Farewell, Comrade Marc Rich!

Marc and SO members and supporters at Binational Conference in 2017

Marc Rich, Presente!

Marc signs solidarity poster in Occupied Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, in February 2011.

By Alan Benjamin

Marc Rich, founding member of Socialist Organizer and longtime Trotskyist militant, died at his home in Pasadena, Calif., on February 21 after years of protracted illnesses. In April, he would have turned 74.

I met Marc in the mid-1970s. Over the years, I got to learn about his family, his tireless union activity, and his principled political history. But there were still many gaps. Brian, Marc’s younger brother, helped me fill in some of those gaps. The commemorative statements below from comrades and friends of Marc provide further insight into Marc’s contributions to the workers’ movement internationally. [ALSO see photos, most of them from Rosemary Lee, posted here on our website.]

Marc was a Navy brat whose childhood was spent moving from one Navy base to another across the country. When Marc was in high school, his dad was transferred to the Oakland Navy Base. After he graduated from high school (1966), Marc attended Cal State-Hayward (now Cal State East Bay), where he joined the YSA, and, soon after, the SWP. There he became very active in the campus chapter of the Student Mobilizing Committee. (Robin David remembers recruiting Marc to the YSA in 1970.)

Around that time, Marc moved to New York City to work at the SWP’s print shop. From there he accepted the party assignment to help build the branch in San Diego. (James Odling remembers meeting Marc in 1972 in San Diego.)

From there, Marc was transferred to the SWP branch in Los Angeles, where he became a locomotive engineer during the SWP’s “turn to industry.” After he suffered an accident on the job, Marc went back to school at Cal State-Los Angeles, where he earned his teaching credential in 1993. He went on to teach computer studies and science at Belvedere Middle School.

For more than two decades, Marc was active in his union, United Teachers of Los Angeles, serving as a delegate to the union’s delegate body, the House of Representative, and as a delegate from UTLA to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Following his retirement, he remained active in his union’s retiree committee and in a coalition about which he was passionate: The Trinational Coalition in Defense of Public Education. He also was active building the cross-border campaigns of the Binational Conference Against “Free Trade” and the Wall of Shame.

Marc’s political history is one of steadfast commitment to the program of the Fourth International: The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution. When the Barnes leadership of the SWP began dropping key tenets of this program in the late 1970s — notably the entire concept of Permanent Revolution — Marc was among the SWP members who responded to the call to form an opposition tendency in the SWP in defense of Marxism.

Marc was a founding member of Socialist Action in 1984. In 1991, he joined with a number of veteran Trotskyist militants, including a handful of members who founded the SWP in 1938, to found Socialist Organizer. He was adamant about the need to defend the continuity and relevance of our program, rejecting the SA leadership’s refusal to break with the United Secretariat, the international current led by Ernest Mandel, which also had thrown our historic program overboard.

For 31 years, until his death, Marc remained a proud member of Socialist Organizer and of the OCRFI, where he played an active role in transmitting our political heritage to a layer of younger comrades.

Marc and his two nieces in Occupied Capitol Wisconsin on Feb. 15, 2011

On a personal level, Marc was not only a comrade; he was a friend. He was very patient trying to teach me to play lawn bowling, one of his great joys, and trying to teach me how to play some of his difficult tunes on the guitar. Many people don’t know this, but Marc was a consummate guitarist. He spent countless hours mastering the pieces by Chet Atkins, no easy task.

He is survived by sisters Donna Conway, Linda Hutchison, and Rebecca McCollum and brother Brian Rich, as well as 9 nephews and nieces, and 6 grand-nephews and nieces. He was predeceased by his parents Lawrence and Georgia Rich and his sister Janet Jordan.

The Pasadena Lawn Bowling Club will be holding Marc’s Memorial on Monday, March 28, 6 pm (pacific time). See attached flyer. After the program, a sunset Last Bowl Ceremony will be held on the green. Club officers report that a tournament will be named in his honor: the Marc Rich Memorial Triples Tournament.

Marc’s family is requesting that donations in his name be made to the ACLU.

