What Was the Protest Group Students for a Democratic Society? Five Questions Answered


Several hundred people affiliated with the SDS race through the Los Angeles Civic Center in a 1968 demonstration against the Vietnam war.

“… 1. What were the goals of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) when it started? SDS wanted participatory democracy – a public committed to making the decisions that affect their own lives, with institutions to make this possible. Its members saw an American citizenry with no influence over the nuclear arms race or, closer to home, authoritarian university administrations. The organization favored direct action to oppose ‘white supremacy‘ and ‘imperial war,’ and to achieve civil rights and the radical reconstruction of economic life (i.e., the redistribution of money into the hands of African-Americans in order to fight racism). SDS was increasingly suspicious of established authorities and looked askance at corporate power. But there was no single political doctrine; for most of its existence (1962-69), SDS was an amalgam of left-liberal, socialist, anarchist and increasingly Marxist currents and tendencies. From 1965 on, it was focused chiefly on opposing the Vietnam war. After 1967, SDS became partial to confrontational tactics and increasingly sympathetic to one or another idea of a Marxist-Leninist revolution. 2. How did SDS grow so quickly, from fewer than 1,000 members in 1962 to as many as 100,000 in 1969?  The organization was launched with a stirring manifesto, the Port Huron Statement, and a leadership that was passionate, visionary, energetic, stylish and thoughtful. Unlike most left-wing radicals and manifestos of the time, the Port Huron Statement was forthright and not riddled with jargon, thus its opening sentence: We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.
SDS, in language and spirit, spoke to a widely felt need for a New Left that was free of the dogmas about ‘class struggle’ and a ‘vanguard party‘ that prevailed in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Its growth was helped along by a structure that, for many years, was flexible enough to encompass diverse orientations and styles of activism. Its volcanic growth after the 1965 escalation of the Vietnam War was made possible by its combination of zealous idealism and pragmatic activity that made sense to students – protests, demonstrations, sit-ins and marches. …”
The Conversation
Digital History: The New Left
Washington Post: I was a ’60s socialist. …


Poster from the 1969 Days of Rage demonstrations, organized by the Weathermen faction of SDS.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in 1968 DNC, Black Power, Chicano, Civil Rights Mov., Cuban Revolution, Feminist, Paris, SDS, Tom Hayden, Vietnam War, Weather Underground and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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