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Bayard Rustin: Black Liberation and Socialism

Coleman Hughes and Jim Creegan

Platypus Review 131 | November 2020

On February 22, 2020, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a discussion on the legacy of Bayard Rustin between Coleman Hughes and Jim Creegan, both of whom have written recently on the topic. Erin Hagood of Platypus moderated the event, which was held at Columbia University. A fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Coleman Hughes is a contributing editor at City Journal whose writing has appeared in The Guardian and The New York Times. Jim Creegan, a self-described leftist at large, is an activist and former union steward who has organized on the Left for more than 50 years. What follows is an edited transcript of the event. 

Coleman Hughes: It is not every day that I’m invited to speak at an event hosted by Marxists. My politics have more than once been described as conservative, and I’ve sometimes thought of myself as a libertarian. But, upon reflection, I find that my appearance here is not so strange after all. For one thing, my mother was basically a Marxist. As a result, I could say the names Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, and Antonio Gramsci before I could spell my own. For another thing, many of my favorite thinkers — Thomas Sowell, Eldridge Cleaver, Eugene Genovese — began their careers as dyed-in-the-wool Marxists. I think this is no accident. Whether it’s a realistic doctrine or not, Marxism is certainly a universalist doctrine. It is thought to apply to all people. In an era when progressive politics has been subdivided into race interests, gender interests, sexual orientation interests, and so forth, it is no accident that those who reject the attempt to divide the human race into such trivial categories would form alliances, even if only temporarily. This brings me to the subject of my talk today, Bayard Rustin.

Rustin was an activist on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, a strategist for Martin Luther King Jr., and an essayist of the highest caliber. His politics, however, were difficult to characterize. On the one hand, he was a member of the Young Communist League in the 1930s and was fond of throwing the word lumpen-proletariat into his polemics. On the other hand, he quickly left the communists. He never described himself as a Marxist in his essays or letters explicitly, and he opposed communism throughout the Cold War. Today, we might call Rustin a democratic socialist, but even that term isn’t quite right. It’s not clear that he would be welcomed by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders. This is because he believed fundamentally in the unity of the human family. That may sound like a platitude, but carried to its logical conclusion, it is one of the most profound ideas ever devised at the intersection of ethics and politics. And Rustin did carry it to its logical conclusion.

In 1982, students at Harvard Law School boycotted a class on legal issues surrounding race because the class was to be taught by a white professor. Rustin came to that professor’s defense, writing, “The objection that Mr. Greenberg is white is nothing more than blatant racism” — i.e., the denial of a person’s right to pursue certain activities solely on account of his race. “Blacks, as victims of racial discrimination, should be the first to reject the view that race can disqualify one from any particular pursuit.”[1] In other words, the same principle that had led Rustin to organize the March on Washington two decades earlier — the same principle he had fought for, and gotten arrested for about two dozen times, during the Civil Rights Movement — led him to defend a white professor being attacked by college students. He was remarkably consistent.

When a feminist writer criticized Rustin’s brand of socialism for being too male, Rustin offered a defense that illustrated his opposition to identity politics in general. Here I quote in full.

“In the past few years, I have seen all too many blacks fall into the trap of calling any white person who disagrees with them a racist. I have always considered this practice unethical, as well as a sign of deep insecurity… [One] who is intellectually competent and confident in his or her position… can defend that position without having to stoop to name calling. It follows from this introduction of ad hominem attacks into political discourse that a white person cannot talk about problems affecting blacks and vice versa, Pittsburghers cannot talk about problems affecting New Yorkers and vice versa, and on and on ad infinitum. People who engage in such attacks may want a just society, but will build no more than a Tower of Babel.”[2]

I think that alone would probably disqualify him from the democratic socialists today!

Rustin’s rejection of identity politics may seem strange given his earlier role in the Civil Rights Movement, but his views never changed; the circumstances changed. When blacks could not vote, they had every reason to protest, but the moment they could, the protests ceased to be the wise strategy. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the problem shifted from being primarily political in nature to primarily economic in nature. Black people could now get into restaurants and movies and so forth, but what good was that if they had no money? As Rustin saw it, economic solutions required progressive legislation, such as full employment and public housing, and that meant voting in progressive Congressmen rather than protesting in the streets. That’s the argument of his essay “From Protest to Politics.”[3]

