Why I am voting for David McReynolds

Debordagoria phantasmagorias at SPAMyahoo.com
Mon Aug 28 16:59:07 MDT 2000

I'm voting for him too (if I remember to register!),
not the least because he's the only presidential
candidate who returns virtually every e-mail he gets
(even while campaigning!), even the rather cryptic,
sarcastic ones I tend to post.
Michael Davidson

--- Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
> Back in the 1960s the American Trotskyist movement
> was in a "troika" with
> the pacifists and the Communist Party to stop the
> war in Vietnam through
> independent mass actions. In party meetings we would
> always hear reports
> complaining about the "opportunists", "ultralefts"
> and "petty-bourgeois"
> elements we were forced to work with. Among these
> "opponents" it seemed
> that David McReynolds, a lifelong pacifist and
> socialist in the A.J. Muste
> tradition, was generally regarded as a cut above.
> Back then we accounted for their hostility in class
> terms. We represented
> the long term interests of the
> proletariat--blah-blah--while they were
> middle class liberals who were always adapting to
> capitalism. After I broke
> with Trotskyism, I began to look back critically at
> this period,
> particularly with respect to our use of "democratic
> centralism".
> We called ourselves the "big red machine". This
> meant that at antiwar
> conferences we voted as a bloc. Whenever an
> important vote was put to the
> body, we looked to our floor leaders to see how to
> vote. During workshops
> we would "motivate" our proposals using almost
> identical rhetoric and hand
> gestures. "In the coming period the antiwar movement
> has to rely on the
> power of the masses..." It didn't really matter if
> somebody raised superior
> arguments in one of these discussions. It would have
> been impossible to
> vote against the party line. No wonder independent
> radicals began to
> distrust us.
> Needless to say, the "big red machine" ran off the
> road in the 1980s, while
> David McReynold's Socialist Party is doing quite
> well, thank you, without
> democratic centralism. It has over 1000 members,
> many who are young enough
> to be my sons or daughters. This party represents a
> conscious attempt to
> root American socialist politics in the Debs
> tradition.
> When I began thinking critically about the
> Trotskyist movement, one of the
> first things I wanted to do was re-evaluate the
> antiwar movement, which had
> not only been the focus of party activity from the
> mid 60s until the end of
> the war, but the primary motivation for my joining
> the party. I wanted to
> belong to the organization which appeared to be
> spearheading the mass
> demonstrations.
> In my research into the Cochranite "The American
> Socialist," I discovered
> that the Debs era was extremely important to the
> editors. Not only did they
> devote a special issue to the legacy of Debs's
> Socialist Party, they
> included George A. Shoaf on the editorial board, an
> octogenarian who had
> worked side-by-side with Debs. Basically "The
> American Socialist" was
> trying to find a way to re-root Marxism in the
> American experience, which
> meant most of all trying to link up with pre-1917
> traditions. Although I
> have deep respect for David McReynolds and his
> party, I still believe that
> Marxism has to play a role in American socialism.
> The Debs tradition must
> be recast in Marxist terms in order to be
> successful. In this period when
> so many different political currents are trying to
> find their way after the
> collapse of the USSR, my personal and political
> experience with David
> McReynolds has convinced me that the Socialist Party
> will be a critical
> element in the regroupment process which will
> produce a genuine mass
> working class alternative to the ruling class
> parties.
> After reading David McReynold's sage observations on
> the tensions in the
> antiwar movement in Tom Wells' "The War Within", I
> resolved to meet him one
> of these days. I wanted to know how he viewed the
> Trotskyist movement and
> American politics in general. In person David
> McReynolds is one of the
> warmest and most engaging people I've ever met on
> the left. I vividly
> recall one of our breakfast dates, when he saw
> Quentin (The Naked Civil
> Servant) Crisp at the next table. He went over to
> the elderly "camp" writer
> and performer and exchanged pleasantries. I thought
> at the time that
> anybody who could be on good terms with Quentin
> Crisp and a brittle Marxist
> dialectician like myself had to be all right.
> Perhaps the connection with Crisp makes sense in
> terms of what Paul Buhle
> has written about McReynolds and the "Bohemian
> Pacifism" current, which was
> another side of the radical movement in the 1940s
> and 50s. In a biography
> of McReynolds on www.votesocialist.org, he writes
> "Paul Goodman, Allen
> Ginsberg and McReynolds were among the many gay (and
> some lesbian)
> activists at home here. Deeply nonconformist,
> determinedly interracial, a
> happy alternative for artists and intellectuals of
> every sexual persuasion
> turned off by Cold War liberalism and the collapsing
> Marxist sects, it
> offered the best contemporary setting for personal
> growth. It probably
> saved our lives, and it certainly helped provide the
> bodies for the
> scattered anti-militarist protests by War Resisters
> League and other groups
> of the early 1950s, as it secured white supporters
> for the civil rights
> movement of the South moving gradually north in
> campaigns against
> discrimination."
> Someday a scholar should write a full-length
> biography of David McReynolds,
> whose life and career are filled with the kinds of
> quirky contradictions
> that marked the early days of American Marxism, when
> folks like Victoria
> Woodhull were combining spiritualism, feminism with
> the new ideas of the
> German working-class movement.
> As a member of the pro-United Nations World
> Fellowship Club in his Los
> Angeles high school, David became increasingly
> critical of the Cold War.
> His first exposure to politics came in the form of
> becoming a Prohibition
> Party agitator. Although the days of the Woodhull
> type
> feminist-socialist-prohibitionists were by then long
> gone, the public
> speaking and popular writing that he learned would
> come in handy. In 1948,
> at UCLA, when he wrote for the college paper against
> the Cold War, the
> Socialist Party contacted him for its Luncheon Club:
> He was theirs for life.
> Go to www.votesocialist.org for complete information
> on the McReynolds
> campaign.
> Louis Proyect
> Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/

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