Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 17, 2020

Thoughts on Bayard Rustin nostalgia

Filed under: african-american,class-reductionism,Counterpunch — louisproyect @ 2:28 pm

Bayard Rustin

COUNTERPUNCH, JULY 17, 2020

A Dustin Guastella article on Nonsite dated July 9th generated controversy because it opposed defunding the cops. Like Bernie Sanders, another opponent of defunding, Guastella proposed reforms that would satisfy everybody since they would lead to less crime. If there were massive increases in federal social spending, there would be more jobs and hence less desperation leading to crime. Such “class-based” measures might have made it possible for George Floyd to avoid being killed as Cedric Johnson argued in Jacobin: “His alleged use of counterfeit money reflects the criminally inadequate provision of income support.”

What caught my eye in Guastella’s article was his reference to Bayard Rustin, who warned about activists’ “psychic inability to fend off leftwing slogans which result in right-wing policy.” One of those slogans is defunding the cops. Since polls indicate that defunding is unpopular with Blacks and whites alike, we are cutting off support. Of course, black lives matter wasn’t very popular a few years ago as well. For Guastella, the need is to rebuild the alliance between the Black movement and labor of the early to mid-1960s when Rustin was a key organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. This march concluded in a rally where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. Just as importantly, Rustin helped pull together the conference that met in the fall to adopt a Freedom Budget. In many ways, the Freedom Budget was the Green New Deal of its day. Just as the Green New Deal would abolish climate change, so would the Freedom Budget abolish poverty—both Black and white. To move forward with such ambitious projects, it was necessary to elect politicians who understood their needs.

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3 Comments »

  1. Wanna forward this out to Dope X and a few other LA listserves including the MLK Coalition. Will do so anyway with the latters if you haven’t already done the first.

    JAI

    On Fri, Jul 17, 2020 at 7:30 AM Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist wrote:

    > louisproyect posted: ” Bayard Rustin COUNTERPUNCH, JULY 17, 2020 A Dustin > Guastella article on Nonsite dated July 9th generated controversy because > it opposed defunding the cops. Like Bernie Sanders, another opponent of > defunding, Guastella proposed reforms that would sat” >

    Comment by John A Imani — July 17, 2020 @ 3:23 pm

  2. In our book, Paul Le Blanc deserves all the credit for his detailed and well-documented historical analysis. My contribution was in the economic analysis, some of the political analysis as to why the Budget failed, and the development of a New Freedom Budget. I was struck by the list of endorsers to the original Budget. IW Abel is #1, president of the Steelworkers Union, whose own collective bargaining agreement was a perfect example of institutional racism. Also, in the original Budget there is no notion whatever of the nature of the capitalist state, something the social democrats of the day must have known something about. And, of greatest importance, no grasp of the importance of the War in Vietnam. MLK moved to the left, but the social democrats did the opposite. Having these people as role models today is so retrogressive it is difficult to comprehend. Nothing radical will come of it.

    Comment by Michael D Yates — July 17, 2020 @ 10:47 pm

  3. Having these people as role models today is so retrogressive it is difficult to comprehend. Nothing radical will come of it.

    Bayard Rustin seen for who and what he was historically is one thing. But Guastella is a very different story. He and his kind represent IMO the defeatism of neoliberalism without being actual neoliberals. Such politics, replete with nostalgia, look back at the hard-fought and ultimately compromised past through a soft-focus lens smeared, no matter how much they talk about political revolution, with the Vaseline of unattainability.

    The compromises forced on the likes of King, Lewis, and Rustin become conditions of a basic social order to which, from the outset, we must accept as a condition of Personal Maturity that there can be no alternative.

    If you really admire eg Bayard Rustin, IMO, you should at the very least begin where he began and not where he ended up.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — July 18, 2020 @ 6:10 pm


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