Letter from World War II Resisters
November 27, 2006
Dear Friends and Muste Institute Supporters,
Sixty-five years ago we faced the worst military conflict the world has ever known - World War II. At no time before or since has so much of human society been consumed with such widespread death and destruction, culminating in the only use of the greatest "weapon of mass destruction" - the atomic bomb - against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Even though World War II was widely considered a "just" war, the five of us, along with thousands of our fellow citizens, felt that war, under any circumstances, was not an acceptable way to stop fascism and totalitarianism.
We came out of jail and the Civilian Public Service camps with a commitment to use nonviolence to change the world. We took a stand that was incredibly unpopular at that time, but it became the foundation for our generation of activists. We, and the many others who joined us to resist that war, have participated in virtually all the major social movements since the end of the War. From our ranks - which included Bayard Rustin, Dave Dellinger, James Farmer, Roy Kepler, Jim Peck and many more - came those who created and sustained groups like the Congress of Racial Equality, the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Pacifica Radio, the Committee for Nonviolent Action, and the American Committee on Africa, to name just a few.
The world has changed in many ways since the 1940s. But one constant remains for us: war and violence do not create peace and enduring social change. Our witness against World War II was only one step in the path we've followed since then to oppose militarism and agitate for human rights and justice. A.J. Muste was a guiding presence to all of us then and until his death in 1967. The A.J. Muste Memorial Institute has taken up his legacy to seek peace through nonviolent action. We ask that you join us now by contributing generously to sustain the Muste Institute's important work.
In the 32 years since its inception, the Muste Institute's funding and programs have provided vital assistance to people organizing not just to stop wars, but to promote international economic justice and human rights. Today the Muste Institute is serving as the primary funding source for a new generation of conscientious objectors and resisters through its counter-recruitment fund. Its sponsorships and grants keep money flowing to groups like United for Peace and Justice, War Resisters League, School of the Americas Watch and many others to continue to organize against war and protect human rights.
We've unfortunately seen many wars come and go. But at the same time, we've seen how even a small group of people with a shared vision of social justice can accomplish great things. In prison in the 1940s, about 50 of us decided to strike against racial segregation in prison dining halls. Our protest eventually ended segregation in many facilities.
Since then we've worked in many actions and projects that made important changes in the United States and the world: the civil rights movement, breaking down colonial rule in Africa and Asia, ending apartheid in South Africa, rolling back the death penalty, restoring civil liberties during the Cold War and McCarthy years and, yes, ending the US war in Vietnam. Today our activism continues as we work to end the war in Iraq and stop the spread of militarism both within and outside of our country. Just as we depended on A.J.'s support and guidance while we were incarcerated and for the challenging years afterwards, activists now rely on the Muste Institute's resources. A.J. Muste's personal efforts helped launch and sustain many groups and projects. In the period right before his death, his stature and integrity molded the fractured anti-war movement into a more united and effective force to change popular support for ending the Vietnam War.
No one will ever replace A.J. Muste as a political activist and moral leader. But your donations will carry on his work through the Muste Institute. Sixty-five years ago we took a stand against war that set the foundation for our lives. We've seen new generations of activists step up to carry on what we started, just as we carried on the work of those before us. Please contribute so that the Muste Institute can support today's activists - and future ones - in keeping the promise of nonviolent resistance alive.
P.S. Click on the “JustGive” button at the top of this page to donate now through a secure site. If you are interested in making a gift of stocks, mutual fund shares or assets in an IRA account, please contact the Institute's Executive Director, Murray Rosenblith, for information on how to support the Institute's work this way.