Peace activist David Dellinger was one of the “Chicago Seven,” a group of Sixties activists who were tried for having incited the violent anti-war riots outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Dellinger was convicted along with Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis and others of conspiracy to incite a riot. The convictions were later overturned by a federal appeals court on grounds that the presiding judge had committed errors during the trial.
During the Vietnam War, Dellinger was a co-director of the Committee for Liaison with the Families (COLIAFAM), a group that tried to coerce POW families to make pro-Communist statements by promising them contact with their loved ones in Hanoi. He also ran the Indochina Peace Coalition, through which he worked closely with the Hanoi government along with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden. In 1973 and 1974. The agenda of this group was to cut off all aid to the governments of Cambodia and South Vietnam (U.S. troops withdrew after the 1973 truce). They lobbied the Democratic caucus in the House successfully, and aid was terminated in 1975 by an act of the post-Watergate Congress. Within months, the governments of Cambodia and South Vietnam fell to the Communists, who proceeded to slaughter two and half million peasants in both states.
Dellinger’s days of protesting began long before the Vietnam War. He was first arrested in the 1930s at a union-organizing rally at Yale University. During World War II, he claimed “conscientious objector” status. Nearly three decades later, at a pro-Black Panther Party rally in 1970, Dellinger spoke of his commitment to revolution and societal transformation. “We cannot talk of an American revolution without acts of resistance,” he said. “We must go beyond dissent to force, force without violence.” Dellinger’s pacificism did not prevent from supporting the most violent movements of the Twentieth Century, so long as they cloaked their agendas in progressive phrases like “social justice.”
Dellinger was a strong opponent of capitalism, which he claimed leads inevitably to imperialism and violence. In his later years, he claimed to have seen no evidence of societal improvement in America during the more than fifty years of his adult life – a period which witnessed the greatest change in race relations in recorded history, the extension of unprecedented rights to sexual minorities, and the greatest increase in income for the most people at all economic levels ever registered. In a 1996 interview, he stated, “The evils in the society today are greater than they were in 1968.”
Dellinger died in May 2004, at the age of 88.