David McReynolds

David McReynolds

David McReynolds at the 2009 Left Forum in New York City
Personal details
Born (1929-10-25) October 25, 1929
Los Angeles, California
Political party Independent
Other political
Socialist Party (1951-2015)
Prohibition Party (before 1951)[1]
Green (affiliated non-member)
Residence Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York
Alma mater University of California Los Angeles
Occupation Activist, politician, writer

David McReynolds (born October 25, 1929) is an American democratic socialist and pacifist activist who described himself as "a peace movement bureaucrat" during his 40-year career with Liberation magazine and the War Resisters League.[2][3] He lives in New York City.[4]


Early life

McReynolds was born in Los Angeles to Charles and Elizabeth McReynolds. In 1951 he joined the Socialist Party of America (SPA) and in 1953 he graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science. Between 1957 and 1960, McReynolds worked for the editorial board of the left-wing magazine Liberation. McReynolds is openly gay and wrote his first article about living as a gay man in 1969.[5]

Career with War Resisters League

He was staunchly anti-war and a draft resister, and in 1960 joined the staff of the War Resisters League (WRL), where he remained until his retirement in 1999. In 1965 he lectured on 'The Old Left and the New Left' at the newly founded Free University of New York.[6]

On November 6, 1965, he was one of five men who publicly burned their draft cards at an anti-war demonstration at Union Square in New York. This was one of the first public draft-card burnings after U.S. law was changed on August 30, 1965 to make such actions a felony, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment. He was close friends with Bayard Rustin[7] and other prominent peace activists, as well as literary figures such as Quentin Crisp.[8] In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[9]

McReynolds was particularly active internationally, both in War Resisters' International of which he was chairperson for the term 1986–88, and in the International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace which eventually merged into the International Peace Bureau.

Leader with Socialist Party USA

The SPA was renamed the Social Democrats USA by a majority vote at the 1972 convention. Michael Harrington resigned and then formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (now the Democratic Socialists of America, DSA) with the purpose of "realignment" strengthening the role of labor unions and other progressive organizations in the Democratic Party to pull it to the left. The smallest and the most left wing of the SPA, known as the Debs Caucus, including McReynolds, formed the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA). McReynolds has long been a member of both DSA and SPUSA.

McReynolds' primary theoretical contribution to socialism comes from his blending of a pacifist world-view with a commitment to re-distributive socialist economics. Politically, McReynolds has been a staunch anti-authoritarian and has collaborated with a diverse set of political formations on the democratic left. His widely read pamphlet, The Philosophy of Nonviolence, provides a unique window into the mind of a lifelong activist wrestling with the contradictions and pitfalls which plagued the political left in the 20th century. He concludes that "...there is no living, vital philosophy which does not have 'holes' in it." Consequently, he maps out a pluralistic approach which is, on the one hand, socialist, yet is entirely engaged with thought systems as seemingly contradictory as Hindu philosophy. McReynolds concludes that a brand of pacifist-socialism is best suited for future socialist experiments since it offers the greatest opportunity to prefigure the kinds of democratic relations necessary to create a functional and free society.

In his political career, McReynolds ran for Congress from Lower Manhattan twice and for President twice. In 1958 he ran as a write-in SPA candidate and then in 1968 as a Peace and Freedom Party candidate for Congress in the 19th district pulling in 4.7% of the vote (3,969 votes).[10] In 1980, he ran for President of the United States as the SPUSA candidate, with Diane Drufenbrock as vice presidential candidate, receiving 6,994 votes (0.01%)[11][12] Upon the request of fellow Socialists, McReynolds ran again for President as the SPUSA candidate in 2000, with Mary Cal Hollis as his running mate, receiving 5,602 votes. In both 1980 and 2000, McReynolds received the endorsement and ballot line of the Liberty Union Party in Vermont.[13]

After the 2000 election, the Palm Beach Post speculated that 2,908 voters, "mostly in elderly Jewish districts," had mistakenly voted for both Al Gore, running for President on the Democratic ticket, and for McReynolds on a "confusing butterfly ballot," thereby resulting in voided votes, helping to cost Gore the state's crucial electoral votes.[14][15]

