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Draft Statement on Democracy, Power, and Nuclear Weapons

Draft Statement on Democracy, Power, and Nuclear Weapons

        At the February 1999 Santa Barbara meeting we reached agreement on our Mission Statement and the Santa Barbara Declaration, but many questions remained regarding the relationships between democracy, power and nuclear weapons. We reached general agreement that nuclear weapons are embedded in a global system of inequality, that war permeates US society and its relations with other peoples and nations, and that democracy must be reinvigorated in the United States to effect any significant changes. We also agreed that we wanted to create a position statement addressing these issues, and a drafting process was begun.

        At the October 1999 Ann Arbor Conference we recognized that this draft statement is still a work in progress, representing an ongoing dialogue through which we are attempting to explore and understand the complex interrelationships between democracy, power and nuclear weapons and their effects on daily life. We realized that this ongoing process can provide us with a way to educate ourselves while informing the development of our campaign and helping to keep us on course. We acknowledge that this is a very challenging undertaking, and have established a working group to carry the process forward. Your input and ideas are welcomed. (See Working Groups)


        We who are working for security and justice in the world join the demand for the elimination of nuclear weapons. We understand, however, that the abolition of nuclear weapons will not by itself deliver peace and security to the people of the world.

        Organizing to abolish nuclear weapons is a significant moral and ethical undertaking that inherently defies the status quo. Because nuclear weapons are so closely bound to the power of the governments which hold them, promoting open public debate regarding nuclear weapons policies requires us to question state authority directly. Thus, efforts to abolish nuclear weapons can lead to citizens reclaiming sovereignty over society’s decisionmaking processes, and hence to an expansion and reinvigoration of democracy.

        Secrecy plays a major role in preserving the undemocratic power of the nuclear weapons state. Secrecy is the enemy of democracy. It shields decisions regarding nuclear issues and helps to concentrate power in the hands of a few institutions and small numbers of people.

        Democracy demands tearing down the barriers of secrecy that surround nuclear weapons policies. A movement to eliminate nuclear weapons must consider systematically the means for reestablishing democracy. The process for getting rid of the bomb will both require and make possible increased openness, truthfulness, cooperation and citizen participation.

        The Abolitionist movement in the l9th century was focused on the elimination of slavery. But its participants were aware as well of the need to transform the power and wealth-driven politics that maintained slavery. The global system of corporate economic dominance now being consolidated depends in part on the threat of the bomb to "stabilize" and secure the global market place under the umbrella of continued United States leadership. But far from bringing security, this brandishing of annihilation in the service of endless material accumulation sows seeds of violence, insecurity and injustice at home and around the world.

        The brave women and men who opposed slavery knew that its elimination would not automatically create a just and secure future. They advocated reorganizing the social, political and economic realities of America. Similarly, we must understand that eliminating nuclear weapons alone will not transform a society corroded by racism, poverty, prison growth, decaying school systems, unemployment, violence against women and children, inadequate health care and homelessness. Only by tackling these social conditions will we be able to create a sustainable future and a world without war.

        Building a movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the United States provides us with the opportunity to join together with the growing international peace and justice community that is linking the abolition of nuclear weapons to the abolition of economic exploitation and institutional oppression. Securing a livable world requires a broad social commitment to understanding, and then transforming, the structures of power and domination, just as the Abolitionists of the l9th century named and confronted the slaveocracy.

        A movement which aims to abolish nuclear weapons must be prepared to address the political and economic inequities that nuclear weapons help to sustain. Otherwise we will likely be faced with a grim choice of futures: either we will fail to achieve our goals because those in power continue to find nuclear weapons useful in sustaining their privilege, or we will merely help smooth the transition to a world dominated by more technologically efficient and somewhat less indiscriminate forms of military power.

        Today we are witnessing an accelerated disintegration of both human communities and our natural environment. Nuclear weapons, like slavery, are symptoms of social degradation and a climate of fear and confusion which have much deeper roots. History teaches today's Abolitionists that the road to world security, justice, and to the abolition of nuclear weapons must lead as well to a fundamental reconstruction of our economy and our politics.

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