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By Jerald Podair

Bayard Rustin used to be a distinct 20th-century American radical voice. A gay, global conflict II draft resister, and ex-communist, Rustin made huge, immense contributions to the civil rights, socialist, hard work, peace, and homosexual rights pursuits within the usa, regardless of being seen as an intruder via fellow activists. writer Jerold Podair additionally contains excerpts from Rustin's writings, speeches, letters, and statements, permitting the reader to achieve firsthand interplay with probably the most very important civil rights leaders?and essentially the most very important radical leaders?in 20th-century American heritage.

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Rustin, however, stayed in the CPUSA. Its new antiwar position dovetailed perfectly with his pacifism. Between 1939 and 1941, in fact, the party provided a vehicle for all three of his causes—peace, civil rights, and Marxism. But in the wake of Hitler’s June 1941 attack on the Soviet Union, the CPUSA executed a 180-degree turn and embraced all-out interventionism. As always, the survival of the USSR was the party’s top priority. Accordingly, it instructed its members to desist from all activities that would interfere with America’s entry into and prosecution of the war.

The War Resisters League (WRL) had been founded after World War I as an international pacifist organization. It shared FOR’s goals, but not its Christian orientation. The WRL was resolutely secular, appealing to political radicals of all persuasions who embraced nonviolence. Thus Rustin’s “morals” conviction was less important to the WRL than to FOR. Rustin had worked with WRL-affiliated activists in the past, including some who had participated in the Journey of Reconciliation. Perhaps best of all for Rustin, the organization needed him.

Roosevelt (1882–1945), provided government-sponsored work to the unemployed during the Great Depression. It provided Rustin with an example of the national state as employer of last resort and economic safety net. Wherever he looked during his early years in New York, Rustin could see the results of the government’s largesse. It helped people in trouble. The 1930s and 1940s marked the height of federal, state, and local governments’ involvement in the lives of New York City’s citizens. Activist Mayor Fiorello La Guardia (1882–1947) had established municipal government as a benign, protective force in daily life.

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