Document 38: Stuart House, "SNCC: The Question of Values," Waveland, Mississippi, [6-12 November 1964], Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
Stuart House was a black student who worked in the Greenwood, Mississippi National SNCC and Jackson COFO office and print shop, in addition to playing guitar with The Free Southern Theater. Stu left Mississippi to participate in the Alabama marches, followed by his work in Sumter, Greene and Dallas County, Alabama, where he served as SNCC project director until 1967. In the spring of 1967 he faced charges of inciting to riot for saying "register to vote."
His paper reaches beyond the arguments of a particular structure based on expediency, asking staff instead to consider the organization's values and reject a structure "patterned after the same decadent one that runs our society."
SNCC: The Question of Values
There seems to be a division in SNCC that I think is crucial enough to mean the death of the only organization that dares to suggest itself as "revolutionaries". This division is in value.
Let me begin suggesting lines that we might all agree upon: SNCC is an organization of individuals that are banded together to inact catalysts for social change against the great evils in our society.
At this point we must ask the questions:
1. Do we do everything in our power to bring about that change, including using the same forces that we have seen to be corrupt, in order to bring fruitful change? (At this point we need to know what kind of change we want.)
2. Do we prostitute ourselves and all that we have shed or may shed blood for that change and do we adopt a structure patterned after the same decadent one that runs our society?
3. Do we do everything in our power to bring about that change, patterning our organizational structure after one that is representative of our feelings opposed to the present structure as it exists and without using forces that are corrupt. (The same evils that have destroyed our society may destroy us. We can avoid these by examining how we structure our organization and how we carry on the struggle.)
The question of values must come before and be decided upon before we begin to talk about structure. Here are some things that were said today, for instance, that frightened many people, myself included:
"It doesn't matter to me if a black machine replaces the white one - all I'm concerned about is getting the black vote out. We can deal with the black machine later."
"If buying the vote in Washington of a Senator means a success for the movement, then I would buy that vote."
I maintain that unless we can come to some sense of agreement on what SNCC's working values are then we cannot begin to think about structure or program or the tackle the mountainous job in front of us, I suspect that if and when we become a real threat to society and the governments, we truly will have no one except each other.
"I mean like baby do we have a movement simply to have a movement?"
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