Muste, Abraham J.

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Muste, Abraham J. (1885–1967), minister, labor organizer, antiwar activist.Born in the Netherlands, Muste studied at theological seminaries in the United States and became a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church (1909–14), the Congregational Church (1914–18), and the Society of Friends (1918–26).

Muste opposed World War I through the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). During the 1920s and 1930s, he worked in support of industrial unionism through FOR and more radical secular groups. In the early 1930s, his labor activities led him to become a full‐fledged Marxist revolutionary, but by 1936 he became once again a Christian pacifist, urging workers to use nonviolence.

During World War II, as executive secretary of FOR, Muste maintained that military action against fascism only encouraged the forces of hatred and brutality that had created it. He supported conscientious objection and draft resistance and evasion. He also urged U.S. assistance to Jewish and other victims of Nazi persecution in Europe. To avert future wars, he recommended more equitable distribution of the world's resources.

In the Cold War, a more radical Muste opposed the nuclear arms race through the War Resisters League and the Committee for Nonviolent Action. He also encouraged nonviolent direct action in civil rights and the Vietnam Antiwar movement. Muste's activism made him one of the intellectual leaders of the American movement for peace and social justice.
[See also Pacifism.]


A. J. Muste , Nonviolence in an Aggressive World, 1940.
A. J. Muste , Not by Might, 1947.
Jo Ann O. Robinson , Abraham Went Out: A Biography of A. J. Muste, 1982.

John Whiteclay Chambers II