Just as Rustin’s politics emphasized class over race, it emphasized tangible results over spiritual transformations. On this basis, he, along with Dr. King, rejected the turn of anti-racist activism that began in 1966 with the call for Black Power. Black Power was not a political program like the Civil Rights Movement. It was instead a pose, a lifestyle, a mode of self-expression. Rather like painting your nails black and becoming emo. As Rustin put it, “One is supposed to think black, dress black, eat black and buy black without reference to the question of what such a program actually contributes to the cause of social justice.”[4] On our campus, intersectionality plays the same role. Rustin rejected this kind of spiritualization of politics. He closes out his essay, “The Failure of Black Separatism,” writing,

The strategy I have outlined must stand or fall by its capacity to achieve political and economic results. It is not intended to provide some new wave of intellectual excitement. It is not intended to suggest a new style of life or a means to personal salvation for disaffected members of the middle class. Nor is either of these the proper role of politics… [My strategy] is simply a vehicle by which the wealth of this nation can be redistributed and some of its more grievous social problems solved.[5]

There’s nothing wrong with self-expression. In most contexts it’s a beautiful thing. But politics is not the proper medium for it. In a democracy, politics is by definition a realm of compromise and debate — and your identity is precisely that which you cannot compromise on. What’s more, we’ve come to the point where one’s politics are thought to be logically entailed by one’s identity and vice versa.

More than once, a person after hearing me speak has asked me if I “identify as black” — the thinking being that my opinions don’t sound very black, whatever that means, and therefore it’s open to doubt whether I am black. Recently, the writer Masha Gessen called Pete Buttigieg “a straight politician in a gay man’s body,” as if he is attracted to men, but his politics are attracted to women.[6] Rustin was both black and gay, and in death it seems like that’s all the world wants to remember him for. Search Rustin’s name on YouTube, and you’ll find flashy videos made by and for millennials, which highlight the fact that he was gay. On the one hand, it’s a sign of moral progress that we live in a society that can make those videos at all. On the other hand, it’s a sign that we are utterly missing the point of his work. If Rustin were alive to see his legacy hijacked by those who do not understand it, he might say what he said in 1986, replying to a request to be part of a gay black anthology:

My activism did not spring from my being gay, or for that matter, from my being black. Rather it is rooted, fundamentally, in my Quaker upbringing and the values that were instilled in me by my grandparents who reared me. Those values are based on the concept of a single human family and the belief that all members of that family are equal. Adhering to those values has meant making a stand against injustice, to the best of my ability, whenever and wherever it occurs.[7]

Jim Creegan: I have a somewhat less laudatory view of Bayard Rustin, going back to my torturous political career in the 1960s, when I was a member of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and an activist against the war in Vietnam. I watched Coleman Hughes’s video via the New York Times’s webpage,[8] where he says that we shouldn’t cherry-pick our heroes. I agree. He also says that the hero he has chosen, Bayard Rustin, shouldn’t be appreciated because he was black or gay, but because of his political actions and ideas. I also agree with that.

What I have trouble with, however, are Rustin’s ideas and actions themselves. I wrote a long article on this for Portside a few years ago,[9] attempting to show that those ideas and actions, especially in his later career, basically do not entitle Rustin to the status that Coleman wishes to confer upon him. Now, the devotees of Rustin’s memory tend to emphasize the earlier part of his life, in which he did indeed do many heroic things. He was jailed for several years as a conscientious objector during World War II. In North Carolina, he sat in on a segregated bus, eight years before Rosa Parks did the same in Montgomery. And above all, he was the principal organizer of the March on Washington, not Martin Luther King, Jr., whom Rustin said could not bring vampires to a bloodbath. Rustin was the organizer. But in the following year, his life began to take another turn.

In 1964, at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, the all-white Mississippi delegation was challenged by a group called the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). There was testimony by Fannie Lou Hamer, who was a sharecropper from Mississippi, about the reign of terror in her state. It was an election year. Frantic to get Fannie Lou Hamer off the air, Lyndon B. Johnson proposed a compromise: two FDP delegates would be seated at the convention — token delegates, without votes — alongside the segregated white Mississippi delegation. The Freedom Democratic Party at the Democratic National Convention rejected this compromise, except one person: Bayard Rustin, whom one member then denounced as a traitor.

