The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Remembering Staughton Lynd

Dec 5, 2022

Staughton Lynd, activist, writer, and lawyer, recently died, aged 92. His many decades of activism included teaching, union organizing and writing. He served in the Korean War as a conscientious objector. The army discharged him dishonorably because he had been active in left organizations in college. He believed Yale University, which hired him to teach history, got rid of him for his beliefs.

Lynd at different times called himself a socialist and a pacifist. Whatever the labels, he wanted to make a difference. He and his wife Alice lived for a few months in a Quaker commune. He taught history at Spelman, a black college in the south. Southern civil rights organizers made him the coordinator for education during the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the summer of 1964, when three other white activists were murdered there.

Perhaps his lasting legacy was not the issues he protested but the testimonials he gathered from others active. He and his wife put together Rank and File, with the activists of the 1930s. In their own words, these militants spoke of experiences of fighting the bosses to change the world. These are experiences younger people would have little idea of. He and his wife also interviewed activists against the Vietnam war in their book called We Won’t Go. Again, knowing such history could help new generations become active.

In the 1930s and the 1960s, protesters and organizers not only risked beatings, jails and layoffs, they risked death. The KKK was particularly vicious to union organizers in the 1920s and 1930s.

In a 2010 interview, Lynd, asked why he was still active, replied, “At age 16 and 17, I wanted to find a way to change the world, just as I do at age 79.”

The world has need of many more who want to change it by acting on their beliefs. Such determined people are the key to changing this unjust and unequal world we live in.