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STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY (SDS, FOUNDED 1959) Printer Friendly Page

Obama’s Boys of Summer
By Daniel Flynn
June 29, 2008

SDS Plans for America's High Schools
By House Committee on Internal Security
1969

Rulers for Radicals
By Malcolm Kline
September 2010

Obama Tied to Ayers ... at Age 11
By Aaron Klein
June 19, 2009

The Terror Legacy of the Left
By Gary DeMar
June 3, 2009

Wade Rathke: ACORN’s Founder, Ayers' Compatriot
By Bud White
October 17, 2008

Barack Obama and the Strategy of Manufactured Crisis
By James Simpson
September 28, 2008

You Need a Weatherman to Tell Which Way Obama Will Go
By Mary Grabar
June 22, 2008

Communism in Chicago and the Obama Connection
By Cliff Kincaid
February 2008

Remembering a Sixties Terrorist
By Donna Ron
January 4, 2006

Back Down Memory Lane at Berkeley
By Mark D. Tooley
October 18, 2005


SDS Documents:

Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS's founding document)
By Tom Hayden
1962

Vietnam
By JOIN Community Union
c. 1964

U.S. Imperialism
By David Gilbert and David Loud
1968

Columbia
By Mark Rudd
1968

Cuba vs. U.S. Imperialism
c. 1969

Which Side Are You on? -- U.S. History in Perspective
By Noel Ignatin

 


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  • Radical student group during the 1960s
  • Spearheaded the Anti-Vietnam War movement
  • Was transformed into Weatherman, a terrorist cult



Forming the core of the 1960s counter-cultural movement known collectively as the New Left, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a radical organization that aspired to overthrow America's democratic institutions, remake its government in a Marxist image, and help America's enemies defeat her sons on the battlefield in Vietnam. The group developed from the Student League for Industrial Democracy, the youth branch of the socialist League for Industrial Democracy.

SDS was established in late 1959 by Aryeh Neier, who would later spend fifteen years working for the American Civil Liberties Union (including eight years as its national executive director), and twelve years as executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) -- an organization he founded in 1978. After leaving HRW, Neier was appointed in 1993 by George Soros to serve as president of the Open Society Institute and the entire Soros Foundation Network.

SDS held its first meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1960. Its first President was Alan Haber, and its first impress on the political landscape was the Port Huron Statement of 1962, drafted principally by Tom Hayden, a former editor of the University of Michigan's student newspaper. The Port Huron Statement adopted the position of "anti-anti-Communism," refusing to support the West in the Cold War. The statement denounced bigotry in the United States, world hunger and American abundance, materialism, personal alienation, industrialization, the threat of nuclear war, military spending, and the Cold War. Its prescribed solution to Cold War tensions reads as follows:


"Universal controlled disarmament must replace deterrence and arms control as the [American] national defense goal. ... It is necessary that America make disarmament, not nuclear deterrence, 'credible' to the Soviets and to the world. That is, disarmament should be continually avowed as a national goal; concrete plans should be presented at conference tables."


Calling for "participatory democracy," the Port Huron Statement continued:


"[The] allocation of resources must be based on social needs. A truly 'public sector' must be established, and its nature debated and planned. At present the majority of America's 'public sector,' the largest part of our public spending, is for the military. When great social needs are so pressing, our concept of 'government spending' is wrapped up in the 'permanent war economy.'"


The Statement promoted the politicization of the University, a call that was answered in Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement of 1964, which permanently altered the political atmosphere on college campuses.

SDS's initial efforts at the promotion of civil rights, voting rights, and urban reform were gradually overshadowed by its focus on the Vietnam War. In April 1965, SDS advertised its opposition to the War by participating in the March on Washington.

Noel Ignatiev joined SDS in the 1960s. In 1967 he and fellow CPUSA member Theodore Allen, drawing on W.E.B. Du Bois's notion of the “Blindspot in the eyes of America,” co-authored The White Blindspot, a pamphlet arguing that “white supremacy and ... white skin privilege” had historically blinded white workers to the desirability of allying themselves with blacks in a united revolutionary force dedicated to overthrowing capitalism. As such, the privileges that whites enjoyed were, in reality, a “poison” that was “ruinous” to the “working class.”

The White Blindspot had a significant influence on activists and young radicals within the emerging New Left, most notably members of SDS, whose National Office called for a full frontal assault on “white skin privileges.” Likewise, SDS's Weatherman faction, steeped in identity politics, contended that white radicals had a moral duty not only to renounce their “white skin privilege,” but also to participate in armed struggle against the U.S. government; anything short of such a commitment, said Weatherman, was tantamount to endorsing racism.

Many key SDS members were "red-diaper babies," children of parents who were Communist Party members or Communist activists in the 1930s. In 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson abolished student draft deferments, some 300 new SDS chapters were formed. Among the organization's activities were: disrupting ROTC classes, staging draft card burnings, and harassing campus recruiters for the CIA and for firms that conducted research tied in some way to national defense. SDS also occupied buildings at universities such as Columbia and destroyed draft records. 

At the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, SDS protestors, organized by Tom Hayden, created a riot in order to destroy the electoral chances of the pro-war liberal Hubert Humphrey, and thereby set the stage for a confrontation with the Nixon Administration over the Vietnam War. Hayden and his cohorts -- including Jerry Rubin, Abby Hoffman and Black Panther Bobby Seale -- were arrested and indicted for crossing state lines to incite a riot. They became known as The Chicago Seven. In a celebrated trial (whose guilty verdict was subsequently overturned on a technicality), they were given token sentences. 

In 1969 SDS began imploding into factions. One of them, a group calling itself Weatherman, was elected to SDS leadership and proclaimed that the time had come to launch a race war on behalf of the Third World and against the United States. The new entity dissolved SDS and formed a terrorist cult in its place, which was given the name Weather Underground.

 

 

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