Raskin became known as one of the Boston Five. 

Ferber, currently an English professor at the University of New Hampshire, remembered Raskin during the experience.

“We were all part of a much larger campaign to resist the draft,” he said during a phone interview. “Marc[us] impressed me as very bright, very knowledgeable about the situation in Washington.” 

Ferber, who was a Harvard doctoral student at the time, explained the movement involved burning or returning conscription cards to draft boards to visibly resist the ongoing draft. 

Following the indictment, Ferber said the trial received significant attention in the national press. 

“Personally, it was almost fun … I expected to be indicted eventually for refusing induction all by myself,” he said. “I think the others also felt, this is a great opportunity to discuss the draft and the war in a nice public arena.”

Ferber explained that because he and his co-defendants were indicted on conspiracy charges rather than resistance charges, the intended debate instead focused on the conspiracy law rather than the war. 

“The lawyers convinced us we had to fight the conspiracy law itself because it’s a bad law to use for open public nonviolent groups like ours,” he said. 

All five defendants were eventually acquitted after an appeal in 1969.

Ferber added he got to know Marcus Raskin best when he visited Washington, D.C. in 1979.

“I was interesting to talk with him about anything, politics, philosophy, music,” Ferber said. “He had a very effervescent mind.”


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