the American Gandhi…
May 28, 2010
“Before reading [his autobiography], I knew and greatly admired Dave Dellinger. Or so I thought. After reading his remarkable story, my admiration changed to something more like awe. There can be few people in the world who have crafted their lives into something truly inspiring. This autobiography introduces us to one of them” [Noam Chomsky, from the dustjacket of From Yale to Jail].
Anarchist Dorothy Day on being asked about how best to address militancy and the violent:
“you don’t argue…I mean, you can’t argue with somebody who’s very…I saw Dave Dellinger get a broken jaw from one of the militants who came up and gave him a terrific crack on the side of the face…and, with the blood coming out of his mouth, and spitting blood, why, he went right on talking…he lost a few teeth…he went right on talking—perfectly calm, perfectly self-possessed: Dave Dellinger is really a non-violent person. And, the man went up and apologized to him afterward—he was completely taken aback…” [from Marquette University lecture, 1969].
Dellinger was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts to a wealthy family. His father was a lawyer and a prominent Republican. A Yale University and Oxford University student, he also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary. Rejecting his comfortable background, he walked out of Yale one day to live with hobos during the Depression, whilst at Oxford he visited Nazi Germany and drove an ambulance during the Spanish Civil War. During World War II, he was an imprisoned conscientious objector and anti-war agitator. In federal prison, he and fellow conscientious objectors—including Ralph DiGia and Bill Sutherland—protested racial segregation in the dining halls, which were ultimately integrated due to the protests.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Dellinger joined freedom marches in the South and led many hunger strikes in jail. As US involvement in Vietnam grew, Dellinger applied Gandhi’s principles of non-violence to his activism within the growing anti-war movement, of which one of the high points was the Chicago Seven trial.
In 1956, he and A. J. Muste founded the magazine Liberation, as a forum for the non-Marxist left, similar to Dissent.
Dellinger had contacts and friendships with such diverse individuals as Eleanor Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abbie Hoffman, A.J. Muste, Greg Calvert, David McReynolds and numerous Black Panthers, including Fred Hampton, whom he greatly admired. As chairman of the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee he worked with many different anti-war organizations, and helped bring Dr. King and James Bevel into leadership positions in the 1960s anti-war movement. He sat on the executive committee of the Socialist Party of America and the Young People’s Socialist League, its youth section, until he left in 1943; and was also a long-time member of the War Resisters League.
Dellinger appeared at the December 1971 gathering of music and political views in favor of the then-jailed John Sinclair.
Anti-war activist, socialist and author for his lifelong commitment to pacifist values and for serving as a spokesperson for the peace movement, Dellinger was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience on September 26, 1992.
In 1996, at the first Democratic Convention held in Chicago since 1968, Dellinger was arrested along with nine others (including his own grandson as well as Abbie Hoffman’s son Andrew) during a sit-in protest at Chicago’s Federal Building. Later, in 2001, he led a group of young activists from Montpelier, Vermont, to Quebec City, to protest the creation of a free trade zone.
David Dellinger died in Montpelier, Vermont, in 2004.
from Ron Jacobs’ CounterPunch article:
“Although I only met Dave five years ago when a group of us sat in on Representative Bernie Sanders’ office in opposition to his support of the bombing of Yugoslavia, he has been an influence on my life and thought ever since I first heard about him in junior high. As a young peacenik who found the militancy and flamboyance of activists and groups like the Black Panthers and Yippies quite appealing, it was David Dellinger’s thoughtful, yet militant antiwar stance that provided me (and millions of others, it seems) with a fundamental belief that what I was doing was worthwhile. After all, this man had devoted his entire adult life to opposing imperialism and the wars that system demands without ever even throwing a brick at a cop. Like the Berrigan brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr., his commitment to nonviolence was total. At the same time, he understood that pacifism was not passivism.
“His presence at antiwar actions in his chosen home of Vermont and around the world was something one depended on. He never stood on the sidelines and watched. His analysis was as clear as his commitment. Although an ally of all those who oppose the system of war and racism, he remained a staunch pacifist, but never let that get in the way of his opposition to the ills of capitalism or his solidarity with those who shared that opposition but differed with his tactics.
“Live like him” [Jacobs, CP].