McReynolds' final response

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Fri Sep 13 02:52:31 MDT 2002

Following is the last response I received from David McReynolds. We are in
agreement that this concludes our debate on this matter.  I hope nobody
wastes bytes on his view of Marxmail.  He's entitled to his opinion, even
second hand.
As for me, I've always liked Merle Haggard, including "Okie from Muskogee."
Fred Feldman

I want to thank Fred for posting this dialogue to the 620 peace list. Let
Fred, respond to this note from you and not the one you sent earlier today,
which was very similar.

Don't bother forwarding to the Marxmail list - I just found out from someone
else that the main topic in the last 24 hours seems to have been Merle
Haggard (?!?) and not the Iraq war. I'm like the kid who wanted lots of mail
when he was very young and sent in 10 cents (then mucho dinero) to Popular
Mechanics to a want ad that said "Get lots of mail".

Now, decades later, I don't want lots of mail and would rather contemplate
Shostakovitch, (Morton) Feldman and Bessie Smith or watch an old film. So I
didn't subscribe to marxmail but wish it well.

On the history of peace demos (this is for historians) the WRL News will
a date for what I thought was the very first peace demo - I believe 1964
in New York City. I thought that the Socialist Workers Party had organized
earlier one - and had not heard of the one organized by PL. This paragraph
confirms that we are both old men with memories perhaps too long to make us
useful to younger organizers. You mention Fred Halstead, a man I knew well
and one of the very few members of the SWP for whom I had personal respect.
Yes, his book, while not definitive, was good and the first. (And odd how
late AJ Muste seemed to have had more impact on Fred than James Cannon -
tragic that Fred died comparatively young).

Not at all sure, Fred, what you mean by your mention of the Palestinian
struggle. It was a struggle dealt with frankly, painfully, and movingly at
the 9/10 vigil cum demonstration in Washington Square Park. It is enough on
my mind that some comrades in DSA and perhaps in my own Socialist Party feel
I am obsessed with it. I have a little email list of folks concerned with
Middle East which get posts from me weekly. I follow Gush Shalom with care.
War Resisters League gave the Peace Award this year to the Christian
Peacemakers Teams, which have done much work in Occupied Palestine (as well
in other very dangerous spots).

I'm really glad the demo at the UN worked out well. For various good reasons
I couldn't be there (one of them being that I work late and wake up late).
But my warm support for those who did get there, including yourself.

I said earlier and repeat that if Workers World and its various fronts were
willing to work seriously in a coalition that would be good news. But
remembering their split in the 1991 effort to mount a larger demo in DC, and
what I consider their race-baiting attacks on those who disagree with them,
am not going to hold my breath.

Let me repeat my respect for their sincerity - it just doesn't make them
right on the issues. And on Iraq, where we confront a real problem - Saddam
is not Fidel or Ho Chi Minh, but a real nasty - it is important for our
movement to be able to say that, that we are not apologists for Saddam and
his regime, but we are committed to the basic principle that a "regime
change" there is the business of the people who live there.  I'd love to see
a "regime change" here, for that matter - and it has long been my concern to
try to build a broad and democratic left - democratic and humane, not as
words but as genuine concerns - which could tackle the seat of so many
problems - this country.

I remain committed to a policy of non-exclusion - but also, just as clearly,
to a policy of frankness in political discussion, honesty and openness in
dealing with each other. Mainly, however, Fred, I count on the youth - you
and I are too old to pull much off. And groups such as Workers World (and
ANSWER) are "old left" in a tired way. If there is a future I don't believe
they have the road map to it. (And no, I don't have the road map either).

David McReynolds

<< Subj:     [107disc] Final response to McReynolds
 Date:  9/12/02 11:17:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time
 From:  ffeldman at (Fred  Feldman)
 Reply-to:  107disc at
 To:    107disc at
 CC:    pat at

 When I prepared my comments on David McReynolds'  letter to me for the
107disc list I made some changes which, though modest, were politically
substantive as well as literary  So I am sending it on to the 620peace list
as well.
 Fred Feldman
 My comments follow:

 As he suggested,  I have sent David McReynolds' response to the 620 peace
 list and the Marxmail list which also published my responses to him.

 The only substantive point which David McReynolds takes up is the
 historical point about the split among the pacifists in the early years of
 the antiwar movement, between
 Muste-Dellinger on one side and
  Rustin, Pickus, and others.

 I didn't say anything about
 McReynolds' role because I didn't know anything.  I was aware that he was
 on the right side in the fight against the Vietnam war.  And I look forward
 to marching with him in the fight against today's wars.

 He adds some details I didn't know about the dispute and adjusts my time
 frame a bit..  My information came
 from reading back issues  of Liberation magazine, an excellent pacifist
 journal that Dellinger frequently contributed to, and  Fred Halstead's Out
 Now!, an
 indispensable history by a prominent participant published by Pathfinder
 Press -- as well as my fallible memory.

 Nothing McReynolds says here requires any modification in the political
 points I was trying to make, including about the earlier dispute.

  The first national anti-Vietnam war
 demonstration  I participated in -- and the first that took place as far as
 I know -- was on May 2, 1964 in New York City..

 It was called by the May 2
 Movement,  a group clearly dominated, as I knew, by.  the Progressive Labor
 Party.  PL was
 a Maoist group with which I probably had close to zero political agreement.
 They were highly prone to sectarian maneuvering. I didn't let that stop me
 from getting into a fight that I supported.

 I was on the right track then in  fighting the imperialist war and I
 think I still am.

 The issue in dispute is not the fortunately departed Pol Pot regime, but
 to fight the wars that are going on and being prepared.

 Our response to the
 October 26 demonstration must begin and end with that.  From that
 the Palestinian struggle (which McReynolds does not mention)  has rather
 more to do with the present  difference of opinion than what Workers World
 said about  the Tiananmen demonstration in China.

 I just got back from the rally near the United Nations, where about
 400 people -- gathered just about entirely by internet messages and word of
 mouth  --  protested  Bush's marching orders to that body, demanding that
 they help him prepare the war because he's attacking Iraq one way or the

 At the rally,  singer-songwriter Patti Smith made a brief and powerful
 speech, comparing the modest beginnings of the anti-Vietnam war movement to
 what is
 happening today. She pointed out how a fight that began with demonstrations
 developed into protests of 350,000 and more

 In fact, I think we're in a much stronger position today than the fight at
 that time.
 Favorable changes  have occurred ranging from the consequences of the
 Vietnam victory, the overall weakening of the U.S. empire even though
 Washington is now the only superpower, the destruction of Jim Crow
 segregation, and deepgoing
 changes in the thinking and political outlook of tens of millions of

 Smith concluded her speech by calling for everyone to take the next big
 step -- marching on Washington October 26.  She's on the right track, too.
 Fred Feldman

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