Marc will be sorely missed by his friends, family, union siblings, and comrades in Socialist Organizer and the Fourth International.

Compañero Marc Rich, Presente!

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In Memory of My Brother Marc Rich

By Brian Rich

My only brother Marc was 11 years older than I was, which meant that we really didn’t get to know each other until we were both adults, when I went to college in San Diego so that I could be closer to him. Through those years and ever after, he was a mentor, an example of political courage, and a close confidant.

While we didn’t share all of our political and social views, we did share a lot, and he helped me to become interested in politics and social life, perhaps inadvertently influencing my decision to become a sociologist and professor. He always took interest in my work and kept close tabs on my views, often engaging me in political debates about all topics of mutual interest.

He was a very talented musician, printer, electrician, heavy equipment operator, train engineer, teacher and all-around technical wizard. His oldest friend, Mike Lafferty, told me that when they met around age 13 and got to know one another, he thought Marc was a “Renaissance man” as he had so many talents.

Above all, he was committed to changing the world for the better, and while we didn’t always agree about how to do that, he was a very dedicated, hard-working, and determined political advocate and organizer for his many causes. While sometimes stubborn and rigid, he did learn and grow and became sympathetic to every form of human suffering he encountered. He had a very big heart and was interested in seeking justice in all walks of life.

I like to remember Marc as being in agreement with Cornel West’s quote that “Love is what justice looks like in public.” Justice was his compass in all aspects of life, even being unable to tolerate my sly attempts to cheat him in cards or board games. He was known for always having a repertoire of bad jokes and puns to entertain (or annoy) those around him.

We never lost contact as the years rolled by, and the last few years were difficult for him, as he suffered from isolation from family and his various health issues. I loved him dearly and will miss him forever.

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Tribute from Childhood Friend Mike Lafferty

Marc Rich and I did some serious growing up together and had tremendous fun doing so. We accomplished early and mid-adolescence and early adulthood in the East Bay, Oakland and Berkeley. We maintained our bond over all of the past sixty years. I’ve consistently been pleasantly aware of his influence on me; less so of my influence on him. Talking with his brother Brian has provided perspective on that and has made me realize the extent of both Marc’s humility and his strength.

Marc’s deep, passionate caring for people began spilling out while he was at Bret Harte Junior High in Oakland in 1962 and ‘63. I was an early recipient, before it coalesced into his lifelong dedication to the betterment of us all through his activism and commitment to education.  He was the new kid, having moved to Delaware St. in Oakland from wherever was the last place he’d lived. The friendship just sort of happened and developed rapidly. Early on we made a pact: “everything we say to each other will be the truth, including how we feel.”

I think Marc and I met in gym class. The third member of our triumvirate, Jim Samuels, also had Mr. Fernandez for PE that year. The three of us tackled our teenagerness as buddies. Jim and I looked up to Marc for so many reasons. His sincerity, adventurousness, superb blending of earnest seriousness and silly humor, leadership, emotional availability…This was long before the term “bromance” was coined. When we learned that Marc would be moving to Falls Church, VA, in the fall of 1963 we were all devastated. We realized that we weren’t in control of our own lives yet. That summer we lived by the tenet “time is of the essence.”

Jim was really funny. He complained that people didn’t take him seriously. He must have resolved that issue; Jim Samuels went on to become a successful stand-up.

Marc taught me the rudiments of folk guitar and was able to convince me I could sing.  The Beatles and Dylan hadn’t quite hit yet but The Kingston Trio was churning out hits and Marc loved them. Marc wrote “my favorite song as sung by The Kingston Trio” on the lyric sheet to “When I Was Young.” It was one of their more sentimental (syrupy?) songs. From 1969 to 1973 I brought the folkie skills Marc had nurtured to my day job as a member of the activity therapy staff at Gladman Hospital, playing guitar and singing for psychiatric inpatients. That was the first chapter in my career in mental health; my last stint was as an LCSW with Alameda County Behavioral Health.

Once Marc organized an ambitious bike trip to Fremont (30+miles) for the two of us and two girls, Kris and Kris. We got as far as San Leandro and spent the rest of the afternoon riding in circles in a parking lot, talking, talking, talking. Marc was almost always the initiator. He pursued one Kris but later developed a deeper friendship with the other Kris.