From this point, Rustin’s career takes a very different turn. He was under the wing of the Johnson–Humphrey wing of the Democratic Party, to which he remained loyal throughout his life. Now, Coleman says that he admires Rustin because he opposed black separatism and emphasized the importance of economics and the class struggle. These things may be positive in and of themselves, but we have to consider the political context of the Cold War. A bargain was offered to liberals and certain people on the American Left. Under the Johnson administration, support for certain reforms such as the Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty did not come free. These were offered in exchange for things like unstinting loyalty in the global defense of the regime of private property that the U.S. government led. This is the devil’s bargain that Rustin embraced with both arms. Unlike Martin Luther King, Jr., Rustin refused to condemn the Vietnam War, and he red-baited those who did. He wrote a letter to the New York Post, signed by several others, denouncing the first big demonstration in Washington against the war, which I attended at the time. Later, he joined other Cold War socialists in signing a petition supporting rigged elections in the Dominican Republic, after 42,000 U.S. troops had ousted the reformist president Juan Bosch.

Rustin was a member of an outfit called Social Democrats, USA, founded by Max Shachtman. Originally a follower of Leon Trotsky, Shachtman split in 1940 and, from then on, moved steadily to the Right, ending up on the side of U.S. imperialism. In the late 1960s, Rustin went along with Shachtman to support the pro-Cold War wing of the AFL-CIO, led by George Meany, which was for U.S. intervention in Vietnam. From that point, Rustin was on the trajectory that led to his being, by the end of his life, an outright neoconservative. He wound up writing mostly in the magazine Commentary. He was a fervent supporter of Israel. Arguing that racial and colonial oppression was secondary to the need to fight communism, Rustin urged the Carter administration to send greater aid to the South African-backed intervention against the guerrillas fighting Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique. As a founder of the Committee on the Present Danger, Rustin — the former principled pacifist — urged on the expansion of the nuclear arms race.

Was all this a matter of the evolution of his thinking? Did he simply come to regard communism as the greater evil compared to U.S. imperialism? I think more is involved in this.

For about 20 years, Rustin was the head of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, which was a division of the AFL-CIO. His paychecks came from George Meany. His sympathetic biographer, John D’Emilio, has said that Rustin realized that this position would no longer be his if he opposed the Vietnam War, or defied Meany in any way. There was a political framework defined by the most right-wing elements of the Democratic Party that Rustin had to stay within, and he did that consistently. Despite Rustin’s early life, which I think he should be given credit for, I would submit that Rustin should not be lionized as a hero of the black freedom struggle, or any other struggle for progress.

Bayard Rustin speaks in front of City Hall in New York on May 18, 1964, at a rally for school integration.

Q & A

What caused the changes in politics from the integrationism of the Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, to the black nationalism of the 1970s, and then what we have today, with identity politics?

CH: It is a complicated progression. In 1963 you have the nation uniting around the ethic of judging people just by the content of their characters, not the color of their skin. By 1966, you have Black Power, which captured the moral imagination of the youngest generation of black Americans. Today, I think Black Lives Matter is really a late-stage Black Power movement because its fundamental principle is to center your black identity as a kind of politics. How you got from one to the other is a complex story. There’s no single cause. Part of it might be that there is always a pull towards human tribalism. In general, the forces of universalism are at a disadvantage because humans are tribal creatures by nature. The person coming in with a message that draws a smaller boundary of defining our group has an inbuilt advantage. Perhaps the thing to explain is not why the Black Power movement gained steam, but why there were a few years when the predominant moral message was universalist. That’s the anomaly. Racial or ethnic groups demanding political dispensations is the most normal thing throughout history.

Could you elaborate how Bayard Rustin’s trajectory was influenced by the Shachtman split in Trotskyism? How is it that you go from the work Shachtman and Rustin were doing in the Socialist Party, to a realignment strategy within the Democrats, to just being part of the Democratic Party?

JC: Max Shachtman was a man of outstanding literary and oratorical talent. He first came to prominence in the U.S. Left as a follower of Leon Trotsky. But in 1940, there was a split in the Socialist Workers Party. Shachtman and Trotsky wound up on opposite sides because Shachtman, in the wake of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, rejected the party’s position on unconditional defense of the USSR. Shachtman didn’t move sharply to the right immediately after the split. But I think that in his split from the Socialist Workers Party, we can see the logic that ultimately led him to the right. If you believed that the Soviet Union represented an authoritarian form of class society under which workers had no liberties, then it is easy to take the next step and regard capitalism, under which some countries have unions and parliamentary democracy, as the lesser evil. In my view, Stalinism was totalitarian and workers didn’t have any rights, but there can be a complete overestimation of the historical significance of Stalinism (what Trotskyists have called “Stalinophobia”). That was the logic ultimately leading Max Shachtman to embrace the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Vietnam War, to being harder on foreign policy than the Democratic hardliners. He became a Scoop Jackson Democrat in favor of the welfare state at home and militarism abroad.

