David McReynolds

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David McReynolds
McReynolds at the 2009 Left Forum in New York City
Personal details
David Ernest McReynolds[1]

(1929-10-25)October 25, 1929
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedAugust 17, 2018(2018-08-17) (aged 88)
New York, New York, U.S.
Political partyIndependent (2015–2018)
Other political
Socialist Party (1951–2015)
Prohibition Party (before 1951)[2]
Green (affiliated non-member)
Alma materUniversity of California Los Angeles
OccupationActivist, politician, writer

David Ernest McReynolds (October 25, 1929 – August 17, 2018) was an American politician and social activist who was a prominent democratic socialist and pacifist activist. He described himself as "a peace movement bureaucrat" during his 40-year career with the War Resisters League.[3][4] He was a resident of New York City.[5] McReynolds was twice a candidate for President of the United States, running atop the ticket of the Socialist Party USA in 1980 and 2000. He was America's first openly gay presidential candidate.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

David Ernest McReynolds was born in Los Angeles to Elizabeth Grace (Tallon), a nurse, and Lt. Col. Charles McReynolds, an Air Force intelligence officer.[7] Between 1957 and 1960, he worked for the editorial board of the left-wing magazine Liberation. He was openly gay and wrote his first article[8][9] about living as a gay man in 1969.[10]

McReynolds became a member of the Prohibition Party in 1946 or 1947 due to his upbringing as a fundamentalist Baptist, but left the party around the same time that it expelled its entire youth section for being communist. During his time in the Prohibitionist Party he became more left-wing and he later joined the Socialist Party of America in 1951. He became a pacifist in 1949, and attended a pacifist youth conference in Europe in the same year during which he realized that he was homosexual and became an atheist. He attended UCLA and graduated in 1953, and during his education he was arrested for refusing to serve in the Korean War, but the charges were dismissed. He was elected to the National Committee of the Socialist Party in 1954.[11]

War Resisters League[edit]

McReynolds 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.[12]

He edited the League's bi-monthly, Liberation. In November 1965, he persuaded Casey Hayden to let him publish under the title "Sex and Caste" a paper she had been circulating among women questioning their role and position within Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.[13][14] The publication of the article has since been regarded as a key bridge connecting civil rights to women's liberation.[15]

That same month, November 1965, McReynolds 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[16] and other prominent peace activists, as well as literary figures such as Quentin Crisp.[17]

In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War,[18] and later became a sponsor of the War Tax Resistance project, which practiced and advocated tax resistance as a form of anti-war protest.[19]

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.

Socialist Party USA[edit]

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 faction of the SPA, known as the Debs Caucus, including McReynolds, formed the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA). McReynolds was long a member of both DSA and SPUSA.

McReynolds' primary theoretical contribution to socialism came from his blending of a pacifist world-view with a commitment to re-distributive socialist economics. Politically, he was a staunch anti-authoritarian and 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 mapped out a pluralistic approach which is, on the one hand, socialist, yet is entirely engaged with thought systems as seemingly contradictory as Hindu philosophy. He concluded 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.[clarification needed]

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).[20]

The Socialist Party attempted to unite behind Barry Commoner as a presidential candidate with the Citizens Party during the 1980 presidential election, but was unsuccessful. The party gave its presidential nomination to McReynolds and vice-presidential nomination to Diane Drufenbrock, the party's treasurer, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They were on the ballots in ten states and raised around $25,000 during the campaign. The purpose of his campaign was to increase the party's membership. He received more votes than Frank Zeidler, the party's presidential nominee in the 1976 presidential election, in every state except for Wisconsin which McReynolds stated was due to Zeidler's name recognition in the state.[11]

Palm Beach County's "butterfly ballot"

He was given the party's presidential nomination again during the 2000 election. After the 2000 election, the Palm Beach Post speculated that the vast majority of the 2,908 voters who had voided their votes by punching the names of both McReynolds and Democratic candidate Al Gore on a "confusing butterfly ballot" (and also of the over 3,000 more who punched both Gore and Buchanan) had meant to vote for Gore and that mistaken voting on the Palm Beach County butterfly ballot had consequently cost Gore the state's crucial electoral votes, and therefore the election as a whole.[21]

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.[22] He resigned from the SPUSA shortly thereafter.[2]

2004 Senate campaign[edit]

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.[4][23]

Later life[edit]

McReynolds was active politically until just before his death, attending meetings, speaking in classrooms, being interviewed for films and research, and participating in peace, justice, antiwar, and antinuclear actions. His last arrest was at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in 2015 at an action calling for immediate nuclear disarmament.