Marc and I had another chapter in 1968. He became equipment manager for the Berkeley counterculture band I was in, Sky Blue. He was expert at working with musical gear; he was always expert at everything he took on. Shortly after that Marc formed a band in LA with our friends from Bret Harte, drummer Andy Kennedy and bassist Steve Wilson. Strawberry Window got closer to “making it” than Sky Blue;I believe they opened for Buffalo Springfield and The Doors. Their album holds up; it’s a good listen.

Marc was the closest of any of my friends to my parents, Travis and Nori Ikeda Lafferty. He embraced the progressive values and activism of those of that generation who were dedicated to The Movement. He carried it on with us baby boomers, including “red diaper babies” like me.

Reading what Marc’s comrades have written has provided myriad specifics about the life he dedicated to social and economic justice with such drive and purpose.  I had the privilege of also sharing formative youth with Marc: playing and singing, dipping toes into romance, doing stuff, long conversations about everything.

Through the decades my admiration and love for Marc have been constant and large. I sure miss him…

… “I dreamed a dream that made me sad

Concerning myself and the first best friend I had.”

Mike Lafferty

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Message from Marc Wutschke

I first met Marc in San Diego around 1977 when I moved there to help organize the YSA and SWP, and I worked with him for the rest of that decade before moving back to Los Angeles. I found myself reunited with Marc in Los Angeles in the 1990s when we were both teachers and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) members. We both became members of the union’s Board of Directors, House of Representatives, and Human Rights Committee.

Marc never lost his principled Marxist/Trotskyist roots and his activism. He was an effective organizer for the SWP in San Diego. He was instrumental in building it from a scattering of activists to a respectable national chapter. After the Barnes/Waters takeover of the SWP. I left the party, but Marc continued indefatigably in principled opposition.

Marc was a fixture at UTLA, fundraising and organizing for many human rights and international labor campaigns. We both struggled mightily against the stranglehold that the Democratic Party had in misleading the union’s political orientation, a dire situation found in most mainstream U.S. unions. While I became discouraged at the union’s fealty to the Democratic Party, Marc undauntedly organized against it and became a leading union voice for International solidarity and a principled political direction. He was an activist of the union’s Human Rights Committee, which became a refuge and base in UTLA for those who wanted to advance a principled and internationalist orientation for the union. He was instrumental in leading UTLA to take many principled stands in supporting solidarity movements here and internationally.

Marc was successful at what he did in large part because he was a likable warrior for peace and justice. He was always friendly and quick with a joke. I don’t think he made an enemy or crossed anyone, even among those who disagreed with him. Marc respected everyone and earned their respect in return.

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Message from Arlene Inouye

Marc is one of the first people I remember when I first became active in UTLA around 2005, when I joined the Human Rights Committee.  I had asked for support for the development of CAMS – Coalition Against Militarism in our Schools – and Marc was one of the first supporters.

His dedication to the cause was all the way – whether it was human rights, antiwar, pro-labor, pro-public education or pro-union. He attended events and rallies, selling the Human Rights T-Shirts – “A war budget leaves every child behind” – which provided funding for our Human Rights Committee events and conferences. 

He was active in the Trinational Coalition in Defense of Public Education. I have fond memories of our meeting at the home of Rosemary Lee, discussing issues and making international connections about privatization and public education.  

Marc was a caring friend who made this world a better place.  Rest in power Marc Rich, presente!

Arlene Inouye

Former Human Rights Committee Co-Chair

UTLA Secretary

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SO and CORCI Mexico members & supporters at Binational Conference Against NAFTA, CSU-DH, Dec. 2017

Message from Coral Wheeler

I met Marc at my first National convention of Socialist Organizer. Marc was a retired teacher, and part of the Los Angeles branch (which I would be joining). Both of us coming from union backgrounds, we bonded over Robert’s Rules of Order, often playing dual parliamentarians at that and future meetings. Marc was a stickler for rules, as long as the rules were fair.