CH: I agree with much of what you said about Rustin, especially on Vietnam and the Cold War. It’s not that I have a different assessment of the facts than you, but I think I have more appreciation for what Rustin stood for domestically. I’m a big fan of W.E.B. Du Bois; the fact that he supported Stalin doesn’t prevent me from loving his commentary on race in America. Whether one lionizes someone is to some extent a question of personality differences. But in the same way that we might lionize Du Bois despite his enthusiasm for Stalin, I would say it is also possible to segment off the parts of Rustin that were truly perceptive — and unusually so — from the parts that were not.

JC: How you evaluate Rustin depends on the relative importance that you assign to the issues involved in his politics. To me, the decisive things are the anti-colonial struggle and the class struggle going on globally at the time. Rustin opposed black separatism and black nationalism. In itself, I think that is a good thing. But he did so from the point of view of liberal integrationism, which had as its major premise loyalty to one of the major parties of the existing social order, at a time when that party was involved in the butchery of Vietnam. By remaining loyal, he hoped to pass certain reform legislation. After the Vietnam War began to escalate, very few people in the Johnson administration talked about social programs. But that didn’t cause Rustin to defect. Someone else did defect: Martin Luther King, Jr opposed the war in Vietnam — not from a black nationalist or separatist perspective, but from a left-liberal, integrationist perspective. He was willing to denounce Johnson and the war. Before his assassination, he was building up the Poor People’s March on Washington, which I attended. The march was an attempt to say that the issue was not only one of black civil rights, but also a broader issue of class. King did this from outside the ambit of the Democratic Party and without supporting U.S. imperialism. Rustin didn’t.

There’s a claim that Rustin, by the end of his life, had capitulated to Democratic Party politics. But his early radicality was premised on a growing socialist movement that claimed responsibility for total human emancipation, including but not limited to the Black Question. Perhaps he felt his later choices were justified when all of that failed to materialize?

CH: That’s an interesting hypothesis. Again, it might be useful to separate his opinion on race and economic policy in the United States from his opinion on containment and the spread of global communism. If you look at what Bayard Rustin thought in 1940 about race and what economic policies we need to see in America, I’m not sure that was different, in principle, from what he thought in 1980. However, I think most of the things about his departure from being “radical” — your term — have come from the realm of foreign policy. Was there a change domestically? I don’t think so.

JC: Well, I just pointed to it, I think. Although he was an integrationist, Martin Luther King, Jr., did break with the Democratic Party over the Vietnam War, and also saw the necessity of organizing a class movement of poor people from the ground up. That was the meaning of the Poor People’s March that he had planned on Washington. You wouldn’t find Rustin there because he knew that would not meet with the approval of the powers that be. I think his perspective on foreign policy did have an effect on his orientation toward domestic politics, including black politics. Yes, certain black organizations such as SNCC (the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) were moving away from liberalism in the direction of black nationalism. But there was also a movement away from establishment liberalism that was not black nationalist, and Rustin declined to support it.

Was the Cold War just a global project of protecting private property? In part — but I don’t find that to be an adequate political understanding. The Cold War was never portrayed that way, as a political project. Was there nothing convincing, even at the time, about the political dimensions of the Cold War? I don’t believe that it’s just “foreign policy,” either. We can’t make a clean distinction between what’s domestic and what’s foreign. The issue of imperialism is also domestic in many ways, in terms of how we relate to the power of the state. So I would like to ask Jim, how has your view of imperialism changed? In the 1960s, there were some extremely improbable notions that one or another outcome in Vietnam made a difference in the world revolution. And I’m not sure that it did. It made a big difference to the people of Vietnam, certainly, but I’m not convinced that the victory of the Viet Cong was part of a strategy for world socialism. What kind of political issue is imperialism, looking back? I mean, nobody today believes that anything happening in Vietnam or in South America or in Africa matters. They don’t talk about foreign policy in global politics. If there’s a war in Africa, the Left doesn’t know anything about it, actually. We have a completely different view of these things now. So how does that change the way we look at how the imperialism question was posed and the different positions of Rustin, Shachtman, and the AFL-CIO, in the 1960s and 1970s?

JC: You speak of the political position, and of course the Cold War was waged as a global defense of freedom and democracy. I think that no one with the knowledge of what was actually going on could swallow that line. It was, as I said, a defense of the global regime of private property. The U.S. had no compunction about supporting brutal Right-wing dictatorships throughout the world.

