Baltimore, Md., The Christian Social Justice Fund, 1936. Item #42508
1st edition. Original printed paper wrappers, 8vo, 59 pages. 21 cm. Abraham Johannes Muste (1885-1967) was a "Dutch-born American clergyman and political activist. He is best remembered for his work in the labor movement, pacifist movement, antiwar movement, and civil rights movement.
Muste was born on January 8, 1885, in the small port city of Zierikzee, Zeeland, in the southwestern Netherlands,” making “the trans-Atlantic trip as third-class passengers in January 1891” with his parents to the US.
“The family attended services at the Grand Rapids Dutch Reformed Church, a Calvinist congregation in which religious services were conducted in Dutch…. Dancing was prohibited as sin by the church. Also, the singing of secular music and the viewing of dramatic performances were forbidden….
In the fall of 1906, Muste went east to New Brunswick, New Jersey, to attend the Theological Seminary of the Dutch Reformed Church (now the New Brunswick Theological Seminary). While there, Muste took courses in philosophy at New York University and Columbia University, attended lectures by William James, and met John Dewey, who became a personal friend….
Muste then was appointed pastor of the Fort Washington Collegiate Church in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. In his spare time, he used his new parish's proximity to the theologically-liberal Union Theological Seminary to take additional courses there….
Muste was influenced by the prevalent theology of the social gospel and began reading the ideas of various radical thinkers of the day. He voted for Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs for U.S. president in 1912. Muste would later state that he never again voted for a Republican or Democrat for a major national or state office….
A committed pacifist, Muste joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation shortly after its foundation in 1916. He participated in a peace demonstration late in the summer of 1916, with US entry into the First World War looming and some parishioners withdrawing from his congregation. Pressure began to build further over Muste's pacifist views in April 1917, when the United States formally declared war on the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. After taking two months of vacation leave in the summer of 1917, he decided that the time had come to leave. In December 1917, he formally resigned his pastorate position.
After his resignation, Muste did volunteer work for Boston chapter of the new Civil Liberties Bureau, a legal-aid organization that defended both political and pacifist war resisters….
Muste became involved in trade union activity in 1919, when he took an active part as a leader of a 16-week-long textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Workers in the mills worked an average of 54 hours a week, at an average rate of just over 20 cents per hour, and were threatened with a loss of income by an uncompensated cut of working hours. A demand grew among the millworkers for 54 hours of pay for the new working week of 48 hours.
However, as most workers were new immigrants who spoke English poorly or not at all, they were without effective leadership to express their demands. When dissident workers walked off the job in February 1919 only to be met by police truncheons on the picket line, Muste and two friends, also ministers, became involved. He spoke to assembled workers, assured them that he would lend whatever help he could in raising money for the relief of strikers and their families, and was soon invited to become executive secretary of the ad hoc strike committee that had been established by the still unorganized workers.
He became the spokesman for some 30,000 striking workers from more than 20 countries.Himself pulled from the picket line as a strike leader, isolated, and clubbed by police, he was eventually deposited into a wagon and hauled to jail when he could no longer stand. After a week behind bars, the case against Muste for allegedly disturbing the peace was dismissed. More than 100 strikers were jailed but the strike continued.
While the police anticipated more violence and even placed machine guns at critical points along Lawrence's principal streets, Muste and the strike committee chose nonviolence. He advised the striking textile workers to ‘smile as we pass the machine guns and the police.’ Despite the efforts of agents provocateurs, the strike remained peaceful.
The strike was eventually settled after 16 weeks, after both sides neared exhaustion and became willing to compromise. The ultimate agreement called for a shortened working week, a 12% hike in hourly and piecework wages, and the recognition of shop grievance committees in all departments.
While the Lawrence textile strike was going on, Muste traveled to New York City to attend a convention of trade union activists in the textile industry.The gathering resulted in the formation of the Amalgamated Textile Workers of America (ATWU). Based upon his prominence as the head of the Lawrence textile strike and shutdown, he was elected secretary of the new union.
Muste would serve as head of the fledgling union for two years until he stepped down from his post in 1921.
Upon leaving the ATWU, Muste became the first chairman of the faculty at Brookwood Labor College in Katonah, New York, where he remained from 1921 to 1933. He cemented his reputation as a recognized leader of the American labor movement.
In 1929, Muste attempted to organize radical unionists opposed to the passive policies of American Federation of Labor President William Green under the banner of the new Conference for Progressive Labor Action (CPLA).
Muste also was a member of the League for Independent Political Action (LIPA), a group of liberals and socialists that was headed by philosopher John Dewey and sought the establishment of a new labor-based third party.…
In 1933, Muste's CPLA took the step of establishing itself as the core of a new political organization, the American Workers Party, which was informally referred to as ‘Musteite’ by its contemporaries.
The AWP then merged with the Trotskyist Communist League of America in 1934 to establish the Workers Party of the United States. Muste meanwhile remained a labor activist and led the victorious Toledo Auto-Lite strike in 1934….
From 1940 to 1953, he was the executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an influential Protestant pacifist organization, where he did antiwar work, advocated nonviolence within the Protestant ecumenical movement, and helped mentor a number of the future leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, including Bayard Rustin. Rustin, a close advisor of Martin Luther King Jr., later claimed that he never made a difficult decision without talking about it first with Muste.
Muste supported the presidential candidacies of Debs and Robert M. La Follette Sr. and also had close friendships with Dewey and socialist leader Norman Thomas. Muste's support for civil liberties led him to oppose McCarthyism during the Cold War. That led to accusations of communism, although his writings after 1936 are deeply critical of communism….In 1956, he and David Dellinger founded Liberation as a forum for the pacifist and antiwar left.
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 its 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. According to legend, he stood outside the White House every night during the Vietnam War, holding a candle whether or not it was raining. In fact, he worked many days and nights during the last two years of his life to build a coalition of antiwar groups, including the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, which organized massive protests against the war.
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 its leader Ho Chi Minh.
Muste died February 11, 1967, at age 82. Norman Thomas remembered him as someone who made a ‘remarkable effort to show that pacifism was by no means passivism and that there could be such a thing as a non-violent social revolution.’The A.J. Muste Memorial Institute was located at 339 Lafayette Street in New York City, the so-called ‘Peace Pentagon,’ until sold in 2016 because it required prohibitively expensive structural repairs. The Institute provides office space for various activist groups, which now reside at its new location at 168 Canal Street in Chinatown. Tenant organizations include the War Resisters League and the Socialist Party USA.
During a 1969 debate with William F. Buckley Jr., Noam Chomsky cited Muste as ‘someone who did take a very strong, and I think very honourable position’ on opposing World War II. Chomsky discusses Muste's legacy in American Power and the New Mandarins” (Wikipedia). SUBJECT(S): Automobile industry and trade -- United States. Labor unions -- United States. Automobiles -- Industrie et commerce -- E´tats-Unis. OCLC: 5352263. Very Good Condition. (AC-7-39).