The Syracuse Peace Council is committed to nonviolence as an operating principle for our organization and as a central element of our vision for the world we work to create. We embrace the active nonviolence of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to confront the many injustices facing our world. To us, nonviolence is about much more than the absence of war–it requires struggling for equality, justice and dignity for all people.
Our statement of purpose calls on us to “educate, agitate and organize for a world where war, violence and exploitation in any form will no longer exist.” While this vision is clear, our current society is so permeated by violence and oppression that it is often difficult to live up to our ideals. Recognizing that the violence of our culture affects us all, we strive to “practice” nonviolence internally and through our work in the Central New York community.
Our ideas about nonviolence have been shaped by many social movements which have come before us and in which we have participated. We expect that new movements and ideas will always confront our current understandings.
Internally, the Peace Council uses a modified form of consensus decision-making in order to respect and value the contributions of all participants. We work hard to establish and maintain non-hierarchical structures within the organization which embody democracy and create accountability. We seek to create a culture of caring and support among our staff, committees and volunteers. Part of this process is being willing to challenge the oppressive attitudes and ideas that infect us all. In our community work, we seek to engage in dialogue with those who disagree with us and are committed to honesty and openness in our efforts.
As we carry out work in Central New York and beyond, we choose nonviolence for its moral and ethical value, but also for practical reasons. Nonviolent actions are more easily accepted by the general public and will more readily build a world that will successfully meet peoples’ day-to-day needs. Additionally, the US government and its many agents have an unprecedented arsenal of weaponry and are expert at using it. The peace movement cannot hope to succeed if we operate on their terms, nor would we want to. Instead, we must utilize the multitude of nonviolent actions open to us.
Nonviolent theoretician and activist Barbara Deming wrote of the two hands of nonviolence: the first hand open, reaching out to the humanity of all people we encounter; the second hand saying “stop”, “no” we will not allow you to do violence to us or to others. The combination of these two hands has a unique power to create change.
There are Peace Council supporters who categorically oppose all violence and others who support the right of oppressed peoples to use physical force as part of their liberation struggle. It is difficult for any of us to know what we would have done if we were Massachusetts farmers in 1775, enslaved Alabamans in 1854, Russian workers in 1916, Chinese peasants in 1946, Vietnamese mothers in 1969 or indigenous people in Chiapas in 1994. The Syracuse Peace Council comes down squarely on the side of liberation. We believe deeply that all people have the right to freedom and self-determination. While we choose nonviolence as an operating principle, we recognize that most Peace Council supporters enjoy relative economic and racial privileges compared to most of the world. We appreciate the right of others to make their own choices based on their experiences and circumstances.
The Peace Council makes a special effort to support nonviolent liberation efforts around the world. We understand that our work to end US militarism and domination plays a critical role in making it easier for people on the receiving end to nonviolently regain control over their own destinies and societies.
The Syracuse Peace Council exists in a nation which has chosen violence to maintain illegitimate power and privilege both within our own borders and across the globe. We reject both the inequality created by this system and the methods used to achieve and maintain it. We actively embrace the values of democracy and human dignity, seeking to implement them within our organization and foster their development in our nation and world.
SPC Action Guidelines
Approved by SPC Steering Committee 5-22-03
In order to establish a sense of trust and safety, the Syracuse Peace Council asks those who participate in public demonstrations organized by the Peace Council to observe the following basic guidelines:
1) Act respectfully toward all people we encounter.
2) Refrain from any physical violence or abusive language.
Please remember that we are taking part in political action, and that our behavior influences the way we are perceived in the community we are seeking to engage.