Has my thinking about imperialism and Vietnam changed? Well, I didn’t exactly share all of the illusions of the New Left. I do think that Vietnam had a radicalizing influence throughout the world. It was a fillip to other national liberation movements. But was it decisive? The New Left went too far in trying to adopt guerilla strategies, thinking that imperialism would be brought down, as Che Guevara said, through the spread of two, three, many Vietnams. Vietnam was seen as the fulcrum of the world struggle against imperialism. I think that was wrong. Part of it was the timing: the defeat of the U.S. in Vietnam took place after the radical student and minority movements in the West had subsided, so it was kind of an anti-climax. Even then, I always thought that the infatuation with guerilla strategies was inappropriate for Western capitalist countries. As is the case with most revolutionary movements that thought that they were on the verge of the apocalypse, capitalism and imperialism proved much more resilient and powerful than we thought, or than people thought in 1918.

Can I actually follow up on the previous question? I certainly would argue that Vietnam changed America more than World War II did in the end. When I wrote my book The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History,[10] I am not sparing to Bayard Rustin about many of his associations, but there’s somewhat more nuance than Jim would allow. It would be a mistake to classify Rustin as a neoconservative. In a lot of ways, he was the earliest prophet of post-Cold War liberalism, with a very elitist, even bureaucratic approach to civil rights questions and even to identity politics. I certainly feel Coleman is correct about what was unchanged in Rustin’s views on race from 1949 to 1980. A lot of his attitudes about politics and his somewhat elitist theory of political change do owe something to his Quaker upbringing. Anyway, it certainly seems that Black Lives Matter and intellectuals today do not seem to have the same interest in the question of imperialism.

CH: Well, they have an official stance on Israel–Palestine. But Black Lives Matter only has a position on it because of domestic politics. For them, it’s a symbolic issue. It is not analyzed on its own terms but taken as an opportunity to graft the semblance of American racial politics onto the entire world — lazily.

What role does the Democratic Party, as it was reconstituted coming out of the 1970s, play in extending Black Power to the identity politics that we see today? How is it the case that the Democratic Party achieves a monopoly on deciding what's a viable black politics and who can speak on behalf of the black community?

CH: Republicans stopped courting black voters, stopped making any attempt to really win them over, as part of the Southern Strategy. Obviously, in the 1930s, almost all black people voted Republican. By the 1960s and certainly 1970s, that had switched for reasons that made sense from a self-interest perspective from black voters. In general, I don’t think it’s the fault of the Democratic Party necessarily, but the influence of ideas. The idea that your politics is given by your identity has become much more popular just in the past five years, but also broadly in the past several decades. The Democratic Party has responded to that. Sometimes it has given that too much weight because the two percent of Americans on Twitter who influence the tenor of the conversation are disproportionately those who align with identity politics, whereas the voting population is much more moderate on that issue. So, part of it has been a strategic mistake, I think, and part of it has been just a consequence of the popularity of particular ideas. A revolution of ideas has taken place. You can see that on our campus, I think.

Rustin critiques the Black Power turn as being conservative, but most of the Left at the time saw Rustin, in doing so, as being a cranky conservative. Both sides were calling the other conservative — so which one was more left-wing?

CH: It depends on what you’re talking about. Malcolm X was originally part of the Nation of Islam, led by Elijah Muhammad, which was socially conservative in virtually every way. It resembled a traditional evangelical Christian mindset towards male–female relationships, for example. Of course, Malcolm X broke with them, but there were other elements of the Black Power movement that didn’t have any of that social conservative baggage. It really depends which strain of the Black Power movement you’re talking about. There was a very conservative flavor and a not as conservative flavor.

JC: On that, I would say there was one very important way in which Malcolm X and the Black Power movement was less conservative than mainstream liberal integrationists, and even Martin Luther King, Jr., and that was on the question of black self-defense. That became something of a formal dividing line between black radicals and black liberals at the time. All his life, Martin Luther King, Jr., held a position of nonviolent resistance in principle, not simply as a tactic. Malcolm X and the Black Power movement rejected that. Most of them didn’t think that black people were going to make a revolution in the United States. But they did think that they had a right to defend themselves when attacked, which was common. That was a position I would characterize as being to the Left of the liberals.

Wouldn’t you say a lot of conservatives held that position?

JC: That black people have the right to defend themselves? — No.