For the next 16 years, Marc and I got to know each other better as SO members in the LA branch, where he became a very important political role model for me. Marc was an expert at selling The Organizer newspaper, calling it very sincerely, “the best English-language newspaper around.” He used every paper-selling opportunity as a chance to engage others in political discussion. His friendly attitude and wealth of knowledge caused people to naturally react to him in a very positive way. 

Marc had an uncanny ability to always have a new joke or two ready for anyone he met. Stranger yet was the fact that not a single joke was ever funny. He prided himself on his cheesy jokes, and usually went for a groan rather than a laugh. He loved lawn bowling and got me and some others in the LA branch out to the Pasadena Lawn Bowling Club a couple of times for a match and some pizza.

Marc was a fierce defender of his principles and his friends. During one tense moment from my past, when I was caught in a difficult political position, Marc supported me at a time when I needed it most. He made sure that I knew that we were comrades, and that he would have my back even in the most difficult moments. He cared so much about the people he worked closely with, even attending my astrophysics Ph.D. defense. 

Marc had a science background and would always ask me about my research. Even if it ended up as a set-up for another bad joke, I could tell he was legitimately interested.

Marc clearly touched the hearts of many. At his last protest, which was in Los Angeles against the war with Syria, he was a real rock star. UTLA members and other protestors came up to us over and over to say “Hi” to Marc. They seemed sincerely happy to see him out there. It went on for the entire event. Marc was a life-long fighter for what is right, and through all those years he had clearly gained the respect and friendship of his colleagues and others in the antiwar movement.

Marc was always quick with an encouraging word, particularly in the last few years. He would come to SO and LCIP Zoom meetings when able, and never hesitated to give glowing praise about what we were accomplishing. It was as if, in knowing that he wouldn’t always be around to fight alongside us, he wanted us to know he was proud of what we were doing and would be with us in spirit moving forward. 

Marc Rich led a revolutionary life of principle and solidarity, ceaselessly fighting for the working class and the oppressed. I am honored to have been able to call him comrade and friend.

Coral Wheeler


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Gabriel Torres, Rosemary Lee and Marc

Message from Rosemary Lee

I worked with Marc over many years, both in the UTLA Human Rights Committee and the Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education.

He was also a member of the UTLA House of Representatives, where he raised a number of important issues, and served as a delegate to the LA County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Marc was a dedicated, extremely hardworking fighter for human, public education and trade union rights – both in the USA and internationally.

If there was a strike or union rally, Marc was there.  If there was an immigrants’ march, Marc was there. If there was a solidarity action to support struggles in other countries, or antiwar marches, you knew he would be there. Marc was always at the International Workers Day marches every May 1st, year after year.

He organized some great fundraisers for the Trinational Coalition conferences as well as selling our well-known “a war budget leaves every child behind” T-shirts for the Human Rights Committee at so many events.

Marc Rich, presente!

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Message from the Mexican section of the Fourth International (OCRFI)

We were very sorry to learn that comrade Marc Rich is no longer among us. We wish we could have conveyed our condolences in person.

The international labor movement has lost an important organizer.

We, comrades from the Mexican section, have known Marc for years, first at a binational conference in the city of Mexicali, which we hostel, and later in a series of other conferences and actions that we organized jointly with Socialist Organizer and International Workers Committee (IWC) supporters.

Marc was an excellent comrade for so many of us, not only for those of you in the United States. With a cheerful character and a positive attitude, he shared his experiences that helped us understand certain situations that occurred with the teachers in Mexico, always expressing his unconditional solidarity. We were international comrades.

To the family and closest friends and comrades, it is often hard to find the right words at a time like this. May you find peace, comfort, and all the love you need in the days to come.

Signed by Liliana, on behalf of the Mexican comrades of the Fourth International

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Message from Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman

Ralph and I first met Marc Rich when Socialist Organizer was founded in 1991, and he remained a valued friend and comrade thereafter. His wit, including his sardonic jokes, along with his devotion to revolutionary struggle will be missed by all. He was a terrific comrade – one about whom you never had any doubts. He had no hidden agenda and always said what was on his mind. 