He was an avid photographer throughout his adult life and spent time during the last three years of his life sorting his collection of more than 50,000 photos.

In 2015, McReynolds endorsed U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States, praising him as a "serious candidate" and for not personally attacking his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.[24]

McReynolds died on August 17, 2018, aged 88, following a fall he sustained at his New York City home.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James T. Havel. The Elections, 1789-1992, Macmillan Library Reference USA, (1996)
  2. ^ a b Mulkerin, Joseph. "A socialist presidential candidate — no, not that one — looks back". The Villager, August 27, 2015. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  3. ^ David McReynolds, "Thinking About Retirement", Nonviolent Activist, March–April 1999, p. 7.
  4. ^ a b Martin Duberman, A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds, New York: The New Press (2011): 221 
  5. ^ "Our Campaigns - Candidate - David McReynolds". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  6. ^ "David McReynolds, pacifist and socialist leader, is dead at 88 - The Villager | The Villager". www.thevillager.com. Archived from the original on May 30, 2019.
  7. ^ "Candidate - David McReynolds". Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  8. ^ McReynolds, David (November 15, 1969). "Notes for a more coherent article". WIN Magazine.
  9. ^ McReynolds, David (1970). We have been invaded by the 21st century. New York: Praeger Publishers.
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ a b Smallwood, Frank (1983). The Other Candidates: Third Parties in Presidential Elections. University Press of New England.
  12. ^ Berke, Joseph (October 29, 1965), "The Free University of New York", Peace News: 6–7 as reproduced in Jakobsen, Jakob (2012), Anti-University of London–Antihistory Tabloid, London: MayDay Rooms, pp. 6–7, archived from the original on October 12, 2012
  13. ^ Document 86A: Casey Hayden (aka Sandra Cason) and Mary King, "Sex and Caste", November 18, 1965, Liberation Magazine, April 1966, Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, pp. 35–36. https://womhist.alexanderstreet.com/SNCC/doc86A.htm
  14. ^ Casey Hayden (2015), "Only Love Is Radical". Inspiring Participatory Democracy: Student Movements from Port Huron to Today, ed. Tom Hayden. New York: Routledge, 2015, 65.
  15. ^ Polletta, Francesca. Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. p. 155.
  16. ^ John D'Emilio. "READING THE SILENCES IN A GAY LIFE The Case of Bayard Rustin", pp. 59–68 in The Seductions of Biography. Edited by 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."
  17. ^ Dave McReynolds. "NOTES ON KNOWING QUENTIN". and "QUENTIN CRISP: THE RADICAL", Quentin Crisp Archives (2005).
  18. ^ "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest", January 30, 1968, New York Post.
  19. ^ "A Call to War Tax Resistance", The Cycle, 14 May 1970, p. 7.
  20. ^ "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 5, 1968" (PDF). Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  21. ^ "Joel Engelhardt and Scott McCabe, "Over-votes cost Gore the election in Florida," Palm Beach Post, undated website". Palmbeachpost.com. Archived from the original on June 16, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ "NYS Board of Elections US Senate Election Returns Nov. 7, 2006" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 22, 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  24. ^ "Why I support Bernie Sanders". Peoples World. July 7, 2015.
  25. ^ "David McReynolds, longtime peace activist and agitator, dead at 88". New York Daily News. August 17, 2018.


Further reading[edit]

  • Paul Buhle, "David McReynolds:Socialist Peacemaker". Nonviolent Activist, March–April 1999.
  • Scott H. Bennett, "Conscience, Comrades, and the Cold War: The Korean War Draft Resistance Cases of Socialist Pacifists David McReynolds and Vern Davidson", Peace and Change, vol. 38, no. 1 (January 2013), pp. 83–120.
  • Scott H. Bennett, Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915–1963. Syracuse University Press, 2003.
  • Dan Vera, "Being Peaceful: An Interview with David McReynolds." White Crane, No. 57 (Summer 2003), pp. 4–10.
  • Keith Stern, Queers in History. Dallas, Texas: BenBella Books, 2009.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Socialist Party Presidential candidate
1980 (lost)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Socialist Party Presidential candidate
2000 (lost)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Green Party Candidate for United States Senator from New York
2004 (lost)
Succeeded by