Jim, I think you have almost treated it as a “thought crime” that Bayard Rustin opposed the anti-war movement. And I guess, from my point of view, I wonder what did the anti-war movement actually achieve for the Left? What did it actually achieve for the struggle for global socialism?

JC: Well, in the 1950s, this country was in the grip of Cold War anti-communism, and anybody with a Leftist point of view was being fired, ostracized. In 1965, when I first went to Penn State, because I was president of the socialist club, I had my room broken into. My belongings were destroyed, I had bricks thrown at my head, I was surrounded by hostile mobs. I would submit that, in a lot of the country, the Vietnam anti-war movement changed that. It broke the hold of anti-communism over the minds of large sections of the American people. And, believe me, it’s much easier to be a Leftist today. Now, as far as world politics are concerned, I continue to think that the Vietnamese people wrote the most heroic chapter in the latter half of the 20th century. Vietnam did not turn into a workers’ paradise, and U.S. imperialism was not brought down, but the world looks very different. Before the defeat in Vietnam, the U.S. felt at liberty to intervene just about anywhere outside of the Sino and Soviet blocs to topple some governments and to bribe others in order to make them toe the U.S. line. The influence of the United States and its ability to intervene are very much curtailed as the result of what the ruling class calls the “Vietnam syndrome.” The victory of the Vietnamese created that syndrome; I think that’s a positive result.

Transcribed by Brendan Finucane, Kevin G.D., and Gabby Gottfried

Edited for brevity and readability by Nathan Smith.


[1] Bayard Rustin, “A Misguided Protest by Blacks at Harvard,” The New York Times (August 1982).

[2] Rustin to the Editor of New America, October 6, 1970, in I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters, ed. Michael G. Long (San Francisco: City Lights, 2012), 381–383. Rustin was responding to the letters of Nancy van Vuuren and Midge Decker, which had been published in New America in September 1970.

[3] Rustin, “From Protest to Politics: The Future of the Civil Rights Movement,” Commentary (February 1965). Available online at <https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/bayard-rustin-2/from-protest-to-politics-the-future-of-the-civil-rights-movement/>.

[4] Ibid, “The Failure of Black Separatism,” Harper’s Magazine (January 1970), 26.

[5] Ibid, 34.

[6] Masha Gessen, “The Queer Opposition to Pete Buttigieg, Explained,” The New Yorker, (February 2020). Available online at <https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-queer-opposition-to-pete-buttigieg-explained>.

[7] Rustin to Joseph Beam, 21 April 1986, in I Must Resist. The full text of this letter is available online at <https://issuu.com/citylightsbooks/docs/rustin-to-joseph-beam>.

[8] Coleman Hughes, “The Gay, Black Civil Rights Hero Opposed to Affirmative Action,” multimedia, The New York Times, (February 2019), online edition. Available at<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/opinion/bayard-rustin-race-identity.html>.

[9] James Creegan, “The Rebel Who Came in From the Cold: The Tainted Career of Bayard Rustin,” Portside, (March 2016). Available at <https://portside.org/2016-03-17/rebel-who-came-cold-tainted-career-bayard-rustin>.

[10] Jack Ross, The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History (Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books, 2015).

One comment

  • Posted 18 days ago

    I read this in co juction with the article
    “The Cancel Wars: The Legacy of the Cultural Turn in the Age of Trump
    Pamela C. Nogales C.”

    I have been reading about Rustin for a few years. As a historical figure he fascinates me: an out gay black man who was core to the civil rights movement but who decided not to be in the limelight as he didn’t want the civil rights movement to be bought into dusrepute due to his sexuality and who was an extremely skilled strategist.

    I can see how as a quaker he would not want to support the repressive and dictatorial regiemes of China and the USSR which were the dominant communist countries of his time. So maybe his heyday was as a civil rghts era strategist who saw class as important but after the civil rights legal victories had no where to hang his coat up and roll out his formidable skills. Perhaps that is more to do with the forces being played out in the USA left than Rustin’s ideology, or perhaps those are of more interest to me and more in keeping with the crtiques Platypus provides? I think the, “Cancel Wars: The Legacy of the Cultural Turn in the Age of Trump” nicely illuminates that thought.

    After the civil rights movement victory either it could have been consolidated by community development and trade union stratagies which may not have been Rustin’s strenghths or the victories could have been built on to build a more broad based socialist movement but that was not, and still is not, around as the, “Cancel Wars: The Legacy of the Cultural Turn in the Age of Trump points out.

    by John Hoggett on November 7, 2020 5:41 am

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