Losing Marc made me reflect upon changes wrought by the era of the pandemic and the reliance upon Internet/zoom interactions. Ralph and I were living in Santa Barbara when Socialist Organizer was founded while most of our founding members, as well as new recruits in Southern California, were in Los Angeles, at best a one-and-a-half hour drive each way. Marc stressed always that the branch was the core and kernel for developing the organization.

Thus, Ralph and I made our way to either Pasadena or Santa Monica regularly for branch meetings at which we incorporated political education, outreach and recruitment, discussion about each issue of The Organizer as well as our individual reports of sales and distribution.

• Marc Rich, Presente!

• Marianne Gabriel, Edie Fox, Dot and Ted Selander, Tiby Genecin, Bill Wilner, Burt Vulliet, and Jim Hamilton also Presente!

Your contributions to Socialist Organizer and the Fourth International live on!

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Xochitl (left) with her family, Rosemary Lee and Marc

Message from Xochitl Vital

Marc was a close friend of mine. I met him 10 years ago through my mom (Mariluz Arriaga), who participates in the Trinational Coalition in Defense of Public Education. Rosemary Lee forwarded me your message about the special Memorial Issue of The Organizer. Thank you for doing that. I still find it hard to believe he is gone. I’m sending attached a group of pictures of different moments I was fortunate to share with him, and a video of Marc playing the guitar…

I started to write a statement but wasn’t able to finish, so I send only a few photos and a link to the video of Marc singing “Softly” with his guitar. Here is the link:

In solidarity


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Marc with Rosemary Lee, then UTLA president Josh Pechthalt, and a UTLA organizer

Message from Eric Blanc

I’m really going to miss Marc. I used to love picking his brain about the amazing antiwar work he and other radical activists initiated upon taking over the student government at Cal State Hayward and about the very early struggles to transform UTLA into a militant, democratic trade union. Some of the best of these stories I heard in long car trips to and from Mexicali for binational conferences with our Mexican comrades; others I heard while playing lawn bowling with him in Pasadena.

In a period when wishy-washy “non-authoritarian” facilitation was trendy, it was always a pleasure to be in a meeting led by Marc, who ran a very (!) tight ship. Marc was also great at providing political education for younger socialists — and in giving short inspirational political speeches. He must have been a brilliant antiwar agitator.

Though he could be somewhat irascible at times, what always struck me about Marc was how funny he was. He loved a good joke and a good laugh. Underneath his occasionally crabby veneer, Marc was such a sweet and thoughtful comrade. I’m sure he’d find solace in the fact that others will continue fighting for the causes to which he dedicated his life.

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Message from Donna Kesselman

Dear SO comrades,

I send you my condolences for Marc. Long live Socialist Organizer and our struggle.

In solidarity,


(Paris, France)

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Message from Kelly Flores, UTLA

Marc Rich was a household name at UTLA [United Teachers of Los Angeles]. He was always there whenever I came to any meeting at the building (on Wilshire). He was always pushing for something, had a petition in his hand, an ask, was at the mic waiting to speak, or talking to others about some issue. He was friendly and pleasant and asked you to get involved. He will be missed, but his energy and impression live on in all who knew him.

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Message from Chloe Osmer                                                                                                                    

I will remember Marc not just for his steadfast commitment to our politics over so many years and so many trying times – whether it was meetings, political forums or marching in the streets – but also his infectious enthusiasm for lawn bowling, his generosity, his loyalty and his kindness. 

Marc believed fully in the promise of this movement, and throughout his life he never wavered from that conviction or faltered in his support of it. 

Marc Rich, presente!  

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Message from Steve Seal

Marc was a stalwart of the UTLA Human Rights Committee. He was very active in leadership around the work we did over many years. He was always there ready to put in the time and energy, be it planning and setting up for conferences, bringing important issues to the House of Representatives, being a liaison to local political and community groups, and being in charge of our famous T-shirts “A war budget leaves every child behind.”

Marc was always ready and always passionate about the work. He will be greatly missed. Rest in Peace.

Steve Seal

Past Chair of the UTLA HRC 

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Marc playing his family’s favorite tune: “Softly” http://attached
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