Ray Marcus

Ray Marcus

Raymond Jessie Marcus was born in Los Angeles in 1927. He grew up in its largely working-class Jewish section of Boyle Heights. He later recalled: "Our neighborhood was a smaller - population wise - version of New York's lower east side, with much intellectual and political ferment."

The Marcus family were very interested in politics and Ray remembers being taken to meetings in support of the Popular Front government during the Spanish Civil War. He was ten years old at the time. Ray Marcus also became aware of Adolf Hitler: "I remember listening to Hitler's hysterical-sounding, Jew-hating speeches with my family on short-wave radio."

After graduating from high school, Marcus volunteered for military service in the Second World War. He joined the Army Air Corps and left in 1947. He attended business school and by the early 1950s he was running a small factory in Los Angeles manufacturing vinyl plastic items for household use. One of the men he employed was his friend, the blacklisted screenwriter, Bernard Gordon: "Ray hired me for $50 a week as a salesman, needing sales to build his business and to help me deal with unemployment. Unfortunately, the marriage of true need and good intentions was less than successful. I was surely one of the world's worst salesmen. I drove around to the scattered department and notions stores in the vast Los Angeles area and tried to persuade the owners or buyers that they needed Ray's plastic merchandise."

Marcus also agreed to become Gordon's front-man for films that he was working on. Movies made with the name, "Raymond T. Marcus" on the script included Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, (1953), Hellcats of the Navy (1957), The Man Who Turned to Stone (1957), The Dead That Walk (1957), Chicago Confidential (1957), Escape from San Quentin (1957) and The Case Against Brooklyn (1958).

Marcus was one of those who found it difficult to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone-gunman involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. On 29th December, 1963, he wrote to Earl Warren, who had recently been named to head the presidential commission investigating the assassination: "I write as a citizen who, like most other Americans, has still not recovered from the shocking and tragic events of that terrible weekend of November 22. The shock and grief have been augmented by anger and bewilderment at the amazing mass of contradictory statements which have come from the Dallas police and, reportedly, from the FBI, which are continuing up to the present time."

Marcus was a regular reader of I. F. Stone's Weekly. He was therefore dismayed when I. F. Stone supported the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report by pointing out that "I believe the Commission has done a first-rate job, on a level that does our country proud and is worthy of so tragic an event. I regard the case against Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone killer of the President as conclusive." However, as John Kelin has pointed out, at the time Stone wrote this article: "the Warren Report had just been published and the twenty-six volumes of supporting evidence and testimony were still not available".

Stone then went on to criticize those who had argued that there had been a conspiracy. After attacking the work of Mark Lane he turned on Bertrand Russell, who he described as "my dear and revered friend". He suggested that Russell had dismissed the conclusions of Warren Commission report without even reading it. This was completely untrue. As Russell's assistant, Ralph Schoenman, later pointed out, he had been provided a copy of the report a week before its official release date.

Stone then went onto to look at the two books by Joachim Joesten and Thomas G. Buchanan, that had already been published arguing that there had been a conspiracy: "The Joesten book is rubbish, and Carl Marzani - whom I defended against loose charges in the worst days of the witch hunt - ought to have had more sense of public responsibility than to publish it. Thomas G. Buchanan, another victim of witch hunt days, has gone in for similar rubbish in his book, Who Killed Kennedy? You couldn't convict a chicken thief on the flimsy slap-together of surmise, half-fact and whole untruth in either book… All my adult life as a newspaperman I have been fighting, in defense of the Left and of a sane politics, against conspiracy theories of history, character assassination, guilt by association and demonology. Now I see elements of the Left using these same tactics in the controversy over the Kennedy assassination and the Warren Commission Report."

Ray Marcus, who had subscribed to I. F. Stone's Weekly since its first edition in January 1953, was deeply shocked by this article. Marcus later recalled: "What was totally lacking in I. F. Stone's comments was any evidence of the critical analysis he normally employed on assessing official statements." On 8th October, 1964, Marcus wrote Stone a long letter outlining the flaws in the Warren Report. Marcus argued that in order to accept the Warren Commission's lone-gunman scenario, one must accept fifteen points as true. These points were explained in an eight page letter. Marcus never received a reply.

Primary Sources

(1) John Kelin, Praise from a Future Generation (2007)

Ray Marcus was a charter subscriber to I.F. Stone's Weekly, which first appeared in January of 1953. In its inaugural issue I. F. Stone wrote that the Weekly was "an attempt to keep alive through a difficult period the kind of independent radical journalism" represented by such by then defunct papers as PM, The New York Star, and The New York Daily Compass, each of which had once employed him. The "difficult period" was, of course, the anti-communist hysteria of the early 1950s. Stone modeled his new Weekly on In Fact, the newsletter published by George Seldes, which had folded a few years earlier. Ray Marcus, who had also been an In Fact subscriber, said he considered Stone's new paper a worthy successor.

I. F. Stone's Weekly was virtually a one-man operation, with its journalist-founder serving as publisher, editor, reporter, proofreader, and layout man. His wife Esther served as his secretary and managed the paper's business operations. The Weekly was launched with some five thousand charter subscribers but in time reached 70,000. Stone promised his readers "politically uninhibited commentary and let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may reporting." Overall, he lived up to that pledge. "I had fought the loyalty purge, the FBI, the House Un-American Activities Committee, and McCarran as well as McCarthy," Stone once said. "There was nothing to the left of me but The Daily Worker."

In the fall of 1964 Ray Marcus was eagerly awaiting Stone's analysis of the Warren Commission. "With his long demonstrated ability to demolish official falsehoods, I had little reason to doubt he would make mincemeat of the just-released Warren Report," he remembered.

(2) Ray Marcus, letter to I. F. Stone (8th October, 1964)

1. Oswald was not an agent; but while in the Marine Corps, he received letters from the Cuban Embassy, made himself obnoxious by attempting to preach Marxism to his barracks buddies; kept a copy of Das Kapital in his barracks; and regularly received a (White) Russian-language newspaper to help with his study of Russian - all this without attracting the attention of his superiors.

2. Oswald was not an agent; but the U.S. Govt., after helping him financially and in other ways to return to the U.S., did not even consider prosecuting him for spilling radar secrets to the Russians, the suspicion of which had caused us to change our codes; or for seditious statements he made in Russia.

3. Oswald was not an agent; but despite a background as a notorious defector and pro-Castro agitator, he received within 24 hours a passport to travel to many foreign countries, Communist included.

4. Oswald was not an agent; but despite a fat FBI file on him, and a number of known FBI contacts, and all the above points, he was able to get and keep a job at the Texas School Book Depository Building - with the knowledge of the FBI.

5. Oswald was not an agent, but despite all the above, he was not considered a risk and was not kept under surveillance during President Kennedy's trip; due to the fact that the FBI failed to inform the Secret Service and the Dallas Police; due to the fact that it took an "overly restrictive" view of its responsibility. (Many a liberal and progressive can testify as to the "overly restrictive view" the FBI normally takes of its responsibilities.)