David McReynolds comments on Bayard Rustin

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 22 16:01:14 MST 2003


Lou,

Quick comments - sorry I missed the Til showing - I was loaded with work
and only left time to watch the Rustin program (which I had seen before at
a group showing but wanted to watch alone). It was a wrenching experience.
The raw and wonderful courage of those men, black and also white, going
into nonviolent battle.

Some random comments beyond your question. No, I don't know if Bayard knew
of the Mattachine Society at all. I did, I attended one meeting in Los
Angeles, I was a very young guy, felt they were "old queens" and not a
group I had much in common with. At that time Mattachine was conservative.
"One" magazine, a more radical queer journal, was much more my cup of tea,
though I had nothing to do with it beyond picking it up at the Hollywood
news stand, or wherever. When it was briefly banned by the post office and
then the ban lifted, "One" had a banner headline on the cover of this
little mag, about 5 x 7 inches, which said "ONE IS NOT GRATEFUL". And went
on to say that civil liberties was not a "favor" but a right. Great tough
editorial.

On the program. Bayard was NOT nearly as "openly gay" as the film suggests.
NO ONE WAS in those days. I wasn't until 1969. (And when Bayard read that
issue of WIN magazine, which had pieces by Paul Goodman, myself, Allen
Ginsberg, he called Ralph DiGia, of the WRL staff, late at night and
probably a bit tipsy and said "you folks have to fire David, he is going to
destroy the organization". I never felt anger toward Bayard about that, as
a radical I understood it, as I understood Muste's concerns. That arrest in
Pasadena in 1953 was not, I am fairly certain, the first arrest, and Muste,
I am fairly sure, had gone to bat for Bayard before but felt this was too much.

Yes, Muste was a Christian as well as a revolutionist, and old fashioned on
sex (Christ, when it comes to "old fashioned on sex", the Marxists are by
far the worst - the Shachtmanites expelled a friend of mine from their
youth group in the early 1950's and I think this was a general policy of
the CP, SWP, etc.) but he also worried about the organization. Remember,
friends and comrades from these modern times, that in 1953 being queer was
about as "safe" as being a sexual abuser of baby girls.

And Bayard was at times risking too much - in the Pasadena case who with
any sense is going to sit in the back seat of a car with two young men and
have sex? Bayard claimed it was a set up but I don't think so - the men
also got a jail term.

No time here to discuss Bayard's shift to the right, though while I never
have forgiven (or understood) Max Shachtman's betrayal of his own past, in
Bayard's case I could never feel bitter. I knew him far too well, he had
paid his dues so many times, that if anyone was entitled to "skip out on
the revolution" it was him.

There is lots to discuss there, but I can't right now.

Fraternally, David


Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org


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