A. J. Muste

Abraham Johannes Muste (January 8, 1885 – February 11, 1967) was a socialist active in the pacifist movement, the labor movement, and the US civil rights movement.


[edit] Biography

Muste was born in Zierikzee, the Netherlands, and became a naturalized United States citizen in 1896. He attended Hope College, where he was class valedictorian, captain of the basketball team, and a member of the college's Fraternal Society (Omicron Kappa Epsilon). He earned a Bachelor's degree (A. B.) in 1905 and a Master's degree (M. A.) in 1909 from the Theological Seminary of the Dutch Reformed Church (now the New Brunswick Theological Seminary). He earned a bachelor of divinity (B. D.) from Union Theological Seminary in 1913. He also attended New York University, and Columbia University.

Muste taught Latin and Greek at Northwestern Classical Academy (now Northwestern College) in Iowa from 1905 to 1906. He was ordained a minister of the Reformed Church in America in 1909. Muste served as minister of the Fort Washington Collegiate Church on Washington Heights from 1909 until 1914 when he left the Reformed Church because he no longer ascribed to the Westminster confession. He then became minister of Central Congregational Church, Newtonville MA on February 23, 1915. On Easter Sunday, March 31, 1918, he preached there on the futility of war shortly after one of the prominent sons of the church had been killed in World War I. The congregation called a congregational meeting following the service and terminated Rev. Muste. He and his family had to move out of the church parsonage that very afternoon. He was famously quoted in his saying that, "There is no way to peace–peace is the way."

Muste volunteered for the American Civil Liberties Union and was enrolled as a minister of the Religious Society of Friends in 1918. Active in labor affairs from 1919, he was general secretary of the Amalgamated Textile Workers of America from 1920 to 1921. He also taught at Brookwood Labor College from 1921 to 1933. From 1940 to 1953, he was the executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, during which time he became an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. He was the author of Non-violence in an Aggressive World (1940).

After leaving Brookwood Labor College, he founded a socialist movement which, through a fusion with the Trotskyist organisation, became the Workers' Party of the United States. Later he renounced Marxism and again became a Christian pacifist; throughout his life he remained an active participant in the activities of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He supported the presidential candidacies of Eugene V. Debs and Robert M. La Follette, Sr., and also had close friendships with John Dewey and Norman Thomas.

In 1956, he and David Dellinger founded Liberation, as a forum for the non-Marxist left, similar to Dissent.[1]

In 1957, Muste headed a delegation of pacifist and democratic observers to the 16th National Convention of the Communist Party. He was also on the national committee of the War Resisters League (WRL) and received their Peace Award in 1958. Always a creative activist, he led public opposition with Dorothy Day to civil defense activities in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s.

At the end of his life, Muste took a leadership role in the movement against the Vietnam War. Fellow peace activist Andrea Ayvazian tells of Muste standing outside the White House every night during the Viet Nam War, holding a candle, regardless of whether it was raining or not. One evening, a reporter approached him, and asked if he really thought that by standing outside the White House holding a candle night after night, he would change the policies of the country, to which Muste replied: "Oh, you've got it all wrong. I'm not doing this to change the country. I do it so the country won't change me."[2]

In 1966, Muste traveled with members of the Committee for Non-Violent Action to Saigon and Hanoi. He was arrested and deported from South Vietnam, but received a warm welcome in North Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh.

[edit] Quotes

  • "The problem after a war is the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence will pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?" (1941)
  • "There is no way to peace – peace is the way."
  • "There is a certain indolence in us, a wish not to be disturbed, which tempts us to think that when things are quiet, all is well. Subconsciously, we tend to give the preference to 'social peace,' though it be only apparent, because our lives and possessions seem then secure. Actually, human beings acquiesce too easily in evil conditions; they rebel far too little and too seldom. There is nothing noble about acquiescence in a cramped life or mere submission to superior force."[3]
  • ["Their foremost task" (Chomsky)] "... is to denounce the violence on which the present system is based, and all the evil–material and spiritual–this entails for the masses of menu throughout the world.... So long as we are not dealing honestly and adequately with this ninety percent of our problem, there is something ludicrous, and perhaps hypocritical, about our concern over the ten percent of violence employed by the rebels against oppression."[3]
  • "Those who can bring themselves to renounce wealth, position and power accruing from a social system based on violence and putting a premium on acquisitiveness, and to identify themselves in some real fashion with the struggle of the masses toward the light, may help in a measure -- more, doubtless, by life than by words -- to devise a more excellent way, a technique of social progress less crude, brutal, costly and slow than mankind has yet evolved."[3]
  • "In a world built on violence, one must be a revolutionary before one can be a pacifist."[3]

[edit] Further reading

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ James Tracy (1996). Direct action. University of Chicago Press. p. 85. ISBN 9780226811277. http://books.google.com/books?id=iMG34fB0g1IC&pg=PA85&lpg=PA85&dq=liberation+magazine&source=bl&ots=kdhiMdDLuT&sig=mtLsToqsYsQGaXhtQ46KQFVOQgU&hl=en&ei=EY8ZSr_PD-Swtgf58ryBDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5#PPA85,M1. 
  2. ^ http://www.uumh.org/html/sermon_afflict.htm
  3. ^ a b c d Quoted in American Power and the New Mandarins by Noam Chomsky, 2002, pg. 160. "Pacifism and Class War," in The Essays of A. J. Muste, ed. Nat Hentoff (Indianapolis, The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1967), pp. 179-85.

[edit] External links

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