In January 2015, the Socialist Party USA's National Committee voted to censure McReynolds over alleged racist comments made on social media regarding the Charlie Hebdo shooting and Shooting of Michael Brown.[16] McReynolds resigned from the SPUSA shortly thereafter.[17]

2004 Senate Campaign

On July 10, 2004, McReynolds announced his candidacy running on the Green Party ticket for one of the New York seats in the Senate, running an anti-war campaign against Democratic incumbent Chuck Schumer, where he pulled in 36,942 votes for 0.5% of total.[3][18]

Personal life

McReynolds has described himself as "a religious atheist" with views "too complicated to try explaining", thinking that every "person must find their own path". For over forty years, he has lived in a lower-income area of Manhattan, in the 'Lower East Side", and he's supported his neighbors as a part of the local Board of the Mutual Housing Association.[19]


  1. Mulkerin, Joseph. "A socialist presidential candidate — no, not that one — looks back". The Villager, 27 August, 2015. Retrieved 28 August, 2015.
  2. David McReynolds, "Thinking About Retirement", Nonviolent Activist, March–April 1999, p. 7.
  3. 1 2 Martin Duberman, A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds, New York: The New Press (2011):221
  4. "Our Campaigns" website
  5. Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism. Edited By David De Leon Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994 ISBN 0-313-27414-2 pp.215–219
  6. Berke, Joseph (October 29, 1965), "The Free University of New York", Peace News: 6–7 as reproduced in Jakobsen, Jakob (2012), Anti-University of Londin–Antihistory Tabloid, London: MayDay Rooms, pp. 6–7
  7. John D'Emilio. READING THE SILENCES IN A GAY LIFE The Case of Bayard Rustin pp. 59–68 in The Seductions of Biography. Edited: Mary Rhiel, David Suchoff, David Bruce Suchoff. Routledge, 1996 ISBN 0-415-91089-7
    "Rustin's only defender was Dave McReynolds, a younger gay staffer at the War Resisters League, whom Rustin had mentored over the years"
  8. Dave McReynolds. NOTES ON KNOWING QUENTIN. and QUENTIN CRISP: THE RADICAL, Quentin Crisp Archives (2005)
  9. "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post
  10. "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 5, 1968" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  11. "1980 Presidential General Election Results". Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  12. Kari Lydersen. David vs. Goliath. In These Times. Vol. 24, No. 10 (2000).
    On his 1980 presidential run: "He was among the first openly gay political candidates for any office, having come out in WIN magazine in 1969, and though he doesn't see himself as a "gay and lesbian candidate," he has continued to work for gay rights."
  13. "Vermont November 2000 General Election". Thegreenpapers.com. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  14. "Joel Engelhardt and Scott McCabe, "Over-votes cost Gore the election in Florida," ''Palm Beach Post,'' undated website". Palmbeachpost.com. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  15. "Kevin Phillips, "The GOP's control of Congress and the White House can last only so long," ''Los Angeles Times,'' April 15, 2001, page M-1". Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  16. Reinholz, Mary (May 1, 2015). "Rift Among Socialists Over Former Presidential Hopeful's 'Potentially Racist' Comments About Michael Brown". Bedford + Bowery. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
  17. Mulkerin, Joseph. "A socialist presidential candidate — no, not that one — looks back". The Villager, 27 August, 2015. Retrieved 28 August, 2015.
  18. "C:\Documents and Settings\hhardwick\Desktop\WEBSITE\EOU\2006 STATEWIDE JD GOV BY AD.qpw" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  19. http://vote-ny.org/intro.aspx?state=ny&id=nymcreynoldsdavide


Further reading

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank Zeidler
Socialist Party Presidential candidate
1980 (lost)
Succeeded by
Willa Kenoyer
Preceded by
Mary Cal Hollis
Socialist Party Presidential candidate
2000 (lost)
Succeeded by
Walt Brown
Preceded by
Mark Dunau
Green Party Candidate for United States Senator from New York
2004 (lost)
Succeeded by
Howie Hawkins
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