Dave Schechter had two great loves in his life. One was his class: the workers and oppressed. This led him to join Workers World Party. He was a member for 45 years.
Dave was born in 1942 in Yonkers, N.Y. His parents were communists. His father, William, drove a taxi; his mother, Ruth, was an office worker.
Dave attended Rensselaer College and worked as a math teacher in the New York City school system. Like many young people his age, he was swept up in the great mass movements of the 1960s: the fight against racism and the Vietnam war. In 1968, he joined Youth Against War and Fascism, the youth group of Workers World Party.
The year 1968 was an intense year in the global class war. For instance, in January the Vietnamese people launched the mighty Tet offensive against the U.S. imperialist invaders. In April, the racist U.S. state apparatus assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, and the entire country exploded in outrage.
For those of us in YAWF, the 1960s were street-fighting years. We were always marching with our bright orange banners, defying the cops who attacked us with clubs, horses and gas. We got arrested so much it seemed like we lived in the Criminal Court building at 100 Centre Street.
Whether it was protesting the Vietnam war or defending the Black Panthers, Dave was always on the front line. He helped disrupt fascist presidential candidate, George Wallace, when Wallace spoke at Madison Square Garden, and Richard Nixon’s first inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. He was arrested in 1968 protesting the pro-war movie, The Green Berets, and in 1969, when we marched into the middle of a City Hall ceremony welcoming the murderous Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir.
Dave was a member of the United Federation of Teachers, but he marched in support of the Black community when the UFT’s racist leadership called a strike against community control. Two years later, however, Dave did go on strike.
On May 5, 1970, the day after the Kent State massacre, Dave worked with his students at Julia Richman High School to organize a strike against war and repression. They specifically demanded the freedom of Bobby Seale, Ericka Huggins and other imprisoned members of the Black Panther Party. By the end of the week, the entire city school system was shut down. On May 14, Dave was fired for “conduct unbecoming a teacher.”
YAWF was the first anti-war group to organize marches and teach-ins in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Dave, whose family background was Jewish, was passionate about that cause. Our Palestine events were routinely attacked by anti-Arab hate groups armed with lead pipes and gas bombs, and Dave always served on security.
A steadfast revolutionary
Many activists of the 1960s dropped out of political life in the less turbulent 1970s. Dave did not. He remained a steadfast revolutionary and WWP member. He focused on getting Workers World newspaper and our literature, our ideas and program into the hands and minds of our class.
He staffed literature tables and worked on national distribution, taking the paper shipments every week to Greyhound. He sold Workers World newspaper on the trains and took part in our massive postering campaigns. And he prepared the labels every week for the WW paper mailing.
After being fired by the Board of Education, Dave worked 10 years for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and was vice president of the DEP chapter of Local 375 Civil Service Technical Guild. He left that job to become a computer programmer.
Dave was a worker. He was battered by this vile capitalist system. He was laid off several times and had to travel to find work. He had no medical coverage in 2006, when he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed.
For the past seven years, Dave lived in nursing homes. But he was able to come to activities with the help of a wheelchair and the support of his daughter, his health aides and his comrades in Workers World Party. He was a member of the Party’s People with Disabilities Caucus. He loved movies and going to Central Park when the weather was nice.
Dave is survived and will always be lovingly remembered by his family and by the Party he helped build.
A public memorial was held Feb. 22 in New York City for Dave Schechter, who died on Jan. 13.