Many people consider Rev. A. J. Muste to be America’s Gandhi. He was an antiwar and labor movement leader. The Dutch-born American was raised in the Dutch Reformed Church’s Calvinist traditions. He matriculated from Union Theological Seminary and was drawn to the social gospel movement, which emphasized the application of Christian ideas to social and economic issues. He rose to prominence as a labor leader after leading a successful peaceful strike by textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts. At the height of the Great Depression, he co-founded the American Workers Party. He later abandoned his Christian pacifism to join the Marxist movement. He did not, however, agree with everything related with Marxism and revolutionary movements. To begin with, he disapproved of violence as a means to an aim. He couldn’t reconcile himself to the thought of a class struggle and a working-class dictatorship. He was still regarded with suspicion for his Communist roots in the 1950s, during the height of the Cold War and McCarthyism. His strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience gained a lot of traction. In the 1950s, he protested the armaments race and the Vietnam War. “There is no route to peace; peace is the way,” he said, and his message is as vital today as it was when he was alive.
Childhood and Adolescence
Martin Muste (a coachman in the Dutch province of Zeeland) and Adriana had six children. Abraham Johannes Muste was one of them. The family chose to move to America when Abraham was six years old.
Adriana’s four brothers joined the family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which had a substantial Dutch population. He and his family were naturalized citizens of the United States in 1896.
In 1905, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He was an all-rounder in college, an excellent student, basketball team captain, and baseball player.
Career of A. J. Muste
He taught Greek and Latin in Iowa after college. He studied philosophy at Columbia and New York Universities in 1906. The lectures of William James and John Dewey had a huge impact on him.
He was named pastor of Manhattan’s Fort Washington Collegiate Church. He attended Union Theological Seminary, which was close to his parish, and received his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1913.
He began to lean toward social gospel, a movement that combined Christian ethics with social justice issues. In the 1912 presidential elections, he supported Eugene V. Debs of the Socialist Party of America.
In 1916, he joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which was founded by pacifist religious organizations. He resigned as pastor when the United States entered World War I the following year.
He worked for the Civil Liberties Bureau, which offered legal aid to the poor, for a while before relocating to Providence, Rhode Island, and registering as a Quaker priest in 1919.
He was chosen secretary of the newly founded Amalgamated Textile Workers of America and served the union until 1921, after gaining recognition during the Lawrence strike.
He became the chairman of the Brookwood Labor College in Katonah, New York, after emerging as a labor leader. He headed the college from 1921 until 1933.
He founded the Conference for Progressive Labor Action (CPLA) in 1929, a group of active unionists who were unsatisfied with the operations of the American Federation of Labor. Four years later, the CPLA founded the American Workers Party.
In 1936, he abandoned his socialist politics and reverted to being a Christian pacifist. From then on, he was the director of the Presbyterian Labor Temple in New York City, where he spoke out against Marxism for three years.
Until 1953, he was the executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a Protestant pacifist group, where he promoted peace and nonviolence and mentored Civil Rights Movement leaders.
He worked relentlessly to organize a coalition of anti-war organisations, such as the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, as a critic of the Vietnam War.
In 1966, he traveled to Saigon and Hanoi with members of the Committee for Nonviolent Action. He was denied entry to South Vietnam, but received a hearty welcome in North Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh.
Major Projects of A. J. Muste
In 1919, he led a nonviolent strike by textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, for which he was imprisoned for a week. Finally, both parties agreed to a reduction in working hours and a wage increase of 12%.
He was a member of the War Resisters League and started the periodical ‘Liberation,’ an anti-war forum, in 1956. During the Cold War, he supported civil rights, resisted McCarthyism, and condemned Communism.
Awards of A. J. Muste
He worked hard to foster peace after reverting to Christianity and his Calvinist roots. He was a member of the national committee of the War Resisters League and received their Peace Award in 1958.
Personal History and Legacy
He married Anna Huizenga, his sweetheart and Hope College classmate, in 1909, and they had three children. Anna, his forty-year girlfriend, was the daughter of a Reformed Church clergyman.
The A.J. Muste Memorial Institute was founded in 1974 to continue the legacy of this famous pacifist, who advocated for racial and sexual equality, nonviolence, and labor rights, as well as opposing nuclear power and the death penalty.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of A. J. Muste is unknown.
Trivia of A. J. Muste
“War is not an accident,” says this pacifist. It is the natural result of a particular way of life. If we wish to combat conflict, we must combat that way of life.”
According to legend, during the Vietnam War, this pacifist held vigil outside the White House, carrying a light and facing the rain.